Archive for the 'Gems in John' Category

00:0000:00
JohnsGems-1John.jpg

Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 98 - 1 John 1:7
Walking in the light


John does not hesitate. He says immediately, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. He is making an obvious connection with his gospel, which started with “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”

He is also immediately giving an example of his common way of working in this epistle. I like to think of it as a game of tennis. He plays both sides of the net and picks up an idea and bats it backwards and forwards across the net. (The game of Squash racquets would be a better analogy but not everyone will know how that works.) Sometimes he then picks up another idea and has 2 ‘balls’ in play at the same time, or even three. His first ‘ball’ here is ‘light’ and then he adds to it ‘darkness’ and then ‘fellowship’.

 

He is remembering the words of Jesus ‘I am the light of the world’ and the Old Testament equation of darkness with sinfulness, such as in Job chapter 24: 13 - 17 where we read, “There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths. When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up, kills the poor and needy, and in the night steals forth like a thief. The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed. In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. For all of them, midnight is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”

 

In John’s thinking when he talks about light there is no dusk, when the light is slowly fading, or dawn, when it is slowly growing, no half light. That makes life difficult for our thinking if, as in many parts of the Christian church, people are expected to come slowly to faith with no clear line of distinction between their pre-Christian life and their faith life. Perhaps that is inevitable because we are human and that is the way we think. But from the point of view of God there is a clear sharp line of distinction between before we are born again and when we are just a hidden potential Jesus follower. We are either members of his kingdom with a passport that says something like ‘in the name of Jesus’ or we are not. We either have the Spirit gifted to us or we do not. We cannot be stuck in the birth canal, only half born; there are no short term visas for the Kingdom; there are no short term loans of the Spirit available for us.

In some ways this is very odd. It is not uncommon for someone to drift along as a fellow traveller with the people of God, even being listed in the church catalogue of members with some such label as adherents, or named in italics instead of full script. All such things are human devices, not the way God works.

Beware! The Kingdom of God is not a democracy, let alone a free for all where we are allowed to make up the rules. It is a theocracy - the only true theocracy where the Lord of All, the Creator of all, the Upholder and sustainer of all, makes up the rules. And he has asked us - what an act of condescension that is - to join him, to join his family, to become one of his children, saved and honoured by our acceptance of the leadership of his son. WOW!

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00
JohnsGems-1John.jpg

Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 97 - 1 John 1:4
Discipling



‘We write this to make our joy complete’ says John. And even before we start into the epistle proper that simple statement raises a big question. Who are the ‘we’? (I am going to call it an epistle, even although that word really means ‘letter’. It is a slightly posh word, appropriate here because it has no statement about who wrote it, or who it was to, or any of the other things we expect to find in a true letter. It is more like an essay, a statement of intent, a document to be sent to many people.

 
So an epistle it is.) Because neither the Gospel of John nor this epistle ever says who wrote them we cannot be sure who they were. The writers of the very early church very soon decided that John, one of the sons of Boanerges, the apostle, the beloved disciple, was the author of both. The decision makes good sense so I am going to refer to the writer as John and assume it was the same person as the writer of the gospel. Both assumptions seem to be very likely right. The other assumption we must make is that this epistle was written after the gospel, although, as we saw in the last study of the gospel John was probably very old when he wrote the gospel and it may even have been put together by some close helper. That person, a close disciple of John, may also have had a hand in this letter, compiling it on the basis of things John had said and taught in his old age in the city of Ephesus. That is important to note because quite a lot of the things he says in this epistle seem to refer to a particular atmosphere and line of teaching which was building up in the fellowship of which John was, or had been, a part and probably the leader.

Another reason for assuming the direct authorship of John is the tone of these first few verses. They clearly refer back quite deliberately to the opening words of the Gospel, which in turn refer back to the opening words of the book of Genesis. ‘In the beginning’ figures large in all three places. But then John goes on here to express his joy at what he has been privileged to be a part of. Had he been a child he would quite clearly have been jumping up and down with exuberant joy at what had happened. We heard, we saw, we touched, he says - obviously meaning he heard and saw and touched Jesus. He wants to share the emotions those facts and the attitudes that they caused to erupt in him that he enjoys so much. That way he feels that he will be able to establish a joint shared delight with his readers in the words, the actions and the meaning of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection.

I started off accepting that verse 4 is about ‘our joy’ but you will note that the footnote in your Bible almost certainly suggests it might equally be ‘your joy’ and since we are the recipients of the epistle that is now ‘our joy’. Wow! . Let us try to believe and therefore to act in the sort of way that John does, even if our experience is necessarily not as exciting as his, for we do not hear, see and touch the real living Jesus, the Son of God, as he did.

Think back. Count up the top moments of your walk as a Christian follower of Jesus and rejoice. Perhaps, like me, you are too old to literally jump up and down with joy but do so in your heart, in your imagination. He is worthy. He is glorious. He is our promise of eternal life as John has just pointed out.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00
JohnsGems.jpg

Gems in the Letter of 1  John

Part 97
1 John 1: 4 - The joy of the Gospel


‘We write this to make our joy complete’ says John. And even before we start into the epistle proper that simple statement raises a big question. Who are the ‘we’? (I am going to call it an epistle, even although that word really means ‘letter’. It is a slightly posh word, appropriate here because it has no statement about who wrote it, or who it was to, or any of the other things we expect to find in a true letter. It is more like an essay, a statement of intent, a document to be sent to many people.

 
So an epistle it is.) Because neither the Gospel of John nor this epistle ever says who wrote them we cannot be sure who they were. The writers of the very early church very soon decided that John, one of the sons of Boanerges, the apostle, the beloved disciple, was the author of both. The decision makes good sense so I am going to refer to the writer as John and assume it was the same person as the writer of the gospel. Both assumptions seem to be very likely right. The other assumption we must make is that this epistle was written after the gospel, although, as we saw in the last study of the gospel John was probably very old when he wrote the gospel and it may even have been put together by some close helper. That person, a close disciple of John, may also have had a hand in this letter, compiling it on the basis of things John had said and taught in his old age in the city of Ephesus. That is important to note because quite a lot of the things he says in this epistle seem to refer to a particular atmosphere and line of teaching which was building up in the fellowship of which John was, or had been, a part and probably the leader.

Another reason for assuming the direct authorship of John is the tone of these first few verses. They clearly refer back quite deliberately to the opening words of the Gospel, which in turn refer back to the opening words of the book of Genesis. ‘In the beginning’ figures large in all three places. But then John goes on here to express his joy at what he has been privileged to be a part of. Had he been a child he would quite clearly have been jumping up and down with exuberant joy at what had happened. We heard, we saw, we touched, he says - obviously meaning he heard and saw and touched Jesus. He wants to share the emotions those facts and the attitudes that they caused to erupt in him that he enjoys so much. That way he feels that he will be able to establish a joint shared delight with his readers in the words, the actions and the meaning of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection.

I started off accepting that verse 4 is about ‘our joy’ but you will note that the footnote in your Bible almost certainly suggests it might equally be ‘your joy’ and since we are the recipients of the epistle that is now ‘our joy’. Wow! . Let us try to believe and therefore to act in the sort of way that John does, even if our experience is necessarily not as exciting as his, for we do not hear, see and touch the real living Jesus, the Son of God, as he did.

Think back. Count up the top moments of your walk as a Christian follower of Jesus and rejoice. Perhaps, like me, you are too old to literally jump up and down with joy but do so in your heart, in your imagination. He is worthy. He is glorious. He is our promise of eternal life as John has just pointed out.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00
JohnsGems.jpg

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 96 - John 21:24
Where next?


This great gospel has a curious ending. 21: 25 “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” is, on the face of it, an almost childish statement. What does it really mean and why is it there? The last two verses of the gospel contain references to 3 apparently different people: ‘the disciple who testifies to these things’, ‘we’ and ‘I’. Who are they all? ‘The disciple’ is in all probability a reference to the ‘disciple that Jesus loved’ who has appeared several times in the gospel and we assume, on the evidence of the very early church, was young John the apostle who eventually went to live in Ephesus, founded a church there, gathered a devoted group of disciples round him, live to a grand old age, and either wrote, dictated, or left the gospel to be constructed by someone else from his notes and teachings. The ‘we’ who ‘know that his testimony is true’ are probably members of that small circle of his disciples and the ‘I’ is one of them who did the actual writing down of the words on the first and original scroll - a quite highly skilled task not to be undertaken by an untrained scribe,


This all relates to the situation that Jesus mentioned in 5:31 and 8:14 when he said “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true (or valid)” and “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” In their culture it was absolutely necessary to have more than one witness to anything important. Deut 19: 15 “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” laid down a very important and unbreakable requirement of Jewish practice. Jesus complied with it, so do the folk who put together the final version of this Gospel, one of the greatest writings mankind has ever produced, if not the very greatest.

It has been a truly wonderful experience to write all these little ‘gems’ as I have called them, working my way through from ‘In the beginning’ to this ‘testimony is true’. I suppose the very last verse which says “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” is no longer true if taken literally! We are no longer limited to papyrus or paper but have the enormous capacity of modern computer storage where everything could be written down in computer-talk, but there is not enough room in our hearts for all the wonder and the glory of what John wrote on a papyrus scroll nearly 2000 years ago. Oh, that we may all make the most of who we are: Peter-like active, talkative, quick to respond and to make mistakes, having an immediate impact on those we meet; or John-like cautious, not moving far from our home base, prone to thinking and writing for almost too long and leaving a long legacy. Or all the many of us somewhere in between those two extremes.

John almost certainly didn’t stop there. We cannot be 100 percent sure that he wrote the epistle we call 1 John but it seems very likely. There we shall see that he did not have an entirely easy time. His fellowship group had its rebels and dissidents just the same as we will all encounter. But he persevered through to old age. What about you? Can you gather a group of friends and challenge them to study this wonderful letter in detail? I have written notes for our group and would be happy to send you a copy. Contact me at rogmarg.kirby@gmail.com

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00
JohnsGems.jpg

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 95 - John 21:21
Challenges


“What about him?” asked Peter, referring to his close friend ‘the disciple that Jesus loved’, probably John, the writer of this gospel. His question will have been of but small interest when Peter asked it but had become of much greater significance over fifty years later when John had died or it became clear he could not live much longer. (That there was this interest behind the reported question suggests someone else was working with John on this chapter.) Several things Jesus had said had seemed to suggest that he would return before all the disciples had died. One of them is quoted here, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Earlier he had said in Mark 9: 1 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” They had failed to realise that the Kingdom had come quietly when the King, Jesus, came and more openly at his death and resurrection. Unfortunately the idea is still around that we can work out when the kingdom will come in its full splendour even although Jesus warned that “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Don’t be one of those misled by folk with more concern for their own apparent cleverness in working out the details of his return than their ability to hear what he actually said.


There is another important point to be learned from this passage. Jesus had just told Peter in verses 18, 19 “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” That is a strong hint that Peter would die by crucifixion as Jesus had done, and as he in fact did about 30 years later. Peter wanted to know whether John would suffer the same fate. Whether that was from concern for his much younger friend or from a sense of wanting to protect him or from a hope that he would not share such a singular privilege (as Peter saw it) is not clear.

This is significant for us, as is the reply of Jesus. In all probability some few of those who read or hear this will live in a country where you are in danger of martyrdom because you hold to a faith that the majority do not agree with. Most of you will not be in such a dangerous situation but can expect to die a natural death when your days are done. For us of the second sort the interesting question is: will we be in some sense second class citizens of the kingdom to come behind those who have been martyred? The clear implication of the reply of Jesus in verse 23 “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you,” is ‘no’ I simply have something different for you to do.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable singing hymns like the one that says ‘All to Jesus I surrender … ‘ when I know perfectly well that I am surrounded by folk who have no real intention of surrendering anything if they can possibly help it, and I am not at all sure about myself either! It seems to me that the really important thing is when I receive a direct challenge from the Lord to do something - how do I respond? I do not have to concentrate on the big things in life that may never come my way, but how do I respond to the small things: what will I not do; what work promotion will I not seek; where will I actually go in the here and now; rather than some grand gesture.

What about you? Do you agree with that attitude? Or how else will you confront the challenges of life for the sake of your Lord and Master?

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00
JohnsGems.jpg

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 94 - John 21:17b
Discipling


The second point worth a study in this verse is: what is the special work that the importance of love is for? Jesus spoke of taking care of, and feeding lambs and sheep. The shepherd’s work of looking after sheep has two main components: making sure they have enough to eat by taking them to fresh pasture when the present one is cropped too short for them to get much nourishment from it, and making sure they are not attacked by either things too small to see, or by lions or by any of all the other things in between that can harm an animal. You will have noticed that I didn’t use any of John’s words in the title of this study but the word ‘discipling’.

 
That is, of course, the one that Matthew used in his great Commission statement. Discipling is basically teaching, but a bit more than just teaching in a classroom. A disciple is taught both by classroom type instruction and by close observation of the behaviour and manner of the discipler. The process will continue even when the discipler is not physically present – from the Word of God. Even the straightforward teaching bit is not easy - as I know too well having spent nearly all my work life as a teacher of one sort or another. It always seems to me that in church we make it more difficult that it naturally is by our habit of putting everyone in rows to listen and then elevating someone to a higher position to do all the talking. That is lecturing, not teaching, and most professional teachers only do it that way at university where you can be sure that all your hearers are of above average intelligence. In the average congregation half the hearers are of above average intelligence and half are below - that is what average means! Good discipling involves much fewer people at a time, indeed probably just one at a time. And that is a far more difficult thing to set up and do, hence our love of preaching.

Why is that? I think the reason is buried deep in the culture of the Western world to which I, and probably many of you, belong. And even if you don’t the influence of our culture is now so worldwide that it may still be having an effect. Our culture says that we are all individuals and interprets that in a very isolationist way. We are not to tell anybody what they are to think or do. If we do we are trying to control them, manipulate them, and those are very naughty things to do. So we are even told that parents should not tell their children how to think and behave. That, apparently, is something they should be allowed to work out for themselves.

So although almost nobody will be aware of this and the reasons behind it many folk in our culture will be reluctant to open themselves to be discipled or to disciple.

“Feed my sheep” said Jesus to Peter and to all of us. We have to obey him and not the dictates of our local, temporary culture. We have to do all we can to increase the number of deep, properly discipled believers.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html