Encounter: Spend time reflecting on 1 John reading all the way through the letter and then focusing a 2nd and 3rd reading on verses 12-17. If you have more time read 1 John 4:1, Mark 8:34-38, Mark 7:16-23, Matthew 16:22-24
"To Tell the Truth" is a classic American television game show that has aired through many seasons since 1955. The game has a person of some notoriety and two impostors who try to match wits with a panel of four celebrities. The game's objective is to try to fool the celebrities into voting for the two impostors.When those on the panel question the contestants, the two impostors may lie while the "central character" must tell the truth Some of you will remember this black and white show and may have played along at home or watched the most recent iteration aired on the ABC network from 2016 to 2022 and hosted by Anthony Anderson.
Although there have been some variations of rules since its inception, certain basic aspects have remained. This is how Wikipedia describes the game:
Three challengers are introduced, all claiming to be the central character. The announcer asks the challengers, who stand side by side, "What is your name, please?" Each challenger then states, "My name is [central character's name]." The celebrity panelists then read along as the host reads aloud a signed letter about the central character.
The panelists are each given the chance to question the challengers. Questions are directed to the challengers by number (designated "Number One," "Number Two" and "Number Three"), with the central character sworn to give truthful answers, and the impostors permitted to lie and pretend to be the central character.
After questioning is complete, each member of the panel votes on which of the challengers he or she believes to be the central character, either by writing the number on a card or holding up a card with the number of their choice, without consulting the other panelists.
Once the votes are in, the host asks, "Will the real [person's name] please stand up?" The central character then stands, often after some brief playful feinting and false starts among all three challengers. Occasionally, the central character would be asked to do something else related to his or her story instead of standing up. The two impostors then reveal their real names and their actual occupations. Prize money is awarded and divided among all three of the challengers, based on the number of incorrect votes received by the impostors.
This is similar to what it looks like to go through a process of discernment when we face challenges in our everyday battles of life. If we are not able to identify whether it is the world, the flesh or the enemy, we may mistake our friends for foes, bad choices for good, the wrong path for the right one. What we have going for us is, like the panelists of To Tell the Truth, are the questions we can ask that will ultimately expose the true character from the imposters.
In a day when many are being deceived, God’s Word and the Way of Jesus is there to expose what is really causing the problem so a solution can be found. John wrote to new believers in a group of churches around Ephesus giving them awareness to who and what they were up against and how God has given them what they need to discern God’s way from the dark way. This letter sounds a clear call for maintaining truth by maintaining fellowship with the Lord and His Church. Imagine John is writing this to you:
I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father. I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong. God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
In this passage we find all present: the world, the flesh and the evil one and it is a potent combination that requires a growing in spiritual maturity to confront.
This Sunday we will look at how we discern and recognize what is causing the disruptions, temptations and challenges so we can effectively take action to neutralize or limit the effects of what is coming our way or even grab hold of the wisdom we need to make the choices which determine the direction of our lives.
Remember John’s encouragement, we are: God’s children, we know the Father, we know Christ, we are strong, the Word lives in our hearts, we have won the battle with the evil one. We can be grateful to our Creator who has given us the knowledge by the Spirit, through the Word and His Church to ask the important question, Will the real enemy please stand up!
Discerning with you,
Reflect: Has there been a time when you were confused by certain life situations or were trying to make a decision and felt like you could not discern what was causing the resistance or the challenge you were facing? What was helpful at the time? Did you seek counsel in community or go through a process of discernment and asking questions?
Encourage: Are you in a place now where you are having challenges or are confused about what to do or what decision to make or how to live? Are you in an invisible battle? Spend time reading through the letter of James and 1 John for the next week, underlining what James and John guide you to evaluate and what questions you should ask. Write down in a journal or notebook some questions that are relevant to your situation.
Gather: Make an appointment with one of the pastors for spiritual counseling, EPIC Coaching or spiritual direction to process the questions with another listener of God. Write down what comes out of your time and share this with your Life Group or Sunday Study Group.