Monday, October 27, 2014

I John - Advocate with the Father - Weeks 03 & 04

As you may have noticed, there was no post from last week's class period.  Sorry about that, sometimes life happens. :)  As a recap from the past couple weeks, let's do a little review to catch up...

We've been working through I John chapter 1 for several weeks now.   As we've progressed through these early parts of the  the book, we've already noticed an emphasis on the contrast between light and dark.   One thing that keeps coming up in these verses is the idea of our walk.  What does our walk look like?  Chapter one says that if we say we've got this fellowship with God and walk in darkness, then we are lying and not practicing the truth.  Does that mean that if we sin we are not legitimately children of God?  Does that mean that only by what we do can God accept us?  We left this tension in the text up in the air for the week and came back to it, only to realize that John is confronting us with a hard truth, but he is not advocating for a works-based salvation.  Instead, he is pointing us to our need.  When faced with the dilemma that only through a lack of darkness can we have fellowship with God, the average person's response internally is, "I must try harder, because I'm not there yet."  However, a true believer's response as we saw in the text is more to the tune of, "Wow, I need more Jesus in my life.  If it's up to me, it's over already."

The defining difference that we saw was the fact that there is a contrast between walking in light and walking in darkness; however, walking in the light is not doing good things and refraining from sin.  If it were, then I John could easily be advocating for a sinless perfection as a requirement for salvation.  Instead, we see that walking in the light is evidence that Jesus has given us His righteousness and taken our darkness on Himself.  We see that the light in our life is evidence that Jesus has been at work there, not a means of salvation.  On the opposite side, walking in the darkness is not a matter of committing too many sins and being banished from God's presence.  It is evidence of a lack of conversion. It is indication that Jesus has not brought life from death there.   

Therefore, we see that if someone is claiming to be in fellowship with God (i.e. a Christian) yet the Gospel has had no effect in changing his life or showing any growth from who he is in his natural he telling the truth?  Not according to the text we're looking at.   True Gospel conversion will bring true change.  It will not be the same time-frame in each case, but walking in the light and walking in the darkness are two very different things, and ultimately they do lead to two drastically different results.

So, we are left with the cold, hard reality that not everyone who makes a 6-year-old-raised-hand-at-revival-service profession of faith is necessarily a Christian.  To recycle something Pastor Matt said a long time ago, "When you're checking to see if someone is alive at the hospital, the answer that they were alive when they were 6 is not sufficient proof of life..."  Are you alive?  Has your life truly been changed?  Is your life on a different track now that you're on the Jesus train?  Or has He simply been integrated in as the part of your life that makes you feel better about yourself and makes you worry less about dying and going to hell?  These are serious questions we must ask.

But we didn't just stop there, we came back at it this week.  We entered chapter two, and interestingly, after all John's hard sayings and blunt language in chapter one, chapter starts off in a very compassionate tone of voice.  He tells us that the reason he's writing these hard things to us, is that we might not sin  (i.e. we must not see Jesus' hard-fought victory and costly forgiveness as an out to sin).  But he acknowledges that we will sin because we are still human, and he goes into detail of the advocate we have with the Father.  Our advocate is Jesus Christ, the righteous one.  Wow.  How can such a thing be true?  After all the soul-searching that these past few weeks in I John have brought about, how can it really be true that this Righteous One would be not only advocating for us to the Father, but also our very means of forgiveness?!  Praise God, that He has given us much more than we could ever even ask for.   It seems like a very slight thing that we should be walking in the light, it seems only natural considering the family we've been born into and the ancestral heritage we now enjoy the benefits of.  The signs of spiritual life --our spiritual pulse, our breath, should we not be concerned if we are not breathing spiritually?  Or should we shrug it off because it's awkward to talk about and makes us feel bad?  If we say that we are in Jesus, we ought to walk the way Jesus the light.

Tune in again next time, when we'll hopefully cover just one week in a more manageable post. :)

Til then, grace and peace beloved. <3

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I John - Walking in Darkness vs. Walking in Light - Week 02

In our second week with First John we started right in on some of the meatier portions of the first chapter.  We discussed fellowship, both our initial impressions of the word and ultimately what the Apostle John actually meant by the greek word behind it "koinonia."  While a lot of our connotation behind the English word "fellowship" seems somehow reminiscent of food and carry-in dinners, the idea behind it is actually far greater than potato salad or soup.  The author is really talking about something the audience shares in common with him and the other Apostles, but not with them only, also astonishingly with God Himself, both naming God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  That made us stop joking about the Baptist definition of the word and really focus on what was going on.  We, as humans, share something deeper than our family relationships?  Or nice people we like to talk to? Or shared interests?  Yes, we do.  Pastor Jon stressed the depths of this statement that we are, in fact, now drawn together in the Body of Christ by something much more powerful than friends or activities.  We are now a part of each other because of who we are in Christ.  We have a relationship with each other and with God ultimately, because of who Christ has made us.  It's little wonder the very next thought the author has is the fact that writing this and sharing this with his readers is for the overflowing filling of his own joy.  He simply cannot restrain himself from telling them the Truth of Jesus.

From there we kept going on a slight cloud of happy thoughts discussing God's nature which is entirely in the light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.  This was good stuff, and then we hit the reality check of the chapter...  It's all fine and good to get excited about God being righteous and having no sin, but it does create a tension between what follows those verses and the idea of our fellowship with Christ coming in earlier verses...

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (vs. 6)  But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

That brought several things into question--what does God mean by walking in darkness?  How do you know you're walking in the light?  These seemed pretty important questions to be able to determine how to know whether or not you have fellowship with God.

But there seems to be a tension between the idea that our fellowship rests in Jesus Christ alone, and the idea that we must somehow walk in the light if we want fellowship with God.  Is that not what he's saying there?  Perhaps, we could say that this only applies to people who have sin issues and that we're past all that now...  Keep reading to Verse 8 - "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Ouch.  Ok, we can't take that out.  So is all hope lost for us? Don't stop there... 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Simply put, we didn't get to finish this thought, sadly the bell was ringing to finish the class.  The penny is still in the air, and we are taking this week to chew on these ideas.  We have to be sure that when things seem confusing and hard to understand, we are willing to put our own opinions and ideas aside when we are shown the Truth differs with us.  So, how do all these pieces of the puzzle fit together?  If you want to know more, come see for yourself what it's all about.  There's no use pretending, we're not naturally light-walking people.  We are as much in darkness as they come...  How can we have real fellowship with Jesus when the text itself tells us we have sin and we can't walk in the light on our own...?

Monday, October 6, 2014

I John - Introduction - Week 01

For those of you who weren't able to join us, we started our study of I John in adult Sunday School this morning at Edgewood.  We looked at why we're going through this book in particular, as well how it relates to what we're learning in the main service.  It was reallly interesting to delve in to just the first couple of verses and already see how it ties back in to the Gospel of John -- "That which was in the beginning..." echoes the beginning of John's Gospel "In the beginning was the Word" and his next words emphasize one after the other how the disciples had heard Jesus speak, and seen Jesus perform miracles, and touched Jesus' very hands on his scars.  Truly John was in a position to know whether Jesus was really human, or if he weren't really God.  After years of walking with him for miles, countless dinners of literally reclining beside him, whispering questions in his ears, seeing the miracles, hearing the debates with Pharisees, feeling the rocking of the boat subside as the storm ceased, and watching him die the most torturous death imaginable, John bears witness to the Truth of the Word made tangible to us. 

We also talked about some major themes of the book.  There are stark contrasts between light and dark, love and hate, truth and deception.  John, in much the same way Christ did in his Gospel narrative, loves to draw harsh lines and let his readers agonize over which side they fall on.  Some of his descriptions seem abrupt and leave no room to negotiate, but the source of his theological education is so evident it is practically indisputable.  It's little wonder the people were amazed at the words that flowed from the apostles who were known to be men of little formal education.  Their fervor and boldness in proclaiming the truth marked them as men who had been with Christ.  No one else could legitimately claim His authority.

Overall, we barely scratched the surface of all the things to come in this book.  It's one of the shorter books of the Bible (claiming only 5 chapters), but it is densely populated with rich meat to chew on for quite some time.  We're looking forward to feasting on it together as we meet on Sunday mornings at 9:30am in the auditorium and want to welcome anyone who would like to join us.  The table is set, and everyone is welcome to dig in.  If you want to bring a notebook to jot some notes down, you won't be alone, we are taking the Scripture seriously when it talks about studying it in detail, and we don't want to walk away from this having merely discussed some interesting ideas and go into our daily lives unchanged and unchallenged.  We want to remember it and think about it and watch it shape the way we live in this world.  For the glory of Christ we press on with our struggles, knowing the glory to come is more than worth it.  Until next week, see you then...