Saturday, September 18, 2010


Wildfire 2010--"Act Like Men: Strong Advice for Tough Times, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14"

Hello all:

This weekend I am teaching break out sessions at a Men's Impact Weekend called Wildfire 2010. The conference meets at Thomas Road Baptist Church. I already had one session (with a room full of men and folks sitting on the floor and standing in the hall!). I have another session this afternoon, but I thought I'd share my notes here for any who may want to see them. Let me know if you have any questions!

Act Like Men
Strong Advice for Tough Times

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

What does it mean to be a “man” today?
How about when you were growing up?

The movie “Second Hand Lions” and the “how to be a man speech”

Our passage today is Paul’s version of “how to be a man”
It is strong advice for tough times

All of the statements that follow are commands, they are not options
God expects us to take these things seriously

What do you know about the church in Corinth?

These people were a mess:

They had divided on doctrinal issues
They had split into factions determined by slogans and political posturing
They had forgotten what they were taught and become lazy in their spiritual growth/wisdom
They had ceased to serve one another and passed judgment on each other to the point of lawsuits
They had immoral activity in their church
Their marriages were on the rocks
They abused their spiritual liberty and hurt one another with it
They had no spiritual discipline and had become disorderly in their use of God’s gifts
They lost love for one another
They had forgotten the power of God’s love and Christ’s resurrection
They needed some men to lead them

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

1. Act Like Men
Andrizesthe—Greek term (present tense)
a. To behave like a man as opposed to acting like a juvenile
b. Be men constantly, play the man
c. Exhibit positive masculine properties
d. Be mature and be brave

Three characteristics to note here:
a. Spiritual maturity—1 John 2:12-14—John encourages his readers to progress on to a mature position, to leave behind childish things (1 Cor. 13:11-12)—cf. Ephesians 4:13
This maturity comes from the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 2:12-14—young men are strong in the Word of God)—this Word of God refers of course to both the written Word (the Bible) and the Incarnate Word (Jesus)—to be spiritually mature requires us to be adept in both (1 Cor. 14:20—the Corinthians need to grow up)

What about us? Where do we need to grow up? Where do we need to stop acting juvenile? What relationships and situations need maturity instead of juvenile selfishness?

b. Courage—John Wesley: “Give me 100 men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world: I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.”

c. Consistency—a constant process of growth that builds Christ-like characteristics in our lives. God isn't looking for perfectionism, but he desires a consistent growth and process of sanctification. We must continue to become like Jesus!

The rest of this passage reveals for us what it means to “act like men” according to Paul
To act like men requires us to first be on the alert

2. Be on the Alert

“Be watchful”—a military word with a strategy in mind that means to be alert or vigilant
It is the opposite of indifference or apathy
It is an active concern to be aware

What happens when those on guard duty fail their watch?
The enemy sneaks in
Soldiers suffer loss
Someone may die

In the spiritual life of a Christian man, watchfulness must be combined with prayer
Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2

What are the objects of our watching?
The enemy (1 Peter 5:8)
Temptation (Mark 14:38)
False Teaching (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1)
Opportunities to share God’s good news or to do God’s works (Titus 3:1; 2 Timothy 4:5)
The return of Christ (Matthew 24:42-44)

To act like men means to watch out for each other
Watching out for each other requires a solid foundation in Christ

3. Stand Firm in the Faith
Another “militant” term—Paul is calling on the Corinthians to make a stand, to be recognized, to hold their ground (cf. Ephesians 6:10-11)
1 Corinthians 15:58

There is a connection between being watchful and standing firm
An army on the watch is an army ready to stand
An army caught off guard or on break is an army soon defeated

How do we “stand firm”?
a. Be a disciple/learner—spend time learning the great truths of God from the Bible—be a Berean who searches the Scripture to find God’s plan
b. Know what you believe (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
c. Know why you believe it and be ready to offer a reason (1 Peter 3:15)
d. Once you know what and why, then act on it—do the truth

Standing firm is like a tree planted with deep roots—it is solid because it has a strong foundation—our foundation is what God accomplished through Jesus and the revelation of his truth in the Bible

Our faith (belief and action) should be an anchor for us (2 Timothy 2:15)

To act like men means to make a stand in what God has done
Standing in God’s work requires and results in strength

4. Be Strong
Krataio—refers to a strength in action rather than simply strength in possession
It isn’t how much you bench press, it is how you act when strength needed
The biggest muscles will freeze up if there is no strong character

Ephesians 6:10—”be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might”
Three kinds of strength here—empowerment (be endued with the Lord’s power), strength (a similar word as used in 1 Corinthians), and power (might or muscle)
We must gain power from God, act on what he gives us, and use it to accomplish his purposes

2 Corinthians 10:3-6—we pull down fortresses

What does this strength look like in action? Philippians 2:3-4
God’s power properly applied usually acts on behalf of others

Which brings us to our final point
We have all these “militant” terms, then Paul calls us to love
To act like men, we must be strong—but strength must be always be tempered with love

5. Do All in Love
What’s love got to do with it?
Only everything
God at his most powerful is also God at his most vulnerable

John 1:1-3, 14—God who created all things revealed his glory, grace, and truth by becoming one of us and revealing God among us (i.e., “Immanuel”)

Philippians 2:5-8
Equal with God, but didn’t take advantage
Emptied himself, and became a servant
Incarnated as a human, he humbly obeyed even to the point of dying for our sins on a cross
How did Jesus love? He gave himself so others could live
That’s the love Paul refers to here

To act like men requires us to do all things in love

The Corinthians certainly needed this kind of love (Paul even discussed it in chapter 13 of this book)
Their divisions had caused factions and fighting
They had become rivals instead of brothers
They were engaging in lawsuits instead of love
They were acting like children
They were not watching out for each other
They were not standing firm in the truth Paul had taught them
They were giving in to weakness

Where do we need love? Where do we need to show love?

To act like men, we must learn to do all things in love
That little three letter word is difficult isn’t it?
“All” things—even my marriage? My kids? My job? My business relationships? Even with those who don’t “love” me? Even in situations where showing love could result in a loss for me?

What do you think?

Acting like men is not easy
No one said growing up would be simple
Paul’s advice here is tough

So what do we do? How do we respond to this passage?

Our circumstances are not so different from the church in Corinth
We live in a divided society, live in divided families, even attend divided churches
We have people around us acting like juveniles—blaming others for their problems or only looking out for themselves—we have a lack of “grown ups”—we need some mature men
We have problems creeping in, temptations attacking, people falling, we need someone to be on the watch
Our society and our churches seem at times to be slipping into all kinds of problems or errors or sin. Nothing seems to be solid or firm. We need folks who are on a solid foundation
We need strength tempered by love

Our response to this passage is simple
We must act like men
We must go to our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods and embody the principles Paul has described here

Will we risk it?
If we don’t, who will?

What will our families, our churches, and our world look like if we do?
I’d like to see that!

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, September 12, 2010


Three Stages of Growth: Growing on to Maturity, 1 John 2:12-14, Theology Matters Series, 1 John 2:12-14

Hello all:

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 September 12, 2010. A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 2:12-14 and discusses the need for Christians to grow through the stages of Christian life on their way to maturity. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Three Stages of Growth: Growing on to Maturity
Theology Matters Series

1 John 2:12-14

Our study of 1 John has focused several times on fellowship

We have talked about fellowship with God, fellowship with Christ, and even fellowship with one another

Fellowship requires relationship—there can literally be on “communion” or fellowship where there is no relationship

Today’s passage takes this idea into account and offers for us three stages of growth in our relationship with God
1. Being Children
2. Being Youth
3. Being Fathers

1 John 2:12-14
Relationship is a process
The process of Christian growth results in maturity
Let’s grow to maturity

1. Children
1 John 2:12, 13c

Teknia—infant, baby, refers to relationship by birth
Paidia—a half grown child, a child under instruction (Gal. 2:24—Law as a tutor to lead us to Christ—”tutor” is paidagogos)

Characteristics of “children”
a. Sins are forgiven on account of Jesus
This is the “little child” stage in the family of faith. All of us begin here—our sins are forgiven because of what Christ has accomplished (1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:7-9;
The basic Christian position is one of having received forgiveness of sins. It is the starting place of our salvation experience.

b. Know the Father
This is the reason our sins are forgiven, i.e., because we know the Father
We have come to God as to a Father, not a stern Judge or a sentimental and libertarian Grandfather
As children, we have a Father, a Daddy, an Abba (Gal. 4:6; Romans 8:15)
John 17:2-3—eternal life is defined as knowing the Father through Jesus

We start as children who love “Daddy”

The danger of immaturity (Heb. 5:12-13)
Little boy who fell out of bed: “I guess I fell asleep too close to where I came in.”

Remaining an infant is hard to live with on a permanent basis, isn’t it?

Little children can be rude, lazy, even selfish, but they know their Daddy
There must be a beginning to the Christian life, but we should not end there.
The goal should be maturity. Just as we expect an infant or a toddler to grow, so we should expect a new Christian to mature (2 Peter 3:18)

We must grow out of childhood

2. Youth
1 John 2:13b, 14b

Characteristics of the “youth”
a. Overcome the evil one
b. Strong/Vitality
c. Word of God abides in them

The first two items above are a bit more “militant,” i.e., they describe a youth who is battle ready. They are strong and ready to fight and win.
These are Christians whose faith has been tested and found to be solid (1 Peter 1:6-9; James 1:2-4)
They have wrestled with the evil one and won
Their eyes are open to the true nature of the conflict (Eph. 6:12ff)—we wrestle not with flesh and blood
The immature Christian tends to look at other people as the source of their problems

Those who have overcome the evil one know better
The battle is in the mind and in the heart, with attitudes, temptations, and spiritual assaults
They have learned to live in fellowship with God through Christ—God’s strength is their armor (Eph. 6:10)
They know that they cannot win the battle alone—they need God and they need brothers and sisters (i.e., “a band of brothers” or “comrades in arms”)
They have learned to walk in God’s Spirit

Youth glory in their strength or accomplishments

The source of their strength and training is found in the last item—it is the Word of God
a. They have a hunger and a thirst for God’s Word
b. They don’t simply read or study it, they “abide” in it
c. They pitch their tent in its regions, they listen to its instructions, they act on its advice
d. They realize that their orders and their training are found only in this one source—God’s Word
e. This is a reference, of course, to both the written Word and the incarnate Word of God
f. We need God’s instruction (the Bible) and God’s incarnation (Jesus Christ)

These Christians are a bit further along in spiritual growth than the “little children,,” yet they are not quite mature
All they lack to be “mature” is experience

We must press on to adulthood

3. Fathers
1 John 2:13a, 14a

Characteristics of the “mature”
a. Know him who has been from the beginning
b. Got in on the ground floor
c. Know the One who started it all

These “fathers” or “mature” are the ones who have been there since the beginning of the Christian movement. They may well be John’s disciples

These are those Christians who have progressed through the earlier stages of Christian growth. They have probably even produced spiritual offspring

These individuals have “known him who was from the beginning”: a possible reference to 1 John 1:1 and the Incarnation

Spiritually mature folks don’t forget their foundation

By long experience, these folks have come to know God with a deep intimacy
They have a personal acquaintance with the Father through Jesus that has spanned a long time and many hardships

It is a close relationship, like a married couple who have been together for decades

They have become like the One they love—they are Christ-like

1 Cor. 13:11—they have put away childish things

They are no longer juvenile in their attitudes

They are no longer unstable, flippant, or petty, but they are dependable, faithful, competent, and thoughtful

These people are mature

They walk in forgiveness (both receiving and giving it), they resist/overcome the evil one, they know the Father, they act like the Son, and they walk in the Spirit

Spiritually mature people become like Jesus/We must grow to maturity

The family of Christ includes many followers at different stages of Christian life and discipleship

There are those who are just starting out or learning to walk in the faith
There are those who through diligent study and application of God’s Word have become strong warriors in God’s family
There are those who by long experience and intimacy with God have become mature leaders and parents for others

The application then becomes clear—God intends for us to grow on to maturity in our walk with Christ. We cannot risk the danger of remaining children or youth in our faith forever. We must continue to grow.

This week:
1. Take time to evaluate your spiritual growth chart. Like those charts our parents used to chart our height or growth as children, so do we need to take stock of where we are. How long have you been a follower of Christ? How far have you come? Are you still in infancy? Young adulthood? Are you mature? Make an honest assessment.

2. Make time to get familiar with God and his Word this week. If the youth gain their strength and vitality against the evil one by abiding in the Word, then we need to learn to do this as we mature in our faith. Read 1 John and the Gospel of John. Act on the commands.

3. Make time to relate to your brothers and sisters. Are you in an accountable relationship? Do you have a group of people who regularly challenge you to grow and to do the things God has called us to do? If not, find a group. Motivation is important in Christian growth, and we should motivate one another. How can you motivate your brothers and sisters? How do you need motivation?

4. Make time to show God’s kindness to others.

We must move on to maturity
Will we?

Discussion Questions

1.Motivation is important in Christian growth, and we should motivate one another. How can you motivate your brothers and sisters? How and where do you need motivation?

2. Why is knowing forgiveness so basic to the Christian life (see 2 Pet. 1:9)? Is there a danger of abusing this truth? Where do you need forgiveness? Where do you need to give it?

3. What areas need to change so that you can grow on to maturity?

4. Where has God worked maturity in you? How did he do it?

5. In what ways are you like Christ? Where do you need to change?

6. How can you help others grow on to Christ-like maturity?

7. Who do you know that needs to start a relationship with God? How can you introduce them to Christ?

Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, September 04, 2010


What Jesus Wants: Love One Another, Theology Matters Series 1 John 2:7-11

Hello all:

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 29-September 5, 2010. A couple of weeks ago, we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 2:7-11 and discusses the necessity of loving one another as an example of being obedient to Jesus. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

What Jesus Wants
Love One Another

1 John 2:7-11


Our study of first John until now
1. The importance of a good theological foundation via the Incarnation (1 John 1:1-4)
2. The importance of living in God’s spotlight (1 John 1:5-10)
3. The importance of knowing Jesus and keeping his commandments (1 John 2:1-6)

Last week we took a brief side trip to look at the greatest commandments and to consider the importance of loving God and others (Matthew 22:34-40)

This week John brings us to a description of what keeping Jesus’ commandments looks like

If 1 John 2:1-6 describe how we love God (by keeping his commandments), then 2:7-11 explains how loving each other perfects God’s love in us and reveals God’s life and light in us

This week, we look at what Jesus wants according to John

1. The Commandment
1 John 2:7-8

The first six verses of 1 John 2 remind us to love God and to see God’s love perfected in us

These next verses (7-11) teach us how to make that love obvious in our lives—it is by loving others that God’s love is perfected in us

A couple of weeks ago we spoke about knowing Jesus and how that relationship is expressed by doing what Jesus tells us to do—by keeping Jesus’ commandments

In today’s verses, John says that he is writing this letter to give his church an old and new commandment

What is the difference between old and new?
How can something be old and yet also be new?

What does Jesus want?
Jesus wants us to keep his commandments

The description of this commandment
a. Something old—it is not brand new or just made up
b. Something they had from the beginning—probably a reference to what they learned early on as Christians as opposed to something that is being taught as a recent doctrine or a “new revelation”
c. Something that they heard—it was taught, preached, talked about
d. Something new—the Greek word here means “fresh” as opposed to “recent”—this command is “new in kind” not “new in time”
e. Something true—it reflects the true Light of God (remember our discussion about the spotlight of God?)

This old/new commandment is true in Jesus and it is true in his followers

How is it “true” in Jesus? How is it true in His followers?
It is truly revealed in the life and ministry of Christ and it is proven in the experience of his believers

It is Light that causes the darkness to fade away
It dawned with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and it continues to push the darkness back as the children of God continue to live it

This command is clear—love one another (John 13: 34-35 cf. vv. 1-17 and the footwashing)—this is the specific test of true obedience—God’s love is perfected in us as we learn to love one another (more on this in a minute)

What does Jesus want?
Jesus wants us to love one another

Side Note: What does John want?
John is writing to help the church become a loving, caring, sincere family where each member is intimately and genuinely concerned about others. He wants a church where truth and living co-exist. John envisions a church in which brothers and sisters are slow to take offense, quick to forgive, ready to accept one another (warts and all), and quick to encourage.

John was no doubt profoundly influenced by Jesus’ love and ministry. He probably recalled Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The words of Jesus concerning the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” were still ringing in John’s ears. John wants a church that looks like Jesus.

2. The Contrast
1 John 2:9

In the verses above, John contrasts (and combines) old and new, but also includes true (and by implication) versus false. Now he distinguishes these further by the contrast of light and darkness in the lives of people

What does John say characterizes light?
a. Light is true in Christ (v. 8)
b. Light shines and causes darkness to fade (v. 8)
c. A person walking in the light (i.e., fellowship with God—1 John 1:6-7; speaking truth—1 John 1:7-8; confessing sins—1 John 1:9-10) is one who does not hate
There is no wiggle room here—John sees light as love and darkness as hate—no middle ground
d. If you are in the Light you will not hate your brother

What does John say characterizes darkness?
a. Darkness is false
b. Darkness does not comprehend Jesus (John 1:5)
c. Darkness does not fellowship with God, does not speak truth, and does not confess sin
d. Darkness hates

The contrast is pretty clear here—we cannot claim to walk in God’s light and continue to live in any way that does not reflect God’s love
To hate others is to reject God’s command and to remain in darkness

What does Jesus want?
Jesus wants us to walk in his light

1 John 2:10-11
John continues his restatement of the command as a contrast between love and hate (or light and darkness)

Characteristics of one who walks in darkness/hate
a. The one in darkness does not know where he is going (i.e., he is “lost” in the night)
b. The one in darkness stumbles over obstacles
c. The one in darkness is “blind” and unable to see (cf. John 9 and the healing of the blind man—who is really blind?)
d. The one in darkness hates his brother and does not look out for his brother—the main concern is probably selfish but certainly is not focused on the needs, encouragement, or improvement of his neighbor’s life

Characteristics of one who abides in light/love
a. The one in the light knows where he is going (i.e., he can see to follow Christ)
b. The one in the light does not stumble nor causes others to stumble
c. The one in the light is not blind but able to see what God is doing and to rejoice in God’s work
d. The one in the light loves his brother and looks out for the needs, encouragement, and improvement of his neighbor’s life

What does Jesus want?
Jesus wants us to walk in love for one another

Loving One Another
What does it mean to love other believers? In 1 John 3:16 John defines it, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

Love is characterized by being willing to give up everything, including life itself, for the sake of another.

Jesus loved us in this way (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). He willingly, of his own free will, gave up his life for us when we were yet sinners and enemies of God (Rom. 5:8-10). This is the example of love we have been given! This is how we should love each other.

What does Jesus want?
He wants us to love as he loves

Side Note 2: What about John?
Church history tells us that when John was old and unable to walk, members of the church where he lived would pick him up and carry him to the meeting place, so that John could address his beloved brothers and sisters. On the way, John was often heard saying, “Little children, love one another.” In fact, the testimony of the early church was that they did love one another. Tertullian notes that the love of the early church was so obvious that it impressed even those who did not believe in God. Tragically, this spirit disappeared, and in view of the controversies of the fourth century, a non-Christian writer named Ammianus would state, “The enmity of the Christians toward each other surpassed the fury of savage beasts against man.” Something changed from the first century to the fourth century. Controversies arose in the church, and instead of treating one another with love, factions developed, and with factions came anger and hatred, so much so that by the time of the Reformation those who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ were killing each other over doctrinal disputes and differences. (W. Robertson Nicoll, commentary on 1 John)

Sad, but true. How are we like this today?

In 1 John 2:1-6 we were encouraged to keep Jesus’ commandments and have God’s love perfected in us. This week we are told more directly that Jesus’ commandment is that we love one another.

How can we do this?
Do we really need instruction?

This week:
1. Ask the hard question—where is the evidence in my life that I love others? Other Christians? Other people (non-Christians)? What do I do that looks like God’s love in Christ? We need to search our hearts and ask for God’s conviction about this situation. Is there a relationship we need to improve? Do we need to show love by reconciling? This week ask God about it and act on what he tells you.

2. Spend time in God’s Word—get out a concordance and look up the word “love” and read the passages. Go on-line to and search the word “love” in the Gospel of John and 1 John (it occurs 26 times in the Gospel and 36 times in 1 John). Learn about love from God’s Word.

3. Go out and love others. Give a larger tip than usual, encourage a friend, write that note you intended to write, be kind to one another and even to strangers, share your faith with someone, or simply give your time to helping others. Make it a priority to do love. It isn’t just about words, it is about actions
Love one another and walk in the light—that’s what Jesus wants

Discussion Questions
1. Give some reasons why it is impossible to walk in the light and hate others at the same time.

2. In what practical ways have you been showing love to other Christians? To other people? Do such acts define or motivate your goals in life?

3. What priority do the commands of God have in your life?

4. What is different about the new commandment compare to say the 10 commandments?

5. The person hating his brother apparently has a stumbling block in him. How may hating a brother cause him to stumble?

6. What affect does this have on the world's perspective of Christianity?

7. What would the church look like if we took seriously Jesus’ command to love one another?

8. Who needs God’s love this week? How will you show it to them?

Thanks for reading!

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