“God is holy and just. In all his deeds, God is true to himself and faithful to his promises. In contrast, we act in opposition to our true selves and break our covenant promises. Rather than acknowledging God’s gifts with grateful hearts, we take our lives for granted; or, even worse, we use them as if we had created ourselves. When we ought to honor God by conforming to his holiness and justice, we follow our own foolish inclinations and reject the divine wisdom embodied in God’s law.
“Even if we admit that God has bridged the gaps between being and nothingness, between meaning and meaninglessness, why should the righteous and holy God reach out to an arrogant and ungrateful sinner? That which is nothing might at least arouse pity, since its pitiful state is not its own doing. But the ungrateful lawbreaker who considers himself wiser than God clearly deserves the consequences of his actions. Divine righteousness on one side and human unrighteousness on the other, God’s holiness above and our unholiness beneath – how can God bridge such chasms? And why would he do so if he could?
“To our amazement, God wills to have fellowship with the unrighteous: he chooses to save sinners from the consequences of their actions. … Why does God forgive sinners and reconcile them to himself by taking on their sin? Because he loves us with a love that ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3.19), and that provokes our wonder and amazement.”
(Ron Highfield, Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God; pp. 175-176)
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.
This coming Sunday (Jan. 11) 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 below: (a) the text of 1 John 2.28-3.12 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.
receiving this word
And now, little children, remain in relationship to Jesus, so that when he appears we can have confidence and not be ashamed in front of him when he comes. If you know that he is righteous, you also know that every person who practices righteousness is born from him.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.
Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure. Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him.
Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous. The person who practices sin belongs to the devil, because the devil has been sinning since the beginning. God’s Son appeared for this purpose: to destroy the works of the devil. Everyone who is fathered by God does not go on sinning, because God’s offspring remain in him; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been fathered by God. That is how it is clear who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not of God, particularly the person who doesn’t love their brother or sister. This is the message that you heard from the beginning: love each other. Don’t behave like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he kill him? He killed him because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were right. (1 John 2.28-3.12 CEB)
wrestling with this word
1. What exactly does it mean to “remain in relationship to Christ?” (2.28a) How might this call have been especially challenging to John’s original audience? How is it challenging to us today?
2. How real to you is the prospect of Christ’s future appearance? (2.28b)
3. What gives us the ability to delight in, not dread, Christ’s coming appearance? (2.28b)
4. How is 2.29 a rebuke to those who left? How is it confidence/motivation to those who stayed?
5. What descriptors or declarations in Scripture speak deeply to you of God’s love for you (3.1a)?
6. Since the world rejected Christ, should Christians expect/seek, better treatment by it (3.1b)?
7. “… we’ll see him as he is.” (3.2b) What is John telling us we’ll see God to be?
8. How is our holiness fed and fueled by hope (3.3)?
9. “… sin is rebellion.” (3.4) What does this tell you about sin? About you? About God?
10. Why is sin not to be trifled with? (3.5-6) What sin(s) have been called out thus far in 1 John?
11. “… don’t let anyone deceive you.” (3.7a) How can a person grow to become less deceivable?
12. What does John mean in 3.7b? What does he not mean?
13. A person belongs to the one they serve. (3.8a) Thoughts?
14. Christ came to destroy the devil’s work. (3.8b) How exactly did he do that?
15. Is John saying Christians can mature to such a point that they cease to sin? (3.9) Explain.
16. Compare 3.10 with 2.9-11. How are these texts similar? In what ways do they differ?
17. Which archery target ring is labeled “do right?” Which is labeled “do right by others?” (3.10b)
18. Why is it just so plain difficult at times for Christians to just love each other? (3.10b-11)
19. Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Was it about his offering or his life? (3.12; cf. Gen. 4.7)
20. What lessons does John expect his readers to glean from the Cain and Abel account (3.12)?
I consider all five of today’s links here to be “required reading” or “required watching.” Lots of good stuff!
Assumptions, nonviolence & violence: Does Nonviolence Work?
“We are blinded by the pervasive, long-standing assumption that violence is both ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’ to promote good and minimize evil. … Kingdom people are called to walk in obedience to the example and teaching of Jesus even when it seems to make no sense to do so. We’re called to be faithful to Jesus, not effective at protecting our lives or ridding the world of evil.
“To the world’s ‘normal’ way of thinking, Jesus’ radical posture is indeed ludicrous, impractical, unpatriotic, irresponsible, and even immoral. And it may, in the short run, look like our refusal to participate in the merry-go-round of violence allows evil to win.
“We need to remember that this is exactly how matters looked on Good Friday, when the omnipotent God suffered at the hands of evil rather than use coercive force to extinguish it. But under the reign of the sovereign God, Good Friday never has the last word.”
Christianity, discipleship, faith, holiness & the status quo: The Gospel of Mark – Antonia Fortress – Am I Leading a Rebellion? [4 min. video]
“He’s leading a rebellion, it’s called the Kingdom of God and you can’t vote that in, but everyone can be a part of it.”
Death, euthanasia, judging, physician-assisted suicide & suicide: Brittany Maynard Didn’t Commit Suicide (What We Can Learn From 9-11′s “Falling Man”)
“It seems disingenuous to force someone to choose between two ways of dying and then turn on them in judgment for picking the least painful of the two options.”
Giving thanks and gratitude: The World is Made Holy Through Thanks
“… when life is treated as a possession that can be taken from us, damaged or lost our lives become infused with fear causing us to cling, protect, hoard, defend and aggress. The antidote to this fear is gratitude, viewing life–the whole of life–not as a possession to be defended but as a gift to be shared.”
Parenting & teens: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents Make
“Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not cultivating within yourself. … Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen. … Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation. … Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement. … Holding low expectations for your teen. … Trying to be your teen’s best friend. … Permissive parenting. … Spoiling your teen. … Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family. … Not spending time with your teen.”
Birds & climate change: Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says
“… climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct. The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose ‘more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.’ An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said.”
Burdens, endurance, God, & trials: 21 Reasons God May Allow More Than You Can Bear
“Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath. If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer.”
Christian nation, culture, morality, outrage & shock: 4 Reasons Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook
“It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.”
Enemies, ISIS, and love: How are We to Love the Soldiers of ISIS?
“… as long as there are nations and governments, there will be people who are more than willing to engage in violence, for no national government can rule its people and survive outside threats without being willing to engage in violence. Nations, governments and violence go hand-in-hand, in other words. The call of kingdom people is to opt out of this whole enterprise by pledging allegiance to Christ alone as we leave all vengeance to God and simply imitate Christ by loving our enemies (Eph 5:1-2).”
Holiness, perception, purity & sexuality: Search Term Friday: Damaged Goods
“This is the psychology that makes the Christian purity culture so toxic.”
Poor & poverty: What Makes People Poor?
“Let’s imagine for a moment that there are no political pressures distorting our discussion of poverty and that we can look at it as a technical problem, not a moral one. Maybe we would find that most explanations – left, right and center – are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.”