Do Not Love the World | The Voice 12:24: June 12, 2022

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1 John 2:15-17: Do Not Love the World

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

John has spent much time in 1 John exhorting Christians to walk in the light, avoid the darkness, and follow God’s commands (1 John 1-2). After specifically exhorting Christians at different levels of development, John turns to the matter of “the world.”

We must be careful when discussing “the world” in 1 John 2:15-17. “The world” here is not a description of the physical planet, that is, birds and rocks and trees and the like. Instead, John uses “the world” in contrast to Heaven or the ways of God. He defines that which is in “the world” in verse 16: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vain glory of life. These are the corrupted impulses of fallen man, the distortion of the creation of God that was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). While the creation has been subjected to decay and futility (Romans 8:20-23), the creation itself is not sinful or depraved. Christians can and should appreciate God’s creation (cf. Romans 1:20).

Yet it is quite important for us to not love the world of which John speaks. This world, put simply, is the world of sin. All sin is somehow described in the three elements of 1 John 2:16: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. It is interesting to note that John’s concern is in the mind; “the world” is discussed in terms of desires of the heart. John is not somehow denying that physical actions are sin– he makes it clear, as Jesus did previously, that actions simply represent the accomplishment of the intent of the heart/mind (cf. Matthew 15:16-20). No adultery is committed, drugs used, violence perpetrated, or anything else, without the idea first coming into the mind and then the desire to do so (cf. James 1:14-15).

All three elements are also manifest in Eve’s first sin: she saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), that it was a delight to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and it was desired to make one wise (pride of life; Genesis 3:6). This is hardly unintentional. Eve’s choice, and the choice made by all conscious humans at some point, is to choose the lusts of life over the way of God.

John also makes it quite clear that there can be no compromise between the world and God. If one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15). Jesus indicated that a man could not serve both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24), and James makes it clear that friendship with the world is enmity toward God (James 4:4). We must choose which we will serve (cf. Romans 6:17-19)!

That choice must be informed by eternal considerations. As John makes clear, the world and its lusts are passing away (1 John 2:17). Peter vividly describes the ultimate fate of the world by fire in 2 Peter 3:9-10. How tragic it is to consider how much effort is currently being expended for things that are destined for purging! If people really understood how all physical things require purgation by fire, would they really keep striving after wind? Even though it may not always be easy, and the temptation to follow after the world is strong, let us love God and seek after that which leads to eternal life!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Do Not Love the World | The Voice 12:24: June 12, 2022

Authoritarian Leadership | The Voice 12.18: May 01, 2022

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The Voice

Authoritarian Leadership

In our time much has been written about “leadership,” particularly about the different qualities of leadership and various leadership styles. Such interest is a hallmark of our meritocratic and democratic age: former conceptions of hierarchy and nobility carry little weight, and therefore leadership is a trait to be cultivated and leveraged in order to obtain greater influence, power, and thus wealth in our society. A charismatic person who exudes charm and strength will be able to gain many followers and grow in stature and influence, whether for secular or spiritual purposes. We can therefore understand the great anxiety which compels many to pursue a greater understanding of how to be an effective leader; who among us wants to be known or seen as the follower?

Christians do well to enter into such discussions with concern and trepidation; “leadership,” especially as emphasized in modern discourse, is not a major emphasis in the pages of the New Testament. It is not as if Jesus or the Apostles did not prove to be leaders, yet they proved very skeptical about the motivations of those who would become leaders and greatly valued humility and service above self-assertion and aggression (Matthew 20:25-28, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, James 4:7-10, 1 Peter 5:1-5). Conversations about leadership almost invariably prove tainted by the demonic wisdom of this world, seeking self-advancement and the maintenance of self-interest (cf. James 3:1-16). For Christians to be great in Jesus’ Kingdom, they must become servants, even slaves (Matthew 20:25-28): only those who seek to serve others fully are worthy of shepherding others.

And yet even in Christ there are those in whom authority is vested, and who ought to serve as stewards of that authority to glorify God (Romans 13:1-2, 1 Peter 4:10-11). All of us have some level of authority as citizens, Christians, parents, husbands, or if nothing else, over ourselves. Therefore, we do need to consider different qualities of leadership and leadership styles, but must always do so while fully rooted and established in Jesus Christ the Lord (Colossians 2:1-10).

One form of leadership frequently seen in society can be called “authoritarian leadership.” In an authoritarian leadership matrix, there is one who has the authority to make decisions, and it is for those under that authority to comply with those decisions. We can see authoritarian leadership fully embodied in the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his injured slave in Matthew 8:9:

“For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

The Roman centurion can be seen as the “middle manager” of the Roman army: he was in charge of a group of between 80 and 100 soldiers, and himself would take direction from the leader of the cohort who himself would be directed by the head of the legion, all of whom were subject to the general leading the military expedition. The Roman army proved more successful than not in the ancient world precisely because of its discipline: desertion or disobedience would lead to execution of many soldiers. The Philippian jailor was preparing to kill himself in Acts 16:27 because the consequence for losing control of the prisoners under his charge was death, and it was seen as more honorable and noble for him to do the deed himself.

The Roman army is the embodiment of the style of authoritarian leadership. To this day most militaries still operate with an authoritarian style of leadership in which it is expected that the soldiers directly and fully obey whatever commands they are given by their superior officers. Some countries still attempt to operate as authoritarian societies in which the citizens may have relative freedom in a few domains but are expected to fully comply with the particular concerns and dictates imposed by the tyrant, oligarchy, or junta ruling over the nation. Some companies and individuals also operate under a similarly authoritarian style of leadership; to many people, authoritarian leadership is precisely and only what comes to mind when “leadership” is mentioned.

There are certain contexts, times, and places in which an authoritarian style of leadership may be required. In an emergency setting, the most qualified and trained individual should be in charge, and everyone else should listen to that person and follow the instructions they provide so many lives might be preserved. We can understand why the military would operate under a generally authoritarian model: it would be very difficult to accomplish a military objective if everyone’s opinion had to be heard and decisions made more collaboratively. In many situations, the people who live under authority do not have enough knowledge, insight, or wisdom to be able to participate in a fully collaborative environment, and may do well to be expected to obey rather than question.

Jesus commended the Roman centurion for his faith in Matthew 8:10, but we should not assume Jesus was also commending the authoritarian system in which the Roman centurion lived. Jesus would go on to warn His disciples how the Gentiles lorded their power over others, and that it should not be so among them (Matthew 20:25-26)! Instead Jesus offered Himself as the model for leadership: the greatest among them would be their servant, just as Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Scriptures do not explicitly speak of “authoritarian leadership” for good or ill; nevertheless, many have gone beyond what is written and justified ungodly attitudes, practices, and wisdom by commending or justifying authoritarian forms of leadership in ways which run contrary to what has been explicitly revealed about various relationships we maintain in Christ. Children should obey their parents in the Lord, as Paul decreed in Ephesians 6:1; yet parents should not exasperate and provoke their children, but should raise them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord, the same Lord who commanded Christians to live humbly as servants (Ephesians 6:2-4; cf. Matthew 20:26-28). Wives should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), but husbands must also submit to their wives as to all others in reverence to Christ in Ephesians 5:21, and to love sacrificially, not abusing but cherishing their wives as their own flesh, as the Lord does for His body the church (Ephesians 5:25-30). Workers should follow the guidelines of their employers (Ephesians 6:5-8), but employers should treat their employees well since they all serve the same Lord in heaven (Ephesians 6:9). Elders in the church should be obeyed and their work should be made enjoyable (Hebrews 13:7, 13), yet elders have no right to lord dominion over the flock, but are called to shepherd by example (1 Peter 5:1-4). Older men should be honored like fathers, older women like mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2), yet all should clothe themselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5). There is very little room to commend or justify an authoritarian posture in any of these relationships!

If anyone had the right to expect blind obedience and to establish Himself as an authoritarian despot, it would be Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Acts 2:36, Revelation 19:15-16). Certainly Christians should obey Jesus as Lord (Romans 1:5, 6:14-21, 1 Peter 1:22); yet Jesus rules as the Chief Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep, continues to intercede for them, and welcomes them to jointly participate with Him in His Kingdom, and even will ultimately share His reign with them (John 10:1-18, 15:1-9, Romans 8:30-35, 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 6:3, 12:12-28, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:26-28, 3:21). Yes, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and we are to submit to His authority; but He has not used that authority to demand uncritical or unthinking obedience, but welcomes those who would follow Him to participate in His life and work to glorify Him.

In the world we should expect to find many despots and tyrants seeking to impose authoritarian rule on others; among the people of God in Christ this should not be so. Jesus our Lord, who had every right to impose authoritarian rule on the creation, nevertheless loves us and invites our joint participation in His life and work; we love and serve Him because He loved and served us and gave His life to ransom us. None of us has sufficient authority and standing before God to act as authoritarian despots in any domain of our lives; we will all be held accountable for how we have loved and served others, and rare is the occasion in which an authoritarian style of leadership will provide effective love and service. May we all seek to use the authority God has given us in ways that display the love and service of Jesus to His glory and honor!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Authoritarian Leadership | The Voice 12.18: May 01, 2022

The New Old Commandment | The Voice 12.15: April 10, 2022

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1 John 2:7-11: The New Old Commandment

Beloved, no new commandment write I unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning: the old commandment is the word which ye heard. Again, a new commandment write I unto you, which thing is true in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shineth. He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes (1 John 2:7-11).

In his first letter, John works diligently to impress upon his audience their need to walk in the light and follow the ways of Jesus. This is God’s message (1 John 1:5-7) and it is God’s intention for man (1 John 2:1-6). We may know that we belong to Jesus if we follow His commandments and walk as He walked (1 John 2:1-6).

Having established that Christians are to follow Jesus’ commandments, John turns and begins to focus on the “new old” commandment. Surprisingly, John does not here come out and explicitly identify what this commandment is, and yet it is assumed throughout. John does identify this commandment in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

What does Jesus mean that this is a “new” commandment? Furthermore, is John himself confused? He says first that he does not give a new commandment, but an old commandment, but then says that he is giving a new commandment (1 John 2:7-8)!

The idea of loving one another is not a new commandment per se; it was enjoined in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:39). Yet there it involved the idea of not harming one’s neighbor. Jesus now provides a new dimension to that old commandment: love as I have loved you. Just as Jesus came and gave Himself to be the ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), we are to give of ourselves and be devoted to the needs of others over our own (Philippians 2:1-4).

Therefore, “love one another” is the “new old commandment.” As John says, this is true in Jesus Christ because of what He has accomplished: the darkness is passing away and the love of Christ shines in the world (1 John 2:8). It is true in us as long as we are “keeping His commandments” and walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:1-6).

John’s main concern here involves brethren who do not share in this love. Some seem to profess to be Christians, and yet in their hearts they hate their brethren (1 John 2:9). This may have specific reference to those Christians influenced by Gnosticism who believed themselves superior on account of their greater “knowledge.” Nevertheless, the concern remains true for anyone who professes to follow Jesus Christ but does not have love for his or her fellow believers in their heart: despite what they say, they still are in darkness, and lost in their sins. As darkness pretending to be light, they “lie” and “do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). It is important for us to love our brethren, regardless of whether they “deserve” it or not!

Those who do love their brethren, however, abide in the light (1 John 2:10). When we have the love we ought to have toward others, we will not despise them or seek to sin against them. We will also seek their welfare and to show them love, mercy, compassion, and the other aspects of righteous behavior. On account of this John says that there is no cause of stumbling in such people: when they are motivated by that which is truly love, they will not sin against others.

But those who maintain hate in their souls toward others are controlled by it, and go wherever they are directed (1 John 2:11). John’s image is quite apt: just as people fumble around in the darkness because they do not perceive properly, so too for those who do not love but have hate in their hearts toward others. If such people thought rationally and sensibly, they would not act as they do; instead, they allow their passions to control them, and they become slaves, however willing or unwilling, to their hostility.

John makes it abundantly clear that we must love one another, for such is the way of Jesus. The way of hate is the way of darkness and sin, and many are those who find it and are lost. Let us show the light of Christ through our love for one another!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The New Old Commandment | The Voice 12.15: April 10, 2022

Keeping His Commandments | The Voice 12.11: March 13, 2022

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1 John 2:3-6: Keeping His Commandments

And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, “I know him,” and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked (1 John 2:3-6).

In our examination into the first letter of John, we have seen that John’s purpose is to encourage Christians in the face of false teachers and “professors” of Christianity. He has previously established that the message he provides concerns the Word of Life, how He is light, and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:1-5). He then establishes that we must walk in the light: we will not do so perfectly, for we all sin, but we must strive to cease from sin (1 John 1:6-2:1). If we do sin, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for the sins of all the world (1 John 2:1-2).

John continues to speak about Jesus, and his specific concern involves how we demonstrate that we “know” Jesus (1 John 2:3-6). In a world of competing claims regarding Jesus, how can we know whether we practice the truth? This question was as concerning in the first century as it is in the twenty-first.

John does not leave the disciples in doubt: to know Jesus is to do His commandments. This message is entirely consistent with the message Jesus provided during His life. The comparison between the man who built on the rock versus the man who built on the sand was the difference between those who keep and do Jesus’ words and those who do not (Matthew 7:24-27). In His farewell address to His disciples, Jesus indicates that if His disciples love Him, they will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Those who have and keep Jesus’ commandments loves Jesus, and such are loved by the Father (John 14:21). We are to keep His commandments just as He kept His Father’s commandments (John 15:10); this is to be done so that the disciples’ joy may be full, which is the very purpose for John’s letter (John 15:11, 1 John 1:4). To keep Jesus’ commands is to be His friend (John 15:14).

John does not shy away from the need to follow Jesus’ commands; in fact, he constantly emphasizes that need. James has similar things to say in James 1:22-25, contrasting those who “hear” the word from those who “hear and do” it.

The only legitimate test as to whether one who professes Jesus is truly His follower is to understand what he does: what is his fruit (cf. Matthew 7:15-20)? Is there evidence of repentance: is there less sin and more righteousness (Galatians 5:17-24)? Do they justify their sin or do they glorify God? Do they represent humble believers in the King, or have they been swept away by some other teacher (Luke 17:7-10, 2 Timothy 4:3-5)? The only way we can demonstrate that we know Jesus is to do what He tells us to do!

Those who profess knowing Jesus and yet do not practice His commands are liars (1 John 2:4). It does not matter how sincere or dishonest they may be: they do not have the truth either way. This is why it is so important to do His commandments!

If we keep His commands, John says that the love of God is perfected in us (1 John 2:5). While some may try to make some kind of absolute out of the statement, such distracts us from John’s true meaning. It is not as if we will ever entirely keep Jesus’ commands (1 John 1:8), but it is the humble obedient servant of Jesus Christ whom God can make complete in the Son. Such people can truly understand the nature of Jesus; they entirely understand, by their practicing of the truth, all the love that God has richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ.

Lest anyone believe that this knowledge is somehow based only in learning, John goes on to demonstrate that “keeping His commandments” is “walking as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:5-6). If we “abide” in Jesus, we ought to walk in His ways. The only way we can ever come to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the ways of Christ are to walk in those ways. We keep His commandments not in some Pharisaical attempt to check off obligations, but in order to be conformed into Jesus’ image: to love as He loved, to show compassion as He showed compassion, to avoid sin as He avoided sin. In short, it is to walk as Jesus walked. The only way to know Jesus is to know His life, His ways, and His suffering in our own lives. Let us strive to know Jesus!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Keeping His Commandments | The Voice 12.11: March 13, 2022