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3 John

This third letter of John is addressed to a particular individual, Gaius. John prays for his friend; he prayes that Gaius will have good health, that all will go well with him, and that all will be well with his soul. John reports that he is experiencing great joy as he hears reports of Gaius’ faithful walk in truth and his hospitality to others who are in the truth.

John then reports that Diotrephes, a church leader, was exercising dictatorial power in the church. He wouldn’t receive John’s letters, choosing not to have anything to do with him. He was gossiping maliciously, and even excommunicating members who showed hospitality to John’s messengers. Diotrephes must have had considerable influence to be able to choose to exclude people from fellowship.

John’s advise is, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” This statement makes me wonder… does evil activity cause us to be unable to see God, or does seeing God make us unable to continue in evil practices? Or both?

Demetruis is a good guy. (That probably meant more to Gaius than what appears to me. Like my friend Cheryl says – when we study the epistles it’s ‘reading other people’s email’.)

John would like to see Gaius soon. Peace, and greetings….

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2 John

The second letter of John is addressed to the “chosen lady and her children.” This may refer to a particular church and the subsequent members of that congregation, or to a specific person and family. In either case, John loved her and all those who are in the truth.

The greeting is as follows: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” I love that. I wish each of you who read this an ample portion of grace. And mercy. And peace! And the presence of the Father and the Son. I might start using a greeting like this when I send emails. I think it sounds a little pretentious, but maybe that’s because it’s new. I might try it as an introductory prayer for those I write… Ask me in a few weeks. 🙂

John is joyous to discover the obedience of some of the believers. He includes a reminder to love, which is demonstrated by obedience.

Then John gets to the point of this note. He warns them to be careful as they receive traveling teachers. Some have a different message. Since it was customary to take missionaries into homes and give them provisions for their journey, John urges discernment. Otherwise, they unintentionally contribute to the spread of heresy.

Can you think of contemporary examples of well-meaning folks contributing to heresy?

I John 5

Again, John reminds the readers that there are a few deal breakers for those who love God. We cannot love God without loving His children. We cannot love God without obeying His commands – and they’re not burdensome. This faith in action overcomes the world.

So what is our status with God when we go through periods of disobedience? Certainly our disobedience affects our ability to love God. Or, when we’re having a difficult time loving difficult people? I’ve experienced how this eats away at our love for God.

Jesus came by water (birth? or baptism?) and by blood (crucifixion?). The Spirit testifies to the truth. So, the testimonies of the water, the blood and the spirit all agree. And, they are superior to the testimonies of people. The message: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” All testimonies should be consistent with this message.

John gives some closing thoughts:

* The purpose of the letter is: that you may know that you have eternal life. This knowledge will allow us to approach God with confidence, expecting that He hears, and will respond.

* If you observe others in sin, pray for them. This applies to non-fatal sin, either spiritually or physically. This ranking of the severity of sin does not fit with what I have been taught about sin. I know any sin can separate us from God, and requires atonement. But, perhaps some sins are more destructive to our relationship with God than others. What do you think?

* If we are born of God, we don’t have to live in sin. We are safe from the evil one, because we are children of God. So, we don’t continue to sin. This time he doesn’t say that we don’t sin; just that we don’t continue to sin.

* Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

I John 4

Friends, don’t believe everything you hear! (That’s timely advice.)

If you hear about Jesus being from God, that’s a message you can trust. If, however, you hear a message that is contrary to that, don’t believe it.

People who do not have the power of God in them will see the world from a limited, worldly perspective. These folks will connect with others who share this perspective.

God is love. If He lives in you, you will love. He demonstrated His love by sending His son as an atoning sacrifice for us. Our love is completed when we love each other.

We don’t have room for fear – just love.

If we can’t love people, we can’t love God either.

Maybe we need to give some thought to our love lives. If we’re not freely loving, we need to connect with LOVE and get that fixed.

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

1 John 3

Previously in this letter John has used the phrase “dear children” to refer to the believers. But there is a more important concept that is introduced in 1 John 3. We are not just John’s children in faith, we are the children of God Himself.

After introducing this important concept, John returns to sin (lawlessness). I’m reading the NIV translation, which repeats the concept of “continuing to sin.” John is not saying that people who sin are not living in God; he says (if the NIV translation is correct) that people who CONTINUE to sin are not living in God.

John then transitions in loving one another, then talking of hatred from the world (in this context, “world” is used in a negative sense, as those things that are apart from God). He then notes (as James and Paul do) that good works proceed from faith; mere words alone let us “know that we belong to the truth.”

I’m sure that the prosperity gospel folks love verse 22, about receiving anything for which we ask. However, note that John also mentions that “we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” In most cases, God does not command us to ask for a luxury yacht.

I John 2

John writes this letter for the purpose of helping the recipients avoid sin. Certainly, we hope to avoid sin, and help others do likewise. But if anyone does sin, (and it’s pretty likely that we will at some point) we have someone who speaks on our behalf, atoning for us! How wonderful it that?

We try to keep clean, because it will give us a better life, but when we fall short, someone who is blameless takes our blame and we take his innocence. I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend how amazing that is.

If our lives are characterized by doing our own thing, not His, then we are not HIS. If however, we obey, God’s love in us blooms – it becomes complete in us. Then we more closely resemble Him as we carry His light. If we don’t care about what he cares about, or if we can’t love those he loves, then we loose the light that guides us. When we carry His light, we can see where we’re going, and we won’t stumble.

Verses 12-14 address children… fathers… young men…. I’m not sure I understand John’s point in separating these groups. Anyone?

The motivations of this world include: what I see, what I want, and my reputation. These motivations are not eternal. Possessions don’t satisfy like we thought they would before we attained them. Quenched desires are replaced by new ones. A long-earned good reputation can be gone with one bad choice exposed. Worldly motivations will never last. Obedience to God is eternal.

John warns against people who are not real followers of Christ mixing among believers and trying to influence them. They are anti-Christ, denying the truth of Christ, and denying the Father. True followers will stay the course. They embody the spirit, they know the Truth, and will inherit eternal life. To remain in Him, we need to allow the spirit (the anointing) to teach us, even though it’s easier to let somebody else spoon-feed us. We need to do the work of getting our own answers. When we know the truth, we’ll recognize the counterfeit.

I John 1

Ironically, we’re studying I John in our church Bible study, and I’ll be leading the study this Sunday. However, I can’t use this for this Sunday’s study – we already did chapter 1 – but at least it will get me in the mood for the Bible study that I still have to write.

So if I confess my lack of preparation for this Sunday’s Bible study, I am acknowledging the truth. Our church repeats I John 1:8-9 every Sunday as part of our confession. But how do we reconcile this with verse 6? Is there some material difference between sinning (verse eight) and “walking in the darkness” (verse 6)?

Or perhaps I’m looking at it the wrong way, and in reality verses 6 and 8 are in agreement. Verse 6 says (emphasis mine) “If we CLAIM to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness….” In other words, we need to acknowledge our sinfulness.

Julie will have fun with the second chapter, but at a minimum we’re all acknowledging our need for a Savior.

Philemon

Philemon is a letter of Paul’s while he was on house arrest. Paul met a slave named Onesimus that was on the run. Onesimus had stolen from his master (Philemon) and ran away. Paul taught Onesimus that running away wouldn’t make things better. Paul showed Onesimus forgiveness and grace like God shows us. Paul wrote to Philemon trying to show him that forgiveness and grace was what he should have for Onesimus. Onesimus was now a brother to Philemon, not only a possession (slave). While Paul was in prison he led Onesimus to The Lord.
The faith that Paul had in Onesimus strengthened Onesimus’ faith.

We should treat people with forgiveness and grace like God has done for us. Paul wanted to show both Onesimus and Philemon that no matter what use to be, they now were brother’s. Paul had so much faith in Onesimus he told Philemon that whatever Onesimus owed him he would pay (just like Christ payed for us).

We should forgive as we have been forgiven.

Titus 3

This passage is full of advice that is “excellent and profitable for everyone“. In order to put it to good use, we need to be purposeful about doing the following:

* do what the boss says (be subject to authorities),

* be ready to do good (I guess that means all the time),

* say only nice things about people (even annoying people),

* be peacable and considerate (I guess that means all the time…even with annoying people),

* show true humility toward all men (all of them),

* avoid foolish controversies/arguments/quarrels (they’re useless!),

* warn a divisive person once… twice… then walk away.

We do all this because we once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, malicious, envious, hateful people. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us! This beautiful act of mercy changed us! In light of this, let’s be careful to devote ourselves to doing good.

Paul ends this note with a few personal instructions and “grace be with you all.”

Titus 2

If you’re convinced that all Christians can be ministered to in the same way, take a gander at Titus 2, in which Paul suggests different ministry needs for different groups.

Older men need self-control and soundness.

Older women need reverence, so they can model good behavior for younger women.

These younger women need to be self-controlled, “busy at home” (which I interpret as a cultural thing), and subject to their husbands (a theme we’ve seen before).

Young men also need self-control and soundness.

Slaves need self-control in a way – don’t talk back, don’t steal.

A common theme runs through many of these comments – these particular actions need to be modeled so that the non-Christians won’t talk badly about the Christians. Yes, I know that we are not perfect, but our imperfections can often drive people away from God. Michael Jackson’s mother is an example of someone who was driven away from Christianity (into Jehovah’s Witnesses) because of the poor behavior of some Christians.