eluding our idols: twenty questions on 2 John

This coming Sunday (Feb. 8) 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 2 John, (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading, and (3) a selection from an ancient Christian writing known as The Didache.

receiving the word

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.

Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister send you their greetings. (2 John NRSV)

wrestling with this word

1. Circle every occurrence of these words in the text above (2 John): abide, love, truth and walk.

2. In the text above (2 John NRSV), underline each instance of the phrase “do not.”

3. Where was this letter penned? Who wrote it and to whom? Answer with only 2 John in mind.

4. What is this letter is about? What problem does is it address? What remedy is prescribed?

5. What specifically do the false teachers John has no use for teach (vs. 7-11)?

6. What makes the specific error/problem John is talking about here so evil and dangerous?

7. Read the selection from The Didache (11-13) found below. Cf. 176-178, too.

8. Who is the “lady” and “her children” spoken of  in vs. 1,5? Who are her sister’s children (vs. 13)?

9. What is “the truth” John speaks of in this letter (vs. 1-4)? Make sure your answer fits the context.

10. What specifically are we told in this letter about God the Father (vs. 3,4,9)?

11. What exactly do we see affirmed about Jesus Christ in this letter (vs. 3,7,9)?

12. What is grace, mercy, and peace. Define each these three words with three sentences. Why use these three words in this letter’s greeting? What do they have to do with the rest of this letter?

13. John’s main point is vs. 7-11. How do vs. 4-6 anticipate/preempt a poor solution to the problem?

14. What other issue(s) are worthy of tagging someone as a “deceiver” and “antichrist” (vs. 7)? Why?

15. How does the misapplication of vs. 9 (removing it from its context) actually constitute grave error?

16. Give some specific examples of misunderstanding and problems you’ve seen arise from the misapplication of vs. 9.

17. Wouldn’t the “safe” course be to just refuse to give aid to any and all travelling teachers who seek shelter and support? That way we’d know we’d never accidently help a false one. Engage.

18. Since precious few churches today are challenged with the problem of providing support to people who claim to follow him, but who deny his incarnation, of what use is 2 John to us today?

19. What happens when we try to walk in love, but without “the truth?” What happens when we seek to walk in “the truth” but do so without love?

20. What does vs. 12 say you about how the inspiration of Scripture worked?

a similar word in The Didache

Now, you should welcome anyone who comes your way and teaches you all we have been saying. But if the teacher proves himself a renegade and by teaching otherwise contradicts all this, pay no attention to him. But if his teaching furthers the Lord’s righteousness and knowledge, welcome him as the Lord.

Now about the apostles and prophets: Act in line with the gospel precept. Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.

While a prophet is making ecstatic utterances, you must not test or examine him. For “every sin will be forgiven,” but this sin “will not be forgiven.” However, not everybody making ecstatic utterances is a prophet, but only if he behaves like the Lord. It is by their conduct that the false prophet and the [true] prophet can be distinguished. For instance, if a prophet marks out a table in the Spirit, he must not eat from it. If he does, he is a false prophet. Again, every prophet who teaches the truth but fails to practice what he preaches is a false prophet. But every attested and genuine prophet who acts with a view to symbolizing the mystery of the Church, and does not teach you to do all he does, must not be judged by you. His judgment rests with God. For the ancient prophets too acted in this way. But if someone says in the Spirit, “Give me money, or something else,” you must not heed him. However, if he tells you to give for others in need, no one must condemn him.

Everyone “who comes” to you “in the name of the Lord” must be welcomed. Afterward, when you have tested him, you will find out about him, for you have insight into right and wrong. If it is a traveler who arrives, help him all you can. But he must not stay with you more than two days, or, if necessary, three. If he wants to settle with you and is an artisan, he must work for his living. If, however, he has no trade, use your judgment in taking steps for him to live with you as a Christian without being idle. If he refuses to do this, he is trading on Christ. You must be on your guard against such people.

Every genuine prophet who wants to settle with you “has a right to his support.” Similarly, a genuine teacher himself, just like a “workman, has a right to his support.” Hence take all the first fruits of vintage and harvest, and of cattle and sheep, and give these first fruits to the prophets. For they are your high priests.

If, however, you have no prophet, give them to the poor. If you make bread, take the first fruits and give in accordance with the precept. Similarly, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first fruits and give them to the prophets. Indeed, of money, clothes, and of all your possessions, take such first fruits as you think right, and give in accordance with the precept. (The Didache, 11-13)

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

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

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.

this went thru my mind

 

Consumerism: Committed to Unhappiness: Consumerism is the Enemy of the Church by Tony Campolo [required reading]

“The truth is that secular humanism is not the primary enemy of the Church.  Instead, the enemy of the Church is consumerism.  We have made an idol out of the things that are being sold.  We bow down and worship the commodities that are paraded before us on television.  We are enslaved to a mindset that tells us that we must possess more and more because we can never have enough.  These are the things that are dragging us away from Jesus. Our inability to enjoy life without a continual sense of craving consumer goods and being continuously satisfied with who we are and what we have is good news for economic growth and, after all, economic growth is what both political parties are preaching these days.”

Elections: * A Post-Election Reminder by Rubel Shelly [required reading]; * David Lipscomb on Voting by Richard Beck

* “If your candidate wins, can you assume that his every promise will be kept promptly and without fail? … If your candidate loses, will you be demoralized with the thought that all is lost? … You know better. The election of neither candidate will destroy the country, shatter the global economy, or make it impossible for godly people to seek the Kingdom of God. … A believer’s ultimate allegiance – and hope – is in the reign of God. Her hope is not in a human system, political party, or leader; it is in Jesus Christ.”

* “May the voice of David Lipscomb be recovered and increase in the Churches of Christ. Our churches need him.”

Hurricane Sandy relief efforts: New Jersey Congregation Brings Hope to Beach Town Hit Hard by Superstorm Sandy

“Among the New Jersey congregations heavily involved in the relief effort is the Gateway Church of Christ … Carl Williamson provides a first-person account of his family’s experience during the storm and shares details on the Gateway church’s relief work in hard-hit Union Beach, N.J.”

Jesus, our conception of & culture: Oh Constantine by Greg Boyd [required viewing; 5:45 min. clip]

“When you pick up the sword, you put down the cross.”

Marriage: Marriage With a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse by Brad Hambrick

“We are all married to a self-centered spouse. That is what it means for us to be fallen people who are bound to experience life from within our bodies. But there are cases where this ‘general self-centeredness’ becomes chronic — severe to a point that it either results in a marital environment of abuse or neglect.”

Meditation: What Did the Psalmist Mean by “Meditation”?

“… neither of the Hebrew words translated as ‘meditate’ or ‘meditation’ refers to silent activities. … we should probably imagine him singing or reciting the psalm from memory.”

Truth: Our Glaring Obsession With Truth by Terry Rush

“Jesus is the train wreck that must happen to any tribe.  He will not let us continue to do church our smug and small ways.  Yes, narrow is the way; but narrow isn’t that we don’t allow much.  Rather, narrow is defined by one singular Son of God named Jesus….as the author of salvation….and no one else.”

U.S. culture & religious diversity: Map of Religious Diversity in America

“This gets at how varied, or diverse, religious affiliation is in different regions of the country. As you can see, the areas with the most diversity also tend to have the lowest rates of adherence.”