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“Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 8).

TOWARD THE END OF JOHN’S LIFE, THE CHRISTIANS IN ASIA WERE IN DIRE STRAITS. Threatened with persecution, heartbroken at the doctrinal apostasy that was taking place, disturbed about the prevalence of moral corruption among Christians, and concerned about the complacency of so many churches, the faithful brothers and sisters were hard pressed. And John was concerned about these faithful disciples: “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” 

To be watchful does not mean to be afraid. It does not require paranoia, anxiety, or uncertainty as to our salvation in Christ. But it does require vigilance. Given the problems that confront us (no less today than in the first century), it would be dangerous not to guard our faith carefully — there are none more vulnerable to the devil’s malice than those who are not paying attention.

Like it or not, we have an enemy whose intent is to destroy us. Peter compares him to a lion looking for his next meal. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This enemy is no match for the power of the King, of course. But until the last battle has been fought, we need to be cautious. As long as it is possible for us to become lackadaisical and drift away from the Lord (Hebrews 2:1), we need to be very careful (Ephesians 5:15).

In Christ’s letters to the seven churches of Asia, we hear Him warning even the most faithful of these churches to be steadfast. To Philadelphia, He said, “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). The “armor” that Christ has given us (Ephesians 6:10–20) is quite capable of guarding us against the devil, but only if we strap it on . . . and use it.

Unguarded strength is double weakness, as the saying goes. Even with our strengths, blessings, and advantages, we must take care. Being naive is not a virtue. So Jesus said to His apostles, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

“The thing we have to watch most of all is our strength, our strong point. We all tend to fail ultimately at our strong point” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones).

Gary Henry — +

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