Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. INTRODUCTION: Last week we learned that the self-sacrificing love of Jesus towards us is what we should show towards fellow church members. This week John continues to describe what this means and ties this with his oft-repeated theme about the two paths: the path of light which leads to eternal life; and the path of darkness which leads to eternal death. Let's dig in! I. TEAR IT DOWN? A. Think of someone about whom you had (or have) harsh feelings. Got that person in mind? Are your feelings for that person gradually getting better and better? 1. If you "work on it" will your feelings get better? B. I have this "wonderful" wood porch that wraps around three sides of my house. I could have bought a house with a poured cement porch, but I was excited that this house had a genuine wood porch. (Stupid me!) 1. Real wood (of the cheap variety) swells and contracts. From the very first year we moved into our new house,some portion of our porch has needed some repair. So every year I would replace a piece or two of the porch. I used "better" wood for my repairs. a. This is the "patch" mentality. I am a "patcher" by nature. b. Finally, Dennis Baker and my wife noted that my porch was getting worse and worse looking. They told me that I should have the whole floor ripped out and replaced with a better grade wood. This is the "make it new" mentality. C. Open your Bibles to 1 John 5:1-4. Read. D. Does John subscribe to the "patch" or "make it new" approach to the Christian life in these verses? 1. What does John mean when he says (v.1) the believer "is born of God?" (A completely new relationship.) 2. Remember, I asked you at the very beginning if you could, by hard work, gradually get along better with someone that has "banged heads" with you? a. Can you? (Patching gives you the appearance of making it better. You can patch for a long time. But in the end, the patching does not make itright. You cannot force yourself to like an unlikable person. You need a completely changed heart, you need to be "born again!") II. BORN OF GOD A. Why is it that "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God?" (v.1) 1. Do you follow John's logic? a. What do you think he means? 2. Does this belief cause us to "tear it all down?" (There are two possible meanings here. First, Jesus wasa very new way of understanding God. God's people were generally surprised with Jesus' approach. Second, Jesus gives us the possibility of eternal life. This new life Jesus gives us is from God. So, yes, this is a completely new construct.) B. Since Jesus is the "kinder, gentler" vision of God, why does John say (v.1) "everyone who loves the father loves the child as well?" 1. Wouldn't it make more sense to say "everyone who loves the child loves the father as well?" 2. Don't we normally look on Jesus as being "more loveable?" (I do not think this is what John is talking about. When we are "born of God," God becomes our father. John assumes that sons and daughters love their father. His point is that since we are all children of God, and therefore one family, we should love the "other children" as well. Verse 2 expands this by applying the idea to all of God's children.) C. When it comes to fellow believers, can you see the difference between "patching" and "tearing down" the old in favor of a "new relationship?" Patching is gritting your teeth and trying to get along with "Mongo, the terrible." The new relationship is realizing that Mongo, with all his warts, is your brother.) III. LOVING YOUR BROTHER: ANOTHER VIEW A. Last week we learned that loving our brothers involved the same kind of self-sacrificing attitude Jesus had towards us. This week John seems to give us another angle on this. John gives us one more in his series of "reality checks." 1. How does v. 2 say we KNOW we love the children of God? (a. If we love God; and b. Obey (Put two columns on the blackboard: one entitled "Love God" and the other "Obey.")) 2. How does v. 3 define "love for God?" (Obey) 3. Do both our columns end up at the same place: obedience? 4. Does loving God and loving our brother really only mean that we obey? 5. Notice that "faith" gets sort of "stuck" onto the end of v.4. What part does John say that faith plays in this? Or did John just stick faith in as an afterthought? a. Is our faith "the victory that has overcome the world?" (No.) (Let's trace John's logic for a minute. He says (v.1) that if we believe in Jesus we are "born of God." He also says (v.4) that everyone who is born of God overcomes the world. Why is this true? Verse 4 tells us that we have "victory" over the world through our faith. Jesus won the victory over the world. He allowed us to be "born of God." We grasp His victory only by faith. But John tells us that the "reality check" of whether we really mean what we say (ie, whether our faith is genuine, whether we have really "grasped" His victory) is whether we obey.) B. Generally, my children act as if obeying is burdensome. Verse 3 says our obedience is not burdensome. 1. If you agree, why is this true? (If you have the right attitude, you will want to obey (most of the time!)) IV. THE WITNESSES A. Read 1 John 5:5-8. Do you remember that in 1 John chapter 1, we discussed how John sounded like a lawyer explaining why he was such a great and reliable witness? Well, he is talking about the courtroom again. 1. What does "plaintiff" John want to prove to us? What does he want us to believe? (v.5 -- "Jesus is the Son of God.") 2. Who does John have lined up to testify to that effect? (vv.7-8 -- Spirit, water and blood.) 3. I hate it when my witnesses have a different story. John says he has his "ducks in a row" because (v. 8) all three of his witnesses agree. 4. (List all three witnesses on the blackboard) Tell me how each of these three testify, the substance of their testimony, and whether they are necessary witnesses? a. Spirit: How does the Spirit testify? Is it a necessary witness? (We cannot understand God's word to us without the aid of the Holy Spirit. He is a "key" witness.) b. Water: What is the testimony of the water? What does John mean when he says (v.6) Jesus "came by water?" (1) "Water" sounds like baptism. Did Jesus need to be baptized? If not, how is the water a true witness? If Jesus did not need to be baptized, perhaps water is a "false" witness? c. Blood: What is the testimony of the blood? (1) In v. 6 John says "water and blood," not just water. What does the blood have to add that the water does not? (There are several reasonable and possible interpretations of the testimony of the water and the blood. I think the water testifies to the humanity of Jesus. (See 1 John 4:2) He came as a man and as an example. To show He was a man, and to be an example of the new birth, He was baptized. However, the "new birth" would have meant nothing if Jesus had not died. Therefore, the blood testifies to his death on our behalf. Can you see how the "testimony" of the water is not complete without the "testimony" of the blood? Finally, the testimony of the Holy Spirit not only allows us to understand, it shows that Jesus was also fully God.) B. Let's continue by reading vv.9-11. John gives us another one of his "reality checks." 1. Must we believe the testimony of the three witnesses? (Yes. John says if we believe the testimony of a mere man, we certainly should believe the testimony of God.) 2. What, specifically, are the "fact issues" on which we, the jury, must find for God? (v.11: 1) Belief in the Son. 2) Belief that the Son allows us to accept the gift of eternal life from the Father.) a. Do all Christians believe that Jesus was the "Son of God?" Do they all believe in eternal life? (Amazingly, no! Within the last year I have read at least a couple of articles in which clergyman in prominent Christian denominations were denying that Jesus was God. My general recollection is that One clergy member seemed to disbelieve most of the Bible and wrote that when God manifested Himself He might very well call Himself "George" and tell us that we were taking the writings (of the Bible) far too seriously.) 3. Does John say that these are simply "theological questions" on which reasonable minds can differ? (No! He says if you do not believe the very plain teaching of the Bible on the nature of Jesus and eternal life you are calling God a liar. Query why someone would spend his (or her) life in "the service" of some program in which the author was a fraud and a liar?) C. Read v. 12. Friends, this is the final division. You either have eternal life or you have eternal death. If you have the Son, you can know that you have eternal life now! Praise God! V. NEXT WEEK: "Total Confidence." Study 1 John 5:13-21.