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Discussion Summary of I John 4

When asked how the group would “test the spirits,” we came up with a pretty good list such as “Know the Word,” observe the actions of others, search the heart of a person, examine what is said “critically,” pray for discernment, and ask questions. M gave a great example of how the thoughts in our head could be “tested” by simply saying the prayer, “Jesus is Lord, and I place these thoughts under that authority.” If the thoughts are from God, they remain, but if not, they tend to flee in the face of this confession of Christ’s lordship. M also shared a good acrostic for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Again, John delves into the importance of Jesus is God in the flesh in verse two. This is so important because of the testimony of Christ, being “just like us” while on earth and what gave his sacrifice such power.

Who have the believers in Christ overcome? False prophets and unbelievers, yes, but even moreso, the “spirit of anti-Christ.” This can be found in a variety of forms and this is part of our battle: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12] We must speak truth through love. Remember love the greatest power in the universe is married to truth.

The “Spirit of God is greater than the one who is in the world” through his roles as creator, victor, lover, and savior. He is the one who extends forgiveness and restoration, truth and faith and hope. He is eternal. I talked a bit extra about this idea that each one of these words typifies that “one who is within” and if He is greater than everything else and He is WITHIN, then we have that too. We have that creativity and victory. We have His love. We have the ability to forgive and restore and to speak truth and to hold onto faith and hope. And we are greater than what the “world” can throw at us.

When we talked about the “essence” of God’s nature being love and how that would affect us, A spoke poignantly about the truth she discovered: when one goes through a season in which there is an absence of God’s love, peace and wholeness, then a return into that place, is the most amazing feeling ever. She learned about the power of God’s love by experiencing the absence of it. God’s nature gives us the ability to deal with challenges, to cope with difficulties in a way we never could be fore, a desire to interact with others in a more positive way, to be less self-absorbed, to experience joy.

What prevents us then from loving one another? The list is well known, like pride, selfishness, fear, rejection, harm, vulnerability, time, distance, and simply choosing to “love conditionally” instead.

Will we ever be “made complete” in Christ Jesus in this life? We don’t think so. It is part of our journey to move closer and closer to Jesus, to be like Christ, to operate in the world differently, to love freely, to live in unity, to abide in His love.

I asked a bit of a trick question when I asked if Jesus’s role as Savior or Rescuer was working out, was he successful? The only answer can be “yes.” AN said there are three ways in which Jesus is rescuer, at our own personal deaths, at the end of time and in our daily lives as we encounter troubles. It is important to know that you actually need a rescuer. Those who are in fog that way will find it more difficult to find Christ.

Perfect love drives out fear because it takes up more room in the heart. As we experience more and more of the Christ within, fear has no place there. As trust grows, there is no need to fear because we trust the outcome of every situation. We are safe. This is the idea, but few of us could say we walk in such freedom.

Lastly, I passed out post-its and asked each person to write a name (or two) down of people who have, historically, been difficult to love (for whatever reason). I then collected the notes, shuffled them up and each person took one or two names. The purpose? The class would covenant to pray for the “unlovely” one on behalf of a sister or brother. We would spend a week, holding this difficult person up to the throne of Christ as a help to the one learning to love. The goal for this week is that we could discover, what would be the one step… the first action … in extending love. Just one action. Just one.

In our previous session we focused on achieving a clear conscience by putting a spotlight on our offenses toward others, but this week, the topic is forgiveness, with the spotlight on the offenses of others toward us…. and the grave responsibility and mandate we have to forgive. When we withhold forgiveness, we literally plant a seed of bitterness that grows slowly but steadily, ready to consume our hearts and souls. And as a result, our situation becomes worse.

This week, as a result of the video discussion, we spent some special time in ministry. I think it’s important to be responsive to these moments… particularly in the area of forgiveness and spiritual ‘captivity.’ So often, we allow unholy connections from former relationships … like the strands of a spider web… to remain attached to our spirits. These strands can only be broken by the sword of truth… Christ Jesus. This cutting is a very specific prayer… for the cutting and the setting free.

After our ministry time, we returned to the workbook and talked about realizing that forgiveness is not done alone, but through Christ. Someone reminded us of the Corrie Ten Boom story again, when Corrie had to face the reality of forgiving one of the brutal Nazi guards from her concentration camp. We also talked about the difficulty in extending forgiveness in the face of a cruel parent or abuser. Truly, only the presence of the Holy Spirit can bring that kind of courage and freedom.

Each person then gave their 2-minute “elevator” testimonies. All were powerful as we saw the unique way God touched our lives in order to bring us into relationship with Him. It was amazing, of the 9 or 10 of us there that night, that 6 were raised Catholic but only found their true relationship with Christ later in life. For some, the discovery of Christ came through a traumatic experience like the death of a child, for others, it was the dropping of a veil in the mind, for another, an altar call at a Billy Graham crusade, and still another through the reading of God’s word. I was humbled by the depth and breadth of God’s love with each one of the stories… some with joy and some with tears. For some, the memories of who they were before knowing the Lord was difficult. But I say again, as I said that night, each of us has that part of God’s story that only we can tell. Our lives have value to him. Our tears, He collects in a bottle. Our pain is part of the story because of its power to impact someone else’s story. We should never be ashamed of our story nor fear the pain. God is speaking.

Sometimes it takes walking through sin, pain, or difficulties in our lives to fully appreciate the depth of Woman who washed Jesus\' feet; Special thanks to Daniel GerhartzHis grace… when we are forgiven much, we are more willing to forgive (and love) others as He loved us. (Luke 7:47) I often add to my own testimony that “I am the woman at the well…,” I am the woman who “washed Jesus’ feet with her hair.” In my life, God has forgiven much… how can I do less?

And lastly, we talked about the servant who begged a King to be forgiven of a great debt. The King agreed to do so, but then, the servant turned around and treated someone badly who owed him money. When the King heard of it, he cast that servant into jail. (Matthew 18:23-35) There are many truths to be gleaned from this passage, but the one the Lord laid on my heart is that forgiveness is not cheap. God does not treat our forgiveness of others lightly. There is a cost as well as a freedom. The King who forgave the servant lost millions… but he was willing to do it. When we forgive someone who does not deserve it, we do bear a cost as well. But the freedom is immeasurable. And in the end, it is our forgiveness… our letting go… that really matters. God will avenge the rest.

Next week, we will be discussing sexual purity … and although this message alone has value… I encourage everyone to expand the topic to include other sins of the flesh… what else seduces us? What seduces women today? Is it just men… or something else as well?

We will hold the rest of the testimonies (those who were missing last week) until the following week when we study the “spirit-filled” life. See you then. We’re almost to the end of our journey!

For more prints like the one in this post, see Daniel Gerhartz site. (used by permission)