Monday, June 15, 2015

Walking in the Light

My Sunday School lesson for June 14, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have any of you ever seen counterfeit money? Was it obvious like Monopoly money, or so close you'd never know until the Secret Service is busting through your door?

If a fake looks exactly like the real thing and fools a lot of people, why is it inferior to the real thing?

The apostle John began today’s scripture by explaining that some followers of Christ are genuine, the real thing; others are counterfeit. Counterfeit Christians might do a lot of good things and fool a lot of people.

Maybe they don’t believe that the weenie wrap pizza from Pizza Hut is awesome. But that’s not a sin. It’s wrong, but not a sin.

QUESTION - What are some false teachings facing the church today?

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** 1 John was written by John the apostle, author of the gospel of John as well as the three epistles (1,2,3 John) and Revelation.

*** The letter was probably written around A.D. 90, though it is hard to say for certain. The letter doesn't specify any church, location or individual, so it's classified as a "general epistle," which basically means it's a letter written by an Apostle.

--- Although he was pretty old, John was still actively ministering to churches.

--- After the days of Jesus on earth, John spent the next 60 or so years as an ambassador for Christ, spreading the teachings to the far corners of the Roman Empire. After A.D. 70 John settled in Ephesus, one of the most important cities in what is now western Turkey. The apostle Paul had already brought the gospel there, but John had to confront false teachings that had spread.

--- As the last remaining Apostle, John’s testimony was understandably highly prized among the churches. Many eagerly wanted to hear from someone who had first-hand experience with Jesus.

DEMONSTRATE HOLINESS (1 John 1:5-7)

5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 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.

*** v.6 - If we claim to be right with God, but then habitually act in a sinful way, we are lying to others and ourselves.

--- Look at how John uses "If we say ..." If we say we one thing and do another, you are a liar. If you say you are always on time for work, but you show up 30 minutes later three times a week, you are fooling yourself and others.

--- False teachers were playing spiritual Calvinball. (From the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” a game in which you made up the rules as you went for your benefit.)

*** Out of the darkness.

--- John encouraged his readers to live in fellowship with God: Be holy, confess your sins, trust Jesus and be obedient to Him.

--- Until believers are persuaded that God is 100 percent right and good all of the time, there is no point in going on. Without this foundation in place, nothing else in Christianity makes sense.

*** v. 7 - Good news!

--- For believers who are indeed "in the light" by faith means we can fellowship with one another.

--- Even better, it means that we are cleansed from every kind of sin!

*** QUESTION - What practices illustrate walking in light? How can you be sure that you are walking in the light of God’s truths?

CONFESS SIN (1 John 1:8–2:2)

8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. 2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

*** Confession is good for the soul.

--- In verse 8, the false teachers in their arrogance were denying that they had any sin to confess.

--- Today we see this in two ways: (1) People believe that humans are by nature morally good and don’t need salvation; and (2) The belief that salvation means a Christian never sins again. Either way, John says these people are deceiving themselves about sin.

--- The reality, as written in Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

*** v. 9 – When we confess we declare that sin is hateful and wrong.

--- Sin separates us from a pure and holy Lord. Confession means that we agree to abandon sinful attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

--- We received judicial forgiveness for all time when we believed in Jesus as our savior. However, we still falter, so when we confess our sins, God forgives us, purifies us and restores us.

*** QUESTION - Why is ongoing confession of sin important in a believer’s relationship with God?

(In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus tells us how to pray, and it includes "forgive us of our trespasses." So it must be important.)

*** v. 2:1 - John deals with certainties in this epistle, not opinions. He's warm, conversational and loving, written from the heart of a pastor who has concern for his people. John knew the people needed to hear vital truths regarding the basics of the faith.

--- God is encouraging us not to sin, but when we inevitably do sin, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ who has conquered our sin.

--- The Good News comes from Romans 5:20 that says “… but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

--- When John referred to Christ’s death as being for the sins of the whole world, he didn’t mean that everyone will be saved. But everyone can be.

SEEK TO OBEY (1 John 2:3-6)

3 This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

*** John says that we can be sure we have salvation.

--- John’s teachings do not imply that a believer can lose his or her salvation, nor do they offer a license for believers to commit habitual sins.

Rather, John’s message is that although we all sin, God forgives those who come to Him through Jesus. Our initial confession of Jesus as Lord is sufficient to receive eternal life. Continual confession of our sins is important for maintaining healthy fellowship with God.

--- (1) Obedience demonstrates our genuineness. Keep the commands of Jesus in His teachings.

--- (2) Walk as Jesus walked. Are you living your life by walking in the light?

--- Is it possible for a saved individual to be caught up in sin and sinful addictions? Yes, unfortunately.

*** QUESTION – Without naming names, can you give an example of someone in your life who is flaunting their sin? Believer or non-believer?

--- We can, and should, help. Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

TAKE AWAY POINTS

*** Gnosticism.

--- John used the words “If we say” (1:6,8,10) to note what some people were wrongly saying about living in the light, and to knock them down.

--- As predicted years before by the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:28-31), false teachers came from within the church’s own ranks and began infecting the church with false doctrine:

28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

*** John was battling an early form of Gnosticism, the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries.

--- No doubt you've heard the term before, but let's see what they believed that was so heretical:

These false teachers advocated new ideas which eventually became known as “Gnosticism” (from the Greek word “knowledge”), influenced by such philosophers as Plato.

It had been decades since Jesus lived on earth, so it’s not difficult to imagine why some people might have wanted to deemphasize the historical Person of Jesus.

The error of Gnosticism was dualism: the teaching that the immaterial world (“spirit”) is inherently good while the material world (“matter”) is evil merely because it is physical.

Since the physical body was inherently evil, then they claimed that God's Son could not have had a real body without having been sinful. The false teachers claimed that Jesus had not truly come “in the flesh.”

Gnostics said that they had the deeper knowledge required to understand this truth and achieve salvation. (They thought that they were smarter than the average bear, obviously.)

John had to put down this nonsense by pointing out that he was with Jesus during His ministry, death and resurrection, and that Jesus really was a flesh-and-blood human.

*** (1) Think about your actions this past week. What do they reveal about your beliefs? Do people see Jesus in you?

*** (2) Examine your own lives for ongoing sin that is not in keeping with walking in the light. Note areas you'd like to improve.

*** (3) John’s writings explain that our belief in Jesus as our Savior is demonstrated by our obedience to God’s commands. Walk in the light this week.

*** (4) If a lesson about sin gets you worried about where you stand, read Romans chapter 8.

--- In this chapter, Paul wants the glory of our salvation, rather than the depressing reminder of their continuing sinfulness, to fill our readers’ minds and bring joy to our hearts.

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