< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: May 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

1st John 3:1-2

1 John 3:1-2 “ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

You’ve probably heard about couples that have lived together so long they almost start to look like one another. Some of the resemblance I think comes in actions and mannerisms they pick up from each other.

As we live daily with Christ we will become more and more like Him. He is the example of what we were designed to be and when Christ comes back to rule a new and perfect world we will be the way we were designed to be. It was God’s intention and it is our destiny.

Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” When we stand before Jesus and see Him we will finally be pure.

John says all Christians are children of God. It’s not that we will be when we get to heaven, we already are, right this minute. This life is the beginning once we are saved.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

1st John 2:24-29

1 John 2:24-29 “As for you, let that abide in you, which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise, which He Himself made to us: eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”


“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” What are the basic Christian doctrines?

1. Christ is God’s Son
2. He died for our sins
3. He was raised from the dead to give us new life
4. He will return and establish His Kingdom

John is encouraging them to hold onto the basics; the things they learned first. Nothing else you learn after this, if it’s true, will contradict those things.
Verses 26 and 27 really talk about the fact that as believers we have the Holy Spirit inside us and He is teaching us. When we listen to preachers and teachers, not only do we compare what they say to scripture, but also to what the Holy Spirit tells us.

Verse 28: the best way to prepare for Christ’s return is to live with Him everyday. To never forget His presence.

A commentator wrote, “We will all be called out of this world sometime and if we’ve never thought about God we will go and meet a stranger and it will be scary, but if we’ve walked with Christ and prayed to He and God and stayed in the Word, then we will really be going home and it will merely be entry into a nearer presence with God and Jesus.”

How we feel about that day depends on how we live now.

And again, in the last verse, what we say we believe shows by our actions.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

1st John 2:22-23

1 John 2:22-23 “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”

Here’s where we get back to all the religions that say, “But, we’re all praying to the same God, there’s just different ways to get to Him.”

First you have to believe Jesus is who He said He is: the Divine Son of God. He fulfilled all the scriptures. If you believe He who He said He is then the rest is easy. Because He also said He is the way and the only way.

God chose sending His Son to earth as His means of revealing Himself to us and also a way of opening the barrier between man and God caused by sin and if we refuse Jesus and everything He said as truth – then we refuse God.

It is our reaction to Jesus that our relationship with God depends. Earlier in this study we learned about the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and that God forgave the people because they had faith that what He told them about the sacrifices was true. Same thing here. God says He forgives our sins if we confess them and believe in Christ.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 28, 2007

1st John 2:19-21

1 John 2:19-21 “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth”.

John said this group did not belong in the church. CH Dodd wrote, “Membership of the church is no guarantee that a man belongs to Christ.” And AE Brooke wrote, “External membership is no proof of inward union.”

In verse 20 John reminds his readers they possess knowledge. Remember both the seemists and the Gnostics claimed to have higher/special knowledge. But John is saying his readers know the gospel. What John and Peter and Paul were all trying to do in their letters was not so much tell them something new, but to bring into active and decisive use the knowledge they already possessed. That’s what I really loved about the first part of this letter and all the letters Paul wrote – they confirm and encourage our faith and then they go on to tell us plainly, in practical ways, how we can, and should, live our faith. It’s not knowing that’s the problem, it’s doing!

Our lives would be immediately different if we put into practice what we already know. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot more to learn, but even as we are this very minute, we have enough light to walk by, if we use the light we have.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

1st John 2:18

1 John 2:18 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”

Over 2000 years have gone by and some people say, “Well, where is the final hour? The end times?”

Some think the end times are between Christ being on earth the first time and when He comes back the second time. In Biblical thought the last time or end time is the end of one age and the beginning of another. So it’s used more then once in the Bible and not always about the same period of time.

Men have the choice of allying themselves with the old world, which is doomed to destruction or allying themselves with Christ and entering into the new world. Here is the urgency for John: man has a choice and it depends on whether or not he has given his life to Jesus Christ.

So you may argue that every hour is the last hour, every minute in fact we are confronted with allying ourselves with God or with evil forces that are against God. I heard someone say once that one of the reasons we go to church is to show the world whose side we are on!

The antichrist John mentions here is not the one and final antichrist he talks about in Revelation. Here he uses it as a term for one who is an adversary of Christ or a false prophet or false teacher. Many men in history have been thought to be the antichrist, the one in Revelation: Nero, Hitler, the Pope (!), Stalin, Mussolini to name a few. But, in the letters of John he is not so much a person as a principle, the principal that is hostile to and actively opposed to God.

Show the world whose side you are on. Christian tees at:
http://www.givitup.com

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

1st John 2: 12-14

1 John 2:12-14 “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

John has been warning his readers the perils of the dark and the necessity of walking in the light. Now he says, that in every case their best defense is to remember what they are and what has been done for them.

Since they believe: no matter who they are, their sins have been forgiven. No matter who they are, they know Him who is from the beginning. No matter who they are, they have the strength, which can face and overcome the evil one.

The man who is a forgiven man, the man who knows God, the man who remembers that he can draw on a strength beyond his own strength has a great defense against any temptation by simply remembering who he is and what Christ did for him.

There are three gifts from God mentioned here: the first is forgiveness. In verse 12 some Bible translations say, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.”

Remember in Bible times the name described the nature of a person. And the names often were changed in the Bible: Simon became Peter, Jacob became Israel. So John is assuring his readers of forgiveness because we know the nature and character of Jesus. We know Jesus is the image of God and what we see in Jesus we know must be the same in God.

We see Jesus’ sacrificial love and patient mercy so we can be sure we are forgiven.

The second gift is increasing knowledge of God. And knowing isn’t just intellectual. It’s personal; as a friend. In Genesis “to know” is the most intimate of all relationships.

The third gift is victorious strength. Jesus doesn’t speak in general about conquering evil. He speaks about conquering the evil one. He sees evil as a personal power, which seeks to defeat us and to seduce us and to seduce us away from God. A commentator wrote that we all know there are some people in whose presence it is easy to be bad and some people in whose presence it is necessary to be good. When we walk with Christ, always remembering Him, always conscious of His presence with us, we are walking with the one in whose company we can defeat the assaults of the evil one.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

1st John 2: 9-11

1 John 2: 9-11 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”

Christian love is not a feeling, but a choice. There will always be things about certain people we won’t like. But we shouldn’t treat them as irritants or look down on them. We shouldn’t think someone is totally unimportant compared to our intellect and prestige.

If anyone had a right to do that it would have been Christ, but He never did. He always had time for people and He always had compassion for people and He even loved the men who were nailing Him on to the cross.

We should never treat people like enemies or a nuisance. We should never ignore them or their needs. Our brother’s needs are our needs, his interests our interests. To serve him is why we are here and to fellowship with him is the true joy of life.
John says loving our brother allows us to progress in our spiritual life and hating him stops the progress.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 20, 2007

1st John 2:7-8

1 John 2:7-8 “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

The commandment is to love others. It’s old because it comes from the law. (Lev.19:18) And it’s new because Jesus interpreted it a new way. (John 13:34-35)
Jesus raised it to a new standard. Jesus didn’t just love His neighbors, He loved sinners and He loved His enemies. The Jews used to believe God wanted to destroy sinners. The rabbis said, “There is joy in heaven when one sinner is obliterated from earth.”

But, Jesus was a friend to the outcast and sinners and He taught us there is joy in heaven when one sinner comes home.

Jesus widened the boundaries of whom we are to love until they included the whole world. Where John writes the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining – remember darkness is identified with hate and light with love. We have been shown the light and it’s even now inside Christians. The world is already going through a process where it’s spreading. It may seem slow and we certainly see a lot of hate in the world, but it is progressing until Christ comes back and the reign of Christ will be a reign on love.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Focus on the Family Series

I need to break into my study on 1st John to share a link to a week long series Focus on the Family has been broadcasting this past week. It is so interesting and so enlightening and so important!

It’s about Radical Islam and the threat to America. You can either order the tapes or listen on line here

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 18, 2007

1st John 2:3-6

1st John 2:3-6 We know that we have come to know Him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know Him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

Christ’s example that we are to follow is His complete obedience to God and His service to others. John says the way we act can give us assurance that we belong to Christ.

If our search in religion is fellowship with God and if as Augustine wrote we are restless until we rest in God, then the people who are trying to find God or understand God through their intellect are missing the boat. Any intellectual effort has to be combined with moral action.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

1st John 2:1-2

1st John 2:1-2 “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

A commentator once wrote that there are hardly any other two verses in the New Testament, which so succinctly set out the work of Christ. We don’t treat sin lightly even though we know God will forgive us because we’ve already learned that to know God goes hand in hand with obedience to Him. We know that God doesn’t want us to sin and we know that an obedient life follows the example of Christ and He was sinless.

The work of Christ that is spelled out in these verses is: He is our advocate with the Father. There is a story that what Christ does can be likened to a courtroom, where Satan, the great accuser is telling God all of our sins and demanding the death penalty. Christ is our defender who tells God that the punishment was already taken care of. The price has been paid and we aren’t eligible to be tried again. That would be double jeopardy.

But, even more than that the word advocate comes from the Greek word parakletos, which also translates as comforter, counselor, helper and supporter. It was such a common word that other languages back then didn’t translate it. It was the same word in Syriac, Egyptian, Arabic and Ethiopic. The Jews adopted this word and used it for someone to plead another’s cause. They used it as the opposite of the accuser. They even called their sin offering “a man’s parakletos before God” meaning that the sin offering pleads a man’s cause with God.

The word came into the Christian’s ordinary vocabulary and sometimes was used as “one who lends his presence to friends.” And that’s what Jesus is. Our friend.

He is also the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation comes from sacrifice and the Jews understand this better then the Gentiles. The great aim of all religions is fellowship with God. To know God as a friend and to come into His presence without fear. It is a personal relationship with God.

The great problem is sin and the fact it breaks our fellowship with God and it makes it impossible to enter the presence of God. It is to meet this problem that all sacrifice arises. By sacrifice God allows fellowship to be restored. The Jews offered sacrifices morning, noon and night. Over and over again. The idea is that God is placated by the sacrifice. Pacified. Some deed is performed that what Jesus did, placated God. Satisfied Him, so that He, Jesus, is our propitiation. What He did took away our guilt and our defilement and allowed us to come into God’s presence clean and pure.

And John says Jesus did this for the whole world. There is no limit to the grace and love of God or to the effectiveness and the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.






Click here to shop for all Christian T-shirts and gifts

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

1st John 1:8-10

1st John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves. Men are sinful. All men! If we confess our sins, we can rely on God in His righteousness to forgive us our sins.

What John means by God’s righteousness is, God doesn’t lie. God would never break His word and He said if we repent and ask forgiveness He will forgive. But, we have to truly repent, which means we don’t plan on doing that same sin again!

We confess because by admitting our sins and receiving Christ’s cleansing, we are:

1. Agreeing with God that our sin truly is sin and that we are willing to turn from it. We make a commitment not to continue to sin.
2. We are ensuring we aren’t trying to hide sin from God or ourselves.
3. We are recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on Christ’s power to overcome it.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

1st John 1:6-7

1st John 1:6-7 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Here John is talking to that group who said they were so spiritual they didn’t have to worry about sin. Kind of like Napoleon when he said that laws were for ordinary people – not the likes of him!

When John said that to have fellowship with God who is light, a man must walk in the light and that if he is still walking in the moral and ethical darkness of the Christ-less life – then he can have no fellowship with God, this is really what God said in Leviticus centuries before, “Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.”

If we are committed to fellowship with God, our life must reflect the goodness of God! Obviously this doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but it means we try and we’re sorry when we fail. It means we never think that sin doesn’t matter. Actually we notice our sins more and they seem worse to us then they did before.

John mentions truth here, and a test for truth is if we have fellowship. Christianity is not exclusive. (Revelation 3:20)

Some translations say, “he who really knows the truth is daily more and more cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.” What John means is, if you really understand what the sacrifice of Jesus has done, if you are really experiencing its power day by day, then every day you will become more and more fit to enter the presence of God. So not only did Christ’s sacrifice atone us from the sin of the past, but equips us in holiness day by day.

All of the sacrifices in the Old Testament prepared people to understand Christ’s sacrifice. My application Bible says, “God graciously forgave them because of their faith in Him and because they obeyed His commandments concerning the sacrifice.”

They believed God telling them that life is in the blood and the wages of sin is death. And that God allowed their guilt and sins to be transferred to an animal that was then killed. God told them that and they had faith that what He said was true. And they followed the laws that God laid out concerning sacrifices.

John says any man who denies Jesus, as Christ is a liar. And any man who says he loves God, but at the same time hates his brother is a liar. All of our saying we love God and love Christ means nothing if we hate man.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

1st John 1:5

1 John 1:5 “And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

John begins to tell us the very nature of God. “God is light and there is no darkness in Him.” A commentator wrote that to say God is light tells us of the sheer splendor and the radiant glory of God.

It tells us that God is self-revealing. There is nothing secretive about Him. Things in light can be seen. It illuminates.

It tells us of the purity and the holiness of God. White light is a symbol of radiant purity.

It tells us of the guidance of God. Light guides and makes our traveling easier.
And it is a revealer. Flaws hidden in shadows are exposed in light. Light reveals imperfections in things.

Darkness stands for the very opposite of Christian life. It stands for the Christ-less life. Paul wrote in Ephesians about his friends who were once in darkness and now they were light in the Lord. We are told in Philippians to be lights in the world. Shining lights! In Colossians we learned that God delivered us from the darkness.

Over and over in the Bible are the references to light and dark, good and evil, love and hate, sin and sin-free, ignorance and knowledge.

Dark and light are natural and inevitable enemies according to John. Darkness is the life separated from God.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 12, 2007

1st John 1:1-4

1 John 1:1-4 “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: and these things we write, that our joy may be made full.”

Notice John doesn’t have an introduction/salutation like Paul always does. He starts in right away and he starts as he did in the Gospel of John: emphasizing that Christ is eternal.

In the next two verses he gives us his right to speak. And that right is based on his personal experience with Jesus Christ. He heard Jesus. He heard the message from Jesus Himself. This wasn’t second hand. He saw Christ and he touched Him.

John calls the Gospel the Word of Life. Most often in the New Testament it’s called the Word of God, sometimes it’s called the Word of the Lord. In Hebrews and Thessalonians it was called the Word of hearing, meaning it had to be spoken to an ear ready to hear it.

In Matthew it was called the Word of the Kingdom, the good news. In Acts, the Word of grace and the Word of salvation. In 2nd Corinthians; the Word of reconciliation. In 1st Corinthians it’s the Word of the cross and in several places it is called the Word of the truth.

Also in Hebrews it was called the Word of righteousness and in 2nd Timothy it is the health giving Word. Here and in Philippians 2:16 it is the Word of life because it is through its power that a man is delivered from death and enabled to enter into a life at its best.

John states two of his wishes for the reader; in verse 3: to produce fellowship with men and fellowship with God. And verse 4: to bring his people joy that is complete.
Because we are forgiven, the ultimate note of the Christian message is joy!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thoughts from 1st John Part Three

Because of the attack from the groups mentioned in yesterday’s post on the core of Christian belief, John’s letter gives us a lot of information about Jesus Christ. That Jesus was who He was from the beginning and when a man is confronted with Jesus, he is confronted with the eternal.

For John it is essential to know that Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus is the ever-seeking and ever forgiving heart of God. Also for John it is an essential belief that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the culmination and the realization of the hopes and prayers and dreams and visions of the prophets and the longings of the people of God.

It is also the conviction of John that Jesus was truly and fully man. Yet He was without sin. He is the final atoning sacrifice that restores our relationship with God.

While we live in an evil and hostile world we as Christians possess the way to overcome the world and when the destined end of the world comes, we will be safe because we re already members of the new world.

Also John stresses that the only way a man can prove he loves God is by loving his fellowmen and that love is practical action. For John, knowledge of God and obedience to God go hand in hand. We prove we really know God by keeping His commandments.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thoughts from 1st John Part Two

What do we believe anymore? How many people have ever looked up anything on Wiki Pedia? Do you know that regular people write that? And many do it so they can link to their own websites for their own promotional gain.

How many look up medical questions on line? Do you know which sites you can believe and which ones you can’t?

We are bombarded by the written word. And we are bombarded by false prophets. God knew this would happen and provided us with His Word to use as our plumbline.

I once read something in a study of the Gospel of John, that I wrote down to save,

“The awful responsibility for rejection is proportionate to the light received. It is God, the Creator, who deigns to speak to men in the person of His Son.To be given light and to refuse it by ignoring His Words, by showing indifference to those words, by refusing to give time to reading them or by rejecting those words – is to be judged by those words.”

In the early days after the ascension of Jesus, the Gospel, or Good News of the gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus, was conveyed to the world through the preaching of the apostles. Men that Jesus had officially appointed as witnesses to Himself.

In John 14:26 Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would “remind you of everything I have said to you.” In John 16:13 and 15 He promised them that the Holy Spirit would “guide you into all truth” and would “take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Basically the same thing is said in Matthew 16:17-19 and 28:19. In a unique way the Holy Spirit would bring Christ’s words back to the remembrance of the apostles so that they could be recorded with divine authority as God’s truth. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the church is built upon this foundation of apostles and prophets.

As time passed and the apostles spread out over the world – many people were so fascinated with Jesus they attempted to write about Him. (Luke 1:1)

As these other writings began to appear it was clear that a distinction had to be made as to what was merely the product of imagination and what was truly authoritative. The criterion of authority was that the true Gospels must conform completely to the oral teaching of the apostles themselves. By the end of the 1st century every book of the New Testament had been written, but not yet assembled into one book. The process of assembly was almost complete by the end of the 2nd century. Whenever it was certain that an apostle had written a book or authorized it’s writing that book was deemed indispensable and included in Scripture.

The apostles had lived with Jesus; they had first hand knowledge of Him. They were men of impeccable authority who would consider it blasphemy to relate anything not thoroughly investigated or received directly from Him.

The next most authoritative writers were the men who knew the apostles well and were approved by them as reliable witnesses. Luke is an example.

Each of the 4 Gospels was written either to a different group of people or for a different purpose, which is why certain things might have been emphasized or pointed out in 1 but not another. For instance – John was the last of the 4 written. By then a lot of pagan philosophies had arisen. Paul talked about these in some of his letters. We talked about the Gnostics when we studied the book of Colossians. They believed everything material was evil and everything spiritual was good, so that God, who was wholly good wouldn’t have any contact with earth or man –THEY said. Seemists, another group, had trouble believing Jesus’ divine nature. They thought it descended on Him at His baptism and left Him just before His death on the cross. They inferred that His sufferings were only seeming and not real. They also denied the reality of the incarnation. Hellenistic Christians, in their desire to appear intellectual attempted to relate Christ to current philosophical ideas. This threatened to undermine true faith in Christ: as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

All these groups back then claimed to be Christian and also claimed that they had a higher enlightenment, a closer, mystic fellowship with God, clearer knowledge and truth and freedom from sin. Both their spiritual pretensions and fantastic view of Christ made them a bad influence on the Asian churches and caused more than one Christian writer to dispute their claims. 1st John was written because of the Seemists. And John says in that book that they weren’t true Christians.

The groups were educated people and they wanted Christianity to be intellectual, fit to stand beside the other great philosophies of the day. But, the effect of their teaching was to destroy the incarnation, to eliminate the Christian ethic and to make fellowship within the church impossible because of their elitism.

The claim of knowing Christ is meaningless apart from obedience to His commands. Living as He lived – by His example – is the evidence of our faith and union with Him.

John wrote his gospel to correct these tendencies and to show Christ was/IS the unique Son of God. John 20:31 says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Matthew, written about AD 60, gives special emphasis to Christ’s person – in view of past prophecies. He was writing mainly to the Jews who of course knew the Old Testament. He showed Jesus as King. Mark was full of action and anecdotes. He was the first gospel, written about AD 58 and the shortest. He wrote down Jesus’ words and the things He did. He showed Jesus as the obedient servant. Luke linked events with the names of governors and places – kind of putting Jesus into the part of history when He lived. He showed Jesus as the Ideal Son of Man and he interviewed many people including Jesus’ Mother, and carefully documented it all.

The book of John was written about AD 98 after a lifetime of meditative reflection on Christ by the man who was known to be a thinker and loved by Jesus.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts from the book of 1st John

Part One

Before reading the book of 1st John it helps to know a little about its author. He called himself the disciple that Jesus loved.

Although Jesus’ love was expressed clearly in all the Gospels, it was in the Gospel of John that it was a central theme. Because he felt Jesus' love so strongly John was able to look at others with love.

John shows in his writings that we can’t know the depth of Jesus’ love for us until we realize He knows us fully and He loves us unconditionally inspite of the things we think and do.

Before he was a disciple of Jesus, John was a disciple of John the Baptist. When he was with Jesus he was one of the “inner 3” along with Peter and James. He wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and Revelation. He was originally a fisherman and was the only disciple who lived to old age.

The letter of 1st John was written to dispel any doubts about who Jesus was and is. He was not just a good teacher, a good preacher or a good man. He was and is God in flesh; seen, heard and touched by John. John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.

In this letter he presents God as light, as love and as life. He explains in simple, practical terms what it means to have fellowship with God. As many of Paul’s letters, it was also written to combat false teachings going around and we can use it as an example to combat any modern heresies.

This letter was written between AD 85 and 90. So around 60 years after Christ was crucified. John was an old man, but he hadn’t yet been exiled to the island of Patmos.

At this time there were 2nd and even 3rd generation Christians living. And Christ still hadn’t come back. Some of the wonder and newness had worn off. Jesus knew this would happen. In Matthew 24:12, He said, “The love of many shall grow cold.”

And it is to the church of Ephesus where John lived and preached a long time that we hear Christ say in Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have something against thee, because thou has left thy first love.”

The spark had died – or at least faded.

It’s the same in individual Christian lives. We will have mountain top experiences and we will have long dry patches. Sometimes Christian living gets tedious. We find ourselves not wanting to be holy and set apart anymore. We just want to blend in with the rest of the world.

Jesus knew this would happen too. John 15: 19 says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

As Christians we are given a new ethical demand. A new standard of moral purity, a new sexual ethic, a new kindness, a new service, a new forgiveness – and it’s difficult. And when we lose that first thrill and enthusiasm, it’s harder and harder to stand against the world. I think this especially true in a world like America where we idolize material things and celebrities.

1st John was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations. He wanted his readers to ask themselves, “Do I know God?” “Do I know Christ?” “Do I know I have eternal life?” It is meant to encourage us to remain in fellowship with the God who is light and love.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 05, 2007

“When Jesus decided He was Messiah”

I was asked to do a lesson on a comment made in a film from the Discovery Channel about Jesus where the narrator apparently said, “then Jesus decided He was Messiah.”

It bothered a lot of people, me included.

And I think the only way to answer that is to go to (John 1:1)(When a Bible verse is in parenthesis you should look it up and read it yourself.)

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who existed from the ages of eternity, created all things and became flesh in order to reveal the person of God to us.

The Greek translation of the word Word, in the way it was used here, is Logos. It was used in Greek philosophy to indicate the “First Cause.” The great unknown intelligent reason, will and power behind the universe, which the pagan philosophies of that day called “God.”

John purposely chose this word and gave it to Jesus in the beginning of his gospel. The beginning of John is a lot like the beginning of Genesis. Genesis starts with the creation of the world. John places Jesus right there as it happened and even before.

In the beginning WAS the Word. Not IS – WAS. Before the world was created or time began, Jesus Christ, the Word was there already. Jesus Himself made similar statements concerning His eternal pre-existence. (John 8:58)

The Word was WITH God. In the Greek text even more than the English text, the word “with” suggests a dynamic co-relationship and communion of 2 distinct personalities: Jesus the Son and God the Father. (Gen.1:26) (Ps.110:1) (Matthew 22:41-45)

“And the Word was God” Christ has the same nature as God Himself. All the attributes of God are also attributes of Christ. (Hebrews 1:3) The very stamp – the exact replication of God.

The deity of Christ is absolutely basic to Christian faith. He is not just our Savior. He is our Lord and “Lord” in Biblical usage implies deity. In most cases when used in the New Testament it is the Greek substitute for the Hebrew Old Testament word Yahweh or Jehovah – the name of God.

John the Baptist’s purpose was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. And he was very effective. Because of his preaching Jews were being baptized for their sins. In John 1:31 he stated, “I myself did not know him” – This probably meant that he didn’t know until then Jesus was the Messiah. They were cousins, so he would have at least known whom Jesus the man was. But, it wasn’t until then that God revealed the Messiah to John with the sign of the spirit coming down on him. (John 1:32-33)

When that happened Jesus would be publicly proclaimed as Messiah, the Lamb of God and the Son of God. And His ministery would begin.

I read in a study of Matthew that when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a dove and God’s voice said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” That it was not only the dividing line between Jesus’ private and public life, but until that point Jesus had been living a “human” life without supernatural powers – but, He had still managed to live sin-free – giving us an example of how to do it. Then the Holy Spirit coming down was a kind of an anointing of Him from God for His work as our High Priest.

Now He could use His power for the miracles we see in the New Testament. Now He could show His deity. Jesus studied the Old Testament His whole life. He would have read the prophecies about Himself – especially: (Isaiah 2:11) (Isaiah 53) and (Isaiah 55). But, He only did what God told Him to and when God told Him to, which is why He waited until He was 30 and baptized by John the Baptist. That was God’s timing for His ministry to start.

Faith is a gift from God. It comes through an internal working of the Holy Spirit. The natural person “does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for the are foolishness to him.” That’s from 1 Cor.2:14.

But, 1 Cor. 2:12 says “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

When Jesus asked Peter who He was and Peter said, “You are Christ the Son of the Living God” what was Jesus answer? (Matthew 16:17)

Romans 10:17 also tells us that faith comes by hearing and reading God’s Word. Faith is also a choice. We either choose to believe Scripture or we choose to believe the doubters.

The Jews missed out on Salvation because although they had been given the Old Testament and knew it, they believed what they chose to believe – that their Messiah would be an earthly king who would get them out of Roman control.

Satan just needs a tiny crack to get into our minds.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How the books of the Bible were chosen

In the early days after the ascension of Jesus, the Gospel, or Good News of the gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus, was conveyed to the world through the preaching of the apostles. Men that Jesus had officially appointed as witnesses to Himself.

In John 14:26 Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would “remind you of everything I have said to you.” In John 16:13 and 15 He promised them that the Holy Spirit would “guide you into all truth" and would “take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Basically the same thing is said in Matthew 16:17-19 and 28:19. In a unique way the Holy Spirit would bring Christ’s words back to the remembrance of the apostles so that they could be recorded with divine authority as God’s truth. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the church is built upon this foundation of apostles and prophets.

As time passed and the apostles spread out over the world – many people were so fascinated with Jesus they attempted to write about Him. (Luke 1:1)

As these other writings began to appear it was clear that a distinction had to be made as to what was merely the product of imagination and what was truly authoritative. The criterion of authority was that the true Gospels must conform completely to the oral teaching of the apostles themselves. By the end of the 1st century every book of the New Testament had been written, but not yet assembled into one book. The process of assembly was almost complete by the end of the 2nd century. Whenever it was certain that an apostle had written a book or authorized its writing, that book was deemed indispensable and included in Scripture.

The apostles had lived with Jesus; they had first hand knowledge of Him. They were men of impeccable authority who would consider it blasphemy to relate anything not thoroughly investigated or received directly from Him.

The next most authoritative writers were the men who knew the apostles well and were approved by them as reliable witnesses. Luke is an example.

Each of the 4 Gospels was written either to a different group of people or for a different purpose, which is why certain things might have been emphasized or pointed out in 1 but not another. For instance – John was the last of the 4 written. By then a lot of pagan philosophies had arisen. Paul talked about these in some of his letters. Hellenistic Christians, in their desire to appear intellectual attempted to relate Christ to current philosophical ideas. This threatened to undermine true faith in Christ: as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

John wrote his gospel to correct these tendencies and to show Christ was/IS the unique Son of God. John 20:31 says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Matthew, written about AD 60, gives special emphasis to Christ’s person – in view of past prophecies. He was writing mainly to the Jews who of course knew the Old Testament. He showed Jesus as King. Mark was full of action, anecdotes. He was the first gospel, written about AD 58 and the shortest. He wrote down Jesus’ words and the things He did. He showed Jesus as the obedient servant. Luke linked events with the names of governors and places – kind of putting Jesus into the part of history when He lived. He showed Jesus as the Ideal Son of Man and he interviewed many people including Jesus’ mother, and carefully documented it all.

The book of John was written about AD98 after a lifetime of meditative reflection on Christ by the man who was known to be a thinker and loved by Jesus.

Labels: , ,