In the Light – 1 John Study (week 4)

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This week, we are continuing our study of 1 John by looking at 2:15-17, 5:4-5.  This study is a part 4 of a 5 week Bible study adapted from a sermon series I preached in July 2011 entitled “In the Light.”

Week 4:  1 John 2:15-17, 5:4-5

Intro to the week’s study:

Several years ago, I wrote a piece about my dog entitled “What I really want.”  As I was preparing this week’s study, I thought of this piece, and thought I would include it here as a preview our study:

I have a dog.  A very stubborn dog named Rocky.  When he wants to do something, he is going to do it, regardless of what I think.  Even though his will seems unchanging, I can still out negotiate him in almost any circumstance.  How can I do that, you ask?  The answer is simple:  I have found his weakness.  If watching cartoons as a kid growing up taught me anything, it taught me that all the great ones had a weakness . . . Superman had kryptonite, Batman was worthless without his utility belt, Wonder Woman wasn’t all that wonderful without that invisible jet or magic lasso.  And so, I have found Rocky’s weakness:  his appetite.  This dog has never met an edible item he didn’t like, and it has led to his downfall on many occasions.

Take the other day for example.  Rocky was laying on the couch relaxing when I was ready to leave the house, and thus needed to put him outside.  So what did I do?  I walked over to the door, opened it up, and kindly asked him to go outside.  He wasn’t budging.  He didn’t even move an inch.  So I asked him again.  Still . . . no movement.  I can only imagine, that if this dog could talk, he would have told me that he had no interest in going outside, because he was fully satisfied lying on the couch and taking a nap.  Finally, in the interest of time, I walked over to the closet, got out a Milk Bone, and waved it in his face, before throwing it out the back door.  This dog that lay there motionless the moment before, now sprung to life, and in an instant flew out the back door, and grabbed the milk bone.  Why?  Because that is what he wanted to do.  There was a problem for him, though.  In about 5 seconds he had eaten the Milk Bone and now wanted back inside, but it was too late.  Rocky had forfeited the luxury of the sofa for the longings of his stomach.  He had traded what he REALLY wanted for what he thought he wanted.  In 5 seconds the bone was gone, but for the rest of the day, he now had to stay outside.  He had traded long lasting fulfillment for a 5 second reward.

You may want to laugh this story off, and mutter something to the effect of “dumb dog.”  But in reality, believers in Jesus Christ make similar decisions all too often.   What do I mean by that?  The Bible tells us that when anyone places their faith in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins they have become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Now a part of what it means to be a new creation is that all believers in Christ have a new set of desires:  desires to do the will of God.  In other words, at the core of every believer, what they REALLY want to do is the will of God.  Philippians 2:13 says it this way, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  In other words, God has provided the desire to do His work.  So why is it that we don’t do it?  If that is what believers REALLY want to do, what is the problem?  I believe the problem is found in our flesh: that part of us that wants to do only what we want, and leads us into sin.  Like my dog’s stomach, our flesh is tempted by things we think we want, but in the end bring only 5 seconds of pleasure, not lasting satisfaction.  We may be tempted to have inappropriate sexual relationships or lie or cheat or drink to excess or whatever else our flesh may be tempted by.  But regardless of how appealing that temptation looks, it will not bring us lasting fulfillment. In the end, it leaves us outside in the cold, not fully satisfied in the resting place of God’s provision.  Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?  Are you fully satisfied?  If not, understand that the only way to get there is to unleash the desires of your “new creation.”  Take by faith that you long to do the will of God, and then experience the joy of true fulfillment.

This week in our study, we will be continuing our series on the book of 1 John entitled “In the Light”  This week we will be looking at 1 John 2:15-17 and 5:4-5.  In these verses, we see John talking about something similar to the above story about my dog as he talks about believers being tempted by the world’s temporary pleasure instead of resting satisfied in God’s victorious over-coming eternal life.  I hope this study is encouraging to you in your walk with God!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read 1 John 2:15-17, 5:4-5
  2. To the best of your understanding what is the “world” that we are not to love (2:15)?
  3. Why are the things of the world so appealing to us?  What is it specifically about the things of the world that are so enticing to us?
  4. The passage indicates that it is impossible to simultaneously exhibit a love for God and a love for the world.  In what way do you think that is true?
  5. According to 2:17, the world is temporary, but God is eternal.  In what way have you seen the temporariness of the world in your own life?  In what ways have you seen God’s ways provide more lasting fruit?
  6. In 2:16 we have what some have called an “unholy trinity” – “desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride of life.”  Which of these three categories are most tempting to you?  In what way does remembering the temporary nature of their thrill help you in resisting temptation?
  7. 5:4-5 speaks of the triumph of believers over the world/temptation.  According to these verses, how is this victory won?
  8. In what way will you apply the truth of these verses in your own life?

Here is the audio file from a sermon on 1 John 2:15-17, 5:4-5 – In the Light – Part 4

To listen to the sermon online, you can listen below:

In the Light – 1 John Study (week 3)

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This week, we are continuing our study of 1 John by looking at 4:7-21.  This study is a part 3 of a 5 week Bible study adapted from a sermon series I preached in July 2011 entitled “In the Light.”

Week 3:  1 John 4:7-21

Intro to the week’s study:

If you are like me, you have probably been to a few weddings over the past year, and your daytimer probably has a few more on the docket for 2013.  As a nearly 40 year old man, weddings are about the only place in my life where I currently:

  1. Eat cake with two inches of icing on top of it and drink punch with sherbet in it.
  2. Watch girls elbow, kick, claw, and jump to try to catch a bouquet of flowers, then watch every single guy in the joint suddenly get alligator arms when trying to catch the garter.
  3. Actually have the expectation that I will bust a move on the dance floor.

To break down the intricacies of numbers 1-2 above, it will take another post, but today, I want to focus on numero tres.  I know this may surprise some of you who know me well, but I don’t dance much.  By “much” I mean at all.  In my case, Gloria Estefan was clearly wrong when she said that eventually, “The rhythm is gonna get you.”  It has never gotten me.  Because of this, I often find myself on the dance floor standing in a circle, doing the white man’s overbite, and doing something I think is dancing but probably looks like a full body dry heave.  It isn’t pretty.

Because of this problem, it is always a joy when a song comes on that tells you how to dance.  You know . . . one of those line dances.  I have no idea what to do when “Billy Jean” is being played, but during the “Cotton Eyed Joe,” I just link arms and do what everyone else is doing.  I love “Cupid Shuffle” because I simply follow the words of the song, “To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right.  To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left.”  It really is hard to screw that one up, and I love it!  I actually would enjoy dancing if I just knew what to do.  These line dances show me the way.

This thought is pertinent as we continue our series from the book of 1 John entitled “In the Light.”  This week, we are looking at 1 John 4:7-21, a passage where John shows us the resources at our disposal to allow us to love others.  In a sense, John tells us that loving others is like a “line dance,” we simply need to follow our Leader.

Most of us desire to have a life that is marked by love for others, we are just not sure what to do or how to do it.  This week’s passage helps show us the way . . . dancing the line that Jesus has walked before us.

Hopefully that should be enough to whet your appetite for this passage and encourage you to read these verses over the next week and reflect upon their significance.  Read the passage before you come and pray that God opens your eyes to its great truth.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Read 1 John 4:7-21
  2. We are clearly called in 4:7-9 to “love one another.”  What is the rationale or reasoning given by John as to why Christians should love one another.  Is this motivating to you personally?
  3. Would those closest to you (spouse, children, roommates, co-workers, etc.) consider your life to be colored by the love of Christ?
  4. According to 1 4:10-11, our love for others is a response to what?
  5. Read Matthew 18:21-35.  How does this parable relate to this section of 1 John?
  6. If you made loving others the default, not the exception, in your life, what changes would you have to make?
  7. In what ways are you particularly challenged to love others in response to this week’s verses?

Here is the audio file from a sermon on 1 John 4:7-12 — In the Light In the Light – Part 3

To listen to the sermon online, you can listen below:

In the Light – 1 John Study, week 2

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This week, we are continuing our study of 1 John by looking at a selection of verses from 2:7-11 and 3:11-18.  This study is a part of a 5 week Bible study adapted from a sermon series I preached in July 2011 entitled “In the Light.”

Week 2:  1 John 2:7-11, 3:11-18

Intro to the week’s study:

What role do other people have in my relationship with God?  This question has been answered in many different ways throughout the Church over the past two millennia.  All true believers affirm that the God/Man, Jesus Christ, is the only way we can have a relationship with God, but what about all of the rest of the people on this planet?  What role do they play in my walk with God?

Some have attempted to elevate others as intermediaries between man and God.  This Old Testament style “priest” idea places human leaders as necessary couriers between God and man, similar to Moses or one of the high priests in the Old Testament.  In OT times, this would mean that when sacrifices were necessary for the sins of the people, the priest would offer up the sacrifice.  When God wanted to meet with the people, He met their leader on a mountainside.    Today, this idea is applied in the belief that some church leaders have a more direct connection to God than their parishioners.  In this view, a prayer from the pulpit is more effective than a prayer from the pew.

Others have attempted to view others as people who are primarily here to minister to us.  God has dispersed His gifts throughout the church, and when a congregation gathers, the gifts that God has dispersed are utilized for ministry to many, including me.  In this view, other people teach me, encourage me, challenge me, help minister to my needs, etc.

Still others have attempted to view other people as extraneous bit actors in a movie starring us.  What I mean by this is that sometimes (as it pertains to people’s relationship with God) we have so privatized the Christian experience that other people simply are not necessary to being all God has called us to be.  In this view personal piety, spiritual disciplines, and biblical knowledge are held as the paramount issues of Christian maturity.

Do any of these ideas make sense to you?  Any problems you have with these perspectives?  I see plenty.

  1. Jesus Christ as our High Priest has made it possible for all believers in Him to have DIRECT access to the Father in prayer, thus eliminating the need for a human go-between.
  2. While God does disperse gifts throughout the Church, and God does minister to me through them, it is quite self-focused to see other people as existing only for my benefit, doesn’t it?
  3. There simply are way too many direct commands of Scripture that cannot be lived out  apart from significant relationship with others to think that other people are unimportant to my spiritual life.

This week, as we continue our study of 1 John, we will be looking at 1 John 2:7-11, 3:11-18.  These verses actually give us some serious insight into the role of others in our relationship with God.  In many ways, the entire book of 1 John is written about the connection between how our fellowship with the Lord is connected to our relationship with others. As you read these verses and listen to the attached message, it is my prayer that we all begin to reflect on the role others play in our relationship with God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read 1 John 2:7-11, 3:11-18
  2. John indicates in 2:7 and 3:11 that the things Jesus is calling us to are not new, hidden, or complicated.  In fact, he calls these commands “old.”  This implies that they were well known and familiar to the disciples.  What is the old (or familiar) commandment John makes an appeal to in 2:7 and 3:11?  For biblical context, you can look up Leviticus 19:17-18.
  3. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that we need something “new” in our spiritual lives to make them more exciting.  What are some of the “new” things that tempt you to try them to add depth to your spiritual life?  Do you see any danger in chasing new things/experiences in your relationship with God?
  4. Though the general command was old, it is declared “new” or “fresh” in Christ in 2:8.  In what way can something be both “old” (as in 2:7) and “new” (as in 2:8)? What do you think John was trying to communicate here?
  5. Jesus takes the idea of loving our neighbor and “freshens it up” to new heights.  What are those heights?  How does Jesus redefine love for us in 3:16?
  6. What would it look like for you to live out a love for others in a 1 John 3:17-18 kind of way?  Specifically apply this principle in the lives of those around you that you are already in relationship with.
  7. In 2:8-11 we find the consequences at stake for failing to love others as Jesus commanded.  What are some of those consequences?  In what way have you seen this truth play out in the lives of others?  In your own life?
  8. What is one thing you are challenged to do in response to the verses you have read today?

Here is the audio file from a sermon on 1 John 2:7-11, 3:11-18 –   In the Light – part 2

To listen to the sermon online, you can listen below:

“In the Light” – 1 John Study (Week 1)

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In the summer of 2011, I preached a series of sermons on the book of 1 John in a series entitled “In the Light.”  I am organizing this 7 week sermon series into 5 weeks of personal Bible Study/small group discussion questions.  I will be posting a new section of this study each Monday for the next month.  If you are looking for a way to get into God’s Word in 2013, maybe these resources will be helpful for you!

Week 1:  1 John 1:1-2:6

Preview of the book of 1 John:

Have you ever been jealous of the original disciples?  Ever wish that you could have seen the sea stilled, the 5,000 fed, the dead rise, the lame walk, and the blind see?  Ever wish you could have heard (from Jesus own mouth and with His own voice) the Sermon on the Mount, or been a fly on the wall during His high priestly prayer?  Ever wish you were the one who had stayed up all night with the Savior in prayer or shared a meal with Him on the shore after a night of fishing?  Ever wish you had that type of fellowship with God?

In our world, much of the time we feel disconnected from God.  Since we cannot see God, our relationship with Him can sometimes be out of sight out of mind.  When we read the Scriptures, specifically the Gospels, we oftentimes wish we could have been there with Him in the flesh, believing it would be more difficult to neglect our relationship with Him face to face than across the invisible barriers we feel between this world and our heavenly home.  If only we could have the intimacy in our relationship with Christ that the disciples had . . .

If this is your desire, I have news for you . . . it was also the desire of one of the original disciples, the Apostle John!  John wrote a letter to second generation Christians around 90 AD expressing His desire that their relationship with Christ be as intimate as his.  John spent lots of time with Jesus on the earth, and He believed that level of fellowship was still accessible for himself and others who had not seen Jesus face to face.  John wrote this in the first four verses of his letter we know as 1 John:

“The One who existed from the beginning is the One we have heard and seen.  We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands.  He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life.  This One who is Life from God was shown to us, and we have seen Him.  And now we testify and announce to you that He is the One who is eternal life.  He was with the Father, and then He was shown to us.  We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things so that our joy will be complete.”  NLT

John’s joy would be complete if we had the fellowship with Jesus that he had, and the book of 1 John lays out his argument for how we (who have not seen Christ face to face) can have intimate fellowship with Him right now in our lives.  We will take a look at this argument over the next five weeks in this Bible study entitled “In the Light.”  By looking at the truth of 1 John, we will see what an intimate relationship with Christ looks like.  Each week will include a written devotional (like the one you just read), a selected set of verses from 1 John to read and reflect upon, some questions to ponder individually, and answer corporately if you choose to talk about this in a small group setting, and an audio recording (or two) of sermons on the selected verses.  May God richly bless you in your study!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read 1 John 1:1-2:6
  2. What are some things that keep CHRISTIANS from having a deep and vibrant relationship with God?  Do you think the intimate relationship with Christ John spoke of in 1 John 1:1-4 is even possible?  Why or why not?
  3. John declares that fellowship with Jesus is found in the light and not in the darkness (1:5-7).  What do you think he means by this?  Have you ever seen this to be true in your personal relationship with God?  In the lives of others?
  4. Is there an area in your life where you are choosing to live “in the dark”?
  5. Reflect upon 1 John 1:8-10.  Is perfection expected in our earthly lives?  If perfection is not expected, what is?  How does this play itself out in your daily life?
  6. In 1 John 2:1-2, Jesus is described as doing two things for us.  What are they?  How does knowing Jesus is serving in these roles allow you to have deeper fellowship with God?
  7. What is the correlation between obedience and intimacy with God according to 1 John 2:3-6?
  8. What is one thing you are challenged to do in response to the verses you have read today?

Here is the audio file from a sermon on 1 John 1:5-2:6 –   In the Light part 1.

To listen to the sermon online, you can listen below: