You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

Discussion of I John 3:3 – 3:15

We began our discussion with a great discussion about HOPE. What does hope look like and how is it different from faith? We talked about the future-ness of hope and, unlike faith which feels like it is more in the now, hope depends on something that trust will happen. Hope is change. Sometimes, we undermine our hope because of our fear of change. Hope has expectations, but it should not include our own definition/description of the outcome. Our hope must be in Christ alone, not in “healing” per se or whatever it is that we dream for our future. Hope lives in the light and flourishes.

Other aspects that build hope or readiness (as in the parable of the wise & foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13), risk (as in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30), and action (as in the parable of the sheep & goats in Matthew 25:31-46).

We then discussed the differences between lawlessness and “breaking the law.” It’s a small difference but the point for me is that lawlessness is ongoing willful breaking of the law to the point when the law is no longer relevant versus the “breaking of a law” on occasion or with knowledge of sin and eventual confession & repentance. We must recognize sin before we can confess it.

But, if we do know about sin and Jesus came/died to “take away our sin,” why are we still sinning? Many reasons: denial, willfulness, lack of motivation, childishness, fear, to name a few. This is all part of the process and ultimately sanctification.

There was some serious heart searching as we wrestled with 3:6, 8-10. It is so easy to allow the voice of condemnation to wash over us and to allow Satan to beat us up with these words. “You’re not a child of God, you still sin, you aren’t worthy, etc.” But I don’t believe Jesus uses this voice. All I can say is that “while we sin” we are opening the door to relationship with evil. And in those moments, we are stepping away from the safety of the Father. However, because God is loving and kind and forgiving, the light can shine in that place as we confess. Again and again and again. And our hope (remember hope?) is that the times between darkness and light become shorter as we are strengthened within by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

That is God’s see within us that is growing a tree of righteousness — sometimes slower, sometimes faster. Our hidden sins are being brought to the light. Our flaws being repaired. Our roots grow deeper, our branches grow stronger. How can we know how we are doing? An inner compass… pointing to True North.

As we live and grow and become more like Christ, the pressures from without (the world) actually may become more stronger. Right living points up the other other. But, if our actions are indiscernible from others who do not know the Christ, there is no “tension.”

We know that love is described in I Cor 13:4-8 … but it’s such a long “punch list.” It feels overwhelming. How do I keep in mind to be “patient” today (in love) and then kind while I am not envying, boasting, or acting prideful. Oh, and don’t forget, no rudeness today and stop being so self-engaged and downright angry or keeping a long list of grievances.

And yet, we know that we know that we know… love is probably THE most powerful force in the universe. Can we try it? Can we love someone this week and make a difference?

We will finish the third chapter, beginning with Question 3 based on I John 3:15

We will then start on I John 4 and finish these questions next week.

God’s Love

1. In John’s time, fighting the issue of “Christology” (was Jesus God in the flesh from his inception), a follower just had to ask the “teacher” if he believed that Jesus was the Christ in the flesh. That answer would reveal all. But this may not suffice in our age. How would you “test the spirits?” Any examples of heresy discovered or sensed? (4:1)

2. Why is belief that Jesus was/is God in the flesh important? (4:2)

3. John says that we have overcome “them.” Who and how? (4:4)

4. In what way is the “spirit of God greater than the one who is in the world?” How do we reflect (or not) this truth in our daily lives? (4:4)

5. How does love being the essence of God’s nature affect us? Can a non-believer be affected by God’s love? How or in what way? (4:8)

6. Love one another. What hinders us? (4:7, 11)

7. To be “made complete” in Greek is “teleioō” which means, literally, “to overcome or supplant an imperfect state of things by one that is free from objection, to bring to an end, to bring to its goal/accomplishment, to be made perfect.” What would God’s love “completed” in us look like? Sound like? Feel like? (4:12, 17)

8. In verse 4:14, it says the Father sent His Son to be the Savior [Rescuer] of the World. Is that working out? Why or Why not?

9. Why does “perfect love drive out fear?” (verse 4:18)

10. What would loving someone . . . someone you do not love today . . . look like? What would you do first?

Discussion Questions for I John 3:11-24

1. We are to love one another: NOT like Cain toward Abel. Why is this story used to describe the negative side of loving one another? What emotions and feelings are represented and why?
2. What is love? (Note the paradox of moving from death to life and the other way around.) Also see John 5:24.
3. If, without love, there is death and hate=death, what kind of death is John really talking about? How do we resurrect this situation?
4. How does anger morph into hatred? Is there such a thing as “righteous anger?”
5. What is sacrificial love? What are some examples of this kind of love? Will we be taken advantage of when we love like this? Why or why not?
6. In I John 3:20b, he says, “. . . God is greater than our hearts.” What does this mean? Is it comfort or challenge?
7. What is the relationship between obedience and answered prayer? Is this about “earning” God’s favor or something else?
8. Does the Holy Spirit live within you? How do you know?

Discussion of I John 2:24 – 3:2

What a powerful time in the Lord. We shared in so many different ways and I am grateful for everyone’s willingness to be transparent and really talk about some of the hard things. May we all remember how important it is to pray for one another.

Because our discussions are quite vibrant, we do not always make it through the questions. That’s OK with me! This evening we started back at vs 2:24 and discussed the true meaning of “abiding in Christ.” What does that look like? What does it mean to us individually? We understand it means, literally, to remain or to dwell or to rest in. But do we? It is so important to understand the importance of our grafted-in position “in Christ.” But this too, is a mystery. Since we can’t be “in” the physical body of Christ, this is a spiritual condition, a unity of soul.

We also discussed how sin and self-interest could bring us to times of separation or detachment from the vine (John 15:5). But, thanks be to God, despite our ability to detach, God is able to re-attach us when we confess along the way. His grace is sufficient.

Some of these times of “detachment” from the vine or the “body of Christ” are times when we can be taken advantage of. These are times when we can be “duped” and led astray even further by false teachers. As they say, the best way to protect against getting a “cold” is to stay healthy. So it is with recognizing false teaching. The best way to know truth is to continue to abide.

It is in the place of abiding that we are able to hear God’s voice, where we are instructed, where the source of all “actions” are “works” must be centered, and where confession and forgiveness live together.

I confessed to the group, when I am challenged by others about anomalies in scripture or asked “why” one person dies while another lives or challenged with “the people who never hear about Christ… ” etc. My answer is simple: it’s a mystery. There is great mystery and paradox in the faith walk. All we can do is abide.

We then talked about the returning Jesus and the one who returns will not be the “gentle Shepherd,” but the King of Kings. Some people may be ashamed by their sin, their willfulness, and their denial. But as we have talked about all along, Jesus is all light. God is all light. And the when the Light comes, the darkness flees. Are we still anticipating his coming? Really? What are we doing in the light of his promise? The best answer: abide!

And lastly, we talked a great deal about being “children of God.” What makes us children? What is God telling us about our relationship to God? Shouldn’t we experience the sense of comfort and safety that a child feels with his/her parents? Plus we are promised to be “like him.” When we are adopted into the vine, we become like Jesus. We are born again!

I was so glad to be able to absolutely clarify that anyone (and everyone) who accepts the Messiah as the direct sacrifice for sins (those things that separate us from God), we are grafted in and as soon as we are grafted in, we are becoming new. We are re-born.

Being “born again” is not about singing praise songs or being “on fire” for God or anything like that. Being born again is the shortcut terminology for adoption. And when we see Jesus again, because of our new relationship with Christ, we will “see him as he is” and we will be like him.

Jesus is different now than he was while he was on earth. He is the same: he is different. (After the resurrection, he may have looked human, but he could also walk through walls, and move through time and space). Hallelujah!