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1 JOHN 1:5-2:2
Have you ever heard the phrase, "It's a God thing"? When something amazing happens, we exclaim, "It's a God thing!" When a prayer is answered in a clear and undeniable way, we declare, "It's a God thing!" When worship is invaded by the powerful and life-changing presence of the Spirit of God, we proclaim, "It's a God thing!" When a hardened sinner falls to his knees and surrenders to Christ, we agree, "It's a God thing!"
There is no other way to account for it! The fingerprints of God are all over these experiences, so we say, "It's a God thing!" Since hearing this phrase, I have willingly adopted it, because it expresses so much in so few words.
When we say this, there is no intention of being irreverent. We are simply saying God is real, active, and present right where we live. "It's a God thing" is a way to express what we have all experienced at one time or another. Our whole faith is built on the understanding that God works in human history. The ultimate "God thing" was the coming of Jesus Christ into the world and our lives.
But there is another phrase that needs to enter our language. It is not as much fun, but it is just as important. As a matter of fact, if we hope to say, "It's a God thing" often, we will need to first learn to say this other phrase. It has to do with our willingness to face up to the fact that there is darkness in us still. The phrase we must learn to speak is, "It's a sin thing!"
When we speak these words, "It's a sin thing!" we don't do so in accusation of others. Rather, it is a confessional statement all of us followers of Christ need to speak of ourselves. We take honest inventory, see our hearts and lives as they really are, and admit that the "sin thing" still has a grip on us. We need to admit that we still struggle with the lure, influence, and power of sin in our lives.
Making the Connection
1. What is one "God thing" you have experienced in the past year?
How have you seen the "sin thing" at work in your life?
Knowing and Being Known
2. John declares that God is light. What are some of the parallels we can draw between light and God?
3. What is the first claim the false teachers were making about sin (1:6)?
Read 1 John 1:5-7
What did John teach about sin to correct this faulty understanding (1:7)?
4. How have your relationships with others become more authentic since you have confessed your sins and become a follower of Christ?
Read 1 John 1:8-9
5. What is the second claim the false teachers were making about sin (1:8)?
What did John teach about sin to correct this false understanding (1:9)?
6. What are some of the traits and characteristics you see in the lives of people who are working overtime to prove to themselves, others, and God, that they are "good people" and not sinful?
How have you experienced freedom and peace when you have admitted your sinfulness to God?
7. John uses very strong words to describe those who have confessed their sins. He says we are "purified from all unrighteousness." If you are a follower of Christ, describe the way that God sees you, in light of John's teaching.
Read 1 John 1:10-2:2
8. What is the third claim the false teachers were making about sin (1:10)?
What do people prove about themselves if they accept this false claim (1:10)?
What is John's message for followers of Christ who do sin (2:1-2)?
9. If Jesus Christ is the final and complete sacrifice for our sins, what would He say to those who feel the need to measure up or do something to "pay for" their sins?
10. Jesus Christ did not just die for "my sins" but for the sins of the whole world. How should this truth influence the way you will conduct yourself in the coming week in one of the following places:
In your workplace
In your neighborhood
In your shops or restaurants
In your home
Celebrating and Being Celebrated
Take some time as a group to praise God for some of the "God things" you have experienced in your own lives over the past months. Let God know that you see His hand working and that you celebrate His power at work.
Loving and Being Loved
Talk as a group about one member of your church who consistently communicates the love of Jesus to others. He or she could be an up-front kind of leader, or a behind-the-scenes person whom most people don't usually notice. Agree as a group that each of you will drop this person a note or give him or her a personal word of affirmation in the coming week. Extend the love of Christ to this person who has been so faithfully walking in the light.
Serving and Being Served
Jesus did not just die for His followers. He died for all people: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
If Jesus died for the world, and if God loves the world, we need to be willing to show His love through acts of service and charity. Talk as a group about one practical act of service you can extend to a person or family that does not yet know that Jesus died as the sacrifice for their sins. Contact this person or family and offer the service your group has agreed to extend.
Let your service connect with their life on three levels:
1. Bathe this experience in prayer. Pray that your loving service will show the love of God.
2. Bring your service with hearts filled with joy.
3. If those you serve ask why you have cared for them, let them know that your lives are overwhelmed by the love and grace of God and that you want to extend this to others.
Facing False Claims
In this first chapter, John identifies three false claims about sin. These claims always begin with the words, "If we claim ..." These deceptive claims were being lifted up by false teachers who were seeking to infect others with their erroneous understanding of sin. After identifying each false claim, John draws out some of the implications of this misunderstanding. Then John corrects the false teaching with the truth. He directs us to the correct teaching by using the key word if. Once we have the correct understanding before us, John draws out the reality of the powerful and life-changing implications of walking in the truth.
It is striking to notice that the false claims made by these deceptive teachers almost two thousand years ago still exist today. Not only are they being propagated by false teachers, but they lurk in the corners of each of our hearts. We need to shed light on these inaccurate views of sin and let the truth be known!
Look in the Mirror
A prison of pride is filled with self-made men and women determined to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps even if they land on their own rear ends. It does not matter what they did or to whom they did it or where they will end up; it only matters that "I did it my way."
You've seen the prisoners. You've seen the alcoholic who won't admit his drinking problem. You've seen the woman who refuses to talk with anyone about her fears. You've seen the businessman who adamantly rejects help, even when his dreams are falling apart.
Perhaps to see such a prisoner all you have to do is look in the mirror. -Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven (Word, 1990)
The sins we see easiest in others we have learned first in ourselves; we know their behavior and their signs from the inside. Though they deny the personal fault, gossips spot gossips a mile away, as wolves know wolves by a familial scent. Is he neglectful? Impatient? Judgmental? Self-indulgent? Jealous? Scornful? Abusive? So, sometime and somewhere, were you-
Recall: that if you did not commit the sin against your spouse, yet you did, once, against your parents, your adolescent classmates, your friends, your colleagues at work, the teller in the bank, another race, another class of people, the poor. Or you did in your heart what you didn't have the temerity to do openly with your hands.
But recall these sins not to torment yourself, rather to rejoice in the forgiveness God has given you-you personally-since God was always at the other end of your sin, and did not return judgment for iniquity, but mercy. -Walter Wangerin, Jr., Measuring the Days (HarperCollins, 1993)
Excerpted from 1 John by John Ortberg Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 1999 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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