Monday, August 24, 2009

The News Itself Is Your Teacher

1 John 2:18-27

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us —eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

This last bit makes the top 10 list for Bible passages that don't ever get mentioned. The ESV Study Bible note is clear to point out that "you have no need that anyone should teach you" is not to be applied too broadly, for John himself is teaching them in this letter. Wouldn't want to undermine anyone's authority or anything. Those leaders are so important.

But what John is saying, and what is simply unpalatable to about 97% of a culture enamored with celebrities, faces, sound bites, and media appearances, is not something primarily about the presence (or absence) of teachers. It is a statement about "his anointing."

We who have brushed elbows with the charismatic movement at any time have heard plenty of stuff about anointings. "So and so is anointed for this," and "we are anointed to do such and such a ministry." In fact, everyone were as anointed as they claimed to be, we would probably be drowning in oil. But John seems to be doing something slightly different than doling out spiritual tasks and ritualizing one's appointment to an office or role(NAR anyone?). The anointing John speaks of squarely roots the anointing in Jesus Christ himself.

Far from being some libertine statement about how these "children" are to be untaught and untethered, it's a libertine statement about their freedom to be mastered only by the anointing itself. John is locating the source of their growth, the teaching that comes to them, in the person of Jesus, not in the authority of men. The dreaded conviction, that "you have no need that anyone should teach you," is given in contrast to the coming of the false teachers. Because what must a false teacher do to validate his or her own conviction in order to gain influence but invalidate Christ, his message, his authority, and his necessity? If Christ himself is not the authoritative message that teaches us, then we have need of special folks. We need people who are better than us. Educated, elevated people whose spirituality proceeds from their inborn or trained contact with a higher plane than the rest of us. Closer to God.

I'll take John at his word when he seems to dispense with the necessity of teachers, because it frees me to throw out people like Todd Bentley and the shamans who endorsed him, whose essential goal is to demand my allegiance and subvert my devotion to Jesus. The point here is that there's no need for this teacher or that prophet to come to me and give me "special impartation" because the logos itself is doing that. These fools can be snuffed out in an instant, their credibility undermined, their careers ruined. Is Lakeland, FL important anymore, a year or so later? No, it's the butt of irreverent jokes. If Jesus' anointing was the power at work, if the News held sway over people's imaginations, would a leader's fall would not reduce the anointing, the rejoicing, the salvation, the teary worship. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. "Leaders" and "prophets" who decide that the gospel isn't enough and claim that their super-powers are the newest and best antidote, serve their bellies and deny the Father and the Son.

A true teacher, on the other hand, when faced with this statement, that "his(Christ's) anointing teaches you about everything" will rejoice. Because it is the anointing of Christ that taught them at first. Nothing originates with them, nor does it require them to sustain it. And now it is the anointing of Christ that teaches others, which they bear witness to. A true teacher doesn't crave attention, because he is not directing it to himself or his "wisdom" in the first place. True teachers act as if "He must increase, but I must decrease."

So how does "his anointing" teach us? It's impossible to overstate how deeply the Gospel itself, taking root in our psyche, transforms and brings life. It rips up old assumptions. It deconstructs motives. News: God has come in Christ. He has defeated the power of sin and will one day destroy it altogether. He has slain death. He has risen in the "body of flesh" giving us a testimony of the power of God to raise the dead, and the promise that death cannot stand between us and the glory we were designed for, which will be revealed in the consummation. It has happened. It is no new philosophy we preach. It is a historical/future event.

The anointing John is referring to, as if it were a person in itself, with intention, teaching the children, is the news of events that transpired surrounding the coming of Jesus Christ. This news is passed along from person to person, mouth to mouth, and carried throughout the realm as the message of the great, triumphant victory of God over sin and death. Those who hear it and receive the news as indeed good, great news, can never be the same. Their imagination is transfigured. Death has no sting. Guilt is buried. All may now be lost in the service of this King, because all has been gained on their behalf.

The anointing of Christ that teaches the children is the message of the anointed-- the Christ-- and his victory that irrevocably shifts the thinking of the hearer, if indeed he/she decides it is true.

So why don't I need anyone to teach me? Because the message itself has changed me, and continues to change me. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."(Col 2:6) Dramatically. Irrevocably. The implications are endless. This is what it means for the anointing to teach you- to have the gospel message dramatically reshape all spheres of the mind, and thus the motives and deep inspirations, and thus the life lived. Applied perennially, watering the ground daily with this news: the event of the coming, death and resurrection of Christ, the only anointed one.


Bob said...

Wow. That's really something. One of your best posts, Nate. I'm going to go re-read it now!

Erin Hope said...

I was wandering through the library yesterday, and ended up over where all the religious stuff is.....Here are some titles:
-The third Jesus
-What Jesus Meant
-A New Life of Jesus
-Jesus was a feminist (at which point I started chuckling)
-The Historical Jesus
....etc.... the list goes on. And as I stood there looking at all those rows of books, I just got tired. I got tired and frustrated... (not to say some of them aren't good, or worth reading.....) But why do we feel the need to always be elaborating on something that is in itself, enough?

Nate said...

Erin: I think the people that write those books are the "educated, elevated people" I was talking about!

nAncY said...

truly good news!