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Lesson 11: Important Themes in 1 John *

Introduction: I like to read books about brains. No one is really sure how people think or how they process information so quickly. How long does it take you to recognize a familiar face? How long does it take to determine a person's relative age? Matching faces and determining age are tasks which are very difficult for a computer. One thing we do know about our brains is that repeating something strengthens our ability to understand it. Have you ever read a book which had a "review" at the end of each chapter? That is what we are doing this week. We are going to do something we know works for our brains: strengthen our understanding of the wonderful things John wrote. Let's plunge right into our review of 1 John and see how this all fits together!

  1. Two Paths

    1. Read 1 John 1:5-7. What two choices do we have in life? (We can walk on the path of light or we can walk on the path of darkness.)

      1. Can we trust people to accurately tell us on which path they are walking? (No. 1 John 1:6 reveals that some lie about it.)

      2. How can we know which path we are taking? What if we can't trust ourselves to tell the truth about our life? (We know we are on the light path if we live by the truth. We have fellowship with others on the light path. We are making progress along the path.)

      3. What about walking on the light path saves us from sin? Is it the choice, the walk, the truth or what? ("The blood of Jesus ... purifies us from all sin.")

      4. If Jesus' blood purifies us from sin, then why am I getting all of this exercise walking along the light path? Walking is work! Walking takes effort! (John paints a picture of the progressive Christian life. We are constantly moving with the purpose of going in the right direction.)

  2. Conditions on the Light Path

    1. Read 1 John 2:1-2. How important is commandment-keeping for those on the path of light? (John says our goal is not to sin.)

      1. How serious a problem is it if we sin? (Good news! Jesus covers our sins with the sacrifice of His life.)

    2. Read 1 John 2:3-6. Let me repeat the same question I just asked. In light of these verses, how serious a problem is it if we sin? (John writes that our actions are a polygraph (truth tester) for our claim that we "know" Jesus.)

      1. What would John say about a person who said they were saved by grace but then knowingly sinned because they thought it didn't matter - since they were saved by grace? (John tells us that person does not really know Jesus. That person is lying (to himself and others) about having a relationship with Jesus.)

    3. Read 1 John 2:9-11. There are a lot of commands out there. How can I know if I am a commandment keeper - and thus not lying about being on the path of light? (We love our fellow Christians.)

      1. Read Matthew 22:36-40. How does Jesus connect the law of love to the Ten Commandments (and every other command)?

      2. We talk about the importance of Sabbath-keeping. Is that the most important command? (No. It is not the "foundational" command, which is to love.)

        1. Does Sabbath-keeping have anything whatsoever to do with love? (Every command of God has something to do with love. In this case it is loving both God and ourselves by taking time out of our busy schedule to worship God and to rest from work.)

    4. Read 1 John 2:15-17. Is there a good and bad love? If we are on the path of light, are we forbidden to love our car, our home, our job, our money, or our pet? (This is not easy to describe, but I have seen John's point played out in some of the churches which I have attended. In some churches, your job and your wealth are important. In others, the people don't seem to care much about that. John tells us that the attitude of those on the path of light is that possessions and position are desires connected with the world.)

      1. Are we being completely impractical and unrealistic? After all, money, power, position are all important as a practical matter, right? (John answers the "practical" argument in 1 John 2:17. He says that all of these practical things are going to burn. They will pass away. So, let's be truly practical and focus on the things which will not pass away.)

  3. Improvements on the Light Path

    1. Read 1 John 3:1-3. Do you (did you) admire your father or mother? If so, did you try to live up to their standards?

      1. Why? (You felt an obligation. You felt it was right to live up to the expectations people had of you. You did not want to let your parents down.)

      2. My father used to say, "You are Don Cameron's sons and I expect you to behave!" What does John say to us in 1 John 3:1-3 that sounds like my father? (He says we are children of God and we should work to be like our Father in Heaven.)

        1. Contrast that to the person who says "I'm saved, and what I do does not matter." Would a person with that attitude really know God as a Father?

    2. Read 1 John 3:7-8. What is the disputed point on which John does not want us to be led astray? (Whether or not our actions matter.)

      1. What is John's crystal clear point about our behavior? (Righteous people do right things. Unrighteous people do sinful things. Want to know whether you are on the path of light or the path of darkness? Look at your actions. This is not complicated.)

    3. Read 1 John 3:11. What is the ultimate standard for our right actions? (Again, John hammers the point that the ultimate standard is whether we love one another.)

      1. How many of your sins arise because of selfishness? You love yourself more than others?

  4. Walking in Love

    1. Read 1 John 4:7-8. I struggle with this idea of loving others. I like lots of people. But, to love them like I love myself is not easy. How do we become more loving? (The source of love is God. Knowing more about God, being "born" of God improves our ability to love.)

    2. Read 1 John 4:9-11. Can you say that you really love God? Who made the first move in the relationship between you and God? (God did. He sent His Son to live and die for us at a time when we did not love Him.)

      1. Have you ever heard someone say, "I'll forgive that person when they ask for forgiveness?" "I'll treat that person with respect when they learn to show respect?" What does John suggest about this attitude? (If we are to love as God loved, we love people before they are loveable.)

    3. Read 1 John 4:12. Is John saying that it is hard to love because we have not seen God? Or, is he saying something else? (I think John is saying that people do not see God, they see you. If God's love lives in your heart, then you are the way in which others "see" God's love.)

      1. How is that for responsibility? The view that others have of God rests on your shoulders!

    4. Read 1 John 5:3-5. John tells us this responsibility to love God and others is not burdensome. Is that a promise? (We start by knowing God. Reading and studying about Him and His ways. We then obey Him. Once we get rolling down this path, continuing is not burdensome. We just need to get started.)

    5. Friend, how about you? If you feel your love is a quart low, will you commit to making the effort to know God better and to obey Him? How about asking the Holy Spirit into your heart today to help move you along in this direction?

  5. Next week: John's Letter to the Chosen Lady.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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