Tuesday, July 19, 2011


And Now For Something Completely Different: An Exercise in Finding our Way, Romans 12:1-8

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 for our meeting on July 17, 2011. I just finished a year long series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters," and I had a long week of teaching 7 hours a day (5 days) in a PhD seminar as well. As a result, I decided to take a slightly different approach to a lesson for Sunday. Instead of working up a "teaching," I decided (with my wife's help) to do something a bit more like serendipity. As a result, the lesson is a bit more discussion oriented. I also decided to give it a "different" title. I hope you get something from it! If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

And Now For Something Completely Different
An Exercise in Finding Our Way

Romans 12:1-8

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I simply need a change in approach
I just finished a week long PhD intensive on Pauline Theology
I taught two night sessions at a youth camp
Not to mention that we just finished a year long look at the letter of 1 John
I decided today we’d simply try a different approach

Today, we are going to have a conversation rather than a lesson
We are going to look at Paul and see what we can learn

But before we do that, two questions
1. What should a church look like?
2. What do you think a church should be?

Romans 12:1-2

Paul’s text here is the practical application of some of the theological materials he has mentioned in the earlier 11 chapters

In this section, Paul calls his readers to a life radically separated from that of the world, a life that is counter-culture

a. How does Paul tell us we should worship God?
b. What does this look like?
c. Where do you see Christians “conforming” to the world instead of being transformed? Do you have any struggles there?
d. What earthly things do you place more value on than the gift that God has given you? What do you think causes this?
e. Do you ever feel the urge to pull away from the world around you or to not conform to its standards? Where do you experience this in your life?
f. What is God’s will for us as a church? For us as individuals? For G.A.P?

Transformation even affects motivation
A church of renewed minds should show a different kind of life

Romans 12:3

Paul reminds us here that all of us have received something from God to contribute to the work of God (note that Paul expects us all to do the work of ministry!). The danger is arrogance and pride


a. Where has pride had a negative effect on the church in your experience?
b. Where does pride show up in your life?
c. How does understanding God’s grace give us strength to resist pride?
d. Should we seek humility? How?
e. How has God humbled you? Will you humble yourself?

Transformation affects our perspective
A church of renewed minds should act with humility instead of arrogance

Romans 12:4-5

The Church has a call from God to worship him, but that worship is not centered only in the singing of songs or hearing of sermons. Part of that worship involves serving one another. Paul here reminds his readers that the function of the body of Christ (i.e., the Church) is to serve one another in the unique and different functions to which God has gifted us. The church should exhibit diversity in unity. Diversity in function, unity in faith. We are one body of many members.


a. Here Paul compares the Church to a body. What do you think of that comparison?
b. How have you seen this body life in your experience of church?
c. How does Scripture describe members of the early church? In what ways is your life comparable to that described in God’s Word?

Transformation affects our service
A church of renewed minds serves others without compulsion

Romans 12:6-8

Paul now moves to the specific kinds of gifts and functions that may be found in the church. This is not a complete list, but it includes the following:
Prophecy: a proclamation of what God says
Serving: serving others as a gift of faith
Teaching: communicating truth and doctrine with knowledge and clarity
Exhorting: those who encourage or who give a clear explanation of the goal or vision for the church
Contributing: More than just money, this seems to aim at sacrificial giving
Leading: those who provide guidance and administration
Acts of mercy: those who see the needs of others and are quick to respond

a. What is the importance of serving in the body of Christ? How does our serving mimic the life of Jesus?
b. Which of these gifts do you think God has given you?
c. How are you contributing to the body of Christ?
d. Are you committed to serving at TRBC? In GAP? Are we only coming for our own needs, or are we plugged in and contributing to the growth of the body?
e. What would the church look like if all its members were committed to exercising their gifts?

Wouldn’t you like to find out?

Transformation affects our ministry by enabling us to use the gifts God gave us
A church of renewed minds functions like a body with each part doing its part to make sure the whole is healthy

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011


Some Closing Advice: Things You Should Know, 1 John 5:18-21, Theology Matters Series

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 for our meeting on July 10, 2011. About a year ago, we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson is the culmination of that study and looks at 1 John 5:18-21 and looks at the closing advice that John gives to his readers. John reminds his readers of three things that they know, three things that he has covered in different parts of this letter. He reminds them that they know their background, they know their place, and they know the truth. This advice is useful to us as well, so here are the notes. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Some Closing Advice
Things You Should Know

1 John 5:18-21
Theology Matters Series

Well, we finally made it to the end. Maybe we’ll actually get through all of these verses today. . . . Hey it could happen!

We started this series on July 11, 2010, and here we come to the last few sentences of 1 John

I like to think of this part of the letter as a sort of parting advice from John to his spiritual children

When I moved away from home for the first time, my parents offered me advice
Remember to put God first, remember where you came from, don’t forget you represent us all in how you live, etc.

John does something similar here

John gives the following advice to his readers
1. Know your background
2. Know your place
3. Know the truth

1 John 5:18-21

1. Know Your Background

1 John 5:18—The passage we completed last week spoke of the need to pray for brothers or sisters who fall into sin. In fact, the last verse reminds us that all unrighteousness is sin. Having raised the mysterious question of the sin unto death, John now turns to things Christians can know

The first point he addresses is our background

John acknowledges that Christians are born of God

He reminds his readers that those who are born of God do not continue in sin (cf. 1 John 3:9)
The person who has received the new birth through Christ will not live a lifestyle of sin

He is not saying that Christians cease from sinning (that was the argument of the false teachers—they claimed that they had no sin—1 John 1:8-9)
In fact, we just saw in 5:13-17 that John calls on us to pray for those brothers and sisters who sin
So, John admits that Christians will on occasion sin

The point John is making is that our background determines our actions

So, Who’s Your Father?

If we are born of God, sin cannot be our constant companion

Plummer states it like this: "A child of God may sin; but his normal condition is one of resistance to sin."

As a comparison, look at 1 John 3:7-9
In these verses John sets up a contrast between those who are of God and those who are of the devil
He does something similar in 5:18
a. In chapters 3 & 5, those who are born of God do not practice sin
b. In chapter 3, those who are born of God have God’s seed; in chapter 5 the one born of God is protected by someone who is “born of God”
c. What does John mean here? (More on that in a minute)
d. Finally, in chapter 3, John says that the children of the devil are obvious because they do not practice righteousness or love their Christian brothers and sisters; chapter 5 tells us that the one born of God cannot be “touched” by the evil one

This does not mean that Satan cannot attack or tempt Christians, it simply means that they no longer belong to Satan’s family

The one who is born of God through Jesus Christ has a new family background; he or she is now part of a righteous family, a family that does not practice sin

Who Protects Us?

Who is the one “born of God” who keeps or guards believers?

The reference here seems to be to Jesus
a. Christ is our foundation and our assurance
b. What Jesus has accomplished gives those born of God the protection they need to stand against Satan
c. Because Jesus is our means of salvation, and because we belong to God’s family; we now have the means to resist temptation and the devil (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:7-10)

Knowing our background provides a sure foundation to resist sin
This assurance also reminds us of our place

2. Know Your Place

1 John 5:19—John now moves to a discussion of our place or position. If the first verse discusses the importance of lineage or background, then this verse addresses the importance of where we live

This verse offers a contrast between those who belong to God in Christ and those who belong to the world

Throughout this letter, John has contrasted God’s children with those who belong to the world
1 John 2:15-17; 3:1, 13; 4:4-5; 5:4-5
Simply stated, John uses the term “world” to describe those who are not “in Christ” or have not come to know God through Jesus Christ
The “world” is the opposite of the “children of God”

John sees no middle ground
Either you are of God
Or you are of the world

John seems to be saying here (as in other chapters) that humanity can be divided into two camps
Those who are of God
Those who are in the power of the evil one

John really doesn’t describe the first group
He simply states “We know that we are of God”
This word “know” occurs in my English translation 36 times in 1 John
The problem here is that there are two Greek words for “know” in this short book
The word used here may mean something like “to perceive, to know by learning, or to know about”
It is used three times in our passage today (15 times in 1 John, with 7 of those occurrences in chapter 5!)

John seems to say that we have come to learn that we are of God, and that is what his letter has tried to explain (cf. 1 John 5:13)

John claims we can be assured that we are located in the realm of God

He’s Got the Whole World . . .
The assurance of the believer is contrasted to the sad state of the non-believer

John states that the “whole world” lies in the realm of the “evil one”
In other words, those who do not know God through Christ are in the hands of the devil (2 Cor. 4:4)
There is no middle ground (Col. 1:13-14)

Interestingly enough, this is the second time John uses the phrase “whole world”
The first time is in 1 John 2:1-2 where John describes Jesus as the propitiation of the “whole world”
There, as here, this phrase refers to those who are opposed to God
Cf. Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25; Mark 14:9

Knowing your place means understanding your location, to whom you belong—there are only two sides!
We must make sure what side we are on

This is accomplished by knowing the truth

3. Know the Truth

1 John 5:20-21—John closes his discussion with a reminder to his readers that they have come to know the truth about Jesus and through him know the true God

John reminds his readers of the beginning of the letter
In chapter 1 he introduced the idea of the Incarnation as the theological foundation for joy and life
John here reminds them that they “know” (there’s that word again!) that the Son of God has come
The Incarnation is something they have learned and come to know by the witness of the apostles and the Holy Spirit
Jesus came for a purpose though

The reason for Jesus’ coming was so that he could give us understanding in order that we may “know” him who is true
The idea of “understanding” here is usually translated “mind” or “disposition”
It reminds me of John 1:4-5, 9-11—Jesus comes into the world to enlighten humans and to bring life in God to them
At the very least, John says that Jesus comes to give us the disposition or mind to know “him who is true”

Can you handle the Truth?
The phrase “know him who is true” (1 John 5:20)
Here John uses a different word for “know”
This word means to know experientially, to know personally—it does not refer to learning or knowledge about a topic—it is experiential
Jesus gives us the mind or understanding to have an experiential knowledge of “him who is true,” i.e., God himself
Jesus is the only means to relationship to God—that is the truth

Jesus has brought us to the knowledge of God because he is God’s Son
John is an exclusivist--there is no other way to read this letter

John closes this letter with two statements
Being in Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life”
And we should guard ourselves from idols

What does John mean by “This is the true God and eternal life”?
This sounds a bit like John 17:3
John tells us that Jesus gives understanding to know God, and that we can know we are in him because of Jesus
Now he reminds us that Jesus is the truest expression of who God is (Hebrews 1:1-3)
It is only through Jesus that we have life with God; eternal life

Why does he warn us to guard ourselves from idols?
Idolatry is placing anything before God; the false teachers had done this
They had a false god and denied the deity of Christ
What do we put in the place of God in our lives?

Knowing the truth means keeping our focus on Jesus
We must put God first, we must have no idols


How can we follow John’s advice?

First, we must make sure we have a background with God
If we are not born of God through Jesus Christ, then all the other advice offered here is useless to us
We are still in the world and not in Christ
Today, check your background

Second, once you know you have a relationship with God through Christ, then you must make sure you live a life that reflects that. Are you living a lifestyle of sin? Is sin a habit for you, or is it something you genuinely resist? Our lives must reflect his life if we want to be known as his children. John has made this point over and over again. This week, get into an accountable relationship with others. Live holy.

Third, recognize that the world is caught up in the arms of the evil one. You cannot be friends with the world and be friends of God. There must be some separation, but we must live in the world. As Jesus told us, we must be in the world and not of it. That means we must be willing to testify to the world about what God has done for us. We must be witnesses. This week, seek an opportunity to share the truth of God’s salvation with someone

Finally, we must commit ourselves to pursuing the truth. That means we must remove any idols that take the place of God. What hinders you from keeping God first? Be brutally honest with yourself and then seek to remove those things. Seek first the kingdom of God, but remove idols as well

Thanks for reading!

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