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1. Why would someone be uncertain and ashamed upon Jesus’s return? If Jesus returned today, right now, what would you feel. (How does daily confession fit into this question?)
2. How are we “children of God?” Is this related to being Born Again? How? What does it mean to “be like Jesus when he appears?” (vs 3:2)
3. How does our hope in Christ bring purification? What does hope look like? (vs 3:3) See parables in Matthew 24 & 25: Wise and Faithful Servant; Wise and Foolish Virgins; Parable of the Talents; Sheep & Goats. Are you ready?
4. What is our part in the purification process?
5. What differentiation is there between lawlessness and breaking the law? What is sin in this context? Does attitude make a difference?
6. If Jesus came to “take away our sin,” and we have accepted Jesus as our savior, why are we still sinning? Are we of the devil? (vs eight)
7. What is “God’s seed” in verse 9? What is the role of God’s seed to keep us from habitual sin?
8. How would you define the word sanctification?

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Our discussion of I John 1:7 – I John 2:23

Picking up where we left off the week before, we talked about the difference between the “old” commandment in vs 2:7 and the new commandment. In reality, they are the same, they focus on love: loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus compressed the entire law into these two, saying they were the foundation. John emphasizes the same.

We discussed the idea of these two laws being used as a “creed” much like the Apostles’ creed and I referenced a book called the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. Our discussion also took us on a trip back to the ten commandments and Shabbat prayers.

One of the most important things to remember is that God is unchanging. Now that we are on the “other side” of the Christ time, the new commandment is only different because we are changed. We are able to love now in a way that we could not before the Holy Spirit indwelled us.

But then we are still challenged as Jesus’s followers were challenged: who is my neighbor. We tend to forget the power of the “Samaritan” story if we don’t consider replacing the Samaritan persona with someone of equal disdain in our own culture: a terrorist, a gang member, a prostitute.

We hate so easily, as the group mentioned. Hate blinds us and we are unable to others clearly. Hate prevents us from forgiving others as well as receiving forgiveness. The tragedy of hate is that both the receiver of hate suffers as well as the one who hates . . . we actually become “hate” itself when we hate.

Martin Luther wrote, “See to it that he who hurts you does not cause you to become evil like him . . . for he is the victor who changes another man to become like himself while he himself remains unchanged.”

In verses 2:12-14, John identifies three groups of people and specific encouragement for each one. We agreed that these appear to be figurative groups or levels of spiritual maturity. So “little children” would be new believers who would need, above all, confidence in the forgiveness of their sins and trust in their new relation with God, as benevolent Father. For “young men,” they might be the enthusiastic, exuberant believers who are on fire for God but also can get off track or become easily discouraged. John offers them encouragement as they remember how they have already overcome evil and that God’s word is a living thing inside them which will keep them strong to continue to overcome. And lastly, the “fathers” are the mature believers who carry with them great knowledge of God and the walk of faith, the implication being that they should use what they have learned to help others.

We discussed the difference between “not loving the world” and “For God so loved the world…” In essence the point is that we must view the world from God’s perspective and love as He loves. We are not to love the “things of this world,” that is the man-made things. All that God has made is good and should be cherished and cared for.

We had a lively discussion about the anti-Christ and the spirit of anti-Christ. “Anti-Christ” in Greek, can be translated as “adversary of the Messiah.” And so, in the verses of I John 2:18-23, we believe he is talking about that spiritual adversary moreso than an individual that is referenced in Daniel (9:27), I Thess 2:3-4, and the book of Revelation (13:1, 4, 7, 8). Ultimately, anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one) is speaking out of the anti-Christ spirit.

And lastly, we discussed the idea of anointing. Whether it is the anointing of oil that was used historically to set apart a person for a particular task (I Samuel 16:12-13; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; John 15:26; Exodus 29:21; Exodus 40:9; and Exodus 40:15) to name a few, there is also the anointing of the Holy Spirit which imparts more power to act on behalf of God. The word Messiah means “covered in oil.” Although plain oil can be used for anointing, often there is a fragrance (similar to the one used in Exodus 31:11). Each fragrance had meaning.

In conclusion, I anointed and prayed for each person in class, that they would have the power to do what must be done next, to make a key decision, to pursue their heart’s desire.

Next week we will finish questions 3 & 4 about abiding and being duped in addition to the new questions above.

Questions for Week 3.

1. What or who is the antichrist? What is the spirit of antichrist? Difference?
2. What does it mean to be anointed? What does it do for the person being anointed? What does that look like? Feel like? How does it manifest? Is it still for our time? Why or why not?
a. A few references of interest: I Samuel 16:12-13; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; John 15:26
b. More references: Exodus 29:21; Ex 40:9; Ex 40:15;
c. What is the anointing oil? Why do we use it today (if at all)?
3. What does it mean to abide in Christ? What is the opposite of abiding? (What do each look like?)
4. Have you ever been duped and found yourself in a situation that was not healthy? Do you fear false teaching? How can that be avoided?

Summary of our Discussion I John 2:1-6

John refers to the listeners of his words as “dear children” or “beloved.” Why? Because he loves them and his relationship with them is close and loving. Everything John has to say to the hearers of his writings is written out of love and concern for their (and our) well being. Can we remember of think of a time when we have had such a loving, mentoring relationship?

John writes as the artist and not like the teacher Paul. John’s way of teaching is circular or spiral and he repeats his theme often, adding small tidbits along the way. John’s message is patient.

Of course, John’s desire is that none of his own would sin and yet he knows that they will. We will too. And because of this, it is so important that we look to our Advocate (parakletos – the one who walks beside) Jesus who will speak on our behalf. We must be honest with Jesus in order to appropriate the power of his sacrifice for us. Christ’s love does not waver, whether we sin or not.

Christ’s sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice, of his own life for our lives was done for us as individuals, but also for everyone in the world. What is it we have to do? We must acknowledge this transaction; we must understand the power of this sacrifice so we can truly embed it into our beings. The forgiveness, the atoning blood of Jesus, is always available. (It’s like winning the lottery. We can have the winning ticket but it is worthless unless we turn it in for the cash. The ticket must be used, otherwise, it’s just a piece of paper, an idea with no power.)

In Old Testament times, sacrifice was a symbolic act (an ancient drama) by using the blood of animals to demonstrate a deeper truth. Christ’s sacrifice was the “ultimate battle when Christ disarms the power of sin and death.” [Mastering the New Testament: 1,2,3 John & Revelation by Earl F. Palmer] Jesus is not a victim like the animals. he chose to give up His life. His blood, like those of the animals, is on the mercy seat. We must grab hold.

Once we accept the atonement for our sins (our mistakes, our secrets, our choices), nothing can be the same for us. We are in relationship with Christ … but the quality of that relationship is up to us to nourish. He is walking with us (advocating for us) but we must also walk with Him.

There are two tests of an authentic Christian journey (I John 1:9 & 2:3): Confession and Obedience. These two form a circle: confess, obey, confess, obey, confess, obey. We talked at length about this chicken/egg concept. Ultimately, what are we obeying? How do we obey commandments if we don’t know what they are. And although I understand the logic of this, I also believe there is the mystery of experiencing the “next step” at the point of confession (and forgiveness). The commandments come out of relationship. As we enter into koinonia with Jesus (and others), we learn and grow. I am looking for obedience by choice (not fear). I am interested in obeying the “yes’s” and not the “no’s” or the “do-nots.”

His sacrifice and atonement gives us freedom.

Summary of our discussion on I John 1.

I’m not sure I can capture everything we covered in our first class discussion. For me, it was tremendously invigorating and filled with lots of good ideas and viewpoints from everyone. Hopefully, class participants will add what I have forgotten!

We spent a lot of time talking about beginnings. John begins this book, “That which was from the beginning, . . . ” which is very similar to how he begins his gospel. There is the true beginning, when it was only God (in all of his myriad forms); there is the beginning that happened when Jesus was born and God came to be among us humans; and, then, we discover later, there is the beginning of new life (a new age) on earth when Jesus sacrifices himself on the cross. We are still in this time. And finally, there is our own beginning in the class itself. We are looking for change, for insight, for understanding.

John wrote with authority because he was an eyewitness. A type of authority is given to us to tell our own stories of being touched by the Christ. We forget that this is the key to our witness: what we ourselves have experienced cannot be taken away. Someone can say that they don’t believe in Jesus, but they cannot break apart one’s own eyewitness of Jesus’s work in our lives. Also, remember, our roles as a witness also gives us the authority to proclaim the meaning and significance of those events in our lives. We have the authority to interpret our own experiences.

Jesus is the Word of Life… the logos, the mouthpiece for God. The word went from being abstract in the Old Testament to concrete in Jesus.

Fellowship is at the heart of John’s message because love is there. Koinōnia (close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, and close relationships) is demonstrated through the relationship that Jesus (on Earth) had with the Father. We are invited to have koinōnia with the Christ. Walking in the light is being in koinōnia. If we are in koinōnia with Jesus, we should also be in fellowship with one another. If there is a breakdown in either area, we are actually moving toward darkness.

There are opponents to koinōnia like pride, jealousy, lying, gossip, etc. (in other words, sin).

In most of our churches, we are not in koinōnia. Most of our church relationships are surface relationships. We do not expose our true selves. We may fear rejection. It’s a risk to be transparent.

Is Christianity black and white? If it is true that all that is “white” or “light” is Christ Jesus, then it makes sense that all that “black” or “dark” or evil is embodied in Satan. Everything in between is us. We are all in the gray areas … some lighter shades as we move toward the light and some darker as we are either sucked back into the darkness of sin or willfully turning away from the light.

All sin is black whether it’s murder or gossip or betrayal or gluttony. Like the spots on a dalmatian dog, it attaches to us. We must take care that we don’t look at the sins of others as though they are worse then our own. We are all capable of great harm and evil.

If we are in the darkness, we must want to move into the light. We have to come to grips with the reality of where we are. We must be transparent with ourselves. Denial or self-deceit will keep us in the dark. We must acknowledge our own sins (our secrets). We may have to come to the “end of ourselves” before we realize what we need. We may need someone to walk along to help us turn around.

The best way to begin the journey is confession (I John 1:9). The Greek for confess is homologeō which means “to say the same thing.” God knows our sin and is waiting for us to acknowledge and profess what is already known. This is part of the cleansing.

And as a result, God extends forgiveness: freely.

1. Why does John refer to his listeners as “dear children?” Does it make a difference?
2. If Christ has atoned for the sins of the world, why must we be “saved?” Doesn’t that sacrifice count with or without our participation?
3. What does sacrifice look like? How does it work?
4. What are the two tests of an authentic Christian journey (see I John 1:9 and 2:3)
5. To what is John referring when he speaks of the old commandment and the new commandment in verse 2:7?
6. How does hate blind us? How do we get out of the darkness? Is there such a thing as “twilight walking” vs. walking in the light or walking in darkness?
7. In I John 2:6, there are three groups identified… why? What do these mean? And what is John offering to the those groups?
8. How do we understand the difference between I John 2:15 (“Do not love the world…”) with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world…”)
9. How does loving the world keep us away from a loving Father, specifically? What are some of the symptoms?

As we meet on Wednesday, the 13th, we’ll be discussing the first Chapter of I John. Here are some questions that you might consider beforehand:

1. If you could imagine true Christian fellowship, what would it look like?
2. Should Christian friendship/fellowship be deeper than non-Christian ones? Why or Why not?
3. Can you have Koinonia with Jesus and not have it with others, or vice versa?
4. What does it really mean to walk in the light?
5. How do we overcome sin and return to the light again?
6. How does confession fit in and what difference does it make?

Please bring your own questions as well. See you then.

After a long hiatus of leading a bible study, I am off and running again: this time with the letters of John (1, 2 & 3). I prefer the 8-week format at this point and I invite anyone in the Harford County area to join us, beginning January 13th, from 6:30 – 8 pm at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air. If you are unable to attend, please feel free to join us virtually and drop in your questions or comments.

One of my main goals is uncovering some nuggets in these letters that we may have overlooked. One of the greatest images through the first letter is “walking in the light.” Let’s examine the power of this concept and apply it to our daily lives.

I will try to post questions on the blog before the upcoming class.