Sunday, July 25, 2010
Living in the Spotlight of God, 1 John 1:5-10: Theology Matters Series
I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on July 25 and August 1, 2010 (I ran out of time today, so I'll finish it next week!). A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson then looks at 1 John 1:5-10 and discusses the need to walk in the brilliant light of God, his character, and his Word. We consider the holiness and truth of God and how that reality ought to affect the way we live our lives. We also look at the need to walk in the light and to speak the truth. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
Living in the Spotlight of God
Theology Matters Series
1 John 1:5-10
My Wheel of Fortune Experience
The brightness of the spotlight and the heat of the stage lights
What I thought happened and what was revealed
What are the characteristics of light?
What are the characteristics of a spotlight?
Light tends to expose things or to make things clear. A spotlight is even brighter or more brilliant than normal light. In our passage today, John builds on his discussion of the Incarnation to remind his readers that God’s character requires a certain life from us if we claim to have fellowship with him. God’s character becomes a spotlight to highlight our lives and to reveal whether we live in the light or in the dark.
1 John 1:5-10—Three things
1. God is Light
2. Light vs. Darkness
3. Truth vs. Lies
We must live our lives in God’s spotlight
1. God is Light
1 John 1:5
After discussing the importance of the Incarnation in verses 1-4, John announces the message he received from Jesus
John begins with a discussion of God’s character
God is Light (John 1:9; 3:19-21; 8:12)--His character is the spotlight of our lives
a. There is no hidden agenda with God—there is no fine print to read
b. Light illuminates—it makes things clear and obvious
c. Light exposes—it reveals things that may be hidden
d. Light=Truth, Holiness, Purity, etc.
There is no Darkness in God—like a spotlight, darkness has nowhere to hide
Drawing near to God means to draw near to a positive and bright reality—God is brilliance, brightness, and clarity
He does not cloud the issue, in God’s presence things become clear
Negatively, however, light also reveals imperfections
Drawing near to God risks exposure
God’s character is a spotlight that reveals God’s brilliance
John now gives us some options in our response to God—in these options he may reveal the attitudes of his opponents
2. Light vs. Darkness
1 John 1:6-7
John claims that if we claim to be “one” with or to have fellowship with God, then we should live and act in certain ways
The opponents claimed a special relationship with God, but their lives did not show it
What does it mean to walk in darkness?
a. John 1:5—Walking in darkness means to lack comprehension, to lack clarity of vision
b. John 11:9-10—Walking in the darkness means to stumble over obstacles that the light would clearly reveal; to walk in darkness means to “miss the point” or to stumble
c. 1 John 2:8-11—Walking in the darkness is to follow something that is passing away; it is to walk in hate; it is to be lost and unaware of where you are going
d. Walking in the dark means to be controlled by the desires of the world, to follow after the path that essentially rejects and ignores Jesus
e. John 12:35-36—Coming to the Light of God (as revealed in Jesus) is the only way to stop walking in darkness
What is the result of walking in darkness?
a. We become liars and do not do what is true
b. 1 John 1:10—we make God a liar by ignoring his plan and his Word
God’s spotlight removes darkness
What does it mean to walk in the light as he is in the light?
a. John 1:9—Walking in the light means to be enlightened, to see things as they are or as God sees them
b. John 3:12—Walking in the light means to live true lives, to have our deeds exposed as worked in us by God himself
c. John 8:12—Walking in the light means to have life
d. John 12:46—Walking in the light means to have faith in Jesus and to leave darkness behind
e. Walking in the light is the opposite of walking in darkness; walking in the Light means to walk in Christ, to live as he lived, to do the things he did
f. Walking in the light is a lifestyle, it is an ongoing experience; it requires effort and practice
g. Walking in the light means living a life of honesty and transparency, letting God’s light shine brighter than anything else (e.g., our own sin, accomplishments, or desires)
h. Walking in the light means living by God’s Word, desires, and values
What is the result of walking in the light?
a. We have fellowship with one another—since we are living lives of honest transparency, we no longer have a reason to hide, and we can be “real” in God’s brilliant life
b. God accepts us into his light with all our “imperfections,” in like manner we must receive all who are also with us in the light
c. We receive cleansing from sin by the blood of Jesus—
d. Walking in the light exposes our sin and provides opportunity for confession
e. Walking in the light provides protection keeping us from stumbling (i.e., sanctification)
f. We not only confess sin, we can also conquer sin
God’s spotlight enlightens our lives and illuminates our relationships
3. Truth vs. Lies
1 John 1:8-10—John now addresses the issue of those who claim to be sinless
Perfectionism is a danger in Christian thought . It makes a claim that John says is untrue
Our conduct should reflect our salvation, but humility should also be a part
If we make claims that are not true, we cannot claim to be doing true deeds
a. Truth resides where truth is lived (John 3:21; John 8:32; John 14:6)
b. We must learn to be brutally honest about our lives, the good and bad parts—we must be honest about our sin
c. If we make a true confession (agreeing with God about our lives and especially our sin), then God’s forgiveness and cleansing is possible
We cannot be cleansed if we refuse the truth
God’s character (i.e., faithful and just) is such that he will forgive those who speak the truth about themselves
Not only will we gain forgiveness, but we also receive cleansing (Isaiah 6:5-7)
Where do we need to be brutally honest with God? With ourselves? With others?
Where do we need truth? Forgiveness? Cleansing?
Denying sin is walking in darkness, while speaking truth about our sins is walking in light
Denying our sinfulness cuts us off from fellowship with God and others
Making a true confession puts us in position to renew fellowship with God and others
God’s spotlight reveals truth and exposes lies
Darkness or light, truth or lies, we must make a choice. As Christians we can live in the (sometimes uncomfortable but often comforting) exposure and brilliance of God’s Light and Truth, or we can hide in the darkness and find ourselves stumbling over the worldly obstacles and stuff we have accumulated in God’s place. What can we do to live in the light and truth of God?
1. Make sure you know the truth. Spend time with 1 John (and, if you want, the Gospel of John). Look for the words “light” and “truth” and make an effort to pray and to think about those passages. How will your life need to change to see them become a reality?
2. Live honestly this week. If you have not found an accountability group, then make an effort to find one. Contact us for suggestions. Use the “Life Transformation” questions we handed out months ago. Be brutally honest with yourself and with God. Are we living in the light?
3. Finally, look for places to shine God’s truth/light into lives that are stuck in darkness.
Live in God’s spotlight—let his light shine on, in, and through you
1. To have fellowship with God, we must begin with an understanding of his character. Why?
2. What can we do to ensure that we are walking in the light instead of walking in the darkness?
3. What dark things need to be exposed to the light of Jesus so that we can be cleansed? What areas of darkness have been revealed by God’s spotlight?
4. What obstacles have we accumulated in the dark that keep us from walking with God in his light? Why are we so comfortable hiding in the dark instead of living in the full exposure of God’s brilliant spotlight?
5. Where do we need forgiveness?
6. Where do we need to speak and live truth? Where is truth needed in our own lives? How can we bring that truth into the lives of others?
7. What areas do we need God’s holiness and a dose of his honesty about sin? Where do we need fresh exposure to the spotlight of God’s character?
8. Where can we be “lights” this week to bring God’s truth to others?
How can we do it? Will we?
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Theology Matters: A Good Foundation Brings Joy, 1 John 1:1-4
I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on July 11 and 18, 2010. We started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." As a result, I have a little introduction of the letter before the lesson. The lesson then looks at 1 John 1:1-4 and discusses the theological foundation for real joy. We looked at the issue of the incarnation and how our relationship with God must begin with a proper doctrinal understanding of who Jesus is and what he accomplished. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
And What We Do With It Matters Too
Introduction to 1 John
a. Probably the apostle John, the author of the Gospel, Revelation, and two other epistles
b. Internal Evidence—similarities to the Gospel
c. External Evidence—Polycarp (associate of John), Irenaeus (disciple of Polycarp), Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian—all claim John as the author of this work
d. The author claims to be an eyewitness
Date—depends on who you ask
Could be anywhere from AD 66 to AD 90.
Probably written around the time of the Gospel
Recipients—churches in Asia (Rev. 1-3) or perhaps Ephesus
Main theme—1 John 5:13 (cf. John 20:30-31)—”that you may know”—the goal is eternal life and an assurance of that life
Life Situation of 1 John
a. The author has responsibility for a circuit of churches (probably located throughout Asia, see Rev. 1-3), and he addresses his fellow Christians as “little children” since he is now aged. The churches appear to be engaged in an ideological struggle that involves the possibility of interpreting the Christian faith as just another philosophy. More specifically, the problem revolves around the character of Jesus of Nazareth. Some were saying that he was not the Son of God come in the flesh. This belief is known as Docetism (a belief similar to later Gnostic ideas) and is directly addressed in 1 John. 1 John may also be written as a cover letter to introduce the Gospel of John.
b. There is a doctrinal issue here. Some folks have declared an elitist position that seems to put them in possession of “special knowledge” or “revelation” or even “anointing” that sets them off as better prepared that others (1 John 2:18-24; 27).
These opponents of John also claim that Jesus was not really a human being. He only “appeared” to be human (i.e., Docetism). Like later Gnostics, they seem to claim that only spiritual things matter, therefore physical is evil. As a result, the Savior cannot be physical. John explicitly addresses this especially in 1 John 4.
Purpose of 1 John:
(a) To introduce the Gospel of John and apply its truth to certain practical situations. 1 John deals more directly with spiritual problems and false teaching than the Gospel (cf. 1:3-4; 2:1; 4:1; 5:13).
(b) To strengthen Christians who were perhaps weak in faith or who required a word of encouragement (cf. 2:1, 7, 12-14; 4:1, 7, 19; 5:13, 21).
Several “so that” statements show purpose:
1 John 1:3-4—”So that our/your joy may be complete”
1 John 2:1—”So that you may not sin”
1 John 2:26—”So that you may not be deceived”
1 John 2:28; 4:17—”So that you may have confidence”
1 John 5:13—”So that you may know that you have eternal life”
That brings us to the prologue of our book and our passage for today—1 John 1:1-4
A Good Foundation Brings Joy
1 John 1:1-4
Theology Matters Series
A good foundation
The opponents of John’s message had been proclaiming a message that was not true
That message was causing division and doubt in the believers in Asia
John wrote to tell them the truth and to help them regain confidence and joy
John knew that a good foundation can bring joy
Three things in our passage
a. The Foundation
b. The Fellowship
c. The Resulting Joy
Joy begins with truth
1. The Foundation
1 John 1:1-2
The Incarnation as foundation for good theology
“From the beginning” (cf. John 1:1, Genesis 1:1)
What “beginning” is in sight here?
It is either “creation” or the “beginning” of Christ’s ministry
Eyewitness and first hand experience of John (Acts 4:19-22)
John is telling them what he heard, saw, studied (“look at” or “gaze upon”), and touched. How much more thorough could he be?
John is establishing the veracity and strength of his doctrine
This is not something he made up, it has a history and is tied to real life
The “Word of Life” is tied to historical events—it can be studied, even proven
The “Word of Life” (John 5:19-29; 10: 10-18; 11:25-26)
a. Life revealed—it was manifested to and in us
b. Life proclaimed—it was announced and discussed, it is not a secret
c. Life eternal
The Incarnation is tied to Jesus’ relationship with the Father (John 1:1-5)
Good theology starts with the solid foundation of the Trinity and the Incarnation
Without Jesus (“fully God and fully human”) we cannot have relationship with God/eternal life
Joy is built on good theology
2. The Fellowship
1 John 1:3 (cf. Acts 4:19-22)
What we have seen and what we have heard—that is what we proclaim
John reminds us that as important as good theology is, good practice must also follow
If we know good theology, we must proclaim it
We must stand for what we know to be true
We must announce what God has done in and for us
The concept of koinonia
Fellowship (Acts 2:42; Philippians 2:1)
Having things in common
Sharing a “ship” (story of sailors)
Koinonia implies sharing a life, indeed sharing the “Life” that only comes from God and the relationship between the Father and the Son
The Fellowship of the Father and the Son (1 Cor. 1:9)
The unity of the Godhead
The order of the Godhead
The relationship between Jesus and the Father (John 17:3)
The Fellowship of believers
Joy is found in God’s fellowship
3. The Result: “Joy”
1 John 1:4—textual variant—”our” or “your” joy (cf. John 15:10-12)
Proclamation of true doctrine and the practice of real fellowship leads to the experience of true joy
Note the progression—good doctrine (knowing what God says, knowing the truth), acting on it (proper fellowship and proclamation), and then experience (joy)
We do not start with experience only
We do not rely only on practice or application
We must start with a proper foundation
Joy is built on the foundation of truth and the fellowship only God can provide(John 15:10-12)
For joy to be complete, we must act on what we know
In order to know, we must learn and act
We need time in God’s Word (doctrine), time with God (fellowship), and time with likeminded believers (more fellowship)
Joy is complete when we know truth, live truth, and proclaim truth
How do we respond?
Story of student who didn’t want to spend time learning things he thought were useless
A bad foundation leads to a crooked or cracked house.
The same is true of our lives. A good foundation will lead to joy
a. Learn the truth
Read through 1 John every day (it is only 5 chapters)
Look for the “so that” statements and the “these things we write” statements. Pay close attention to the theological issues John raises
b. Spend time with God
Make a special time each day to be alone with him. Listen, pray, meditate. Let the truth of his existence pervade all you do and think. Fellowship with God.
Spend time with others
c. Find ways to be with likeminded believers. Let them challenge you in the truth.
Find ways to bless others, to share the “Word of Life” with them
True joy comes in knowing and doing the truth
1. What is that which was from the beginning? How does the beginning verse (1:1) in this epistle compare to the beginning verse in the gospel according to John?
2. What did John say he had done with this? In what ways can we do these things with the Word of Life?
3. Who or what is the Word of Life?
4. What does John testify regarding this Word?
5. Why does John declare this Word to us? How should we declare this word to others?
6. Who needs to hear the Word of Life in your circle of influence? How can you proclaim this truth to them and help them come to a relationship with God?
7. If we have fellowship based on this Word then with whom do we have fellowship? How does fellowship with the Word enhance or increase fellowship with other believers?
8. Why did John write these things?
9. What is the message that John seeks to get across?
10. What message do we need to believe and live?
11. Why does theology matter?
Thanks for reading!
Thursday, July 01, 2010
A Moment of Contentment in a Crazy Week
Tonight the most amazing thing happened, and I wanted to share my thoughts here. The last week has been a bit crazy, and some events have occurred that have caused a bit of confusion, sadness, and even anger. I have been on an emotional roller coaster, and I asked God for a moment, something "calm." I was waiting for my children to get ready for bed, and my son went outside to ride his scooter for a while. He didn't return after his normal amount of time, I went looking for him. He was catching fireflies in the yard. I retrieved the "bug keeper" and joined him. Before long the sun went too far down to be any help in catching fireflies, so we sat on the bench on the front porch. We watched the last streaks of the sun go down, and as the fireflies danced in the night sky like embers from a glowing fire, my son began to tell me stories from the most recent Calvin and Hobbes collection he had been reading. In the distance, a dog barked, down the road some kids laughed, a car passed in front of our house, and I smiled. A smile of contentment. Yes, it felt really good! I laughed out loud and hugged the boy. God is so good. It wasn't much, but this isle of contentment was just the "jump start" I needed to perk up my hope. Like a nice double latte with extra shots, this caffeine of contentment spread through my veins and reminded me that no matter how difficult life may be, God is still in charge of our moments. My son, the dancing fireflies, the slowly descending sun, the dogs in the distance, stories about Calvin and Hobbes, and a moment to utter a contented sigh. Thanks, Father, for you kindness! May all my friends soon have a moment of contentment like this one!