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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!

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?

Philippians 3:2-9

I didn’t know how this study would go, but I felt in the end, that it was a significant time. The words, “knowing Christ” were emblazoned in my heart and so the study did ultimately go.

But first, we looked at Paul’s anger and warning about the “dogs” or Judaizers. We talked about how dogs were such scavengers in that time period and to call someone a “dog” was a huge insult. (Also, as an aside, Jews often called gentiles, the dogs, and here, Paul is passing back the insult.) Anyway, to bring things to our time period, we talked about scavengers of today, like gulls, vultures, and buzzards. With that, I told them a personal experience with vultures. They are a disconcerting presence to say the least. However, after we talked about the “legalism” and destructiveness of these Judaizers, I reminded them that before Paul went venturing forth to proclaim the gospel of Christ, these same “dogs,” who were also Christ-believing Jews, they were the norm back in Jerusalem. When Paul ventured forth, he was shaking up everything they had believed in … gentiles as believers? And NOT circumcised? They were shocked!

But here’s the point, how many people today haven’t done the same things when something “new” comes along? How many people were shocked the first time a drum set was brought into the sanctuary? How many were shocked when folks came to church in jeans? How many of our denominations have been created because of a split in “forms” of worship. How many of us will be the “dogs” when then next wave comes along? Something to consider, eh?

We then talked about the “true circumcision” — the circumcision of the heart. What is that and how do we know we have it? Is the circumcision of the heart at the point of salvation or is part of the sancitification process? I’m not so learned to really know and certainly, the group was divided on this point. It was a fascinating discussion. For me, I see that heart circumcision as one layer of my heart being peeled gently away to make it possible for communion to begin. If an adult male decides to be circumcised, he must be a willing participant, he must humble himself to the procedure and he must present himself to the “surgeon” with trust. Is it any different for the heart? I don’t think so. We must trust the Holy Spirit who is greatest heart surgeon around. (Romans 2:28-29)

jesus-prayingAnd then we moved into the most important part of the evening for me… beginning with verse 7. For Paul, being fully “credentialed” considered all of that nothing — his heritage, his tribe, his orthodoxy, his zeal, his “righeousness”– compared to knowing Christ Jesus. And so we talked at length about what it means to “know” Jesus; what it means to “know” anyone. Some even found verses like John 14:21 (“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” [emphasis mine]) Others mentioned Psalm 51 and Psalm 37 as well with instructions or “tips” for knowing God. In my mind, if the heart is drawn to Him, and we give Him our trust, our energy, our worship, our love… then knowing/communing begins.

One of the keys is in the area of righteousness. This word, which trips so quickly off the lips of many Christians, has lost its power. I find it a word rich with possibilities. Clearly, Paul emphasizes the difference between our “own” righteousness and the righteousness that comes from God. In our own righteousness, we can actually do good things, be “good people” and accomplish great things. But we won’t know the Lord. To know the Lord requires HIS righteousness. And when he gifts us with His righteousness, then the door is open for true communion. Then, we can be IN Christ. Before, we considered the phrase, “to live is Christ,” now we add another dimension, “in Christ.”

These are supernatural states of being. These states of intimacy are happening in the spirit realm. These states are happening within the circumcised heart. These states are happening through the indwelling Holy Spirit. These states happen in our surrender… in presenting our hearts to God to do with as God wills.

We closed the evening by reading aloud a devotional selection from the words of St. John of the Cross (You Set My Spirit Free, edited by David Hazard) and then listening to a recording of Knowing You by Graham Kendrick.

After the discussing the DeMoss video which gave a good word picture of the Holy Spirit in our lives being like the Niagara Falls. In the same way that the Falls weren’t used for power-generating until the early 20th century, so many of us have failed to harness (use effectively – not control” the true power of the Spirit within us. Reread Romans 7 and 8 for a complete review of how the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the “law of sin.” She also gave a word picture for these concepts in considering “sin” to be like the law of gravity, always there and always “pulling on us” while the Holy Spirit fuels the “law of aerodynamics” that gives us the power to overcome the “law of gravity” and to soar in freedom. That’s all good stuff to hang onto as we move into our final week of study!

After the video, we asked those participants who missed last week, to share their 2-minute testimonies. Again, the glory of God’s power in the lives of a believer.

As we considered the Holy Spirit, I felt we should also discuss some of the historically different experiences of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For myself, I came into the Lord during the heyday of the “charismatic movement” in the 70’s. During this time, there was much emphasis on being “drunk in the spirit” and there was great joy, but there was also some misplaced seeking for the “signs and wonders” instead of seeking for the Spirit who was the author of them.

Many in our group came from this same time period and several shared their own personal “Holy Spirit” baptism. No matter how you define it, there is nothing like that deep presence of God… for some this happened in a “whoosh” like a waterfall and for others, it was a steady stream.

The “faith builder” story from the workbook led us into a long discussion of how difficult experiences in our past, particular abusive situations, are healed. We agreed that the story seemed to “simplify” the process. Clearly, anyone who has had those experiences has a choice in how he/she will respond to the circumstances. There is that moment when the person must “choose” to open up to God’s power through the Holy Spirit. Once those gates are open, healing can begin. It may not always happen quickly or immediately, but God is faithful. (“…Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” II Timothy 1:12)

We also talked about the idea of being a victim or having a “victim mentality.” Clearly, there is a tension when coming to the Lord for healing. Victims are generally the ones who feel powerless and if they have survived a traumatic situation, then generally, they have also built a complex array of defense systems to “protect” themselves from further hurt. But, to accept healing from God, one has to open the doors of the heart. One must, literally, give power fully to the Lord. This is not easy.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.

9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Selah (Psalm 24: 6-10)

Can you think of these gates being the gates of your heart? He will do battle for you, He will overcome. This King of Glory is the Holy Spirit!

What else does the Holy Spirit do in our lives?

  • counselor
  • teacher
  • brings conviction
  • brings “fruits of the spirit”
  • intercedes for us
  • reminds us of God’s love for us
  • empowers us
  • guides us into truth
  • heals
  • glorifies the Lord
  • helps in the sanctification process

Sanctification is the walking out of our salvation. Sanctification is initiated by the Holy Spirit and supported by the church and fellow believers. Sanctification is a process! Are ever finished? Not until that day we see our Lord face to face. It’s the journey and not the destination.

It is on that we must choose daily to give the Holy Spirit reign of our lives. As we submit (and isn’t this the full circle of our study … going all the way back to humility?) … the Holy Spirit manifests the power of God in our lives. We become “other-oriented.” We become joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. We know the Truth (Christ Jesus) and we are set free. We experience intimacy with God. Amen.