eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 4.16b-5.5

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This coming Sunday (Jan. 25) at 9:00 a.m. some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with Scripture and our discussion of it, you’ll find the following here: (a) the text of 1 John 4.16b-5.5 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading

receiving the word

4.16b God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. 17 This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

5.1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. 3 This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, 4 because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. 5 Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son?

wrestling with this word

1. How exactly does a person go about making sure they “remain in God?” (4.16b)

2. Why is it crucial, not just good, for us to know that God “remains in us?” (4.16b)

3. How is it that when mature, perfected love is in us, confidence for, not fear of, the Judgment Day fills our heart? (4.17a)

4. When are we “exactly the same as God in this world?” (4.17b)

5. Is there to be any fear in the heart of one who loves? (4.18a) Does your view sync with 4.18a?

6. Restate 4.18b in your own words.

7. The cure for fear is _____. (4.17-18)

8. Just how strong/earnest is your quest to be “made perfect in love?” (4.18b) Score it 0-100.

9. Which comes first: God’s love for us or our love for him? (4.20)

10. How do we know our love for God is real? (4.20)

11. To love each other as brothers is God’s command to us. (4.21) When, where, and how did he declare such? Be as specific as possible with your answer.

12. Do you believe 5.1a? Explain. Would you say our tribe in Christendom is well known for believing/practicing this Scripture? Why?

13. How does a believer practice 5.1a?

14. What does it mean to “believe that Jesus is the Christ?” (5.1a)

15. John speaks of believers being “born from God.” (5.1a) What does “born from God” mean?

16. How might the expression of Christianity be very different if all believers everywhere truly, deeply, and consistently believed/practiced 5.1 with mature love? How might those yet to believe be different?

17. How is it that lovingly obeying God gives love to our kin in Christ? (5.2)

18. John says that “God’s commandments are not difficult.” (5.3b) But experience says they are at times. When are they difficult for us, and why?

19. All who are born of God “defeat the world.” (5.4a) What does that defeat/victory look like? What does it not look like?

20. What enables Christians to defeat the world? (5.4b-5)

links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to several posts that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Ancient world, archaeology, children & toys: Ancient Toys

“It is often easy to forget that the characters we read about in the Bible and in the history books were real people, and lived much like we do today.”

Bible, culture, faith & reading: * These Are the Most Godless Cities in America; * Actually, THESE Are the Most Godless Cities in America

* “The American Bible Society measures ‘Bible-mindedness’ by how strictly survey respondents read the book and believe in its accuracy. … The American Bible Society found that only 27% of Americans are Bible-minded. The data was based up on telephone and online interviews with 62,896 adults …”

* “In response to the ABS study, the popular Bible-searching website BibleGateway.com has released a study of its own with some striking findings. Based only on how often people in a given city use its Bible-searching software (and controlling for population size) … Bible Gateway’s different methodology—which, perhaps most significantly, does not take into account whether or not a reader considers the Bible to be literally true—yields some remarkable differences from the ABS study.”

Fear & idolatry: The Greatest False Idol of Modern Christianity [essential reading; spot-on!]

“Parroting the politicized talk show hosts and reposting the latest terrible news stories, we perpetuate the now comfortable, Evangelical Christian narrative of impending destruction, and we make it clear at every opportunity: The sky is falling.

“Though we will loudly, repeatedly and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality, many of us no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control or inherent God-ness. We seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore. He’s lost His Old Testament swagger.

“The truth is, Fear has become a false God, one too many of us worship with complete and undying devotion.

“Dig just beneath the sunny ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Bible covers, and the ‘God’s judgment is coming’ bullhorn warnings and you’ll find that much of America has imagined a powerless God who’s mostly just keeping Heaven tidy until all the Christians get there. In the meantime, we live in perpetually frightened freak-out mode.”

Fear, manhood, men & respect: The Problem with Men and Why We Ignore It/Them at Our Own Risk

“…  human males crave respect. For most males, boys and men, respect is somewhere near the top of their hierarchy of needs. I would go so far as to say that, if they were to be completely honest, when asked which they would prefer if they had to choose one over the other most males would take respect over love. And, perhaps unfortunately, part of that craving for respect is desiring to be respected for their maleness. …

“… “when boys and men conclude they will not gain respect they turn to fear. That is, for many, creating fear of them in others becomes a substitute for respect. Fear feels, to them, like respect or at least is an acceptable substitute. Boys and men who feel respected rarely turn to fear as a substitute. They are satisfied with respect (or the real prospect of it). However, boys and young men who believe respect is out of their reach often turn to implied violence if not real violence such as intimidation.

“Nothing I have said implies this is how things should be. However, I have concluded that this male habit of the heart is so deeply ingrained that it is unlikely to be changed by social engineering or anything else. We ignore it at our own cost as a society.”

God, providence & sports: Aaron Rodgers: God Probably Doesn’t Care Who Wins Football Games

“‘I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,’ Rodgers [quarterback for the Green Bay Packers] said. ‘He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.’ …

“… [meanwhile,] Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — an outspoken Christian — told reporter Peter King that a divine influence made Sunday’s barnburner so exciting. ‘That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,’ Wilson said, according to King.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles I’ve found to be interesting.

Apologetics, archaeology, manuscripts & Mark’s Gospel: Earliest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Apparently Found

“Craig Evans, who is most certainly a careful scholar, has announced the discovery of a piece of Mark’s Gospel that may well date to 80-90 A.D. making it by far the earliest portion of any NT book yet found. … We must await the publishing of the materials and the evidence for these claims, and then the vetting of the claims by peer scholars, but thus far, it looks like Craig is on to something big!”

Children, divorce & parenting: ‘Kids Are Resilient’ and 7 Other Lies Divorcing Parents Should Stop Believing

“As a former divorce mediator, and current couples and family mediator, I have heard every excuse that parents use to feel better about breaking up their family.”

Climate, ecology, global warming, nature & pollution: Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

“A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. ‘We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,’ said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. … Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.”

Deception, false claims, heaven, lies & personal testimonies: Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book [required reading]

“Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.”

God, suffering & the problem of evil: If God Is in Control, Why Does Bad Stuff Keep Happening? [essential reading]

“You can never look at the way the world is and read God’s purposes off from the way the world is. It’s always more puzzling and confusing than that. … Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: ‘I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.’ In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show. But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.”

LIFE group guide: hydrate!

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NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Jan. 18) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To declare our need to “soak” our life in God, and to urge us to do just that.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” (John 4.13-14 CEB)

• Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6.35 NLT)

• Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6.53-56 NIV)

• On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive … (John 7.37-39 NRSV)

•… knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19.28 CEB)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. What is your drink of choice? That is, you always look forward to drinking ____.

2. On average, how much water do you drink per day at this time of year?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Read Jn. 6.53-56’s context. Why believe Jesus isn’t referring to the Lord’s Supper?

2. What does water have to do with the context/location of the words of Jn. 7.37-39?

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. What does it mean to thirst for God? What does a person thirsty for God do?

2. I consistently find my thirst for God grows whenever I ________.

3. What hindrances have you encountered to acquiring an abiding thirst for God?

4. How is it a real thirst for God is simultaneously unquenchable and yet, quenched?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s message.

1. Continually sip some water throughout each day. As you sip, pray.

2. Encourage others to stay hydrated. Each time you do, silently consider a Scripture.