1 John, Bible Studies

1 John 5:18-21

Little Children, Keep Yourselves From Idols

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

v.18, No Christian goes on sinning as he did before he turned to Christ.  The reason is that the one who was born of God keeps him safe.

v. 19, We learn that the devil is a creature, subject to God’s authority, who is not allowed to go an inch further than God’s permission sanctions, and whose ultimate doom is assured.  That is why the world’s freedom is slavery, and the devil’s offer of independence from God, which lies at the root of all sin, is an illusion.  As we have discussed before, God and Satan are not dual powers fighting it out to see who has power, God created him and even in his rebellion Satan cannot do any more than our loving God permits him to do.

WHY DOES JOHN WANT TO LEAVE US WITH A WARNING AGAINST IDOLATRY?

What, then, is idolatry?  Idolatry is valuing anything or any person more than the one true God.  An idol is anything or any person that takes center stage in our affections.  God is a jealous God.  He deserves center stage in our lives.  Anything that assumes that place becomes an idol, whether it be a spouse, a child, a humanitarian project, or pornography, or drugs, or power over the poor, or religion.  An idol is a god-substitute.  Archeology limits idols to stone statues; biblical theology teaches that idols are anything that takes the place of god in our lives.  When understood this way, we can realize that idolatry is not ancient history but is alive and flourishing in America as we rush toward the twenty-first century.

Therefore, John’s closing command “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” has as much relevance for our day as for any generation since creation.  The main reason why is because our hearts are idol factories.  We are created to worship, that is why every culture in this world even the most remote villages in the most desert places worship something.  Therefore, if we do not fill our heart with the one true God that satisfies this desire to worship, our heart will produce idols for itself to worship.

EXAMPLE OF IDOLATRY EXODUS 32:1-8

The Jews had just come out of Egypt, who worshiped man-made idols.  Therefore, they wanted to have something that showed the power of their great God that delivered them from Egypt.  So they carved out an image out of Gold of the strongest animal they knew, a bull, in order to display how strong and powerful their God was.  No doubt the image of a bull was thought to honor him, as being a fitting symbol of his great strength.

However, what is the problem with displaying and image of God?  It is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults God, for what idea of His moral character, his righteousness, goodness, patience, and His love could one gather from looking at a statue of God as a bull?  Therefore, Aaron’s image hid God’s glory by only glorifying His power and neglecting all His other attributes.

However, we do not just do this with symbols we do it with our hearts also.  We rely on money to get us what we need, we rely on others to make us feel important, we rely on food and drink to make us feel satisfied, we rely on TV, internet, video games, and sports to entertain us.  All these things are good things but they become idols when we would rather rely on them than on God.  And just like the Jews that made an idol they can see to worship, we create things that we can see to worship.  Therefore, how do we keep ourselves from idols.  By keeping in perspective who our creator is and who can truly fill our desire to worship.

Now to recap.  Why does John end his letter with as command to stay away from idols?  Well, hope that you see that the whole theme of the letter is that John was trying to give his readers assurance that they are true Christians and that they would stay that way because Jesus Christ will keep them.  And he gives them two tests for them to test to see if they are true believers.  And those tests were to keep God’s commandments and love one another.  Therefore what can keep us from keeping God’s commandments and loving one another?  Idols!

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1 John, Bible Studies

1 John 4:6-17

How Can We Have Assurance of Eternal Life and of Prayer?

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

 

HOW CAN I HAVE ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE? (VERSES 6-13)

I believe that John is giving an apologetic defense on why Jesus is the way to eternal life.  In Hebrew law, (Det. 17:6 and 19:15) it was necessary to have two to three witnesses for a case to be carried.  This makes since because if we were a judge and three people of good integrity came to us telling the same exact story we would believe them.  How much more should we believe the evidence that God gives us since He is incapable of telling a lie.

Here I believe that John is giving us two external evidences of that the Son leads us to eternal life and one internal evidence.  Water and blood represent the two external evidences that Jesus is who He says He is.  They refer to Jesus’ baptism (water) and death (blood).  This third and final testimony is the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Basically, to answer the question how can I have eternal life, is that you can trust that you have eternal life if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  The faith that overcomes the world is the very specific belief that Jesus is the Son of God.  Faith in anything else will not do.  Your parents cannot get you into heaven; neither can money, education, or social status.  Only Faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He has come to be our Lord, Savior, and Treasure will get you eternal life.

GOD LOVES TO ANSWER OUR PRAYERS (VERSES 14-15)

The clear implication of v. 15 is that God loves to answer our prayers.  God is a cheerful giver when it comes to answering prayer. 

Why is it that our experience does not always detect the reality of God’s eagerness to answer prayer?

In our passage this morning in 5:14 there is an all-important qualifier attached to our prayers. “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Our praying is never on a surer foundation than when it is grounded in Scripture, for here God’s will is revealed.  As we pray Bible prayers, we know that God will hear and answer.  However, this is not a way of tricking God into doing what you want, for prayer is not an attempt to get God to see things my way and to extract from him what I have decided I need or want.  Prayer is submitting my will to his.  It is opening the door of my need of prayer is God’s means by which my submission to Christ’s lordship can be developed.  The less I pray, the more self-willed I become.  Likewise, the more I pray the more humbled I become.  Answers to prayer do not depend on a right diagnosis or analysis of the problem by us as we pray, but on a childlike submission to the Father, knowing that he will give what is best according to his will.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION (VERSES 16-17)

Intercession is a technical word meaning “prayer for others.

Two Questions About Mortal Sin

1.      What is mortal sin?

My understanding of what John means by mortal sin or the sin unto death is simply persistent unconfessed disobedience to the twofold command of 3:23. This is the summary command of the whole letter—and I would suggest—the whole Bible. “This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” Mortal sin is the persistent disregard of this command.

2.      Can a Christian commit mortal sin?

If we mean a true Christian, like who John has been describing in this whole book, the answer has to be no.  A true Christian will not persist in unloving acts. A true Christian will not persist in unbelief.  They may lapse temporarily into hard-heartedness. But the mark of a true Christian is that they will repent, confess their sin, and be restored.

What about those who seemed to be Christian, shared their testimony, joined the church, served taught a Sunday School class, but then fell into persistent, unrepentant sin? John tells us in 2:19, “They went out from us; but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”

INTERCESSION

Therefore, if you are constantly finding yourself thinking about someone who is sin, then the Holy Spirit is quickening you to pray for them.  I think what this passage is reassuring us if, we find ourselves no longer being driven to pray for this person, then we should not feel guilty and saying, Oh if I had only prayed harder for that person maybe they would not be in Hell right now.  I am spurred on to pray because of the glorious promise in verse 16 that God will give life to him in answer to my prayers.  Intercession is not trivial; it is used by God to turn people around.  Therefore, no matter how lost someone is looking and acting, if you find yourself being led to pray for them it is for a reason.

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