Friday, March 09, 2007

Sunday School Lesson: Love is Light

Purpose: To motivate us to appreciate and live in the light of God’s love in a world of darkness.

Scripture: 1 John 2:7-17

This week we start a new series of lessons. This series follows the previous series perfectly. Last quarter we studied how in Jesus Christ we have a perfect image or portrait of God. Most of those lessons were taken from the writings of John in the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John. In this new series we will discover how the Church is called to be a portrait of Christ. These lessons will all be from the writings of John in 1 John and Revelation.

This week’s lesson is from 1 John and follows scripturally directly from our December 17 lesson. That lesson was from 1 John 1:1 – 2:6 and was titled Walking in the Light. The purpose of the December 17 lesson was: To show that the reality of the Incarnation enables us to walk in fellowship with God and one another. This week’s lesson follows thematically directly from last week’s lesson which was taken from John 15:1-17. the purpose of last week’s lesson was: To show that true life is life in Christ and that such life bears fruit worthy of Him.

From John 15:

Joh 15:4-7 ESV Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (5) I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (7) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

In the lesson last week I asked several times throughout the lesson these questions:

Jesus said: “Abide in me..”

How do we abide in Jesus?

How can we tell that we are abiding in Jesus?

Our answer was that we abide in Jesus by following His Word and that we can tell that we are abiding by the fruit we produce.

We should have gone back to the December 17 lesson. That lesson gives us a better answer to: How do we abide in Jesus?

1Jn 1:5-7 ESV This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (6) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

These were the key verses from that lesson and they do contain picture of Jesus as the perfect image of God: In Him is no darkness at all. Do these verses also contain a portrait of believers? In what way do believers portray Christ?

Back to abiding:

1Jn 2:6 ESV ....whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

How do we abide in Christ?

So the new question for this week is:

How did Jesus walk?

How do we go about walking as He walked?

What are some adjectives that come to mind that describe how Jesus walked?

1Jn 2:7-8 ESV Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. (8) At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

Any idea what commandment John is writing about?

We would probably look back and think that he was referring to the statements in verse 6: to walk as Jesus walked. How can we further define walking, abiding, and this old/new commandment.

John is very likely also referring to words of Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel:

Joh 13:34-35 ESV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (35) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

In what sense is that commandment both old and new?

It was old in the sense that it was already there in the Old Testament:

Lev 19:18 ESV ….. you shall love your neighbor as yourself….

The Jews were taught this from earliest childhood. Jesus also taught this as an old commandment:

Mat 22:36-40 ESV "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (37) And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

The command to love each other was also old in the sense that this was not the first time these Christian believers had heard it. John was probably nearly 100 years old when this epistle was written. He had witnessed almost the first century of Christianity. This commandment was taught by Jesus and had been taught by the Church from the very beginning. From the very first day of entry into the Christian life, believers had been taught that the law of love must be the law of their lives. This commandment went a long way back into the history of God’s interaction with man and a long way back in the lives of the Christians to whom John was writing.

So how was it new?

It was new because of the way Jesus made it new. It was new as to who was considered a neighbor and worthy of love. Jesus included even sinners, who under the law would have been hated instead of loved. Jesus included even Gentiles, who under the law were despised. Jesus widened the boundaries of love until there was no one outside it’s embrace.

It was new because of the lengths to which it would go. No lack of response, nothing that anyone could ever do to Him, could turn Jesus’ love to hate. He even prayed for God’s mercy on those who nailed Him to the cross.

1Jn 2:9-11 ESV Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (11) But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

What did John mean by the words “light” and “darkness”?

If you dislike someone, does that mean you are not a Christian or cannot be a Christian?

Is there any room for hate in a Christian heart?

How are claiming to be a Christian and loving one’s neighbor related?

How do we regard our neighbors?

Do we regard them as negligible? Do we make all of our plans without taking our neighbors into consideration at all?

Do we regard them with contempt? Do we think that they are all fools when compared with our intellectual level, so their opinions should just be brushed aside?

Do we see them as a nuisance? They are here and we have to interact with them or even care for them when necessary. But do we sometimes begrudge that necessity?

Do we see them as enemies? As our competitors?

Or do we see them as brothers and sisters?

If we walk in the light we are in fellowship with God. True?

Who else will we be in fellowship with?

Love and light go together as do hatred and darkness.

Is Christian love just a feeling or something that we can agree to intellectually?

What is required for a feeling or thoughts of love to actually become love?

What love does God hate?

1Jn 2:15-17 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. (17) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Verse 15 says not to love the world. What does that mean?

Is the "world" the earth itself?

Are we commanded to not love the earth and all the natural beauty created by God?

Is the world the people of the world?

We have already been told in this lesson that we are to love our neighbor. Is this a reversal? Are we now told that we are not to love the people of the world?

Joh 3:16 ESV "For God so loved the world (the people of the world), that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God loved the world, but we are not supposed to?

So what is John speaking of when he says: “Do not love the world”?

Can I love a beautiful sunset?

Can I love to see a small child grin?

Can I love the family pet?

What is this world that I am commanded not to love?

Eph 6:12 ESV For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

1Jn 5:19 ESV We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The world in this sense does not mean the world in general, for God did indeed love the world and the people which he had made; it means the world which, in fact, had and has forsaken the God who made it.

What restrictions should we place on our affections?

What things in the world are you tempted to love?

What would you categorize as the “desire of the flesh”?

What would you categorize as the “desire of the eyes”?

What would you categorize as the “pride in riches”?

Why are the things of the world so enticing to us?

What worldly things or values do we substitute for God?

What are some ways that Christians disagree concerning the definition of worldliness?