Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The honeymoon may be over.

I had a feeling I wouldn't like this 1 John study and it's turning out just that way. Unfortunately.

The evangelical reading of 1 John, if you don't know, is that the letter includes "tests" for the reader to measure up against. So, for example, if the reader has a sense of love - and "love" means quite literally "charity," not emotion - towards everyone in their religious community, they can enjoy some confidence that they are "alright." Adiuva me, Domine!

It so happened that my study leader engaged me in a discussion about my feelings after the plenary worship time and lecture. I told her that I had been fine with the booklets on the previous epistles (1 & 2 Thess., James) but that I had not been brought up to read 1 John in this self-examining way. And while I might reflect on my conduct at the end of each day and ask forgiveness for offenses and omissions, I don't dabble in those larger concerns of ultimate destiny.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
But instead of acknowledging that, yes, the booklet questions and commentary dwell upon these "tests" for believers, the study leader denied that the material approached 1 John like that!

So, here we go with direct quotations:
  • [John] is concerned that those in his congregation not be deceived about their Christian standing.

  • John supplies tests to destroy false assurance and to confirm faith that is genuine.

  • [John] asserts that if you believe Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh, if you live a righteous life compatible with the nature of God, and if you habitually express love consistent with the character of God, you can be certain that you are a child of God.

  • [John] is careful to give both subjective and objective tests.

  • [John] begins an explanation to clarify the difference between true believers and the unfortunate peole who are self-deceived. ... they have a false sense of security. ... John's intention is to give assurance to those who know God and seek to live in obedience to Him. He intends to remove assurance from those who do not know God or who do, but are presuming on His grace.
And so throughout. But there's more:
Our spirituality is judged not only by our prayer life and Scripture study and meditation, but by the way those prayers and Bible truths are translated into action in our lives.
Note well, it says, "not only."

When we were going over the questions, I wanted the group's opinion on #10C in Lesson 3, on pericope 1 John 3:19-24. The question asks, "How does God grant us assurance and confidence about ourselves?" Look at verse 22: "and receive from him anything we ask." (NIV) So I asked whether a track record of answered prayers was commendation from God and I received a resounding "no" from a couple of people. That's a relief. But isn't that what the text says?

We skipped ahead a couple of questions to #12 which says, "State the conditions given in verse 22 for receiving positive answers to our prayers." I wrote, "obey God's commands and do what pleases him." As if I know what that is. Skipped another couple of questions to #14 in which we were directed to read John 15:1-9, which says in part, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ... bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. The question asks "What further assurance do we have that Jesus abides in us?" Hands down, answered prayer.

I could say more but that seems to be the gist of the 1 John study. Without results, we are nothing. So I'm back to being in a heap o' trouble again. Just as I was starting to calm down and relax.

No comments: