Life Group Notes for Sunday 28 February – 1 John 1:5-10
5 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. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5–10
The big idea from the message: Jesus is love and offers forgiveness that is final and forever. If we say we are in fellowship with him, we will begin to act like Jesus.
Light represents two concepts
perfection, righteousness, goodness, purity
knowledge, discernment and understanding truth
Five “if” statements:
verse 6 – “if we say”
verse 7 – “if we do” (walk)
verse 8 – “if we say”
verse 9 – “if we do” (confess)
verse 10 – “if we say”
What key things did you take away from the message?
Confession is not “telling God new information” or “self-flagellation”, it is “agreeing with God about sin”.
John uses the “defiled / purity” paradigm of salvation to address a culture of shame. Under the Law, defilement made you an outcast of society. It was originally intended as a kind of sign to show us in our pride that we could not, by our own strength and power, keep ourselves pure. This is the emphasis that John makes where he draws on the idea of fellowship: we can’t have fellowship because we are defiled. We are outcasts. The intended lesson is that we need God to cleanse us through Christ so that we can have true fellowship with others, which involves extended “cleansing” to others how have wronged us.
How do we view confession in light of three perspectives of sin that defile us that were highlighted in Romans …
Sin that has been done BY us defiles us and bring shame?
Sin that has been done TO us defiles us and bring shame?
Sin that has been done in our presence defiles us and bring shame?
Being “in the light” means ” knowledge, discernment and understanding truth” and therefore must include the whole gospel – both the need for confession AND the reality of our present purity in Christ.
How did this week’s sermon help you to forgive others?
What about those people who don’t agree about their sin against you? How do we forgive them?
What about those who have really hurt us and have left deep scars, how do we forgive them?
This year the UK is set to welcome an estimated 300,000 Hong Kong Nationals to the UK as the country introduces a new visa that will give residents the right to come and live in the UK. Because of this, we are taking part in an initiative to help welcome them to our city. These Hong Kongers may be looking for a new church or simply wanting to make new friends, either way, we are going to be here for them.
It is our hope and prayer that by doing a good job of welcoming people arriving from Hong Kong this could then help shape wider immigration policy in the UK as well as being a direct source of influence in China.
We know that it takes effort to put on a good welcome and we can’t just stand by and wait for people to arrive. We have to be intentional about reaching out and make the first move. If you would like to be part of the steering team that will help our whole church welcome Hong Kongers this year please do get in touch – you will receive training, learn to work cross-culturally and learn more about the culture and values of people arriving in the UK from Hong Kong
These are the things that we are passionate about repeating over and over again and as we go into yet another week of lockdown the Bible speaks loud and clear to us:
“let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
How do we do this in the digital world? Here are some suggests on how to get the most out of online church:
Come ready – I dare say that if you roll out of bed at 10:30(ish), you’re not going to be fully engaged in the service. If you’re fumbling around trying to make coffee, locate your Bible or something else your mind is not ready to worship.
Come prayerfully – You need to prepare your heart as much as you prepare your body. Consider spending some time in prayer before the service, to pray for the service. That the worship would be honouring and the sermon would be impactful. I remember years ago speaking to someone who didn’t like the style of worship we have .. I asked them, since they were so passionate about worship, why they didn’t attend our pre-service prayer meeting in which we pray that our worship would honour God. Needless to say they got the point! Our worship leaders and preachers need your help. So pray for them, that what they do would both honour God and serve you.
Be fully present – there are lots and lots of digital distractions. However, there than give in the temptation of jumping onto Facebook to check your fame status mid-service, choose to stay committed and engaged.
Take notes – unless you have the memory of Deep Blue you’re not going to remember everything. Indeed, taking notes is a good way to get the sermon from the ear to the heart. It’s also useful for when Life Group comes around and we get to discuss how the sermon is making an impact on us. Taking notes is also an excellent way of staying present.
Be Aware of the limitations of technology – because our computers, phones, and televisions are so often used to consume entertainment, it takes work for us to connect with God in this way. Let’s not get confused between entertainment and worship! One thing to consider is being intentional about making the space in which you will engage more conducive for worship.
Let’s do something to stand against the inclination to merely consume.
6. Avoid YouTube – … I know I know .. YouTube is easy and slick and …. BUT … there is zero engagement in YouTube. What I mean is this .. church is not something you watch but something you are part of. Our chat window should be filled with conversation, prayer requests and encouragement. Instead, it’s actually pretty dull most of the time. Let’s change that. Let’s encourage one another, lift each other up in prayer, share with others what God is speaking to you about! I guaranteed this will transform your online experience.
7. Engage (Like, Share, Comment) – Every week we post invitations on Instgram and Facebook inviting people to join our online church. You can share those posts and make them go further. Why not send a personal invitation telling them you’ll see them online!
Life Group Notes for Sunday 21 February – 1 John 1:1-4
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. – 1 John 1:1–4 (ESV)
Big idea from the message: Jesus is love and we can’t hope to have or give love if we aren’t connected to the source of love.
Eternal – “That which was from the beginning”
Manifest – “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it”
To be Experienced – “we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands”
The Foundation for Fellowship – so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”
The Foundation of Joy – “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
What key things did you take away from the message?
What are the big differences between “Jesus is love” and “Jesus shows/displays love”? Why is this distinction important?
Why is it important to know that Jesus came in the flesh? How does this doctrine connect to Romans 12:1 where Paul wrote to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”?
In what ways have you experienced Jesus?
If Jesus is the “foundation of fellowship”, how can we define “Christian fellowship”?
What did you think about the quote from Craig Groeschel: “We might impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses.”
How did this week’s sermon help you to love others?
Is there any specific thing that the Lord is challenging you to address this week?
This coming Sunday we are going to start a sermon series in the Apostle John’s first letter. We will be teaching this when we are not in Romans.
There are many good reasons to read and study this letter, not least because John ranks only second to the Apostle Paul in the number of letters he wrote to the church. In fact, his Gospel and his the book of Revelation take up more lines than any of Paul’s letters. What we are going to discover as we study through this book is that “the Thing Called Love” is actually a person called Jesus. Additionally, we will discover that the only way we can bring genuine and lasting love to those around us is to ourselves be completely satisfied in His love for us.
Here are some other things we’ll point out along the way:
John uncovers the divinity and humanity of Christ in a way that Paul does not. And, John makes doctrine put on shoes and walk right in front of you. If I can use an analogy from a recent sermon in Romans …. John pleads with us to “come down the mountain and face the mess”. As a result, John writes with immense clarity about the nature of Jesus – who is He in both his divinity and humanity. This is the most exciting thing – we’re going to discover Jesus!
John helps us to face the mess at the bottom of the mountain. At one point (1 John 2:15) John writes about what we are not to love … “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” In other words, if you love the world and the things that are world, you can’t love Jesus because He is not of this world. The only way to raise the world out of the mess is to 1) love Jesus b) allow His love to flow through you.
John helps us see that doctrine is equally as important as holiness and love in the Christian life. we would do well to hear John’s words. He doesn’t separate docrine and “doing”. It matters what you believe about Jesus but John doesn’t hold back to show that holiness and love are indispensable. An important point is that the gospel shows us that God has cleaned our records in heaven by the blood of Christ, AND he has also cleaned our hearts on earth by the power of his Spirit. It’s vital that these two truths are held in tandem.
In our monthly men’s bible study in February, we continued to look at Paul’s letter to Titus. We used an online tool called Google Docs to create a bible study map of verse1 of Titus chapter 3. I’ve attached it here so you can see. It’s a pretty rough format but we hope that you’ll be blessed by it.
The main outcomes were:
God desires the spiritual health of His people and as given people the task of bringing that about in the church
The Fall has meant spiritual health doesn’t come easy
Paul was keen for Titus to restore spiritual health and this came by teaching certain things that fit with bringing it about.
I know you are discouraged and distressed this morning. The trials and temptations you’ve faced this past week have brought you low. Suffering clouds your vision. Sin’s hangover—guilt, shame, and doubt—still pounds in your soul. The hardships you face and the failures you recounted to me loom large in your life. They seem to be what is most true, most real, and most compelling about your experience as a Christian right now. I know you have prayed about these things. You are seeking to honor Christ amidst your difficulties, and trying your best to take loving, constructive steps in your contentious relationship. I know you have asked for forgiveness for choosing to give in to desires that took you from God’s good and ancient life-giving path (Jer 6:16). In spite of this, you remain heavy-hearted and downcast. May I help you shift your gaze upward?
You see, what is most true, most real, most compelling, (and most long-lasting) about your life are not the multiple places of suffering, nor your two-steps-forward, one-step-back battle against particular sins. What is most foundationally true is that you are a beloved child of the Father, a co-heir with Jesus Christ. You are a saint! Yes, it’s true! The apostle Paul used this designation for God’s people repeatedly (1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2) and it characterizes the members of Christ’s body throughout the ages. You are a saint who suffers and a saint who sins, but a saint nonetheless. This is ground-zero of the Christian life. It’s your most basic and primary identity. You and I are “in Christ” (a term Paul uses repeatedly to highlight the seismic identity shift that happens when we become Christians). Do you see how intimately connected you are with Jesus Christ even in a week filled with deep disappointment and discouragement?
In light of the events on Capital Hill, and the wider lockdown implications in the UK, I started working on writing a brief post about democracy, the freedom of speech and the Biblical view. As I started to read around the issue it soon became evident that I felt more and more unqualified to write about things I really don’t know much about. So, forgive me if I miss some things here but I do want to comment on some thing that the news has been reporting recently and some things I’ve read on the web and twitter.
The first issue is what happened on Capital Hill. Extraorinary scenes and we do well to strongly oppose whoever was responsible (more on that later). However, I’m not going to write about that, but what the news and social media reported at the time.
Reuters News agency rightly reported that a photograph that was being widely shared on social media was fake and had been digitally altered to make it look like Antifa (the white supremacist group) had take responsibility for the events on Capital Hill. Here’s the photo:
You can’t believe everything you see on social media. This was not reported by CNN but instead CNN reported that they were “pro-Trump rioters”. However, the big story of course was that US President Donald Trump seem (at least) to encourage this behaviour in a speech that he gave before the events tool place. Again we would probably all agree that someone in his position, with his responsibility, seemingly promoting the storming of one of the highest government buildings in the country could be seen as promoting a coup. Even if we were to argue that his words were misplaced, we’d still all agree that the President of USA should go out of his way to ensure his words are clear and all for peaceful protest. Still, this was enough for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to pull the plug on the presidents twitter account. About this event, biblical cultural commentator David Robertson of the WeeFlea.com wrote:
In reality, the whole thing was more farce than revolution. This was no attempted coup. President Trump behaved in an appalling manner, hyping up his more eccentric conspiratorial supporters, with the result that some of them went beyond all decent norms, people were killed, and America was made a laughing stock. He should be held to account for his behaviour.
What he says next is cruicial to the debate
Despite all this though, Trump isn’t actually the greatest threat to democracy. Indeed the reaction to the event is a far greater threat to democracy than the event itself. And that is something that should greatly concern the Church, because we will inevitably be caught up in the backlash
The issue? The powerful corporations decided to mute the debate. Should Trump be held accountable? Yes. Should Pence have removed him from office? In my opinion, yes. Should he be allowed to continue his diatribe on Twitter? Again, in my opinion yes. Why? Because the best way to move a debate forward is to allow the debate.
What does the Bible command us to do when faced with differing opinions? Paul wrote in Romans 14:1 to not “quarrel over opinions”. He was fearful that the Galatian church had become enemies because of the debate (Galatians 4:16) but in his letter to young Timothy he pleased with him to continue the dialogue (2 Tim 2:24-26). As Christians we are not called to silence those with whom we disagree but to do what Jesus and Paul did and reason with them (Luke 2:39-52), Acts 17:2) all the while keeping our speech pure (Eph 4:29, Col 4:6).
Many people cheered a few year ago when stricter rules were applied to Imams who were preaching a more extreme version of Islam that could encourage their followers to commit crimes. Was that right? I think that anyone who encourages others to commit crimes needs to feel the weight of the law – not the weight of social media bans and being cancelled. If there is a case to answer fo President Trump or Franklin Graham – let them be arrested and tried. This is democracy. The silencing by large corporations on the basis of disaggreement should be condemned.
This issue of course is impacting Christianity. An example I just cited was the cancelling of Franklin Graham’s UK tour by the venues he was due to appear at. The reason for the cancellation are actually irrelevant and even though Pink News called him a “hate preacher” and the events “anti LGBT+” there is very little evidence, if any, that he falls into the same category as Anjem Choudary.
The concern is this: social media (fake news, digitally altered video, cancel culture) is allowing unelected individuals to dictate ethics and morality and what might be accepted today, might not be acceptable tomorrow. Indeed, British philosopher Peter Hitchens argues this case at the Oxford Union which well worth you time and effort to watch:
“Fake news, Facebook reposts, “watch this video before it’s taken down!” Our society is infatuated with conspiracies. ” writes my good friend Matt Kottman. If you’re looking for a really well balanced, biblical exhortation about conspiracy theories and how Christians should approach them then can I recommend that you carve out 5 minutes or so and head over to Mat’s blog. Check him out here
On 3rd January we will be “breaking bread” together. This is what is also known as “communion” or “The Lord’s Table”. As we can’t meet together in-person we are giving you advance notice so that you can purchase the bread and the juice/wine and take part at home. We are aware that in previous months we have distributed the elements to people’s homes but given the new Tier 4 restrictions, we are not going to be doing it this time.
Do I have to purchase special wafers?
Answer: no not at all. Although Jesus, when he first instituted this practise, would have used unleaved bread we think there is no point focusing on the elements themselves when Jesus said plainly to do it to remember Him. If you want to purchase Matzo wafers or something similar then great, otherwise a corner from a loaf of bread is more than adequate!
What about the drink, what should I buy?
Again, there is no doubt that Jesus would have drunk a diluted wine of some kind (In the New Testament wine was probably cut with 2 parts water to 1 part wine). However, please don’t go out and buy a bottle of wine just to take part with us on the 3rd! Grape juice, wine or even squash is adequate! Again, we want to focus on the meaning of “The Lord’s Table” rather than the process or mechanics.
What about family, should they take it?
We normally leave this up to the discretion of the parents. The only direction we would give is that we see this as something for believers. It’s good for your family to know this and to break bread with them, even if they do not participate (don’t’ excluded them).
Someone humorously once joked that Malachi was “the Italian Prophet” because his name could be pronounced as if it were Italian. Well, I’m not sure about that but I do know that the book of Malachi is certainly worth studying. So, coming up in January we are taking a short walk through the book of Malachi. Our four-week mini-series will teach us to love the things that God loves. Through the words of the prophet Malachi, we learn God’s love for his people, his name, his covenant, and His messenger. These same passions are to be present in the lives of his people today.
I’m so grateful for the young(er) men who will be teaching this as I can some time away from the pulpit to plan and prepare for the completion of our sermon series through the book of Romans. They won’t be teaching verse-by-verse as we normally would do – that means that although their sermons will be expository (from a text), they won’t be covering the whole book of Malachi. Instead, in Life Groups, there will be an opportunity to read the entire book together.
This year we are not able to get together for our normal Christmas Day service so instead we’re going to gather online via Zoom and have a big church Christmas Day Bible Read. The idea is just to set our minds on Christ and be reminded, amongst the busyness of the day, of the reason for the season.
Church members will get a family passage via email this week. Please divide the text amongst yourselves and come and read with us! Here’s the link that you need
One of the most common questions I get asked is around is whether or not a Christian and lose their salvation. Of course there are many many voices that speak into this issue – some are helpful, some not so. I’ve always approached the topic thinking about who God is and how salvation comes to us in the first place.
John the Apostle is probably the writer I go to most frequently to understand this issue. John wrote in 1 John 5:11 that “this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life and this life is in His son”.
I take this to mean that the life He has given us is eternal. It lasts forever, and cannot die. It’s not temporary. And, interestingly it’s not something we have to wait for. John 5:24 Jesus says “I tell you the truth who ever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, He has crossed over from death to life”. The present tense “has eternal life” is the mark of someone who has been born again. This life starts at the moment of salvation and we currently posses it. So the life that we have, has been given to us by God, and we have already started to participate in the life of the age to come.
God’s ability to Keep
For me this issue is really all about God’s ability to keep us. Is God able to save us? Well Jesus Himself was pretty certain that He is: “my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish need to show anyone snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27). 1 Peter 1:3 says “praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and his great mercy he has given us new life into living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.
So this is really an issue of Gods character as opposed to an issue being with our own faithfulness. For example Philippians 1:6 says “I am sure of this that he began a good work in you will bring it to completion”. So this talks about Gods ability and his faithfulness to be able to keep us. Jude said a similar thing in Jude 24 when he said “now to him he was able to keep you from stumbling”. So this is overwhelmingly positively for Gods ability to keep us. None of us are going to slip out of his hands. He’s not going to lose any. God is completely faithful to complete the work that he has started.
So on the issue of “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” I tend to land on the side of “no, once you are saved by God you are kept by God”. There’s just some things that I can’t reconcile in my mind that are about God himself and His character, that would mean, you a Christian cam lose their salvation, that His grace can be outdone by our bad behaviour. Clearly to me, in the New Testament, the main teaching is that once God has done a transforming work – and by that I mean that he has placed a new life in you and given you a new heart and is working on your character to conform you to his image – this cannot be undone.
Can I turn away?
One of the many related questions is this is whether or not someone can turn their back on God. Or … is it possible for a person to decide that they no longer want to be saved, or they no longer desire eternal life or they no longer wish to walk in repentance and obedience and following Christ? Well, this is more problematic because it comes with a whole string of assumptions. For example … by asking the question we are assuming that the person is actually saved. We’re also assuming that we can see into the future and predict that someone who is struggling with their faith will ultimately turn from God and stay that way forever.
So let’s ask a more simple question ….. is it possible for a Christian to decide to become “unsaved”. Answer: “no”. Is it possible for someone who a non-Christian to decide that the Christian faith isn’t for them? Answer: “yes”.
I think someone can decide, even though they may have previously shown all the signs of being born again, they can decide that they no longer want to follow Christ. So the question then becomes did they lose their salvation, or were they never saved to begin with? And that’s the question that I don’t really know the answer to because no one can really know the heart of a person, and whether in time that person will end up coming back to the Lord. We are bound by our current time context, so we can only see what is happening in the past or what is happening now, we have no idea what is going to happen in the future.
The key for us is to continue to do what we are called as Christians to do: abide in Christ. That’s it. We are called into a relationship with the Almighty and we trust that He is able to keep us. From time to time we are going to fall and fail. We are going to have less faith and at other times. We are going even doubt that we are saved. We need to take heart that God never rejects those who come to Him because our salvation depends on him and not us.
I was reading this week a really helpful blog post from 9Marks on how to disagree well with other Christians. Too good not to share so here it is: The consciences of Christians are remarkably similar, since we all have the same Word and the same Spirit. But on the edges of conscience, God has always allowed Christians a surprising degree of latitude in personal scruples. Paul didn’t command the stricter Christians of Romans 14 to get with the program and start eating meat as Jesus allowed. Nor did he command the meat-eaters to end their carnivorous ways on the outside chance they might upset the vegetarians. He expected them to get along until Jesus returned. (We use weak and strong in reference to the faith or the confidence of one’s conscience to engage in a particular activity [cf Rom. 14:22], not in reference to the strength or the weakness of one’s saving faith.)
Christmas has arrived .. more than likely you already have your tree and tinsel up and you’re already Christmas shopping. If we’re not purposeful about this time of year the tendency is that we can become a little too materialistic. Well I have a challenge for us .. let’s commit to putting Jesus at the front and centre of our days. One way you can do that is through a simple Christmas Bible Reading plan. The are lots and lots of Christmas Bible reading plans available so I’ve looked at dozens and brought you some of the best:
Katie Orr’s “Adore Him” is a 12 day bible reading plan that focuses your heart and mind on the person and nature of God Himself, leading to greater worship of Him. You can get it here
From OrganicChristainity comes this brilliant reading plan particularly for omen but also good for those that draw or picture journal. This is another level of reading but it’s sure to bless!
Well there has been one for the women, what about the men? Ok, so here’s a great one for men that includes a devotional too. Good for any time of the year
In our monthly men’s bible study in December we continued to look at Paul’s letter to Titus. We used an online tool called Google Docs to create a bible study map of verse 5-9of Titus chapter 1. I’ve attached it here so you can see. It’s a pretty rough format but we hope that you’ll be blessed by it.
The main outcomes were:
God is.a God of order. The Trinity reflects this, and so everything that God creates also has order.
The Fall has meant disorder which extends to the church
Paul was keen for Titus to restore order in the church, so that instruction and protection could be given
Nick Cady from White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado writes an excellent blog post about the recent news on the COVID vaccine. There are lots and lots of questions still around this but I would recommend this read as an excellent starting point.
With COVID cases and deaths surging around the world, several vaccines are ready to be released to the public. Moderna and Pfizer have developed vaccines in the US with the help of Operation Warp Speed, another vaccine has been developed at Oxford University, and still others are in the works in China.