Unlocking 1 John

Tue, 17/09/2013 - 10:15 -- James Oakley

This coming weekend, I'll be at Otford Manor, the base of Oak Hall Expeditions, for a teaching weekend. Roughly 4 times a year, they run weekends under the title of "Unlocking the Bible", at which a speaker takes one book of the Bible, and seeks to unpack and apply its main message for today.

Otford Manor

This coming weekend (20-22 September), it's me on 1 John. 1 John is a letter I have long been scared of, because I knew I didn't understand it. Second only to Revelation, it was the book of the New Testament that I was most incapable of summarising on the back of an envelope when asked.

I decided it was time to change that, and the best way to get to know a book of the Bible is to commit to teaching it to others. I did some background reading over a period of about a year. Then from April to July this year, I preached through it at the 10.30 services here in Kemsing. That was a series of 12 sermons, and now it's time to step back and look at the letter as a whole. This will help me to consolidate all that I've learnt as I've tried to let 1 John get under my skin; I hope and pray it will help others as we seek to unfold the book as a unit.

Please don't get me wrong. There is still a lot I don't understand about 1 John. There is a vast literature out there that I've barely scratched the surface of. In a few years time, having preached through many other parts of the Bible, it will be time to return to 1 John again. But I've made a lot of progress in the past 18 months. The Bible's a big book, because God is a big God.

Still time to join in

If you'd like to join us, there's still space. You can book online if you want. If you live locally and just wanted to come for the day on Saturday, they can arrange that too if you give them a ring.

Let me set the scene a bit. God has a plan to save the human race. It was a plan formed before time began, and a plan that will reach its climax at the end of time when Jesus returns and his people will know total joy. We live in between. John wants us to be certain of our place within God's plan - he wants us to know that we have eternal life, not just wistfully wish that we might.

If that's to happen, we need to know how to tell. Many Christians today are not certain, because they look in the wrong places for reassurance that they are part of God's chosen people.

Many Christians are also confused today, because (just as in John's day) there are many different sets of belief and patterns of behaviour, that are all claimed to be "Christian". How are we to distinguish the real thing from the cheap imitation? We must learn how to do this. If we don't, we might be genuine Christians who feel inadequate because of others claiming to be "better" than we are - are we actually the real thing after all? Or, we might be misguided Christians who have a false sense of security, when actually we're following a fraudulent copy of the real Jesus.

But, once we've learnt to look in the right place, and once we've allowed Jesus himself to tell us how to recognise the real him, we can be certain of our place in God's sweeping eternal purposes. And that is a wonderful thing, because there are some great blessings that flow from such certainty.

Come and join us, if you're free, and we'll explore this together.

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