Sunday, August 15, 2010
Knowing Jesus, 1 John 2:1-6, 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 meetings on August 8-15, 2010. A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 2:1-6 and discusses the the effect that knowing Jesus should have on the life of a Christian. We consider the role of Jesus regarding sin and redemption, the importance of Jesus' commandments, and the need to walk as Jesus walked. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
Theology Matters Series
1 John 2:1-6
Our series “Theology Matters”
We started our study of 1 John a few weeks ago
We introduced this letter and discussed issues related to its writing—author, date, reason for writing, situations in the church, and even the problems facing some of John’s people
Then we looked at how John presents the Incarnation as a foundation for joy and for fellowship with God and with others
The past couple of weeks we looked at how God’s Light illuminates our lives and helps us overcome and avoid sin
We discussed how walking with God is an ongoing experience that requires both effort and practice
This week we find John continuing that theme by focusing in on Jesus
Our passage this week finds John clarifying his discussion about walking in the Light by explaining how knowing Jesus helps the Christian
Our passage gives insight into three important areas regarding knowing Jesus
1. Knowing Jesus’ role regarding sin
2. Knowing Jesus’ commandments
3. Knowing Jesus’ example
Knowing Jesus is the only way to true life as a Christian
1. Knowing Jesus’ Role Regarding Sin
1 John 2:1-2
John further clarifies his discussion concerning light and dark by outlining for his readers the reason for his letter
a. He writes to warn them to avoid sin
b. He writes to describe for them the character of Christ and its impact on their lives as Christ followers
John tells his readers: “Do Not Sin” (v. 1a)
Earlier he warned us not to claim to be sinless
Now he tells us not to sin
Which is it? Are Christians sinful or sinless? How much will a real Christian sin?
Definition of Sin
1 John 3:4—sin is lawlessness
Romans 3:23—falling short of God’s glory
Our goal should be to avoid and to resist sin
John writes as though his letter may help his readers in avoiding or at least resisting sin
a. Scripture can aid us in avoiding and resisting sin (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 119:105)
b. As we walk in God’s Truth (his Light, remember last week?), we will be aware of our sins and aware of the potential traps in life
c. God’s Word is our most convenient revelation from God—to neglect it is to neglect God’s self-disclosure
Knowing Jesus leads us to lives that avoid and resist sin
In verses 1b-2, John further describes the role of Jesus by the words “advocate” and propitiation
a. Paraclete—the same word describing the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)
b. “Called along side”
c. Carries the following ideas
Advocate, Helper, Counselor, Intercessor, etc.
d. To plead another’s case or the aid them in their defense
Atonement (1 John 4:10; Romans 3:23-25; Hebrews 2:17-18)
a. Hilasmos—Propitiation, Expiation, or Atonement?
b. Has to do with appeasing an angry deity or in making payment for sins
c. May also mean bringing reconciliation between warring parties
d. God, in Jesus, offers the only sacrifice that will deal adequately with sin
e. Jesus is the hilasmos for the whole world (John 3:16)
Jesus died as a result of sin—all sin—the sin of every human being
Therefore salvation is available to all because the sacrifice is on behalf of the whole world
Of course, only those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ receive the benefit
God provides the means of salvation, humans receive the gift by faith
Knowing Jesus leads to fellowship with God and forgiveness of sins
Through Jesus we get both salvation and sanctification
2. Knowing Jesus and His Commandments
1 John 2:3-5a
Salvation comes from knowing Jesus as the atoning sacrifice and only advocate for our sins
Assurance of our salvation comes from knowing and keeping his commandments
“By this we know that we have come to know him”
What does it mean to know Jesus?
a. The word here means more than simply intellectual acknowledgment or understanding
b. The idea in the Greek has to do with experience or with sharing life together
c. It implies a “fellowship” or unity built on shared life
John says that we can have assurance in our relationship with God if, and only if, that relationship has caused a change in our way of life
If we are genuinely followers of Christ, then we should keep his commandments
What are his commandments? (Matthew 22:35-40)
a. Love God
b. Love your neighbor
c. Love one another
Some of John’s opponents seem to teach that you can come to know God and live any way you want, or that you can sin outwardly and not receive damage to your soul
John says that is a lie—if you know God through Jesus, you will do what Jesus tells you to do
Verse 5 tells us that if we “keep” God’s Word (another way of saying, “Do what God tells us to do”), then we will find the love of God has been perfected and by this love we will gain assurance that we know Jesus and abide in him
Perfected Love/Love of God
a. God’s love for us
b. Our love for God
c. A little of both?
The word “perfect” may mean the following:
God's love for us is already perfect, complete, mature, and finished, so the love that needs perfecting is our love for Him and for others.
Abiding in Jesus (John 15—Jesus is the vine, we are the branches)
a. Abiding in Jesus means to draw from him what we need to live as God intended
Knowing Jesus means doing what he says
If we know him, we will do what he tells us to do
3. Knowing Jesus’ Example
1 John 2:5b-6
Abiding in him (John 15 again!)
We know we are in God or in Christ because our lives have changed/because we now keep his commandments
We are not saved by our obedience, but our obedience provides assurance that our lives have been changed
Looking at your life, how strong is your assurance?
How has God changed you? How have you obeyed him?
Following in his footsteps/Jesus as our Example
a. Following Jesus/keeping his word is the very definition of being his disciple (John 8:31-32)
b. A disciple/student will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40)
c. We must grow to be more like him if we are genuinely following him—it is the goal of salvation/sanctification (Romans 8:28-29)
d. How did Jesus live? He did what the Father did and said what the Father said (John 5:19, 30; 15:15)
e. We should also say what God says and do what God says to do (which means we must spend time in his Word and listening to his Spirit)
Knowing Jesus means knowing how he lived
We cannot claim to know Jesus if we refuse to live in the same manner he lived
The easiest answer here is to say what John says
a. Avoid/resist sin
b. Obey God
c. Be assured
Unfortunately that is not always as easy as it may sound
To avoid or resist sin is a part of obeying God
To do these things requires us to know what God wants us to do
Here are some suggestions:
a. Set aside 15-30 minutes a day to read Scripture. As we’ve been doing throughout this study, focus in on 1 John and the Gospel of John. Look for commands or places where Scripture seems to say that you should do something. Write those down. Pray for wisdom and opportunity and strength to do them.
b. Then, go and do it. God says to share our faith—find one opportunity to testify of God’s mercy to you. God says to love our neighbor—find a need to meet this week and do it. God’s Word says to confess our sins—acknowledge and confess your sins.
Hear what God says and say it. Find out what God is doing and do it.
Knowing Jesus means living like him
Will we take the risk?
1. How much will a real Christian sin? What should your goal be? Is it good enough to only sin a little bit? Why shouldn’t you sin?
2. Why is Jesus a perfect Advocate? In what areas do you need Jesus to be an Advocate for you? On what grounds does Jesus defend us?
3. How well must you obey God’s commandments in order to have assurance?
4. In what areas are you working to keep God’s commandments? Where does obedience characterize your life in Christ?
5. In what areas of your life do you need to be more like Jesus? How often to you long to be like Christ? Have you seen any progress in being like Christ?
6. If you begin to walk like Jesus regularly, what areas will need to change? In what ways will you need to take your sin seriously?
7. In what ways should we imitate Jesus?
8. How would imitating Jesus change your neighborhood? Your workplace? Your family?
9. How much is God’s grace to you in Christ worth?
10. Where have you seen God’s work in your life? Where have you responded to God with your own work on his behalf?
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Some Thoughts on Legacy, Revisited--Thanks, Dr. Falwell!
I watched Jerry Falwell's ministry from afar until August 2004. That month two very important things happened in my life: My father passed away, and I moved to Lynchburg, VA to begin a great adventure teaching at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Falwell became a larger than life part of my adventure. I only had the privilege to meet the man face-to-face a few times, but each time he remembered me and details of my life. He revealed such a genuine concern for me and my family that I began to think of him (to some degree, at least) as my second father. I remember once as he walked through the seminary offices, I could hear his booming voice as he talked to folks. As he passed my office, I heard him say, "Wait, I need to stop by and say hello to Leo." He not only remembered my name, he wanted to come into my office to check on me. His leadership and his kindness still inspire me. Oh that every pastor or leader could be a little bit like Jerry Falwell!
I hope that I live up to his legacy and expectations. I miss him, and I wish he had remained with us. At any rate, here are my thoughts on legacy, presented on this day in honor of a man who profoundly influenced my life: Dr. Jerry Falwell.
Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.
In the past two weeks I have experienced several occasions that caused me to think seriously about the idea of legacy. On May 9, 2009 I attended Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary's graduation, in which I watched several students and good friends walk across the stage to receive their degrees and launch into their ministries. Then, on May 15, 2009, I paused to remember the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell who passed away two years ago. May 17, 2009 saw the retirement of Dr. A. Ray Newcomb from 33 years of being a pastor at First Baptist Church, Millington, TN. Then May 21, 2009 witnessed the graduation of my nephew, Ethan Percer. All of these events reminded me of beginnings and endings, but more importantly they reminded me of the impact a legacy can have on people. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to explain.
I'm not sure how much we think of the impact of our lives. As I watched the high school students graduate with Ethan and the seminary students walk the stage in VA, I couldn't help but think about what I may hear about these people in the future. Some of them have already made an impact, some of them have a future impact to make. Most of them have no idea what the end of their lives will be, they only have dreams and hopes and (perhaps) plans. I remember holding my nephew shortly after he was born. Ethan seemed so tiny to be the first grandchild born to my parents, and as I held him in my arms, I prayed that God would grow him into a warrior, a man of God who is willing to help others and serve God no matter the risk. I had forgotten that prayer, to be honest, until one day I heard a story about my nephew tutoring other students in school and going out of his way to help others when it wasn't necessarily a popular thing to do. He has laid a foundation for a legacy that will not fade. I received an e-mail from his principal that said, "I would be proud if all of my students were like Ethan." Ethan is building a legacy.
Some of the seminary students who walked across the stage two weeks ago have begun their legacy. Many of them left home and nice jobs to pursue a degree at the seminary. They said no to "success" as the world measures it so that they would have the opportunity to labor for God. Some will labor in obscurity, some will never have "the largest Sunday School in America," some will never make the "big money," or write the most impressive "how to" book for other pastors. I know their lives, their hearts, and I know that their legacy will be greater than any can imagine. Does anyone remember "James the Less"? He was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus, but even church history and tradition has trouble determining who he was. Yet, he was one of the twelve, one of the original disciples, one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Not as famous as James the son of Zebedee, this James nonetheless left enough of an imprint on history to be regarded as one of those individuals who "turned the world upside down" with his life and preaching. We no doubt graduated a lot of these individuals, folks we may have a hard time identifying who will nonetheless make a great impression on many they will bring to Christ or love in God's name. "Less" may describe the knowledge of them, but it will not define their impact on those to whom they minister. I bet there were people in the first century who didn't think of James as "the Less" because of what God did through him. Nonetheless, James built a legacy, and like him, many of these graduating seminary students are building a legacy.
That brings me to two pastors--one gone and another freshly retired. Dr. Jerry Falwell and Dr. Ray Newcomb may have taken decidedly different paths to ministry, but they have something in common--their lives and ministries encouraged and affected many who now try to follow in their footsteps. Both men gave multiple decades to one congregation (Dr. Falwell served at Thomas Road for over 50 years, Dr. Newcomb at First Baptist for over 30 years), and the dreams and plans they received from God have inspired many to pursue the purposes of God for the love of Christ. Both men played a role in helping me grow as a new Christian, in helping me understand the concept of "call," and in helping me define the ministry to which God appointed me. I do not know where I would be without the legacies of these two men. On Sunday, we had a celebration of the ministry of Bro. Ray. During the singing of "Thank You," the minister of music asked all of us who had become Christ followers under Bro. Ray's ministry to come forward and stand by the stage. It seemed like over half of the crowd came forward to testify that God used this man's life and ministry to bring them to Jesus! There were doctors, lawyers, postal employees, politicians, teachers, and even one seminary professor. I was fine until then, but that scene brought tears to my eyes. Bro. Ray was getting to see his impact in a very visible form. Here were dozens, even hundreds of people whose lives will never be the same simply because he obeyed God to serve at First Baptist Millington. That number doesn't even count the lives that have been touched by those individuals as they went out to emulate their pastor. Bro. Ray and Dr. Falwell built great legacies.
Well, I've rambled a bit. I want to close with one more legacy to bring this full circle. As I watched my nephew graduate and as I participated in the celebration of my pastor's life and ministry, I couldn't help but think of one person who would have been so proud of both of them--my father. My dad, Bobbie Percer, passed away in August 2004. I have no doubt he would have loved this week--watching people honor his pastor and his grandson--oh, how proud he would have been. But my father's legacy is bigger than his joy at the accomplishments of others. You see, my dad left quite an impression. When my father passed away, my family and I drove to Millington from Waco, TX for the funeral. On Friday night before the funeral on Saturday, we had the traditional "viewing" when people would come to give their condolences to the family. I stood there in the line, greeting people in a line that stretched so far outside of the funeral home that the people were literally standing in the parking lot. I met folks I did not know, and they told me things I had not heard. One fellow told me how he came to Christ because my dad gave him shoes and a ride to church. This fellow's family was embarrassed to go to church because they did not have proper clothing. My dad not only clothed them, he gave them a ride to church. Another young man told me that he never would have graduated college if my father hadn't helped pay for his education. A young woman (with several children) told me of how my dad had helped her family and been instrumental in leading her husband and several children to the Lord. A line of nearly 1000 people marched through that funeral home and praised the life of this man, my father, in ways I could not even imagine. My dad was a great man. No, you'll never hear his name mentioned with luminaries like Jerry Falwell or Jack Kemp, but man what a large footprint this one man left in a small town in west Tennessee. Lives were changed (including those in his family), and eternities were determined. He did not even recognize all that he had accomplished, but he continued to love and to serve others because he loved a great God. His legacy is intact because he followed the example of his Lord. Bobbie Percer was a hero to many, and he is a hero to me. If I can have half the influence on others that my father had, I'll be a happy man. Bobbie Percer left a legacy and a good name.
I watched all of these scenarios open before me in the last two weeks, and it made me a bit introspective. What kind of legacy am I leaving? Where will my footprints lead others if they follow me? Who would attend a celebration of my life and what would they say? Would my love for Christ be obvious? Would my love for others be mentioned? God has blessed me to walk with giants (and some giants in training too), and I have to admit that I am often overwhelmed by their collective witness. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Dr. William L. Lane. I admitted to him that I didn't think I could live up to his example of a godly life and scholarship, and he said to me, "Never covet another person's gift, and never despise your own." He went on to remind me that God had not called me to be identical to Dr. Lane or to anyone else. God had called me to use my unique gifts and abilities for his glory. I do not have to live up to the stories of these giants, I simply need to live the legacy God has given me. No matter how obscure or unrecognized or inconsequential a life may seem, if it is lived for God it will have a legacy. What kind of legacy are we leaving the next generation?
Thanks for reading!