I hurry to keep your commandments — I never put it off! (Psalm 119.60)
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)?
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)
Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.
And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a person does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.
The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.
But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.
“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”
You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …
What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?
Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?
If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.
You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.
Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.
Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.
It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.
Get busy living.
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Oct. 5) 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.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To underscore our response to God’s calling us and the seriousness of our faith in Christ.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7.24-27 NLT)
• Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.” (Luke 9.62 CEB)
• You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do. (James 1.22-25 CEB)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Name a movie that has had a profound effect on you or share a favorite movie quote.
2. Is a person what they intend or what they do?
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
2. Psalm 119 is a psalm of deep devotion to God. How often does it use words like “obey”?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. A person who has lost their ability to dream and build for the future has a ______ life.
2. Christ challenges us as he calls us. How does he enable us and equip us to respond?
3. What roles do our works play in our salvation? What roles do they not play?
4. How does how you see your past and future affect what you do in the present?
5. How can a disciple insure that their godly intentions and decisions become actions?
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Consciously use the word “Lord” more often. Let that focus your mind/ways to act.
2. Build a system of solid reminders and means of accountability for your intentions.