eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 5.6-21

This coming Sunday (Feb. 1) 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 5.6-21 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving the word

6 This is the one who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. Not by water only but by water and blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 The three are testifying— 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and the three are united in agreement. 9 If we receive human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because this is what God testified: he has testified about his Son. 10 The one who believes in God’s Son has the testimony within; the one who doesn’t believe God has made God a liar, because that one has not believed the testimony that God gave about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have God’s Son does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of God’s Son so that you can know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence that we have in our relationship with God: If we ask for anything in agreement with his will, he listens to us. 15 If we know that he listens to whatever we ask, we know that we have received what we asked from him. 16 If anyone sees a brother or sister committing a sin that does not result in death, they should pray, and God will give life to them—that is, to those who commit sins that don’t result in death. There is a sin that results in death—I’m not saying that you should pray about that. 17 Every unrighteous action is sin, but there is a sin that does not result in death.

18 We know that everyone born from God does not sin, but the ones born from God guard themselves, and the evil one cannot touch them. 19 We know we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 We know that God’s Son has come and has given us understanding to know the one who is true. We are in the one who is true by being in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols! (1 John 5.6-21 CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. Circle every occurrence of “know” in this text, and so, make a list of what we Christians “know.”

2. Underscore the statements in this text that are most startling to you. What are they?

3. How is it Jesus Christ “came by [both] water and blood?” (vs. 6) Why is this important?

4. “ …the Spirit, the water, and the blood … are united in agreement.” (vs. 8) About what?

5. How do the words of vs. 6-12 chastise the group that left and encourage those who remained?

6. It’s all about having the Son in your life (vs. 12). So, who “has the Son?” Who doesn’t? (vs. 6-12)

7. John says disciples can know they have eternal life. (vs. 13) What is “eternal life?”

8. What does vs. 14 tell us about God’s character and ways?

9. Is John saying (vs. 15) believers always get what they ask for from God? What does he mean?

10. John describes prayer life (vs. 14-16a) with words like these: confidence, relationship, God will give, received. What four words or phrases would you choose to describe your prayer experience?

11. Is in some way the forgiveness of others by God dependent on our prayers for them (vs. 16)?

12. We pray for the spiritual health of others (vs. 16). You pray most for physical or spiritual health?

13. “… there is a sin that does not result in death.” (vs. 17b) Say what? Splain that.

14. All who are born of God are expected to actively distance themselves from sinning (vs. 18a). How?

15. Can Satan “touch” disciples who don’t keep their “guard” up? (vs. 18b) In context: how to guard?

16. Which statement can you most quickly and readily affirm: you’re “from God” or “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one?” (vs. 19) Why? Can you affirm both?

17. Gnaw on the affirmations of, and the encouragement within, vs. 20. What does this do for you?

18. “This is the true God and eternal life.” (vs. 20b) What is the “this?”

19. Brainstorm a list of some of the “idols” John dealt with in this letter, 1 John. (vs. 21)

20. Tell us about one thing this study of 1 John has underscored in your mind or done for your ways.

links: this went thru my mind

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.”

eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 4.7-16a

This coming Sunday (Jan. 18) 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 4.7-16a and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving the word

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.

Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. (1 John 4.7-16a CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. Circle every occurrence in this passage (4.7-16a) of the forms of the word “love.”

2. In this text (4.7-16a), underscore every direct statement regarding the fact that God loves us.

3. “God is love.” (4.8,16) What hinges on the truth or falsity of this statement?

4. Make a list. Why exactly, did God send his Son into the world? (4.9-10,14)

5. “… so that we can live through him.” (4.9) What does it mean for us to “live through” Christ?

6. Read Romans 5.6-11 in connection with 1 John 4.10. What similarities/difference do you see?

7. How, or why, do you suppose that “no one has ever seen God?” (4.12a)

8. Can God remain in us if we do not love each other? (4.12b) How can lack of loving be idolatry?

9. What does “made perfect in us” mean? (4.12b) Compare renderings (NIV, NLT, The Voice).

10. What does it look like when God’s love is “made perfect” in, and among, Christians? (4.12)

11. Engage this statement: “God’s purpose for us is for his love to be made perfect in us.” (4.12)

12. “… we remain in him and he remains in us …” (4.13a) What’s the difference?

13. Closely compare 4.9 with 4.13. How do these verses say the same, and yet different, things?

14. Read Romans 8.9 in connection with 1 John 4.13. Thoughts?

15. “… he has given us a measure of his Spirit.” (4.13) Meaning? How is this measure expressed?

16. John emphasizes God “sent” the Son. (4.9,10,14) Why might John’s first listeners need this?

17. How do Christians today bear witness to Christ being this world’s Savior? (4.14)

18. What does Christ’s cross say to you? What does John conclude from Christ on the cross? (4.11)

19. In context, what does John mean when he says “confess that Jesus is God’s Son?” (4.15)

20. What’s the difference, if any, between “believing” and “knowing” God’s love for us? (4.16)

eluding our idols: 20 questions on 1 John 1.1-4 & 5.21

This coming Sunday (Dec. 7) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church start the winter class quarter and will focus on a study of John’s letters entitled Eluding Our Idols. This study’s schedule, in the class I’ll lead (the combined 20/20 and builder-boomer class), looks like this:

1.1-4; 5.21  –  Dec. 7, 2014
1.5-2.6  –  Dec. 14
2.7-11; 3.13-24  –  Dec. 21
2.12-17  –  Dec. 28
2.18-27; 4.1-6  –  Jan. 4, 2015
2.28-3.12  –  Jan. 11
4.7-16a  –  Jan. 18
4.16b-5.5  –  Jan. 25
5.6-21  –  Feb. 1
2 John  –  Feb. 8
3 John  –  Feb. 15
summation (or catch-up)  –  Feb. 22, 2015

To start this study, we’ll reflect on two texts that stand like bookends to John’s first letter: 1 John 1.1-4 and 5.21. Two statements in these texts will powerfully shape our whole study of 1 John (and for that matter, all three of John’s letters). Those statements are “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1.3b) and “Little children, guard yourselves from idols!” (5.21)

To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, following is: (1) the text of 1 John 1.1-4 and 5.21 and (2) twenty questions and exercises go along with this reading. Catch this word from God’s Spirit and be challenged!

receiving this word in our mind

We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete. (1 John 1.1-4 CEB)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols! (1 John 5.21 CEB)

wrestling with this word with our mind

1. What does an “idol” look like today in the 21st century United States? What are some of the most common idols in our society today?

2. What are some idols to which you have found yourself strongly allured or have even served … or still sometimes serve?

3. This text (1.1-4) sounds like it was written by an eyewitness. How important is it to you that the person making these statements was a literal eyewitness of Christ? Why?

4. The apostle John is commonly understood to be the author of the letter we know as 1 John. What are some of the accounts recorded in the Gospel of John that come to your mind as to what John heard, saw with his own eyes, or touched?

5. Which is more real for you: things you’ve experienced with one or more of your “five senses” or things you experience beyond the realm of those five? Make a list of some matters that are real to you that you have never seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled.

6. Was it easier for someone who had actually seen, heard, and touched Jesus to believe? Is it easier or more difficult for us today to believe Jesus, not having literally seen, heard, or touched him? Why?

7. Read and reflect on John 1.1-5. What connects do you sense between it and 1 John 1.1-4?

8. What, or who, is this “word of life” in 1 John 1.1b? How do you know?

9. The Greek word translated “announce” (“proclaim” or “declare”) in 1 John 1.2-3 is the word anangello. What does word this word remind you of and why?

10. What, or who, is this “eternal” in 1 John 1.2 that has been revealed to us? Does the “life” mentioned in vs. 2a and the “life” mentioned in vs. 2b refer to the same thing or person or do they refer to different matters? Explain.

11. What does it mean, in this context, to have “fellowship” (1.3)?

12. Is it possible to have fellowship with the Father, but not his Son, or vice-versa? (vs. 3b) Explain. Why might a God-seeker even want to have fellowship with one, but not the other?

13. In vs. 3b, Jesus is specifically referred to as God’s “Son” and as the “Christ.” What does it mean for Jesus to be God’s “son?” What does it mean for Jesus to be “Christ?”

14. There is a question as to the exact wording of the original text of 1 John 1.4. The text could read “We write these things so that our joy can be complete” or it could read “We write these things so that your joy can be complete.” How does this small difference (“our” vs. “your”) shift your understanding of what John is saying here, or does it?

15. How might the joy of the author and the original audience not have been “complete” if it (1 John) had not been literally “written” down (vs. 4)? That is, what does the author fear could happen had he not penned this letter?

16. In vs. 4, the author of 1 John says that it is “these things” that makes for complete joy. He is thinking very specifically and apparently “these things” compose something like the greatest elements of Christian faith. Enumerate what all the author specifically has in mind in vs. 1-4 that makes up “these things.”

17. Consider vs. 4. What does complete joy in Christ look like? What is it about?

18. The Greek word translated “guard” (or “keep”) in 1 John 5.21 rarely appears in the writings of John. He used it on only three other occasions, all of them appearing in his Gospel and always on the lips of our Lord Jesus. Read the other passages in which this word (phylasso) appears: John 12.25,47; 17.12.

19. “Little children” (5.21). John was writing to adults, just like you and me. Why would he use this sort of phraseology? In what ways are you a “little child?”

20. What exactly must a Christian do to guard themselves from allowing anything to take God’s place in their life (i.e. – idolatry)? How are you coming along with your guard duty?

links: this went thru my mind


Americanism, exceptionalism, idolatry, nationalism & the U.S.: Huckabee and the Heresy of Americanism [required reading]

“Americanism is a heresy; in certain respects it is simply idolatrous. Jesus, not James Madison, brought in the ‘new order of the ages.’”

Church attendance & church statistics: Stop Taking Attendance

“In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services. After years in the ministry, I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance — immediately.”

Free will & God: God Does Not Always Get What He Wants

“… God does not always get what he wants for he gave people free will. God created us with the capacity to receive and reflect his love back to him and to each other as well as toward the animal kingdom and the earth. But because we’re talking about love, God couldn’t pre-program us to cooperate with God’s plan. We have the capacity to thwart God’s will, within limits. And when we do, it breaks God’s heart.”

ISIS: A 13-Year-Old Witness to ISIS’ Beheadings, Crucifixion in Syria

“‘[They told me] if you prevent Mohammed from coming to the camp, we will cut off your head,’ his father …”

Time & work: Who’s in the Office? – The American Workday In One Graph

“… the government conducts an annual study called the that tracks how people spend their days.”