eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24

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This coming Sunday (Dec. 21) 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 God’s word and our discussion of it, you’ll find the below: (a) the text of 1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving this word

Dear friends, I’m not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the message you heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shines. The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now. The person loving a brother and sister stays in the light, and there is nothing in the light that causes a person to stumble. But the person who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and lives in the darkness, and doesn’t know where to go because the darkness blinds the eyes. …

Don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters. The person who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God. We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. The person who keeps his commandments remains in God and God remains in him; and this is how we know that he remains in us, because of the Spirit that he has given to us. (1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24 CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. How is the command John writes about both “old” and “new” (2.7-9)? What is this this command?

2. “The darkness is passing away and the true light already shines.” (2.8b) What is meant by this?

3. Knowing what we do of this letter’s original recipients and context, who is 2.9 talking about? Why?

4. “Don’t be surprised … if the world hates you.” (3.13) Define “world.” Why expect hatred? (3.14)

5. “The person loving a brother and sister stays in the light.” (3.10) “The person who does not love remains in death.” (3.14b) Brotherly love is crucial, not optional! How can we nurture such love?

6. Do believers today try hard to insure the world doesn’t hate them? Are they shocked when it does?

7. What is “eternal life?” (3.15) Let John 17.3 inform you. How does this tie in with 1 John 3.17b?

8. How do Christians know how to go about loving others? (3.16) What does love look like? (3.16-17)?

9. Our life isn’t compartmentalized before God. Loving him and loving others are one (3.16-17). Why?

10. Why note the withholding of material things as a sign of a dropped connection with God? (3.17)

11. We all want to know we belong to the truth and want to be confident before God. (3.18-19) How?

12. Restate 3.18 in your own words.

13. How do you love someone with “truth?” (3.18b) cf. John 4.24 for use of the same word for “truth.”

14. What exactly is our “heart?” (3.19-21) Define it. What is an effective synonym for “heart?”

15. How might the first readers have struggled with having confident hearts before God (3.18-21)?

16. We all want what we ask of God to receive a big “Yes” from him. What enables that? (3.22)

17. When you don’t get what you ask for is that to be understood as a sign you’re disobedient? (3.22)

18. “We keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (3.22) What pleases God? (3.23)

19. To believe in the name of Jesus and to love each other (3.23) is one “commandment?” How so?

20. How can a Christian know that God lives in them (3.24)?

links: this went thru my mind

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Application, Bible reading, interpretation, meditation, obedience & reflection: * Reading the Bible vs. Being Read by the Bible; * Asking the Bible to Do More Than It Does

* “I suspect it was for my failure that God had been waiting.”

* “According to Scripture we do not first know and comprehend the way and then decide to follow it; it is rather the one who is on the journey who knows that he is on the right way. Knowledge comes only in action and decision. Only he who is in truth will recognize the truth.”

Archaeology, credibility, discernment, hoaxes, reality & scams: Questions to Ask of Sensational Stories

“… I suggest that the following questions be asked as you read …”

Communication, literary devices, public speaking & writing: 10 Literary Devices that Actually Work

“If you want to become a better writer, using literary devices is a way to add spice.”

Government, politics & voting: Greg on Politics

“Think deeply about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and whether or not you should be having any allegiance to the politics of this world.”

the church Jesus goes to

 

I know where Jesus goes to church. Without a doubt. He goes to the church that lives deliberately, boldly, and consistently …

pursuing peace and reconciliation. Though it lives in a world saturated with anger, disrespect, snarkiness, and insult, with a will it refuses to go there. It’s done with living by rage, choosing righteousness instead. It’s not defined by its own insecurities and its ability to utter barbed wit in retort to those who mock it, but by its humble confidence in its Christ and its dependence on the provision of God’s Spirit in every situation, no matter how dark or difficult. Imagine: a church made distinctive to all by not being abrasive and hard to live with.

unruled by its wants. Though surrounded on every side by people chasing after every kind of lust and sanctifying all sorts of unfaithfulness in every relationship, it isn’t seduced to do the same. It doesn’t seek its own will, but whatever God’s will is for it. Instead of searching for meaning in whatever it perceives as sexy (not just sex itself, by whatever is “sexy”), it finds its meaning in its Lord and Savior, for he is enough, and more. Picture this: a church known to the world for its contentment and reliability.

by its words of honesty. Though the culture in which is resides is given over to dishonesty and deception, it quietly walks its talk. It practices what it preaches, not merely what’s “practical” in the moment. Its ways aren’t determined by always choosing what works out for its own best interest, but by going after the truth that true love can truly rejoice in always. Capture this vision: a church perceived as genuine and true by all who care to truly engage it.

extending mercy generously. Though its world is largely driven by retaliation and payback, fueled by fear and the never ending yearning for hard justice, it walks by faith on higher ground. It thrives on the Spirit of compassion, not the spirit of competition. Its life map is not of doing whatever would instill fear in others of it, but to do whatever would help install faith in others in the God it follows. Draw it in your head like this: a church characterized by selfless giving and costly care.

loving the unlovable. Though seemingly all of society continually calls it to elicit indifference, ill will, hate, or anything and everything else that dehumanizes, it chooses to love with the love of the divine instead. By so doing, it traffics in forgiveness, not fierceness or fighting. This is because it seeks its definition not in its enemies, but in him who allowed his enemies to spike him to a tree. Place this before your eyes: a church that will mount the cross with its Lord, and die with him. Daily.

After all, what else could a person honestly conclude after reading what Jesus candidly said in Matthew 5.21-26,27-32,33-37,38-42,43-48?

And so, I have to ask: what might a church become if it understood and made these matters its chief means of worshiping and following Jesus Christ? In a week? A month? A few years? Over the course of a lifetime? Or after several generations?

Would it not become more and more like the One it worshiped? And wouldn’t that be what both the Lord, and they, wanted most of all?

Let’s find out. Let’s go to church with Jesus!

golden nuggets from Sirach (1)

 

On of the things I’m about this year in my reading is working through the Apocrypha, paying special attention to the book of Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus). More and more so each year, Sirach becomes one of my favorite writings. It’s not a book for quick reading. To truly appreciate what’s being said in it, you must read it slowly and repeatedly, with reflection.

Following are five of the statements that have jumped out at me in my reading of Sirach this time through. Put them in your head and let them steep a bit.

“My child, if you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.” (Sirach 2.1)

“… conduct your affairs with gentleness, and you will be loved more than a person of good repute.” (Sirach 3.17)

“Don’t deprive a poor person’s life, and don’t avoid looking the needy in the eyes. … Listen to the poor, and reply with peaceful and gentle speech.” (Sirach 4.1,8)

“Don’t lower yourself before a fool, and don’t show partiality toward the powerful. Fight to the death on behalf of truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.” (Sirach 4.27-28)

“Don’t be preoccupied with your money, and don’t say, ‘I’m self-sufficient.'” (Sirach 5.1)

devoted: grow a spine

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Nov. 18. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Grow a Spine. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides.

Aim

To explore what it means to develop a spine and to devote it to God.

Word

I’m writing these things to you so … you’ll know how you should behave in God’s household. It is the church of the living God and the backbone and support of the truth. Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3.14b-16 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Here’s a sanctified chance to moan a bit. Do you have back trouble? If so, tell us about it. What’s it like, how does it affect what you do, etc.

2. Tell us about some “aggie-engineering” (sorry Aggies; perhaps I should have said “a Rube Goldberg device”) you used to hold something together one time.  Think “over-abundance of duct tape,” etc. How’d that work out for you?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. vs. 15 – Compare the wording here in several versions. Thoughts? What is the backbone and support of the truth?

2. vs. 15b – What is “the truth” Paul has reference to here? Answer in context.

3. vs. 15a,16 – How is it that the truths expressed in vs. 16 – “the mystery of godliness” – relate to our knowing how to “behave in God’s household?”

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. If truth is truth, how is it truth needs any “backbone” or “support?”

2. What singular item of the six aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ – “the mystery of godliness” (vs. 16) – do you think of most often? Why? Least often? Why?

3. What does it do for you to know that God is counting on you to courageously and consistently support with your life what he defines as “the truth” in this world?

4. How have you seen the church powerfully living out some of God’s truth?

5. Someone tells you that all “truth” is subjective? How would you respond?

6. Pray together as a group for God’s people – yourself included – to have discernment for what truly matters, what does not, and to have a strong spine for the former.