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)?
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27.19 NIV)
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 9) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a four-part series entitled Giving.
To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.
To explore and emphasize the importance of our giving of our means.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.
• … we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.1-9 NIV)
• Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9.7 CEB)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. As a child, what was a toy you had that you never wanted to share?
2. Tell us of something you gave or shared one time that gave you great joy to do.
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon.
1. To whom were the Macedonian & Corinthian Christians giving? What was the need?
2. What is stated in the texts above as their source and their motivation of giving?
3. What exactly was God’s “grace” (2 Cor. 8.1) to the Corinthian Christians? What was Christ’s “grace” to them (2 Cor. 8.9)?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. We think of prayer and Scripture reading as spiritual disciplines. How is giving such?
2. How is “overflowing joy” (8.2) and “cheerfulness” (9.7) connected with godly giving?
3. What can a Christian do to nurture their growth of a healthy, happy heart for giving?
This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out this message in the coming days.
1. Thoughtfully and carefully review and evaluate the history of your giving through the years and where you currently stand in your participation and maturing in this grace.
“John tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help someone in need. The truth of the matter is, few of us will ever die for another person, while all of us have the opportunity to put others first on a daily basis.”
Christianity: The Shifting Global Church [infographic]
“* 4,300 people were leaving the church in Europe and North America while 16,500 people were coming in in Africa. * In a hundred years’ time, Africa has grown by 36x while Europe has only doubled. * China is currently the fastest region of growth at 16,500 new Christians a day, despite strong governmental resistance.”
Guidance & heart: Follow Your Heart – Why That’s a Bad Idea
“Obedience is that guide. Anything else is a bad idea.”
Ministry & success: Wanting vs Needing Your Church To Be Successful [essential reading]
“A definition of success that focuses solely on numbers (attendance, offerings) is unhealthy (for the pastor) and unrealistic. My experience in working with pastors and the churches they lead has shown time after time that a church can be healthy and not grow. I’ve also come to realize that a church can be unhealthy and grow. Strange as that may sound, it is true. I don’t think it’s necessary, or wise, to ignore attendance and offerings, but what is necessary is to find a definition of success that has very little to do with numbers.”
Persecution: Paper-Cut Persecution
“I have found myself coming across a lot of in the media and online from North American Christians referring to themselves as suffering for their faith or even being persecuted. Almost without exception, when I dig into their issues it most often is a situation where Christians have lost a place of privilege in our culture (one that we should perhaps not have had in the first place), but are responding to it as though they are being put to the rack.”
“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sins! Intimacy with God is still out on the frontier for many who have been in the church for decades. Closeness with God has been suffocated by sincere (yet often empty) intimacy with church attendance, brand of church attendance, projects to involve the church attenders, and the ever-famous “decent and in order” form of the church attenders. Much of church has been everything but intimacy with God. But we are learning.”
Tradition: Tradition: How To Stick It to the Man
“‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’ – Jaroslav Pelikan“
* “While ‘biblical’ could technically mean ‘influenced by the Bible,’ it has become a code word for ‘possessing the one and only way to interpret the Bible on a particular issue.’ In our zeal to follow the teachings of scripture, we have sought a definitive, once and for all time way to read a book that has always been a work in progress. … There is no ‘biblical”’ way of doing things. There is only a biblically informed and Spirit-led way of doing things. And that information and leading may evolve and shift over time.”
* “… I’m very cautious about that phrase, about ‘thinking Biblically.’ Not of thinking Biblically, but of using that phrase to legitimatize teachings and opinions that are sometimes terribly wrong.”
Choices & decisions: Never Settle for Second Best with God by Wayne Stiles
“God’s best for us seldom comes immediately. But it’s always worth the wait. How often have we run ahead of the Lord instead of waiting for His best? A lonely believer marries an unbeliever. An eager couple makes a poor financial decision. A family joins a church for its location in spite of its doctrine. Many people fail to see God work in their lives because they fail to wait on Him to supply.”
Missions: Are We Only Interested in Low-Hanging Fruit? by Mark Woodward [required reading]
“… can we as a fellowship see beyond the low-hanging fruit? Can churches of Christ do the hard work in hard places for many, many years? Can we commit to sowing seeds that may not bear fruit for generations?”
“Today, many states and counties do not offer lawyers to the poor in major civil disputes, and in some criminal ones as well. Those states that do are finding that more people than ever are qualifying for such help, making it impossible to keep up with the need. The result is that even at a time when many law school graduates are without work, many Americans are without lawyers.”
“Bono ’embraces his inner nerd’ and shares inspiring data that shows the end of poverty is in sight … if we can harness the momentum.”
The Bible mini-series: * Q: What Do Roma Downey and Writers of the Bible Have In Common? A: Neither Sticks to the Script. by Pete Enns; * The Bible—Part Three by Ben Witherington
* “… failure to stick with the biblical script is something we see a lot of in the Bible itself.”
* “The saddest part of all this is twofold: 1) millions were spent on this project filmed overseas with no little time and expense expended, but 2) it could have been soo much better. So much better. I do think they intended well. I have no problem with the selectivity and even with paraphrasing things to get at the spirit of this or that narrative. But they needed to do a better job of listening to whatever scholars were advising them. They have avoided irreverence but are flirting with irrelevance by not doing a better job.”
Values: Topsy-Turvy Values: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis
“Which is more important: To spend time with another person or to play games on a new gadget?”
Christians, faith, gun control & idolatry: * A New American Idol – The Second Amendment by Paul Smith [required reading]; * Christianity & Guns 1; * Pray and Put Up a (Nonviolent) Fight by Rachel Stone
* “Ever since the massacre of the school children in Newtown, CT, I have been bombarded with evidence that America has fallen completely in love with another idol, and this one will destroy us just as surely as the golden calves caused the destruction of Northern Israel. The idol is the United States Constitution, and nowhere is it more directly visible than in our repulsive adoration of the second amendment. …
“The murders in Newtown changed me forever. … The cataracts over my eyes were ripped off in horrific fashion. …
“I really do not think you can be a follower of Jesus the Christ and still support the 2nd Amendment as it is so devoutly defended by the NRA. And I truly do not think your Christianity amounts to a thimble of water if you are a member of the NRA – if you defend their most diabolical pronouncements. …
“I want the freedom that is in Christ – the freedom that comes from surrendering my rights – and that means my so called 2nd Amendment right to own a gun designed to kill another human being.”
* “It is not God’s will that 82 to 84 people die every day as a result of gun violence. The nonsense of the Gun Empire is that guns don’t kill people and that the answer to gun violence is more guns.”
* “Ever since Constantine had his soldiers put a cross on their shields, Christians have been divided on something that Jesus was shockingly unambiguous about: violence perpetuates violence perpetuates violence perpetuates violence perpetually–and you don’t get to wield or excuse or perpetuate violence in Jesus’ name. That’s blasphemy.
“But in many quarters, it seems, to break ranks with conservative American values and say ‘enough with the guns that have no purpose except to kill people’ is a greater blasphemy.
“If the name of Jesus is on you–and if you call yourself Christian, it is–then for someone to perpetuate violence in your name is blasphemy. And so I say to lawmakers who won’t stand up to the NRA, who won’t require insurance companies to provide adequate coverage for mental health care, who wage undeclared wars, who criminalize those who should be hospitalized: not in my name.
“Yes, this is a time to pray. To pray, and to put up a (nonviolent) fight.”
Evil, heart & murder: Murder: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis
“All of us are deeply disturbed by the 28 murders recently committed at a grade school in Newtown, Connecticut. The murderer was identified as Adam Lanza, age 20. He murdered his mother, six teachers, and 20 small students. In all cases, people want to know, WHY did this happen? And out of this come numerous questions which face all of us. Why didn’t God intervene and prevent this from happening? Why didn’t Adam’s mother raise him as a good citizen? Why didn’t counselors detect Adam’s problems? People pounce on this kind of issue, and declare that Adam had psychological problems or suffered from paternal abuse or was wired as an evil person at birth, and the theories go on an on. Let’s be honest. The REAL issue is the HEART. “
Human trafficking & slavery: Slavery’s Global Comeback by J.J. Gould
“There are now twice as many people enslaved in the world as there were in the 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade. … The leading demographic accounts of contemporary slavery project a global slave population of between 20 million and 30 million people.”