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Don’t love society.

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1 John 2.15-17.The Greek word κόσμος/kósmos can be a tricky word to translate. Obviously we get our word cosmos from it, which means “universe.” But when ancient Greeks used it, they didn’t mean the entire universe. Just their universe—the harmonious order of things. Their world. Which is why we usually just translate it “world.”But “world” is likewise a tricky word. What do we mean by it? The literal planet we’re planted on? The people of this planet? A segment of this planet, like the English-speaking world; or a segment of time, like the ancient world, or the age to come?Define “world” wrong, and you wind up teaching the wrong idea. Because God so loved the kósmos that he gave his only-begotten son for it. Jn 3.16 So he loves the world, and he wants us to love our fellow Christians, our neighbors, and our enemies—which means pretty much everyone in the world. And that idea would therefore contradict what John’s teaching in today’s passage, in which he tells his readers not to love …

Stages of Christianity.

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1 John 2.12-14.John already stated in previous verses he wrote this letter so his joy might be full, 1Jn 1.4 and so his readers won’t sin. 1Jn 2.1 Here he gives a few more reasons, along with the people attached to the particular reasons: This letter is to τεκνία/teknía and παιδία/pedía, children and invants; πατέρες/patéres, parents; and νεανίσκοι/neaníske, young people, and since adulthood back then began when you were 13, teenagers.1 John 2.12-14 KWL12 Children, I write you because your sins are forgiven in God’s name.13 Parents, I write you because you knew this from the beginning.14 Youths, I write you because you conquer evil.14 Infants, I wrote you because you know the Father.Parents, I wrote you because you knew this from the beginning.Youths, I wrote you because you’re strong,and God’s word remains in you, and you conquer evil.The repetition is Hebrew-style poetry, where you repeat ideas instead of phonemes. Sometimes the very same idea, ’cause John wrote twice that he’s …

The new command: Stay in the light!

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1 John 2.7-11.In John’s gospel, Jesus gave his students a new command. The way he talked about it, kinda suggests it’s not just a personal directive from their rabbi, nor a commentary on the bible’s commands like he did with the Sermon on the Mount. This is a new command, meant to be added to the other commands, and followed just as intently.John 13.34-35 KWL34“I give you a new command: You should love one another!Same as I love you, you all should love one another.35This is how everyone will come to realize you’re my students:When you have love for one another.”Like all the other things Jesus teaches, Christians have sought any loophole possible for not obeying this one. Usually by claiming those other Christians aren’t real Christians. They have (slightly) different doctrines, do their rituals all wrong, revere other Christian teachers than we do, focus way too much on practices which make us uncomfortable, or play way-too-different worship music. They sin (as if we don’t). They hav…

Disobedient Christians.

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1 John 2.1-6.I’ve known various Christians who get really outraged by the phrase “cheap grace.” Grace, they insist, isn’t cheap!Well of course it isn’t. But “cheap grace” doesn’t mean we think grace is cheap; it means others treat it as cheap. They take God’s forgiveness for granted. They figure Jesus took out a trillion sins by his death… so what’s one more?Heck, what’s a thousand more? God’s given us a blank check of forgiveness! We can sin ourselves raw, and he forgives all! So why go to all the bother of cleaning ourselves up and sinning no more? Self-discipline is so hard. Easier to just do as comes naturally—and remain the same bitter, selfish wankers we’ve always been.But we’re forgiven just the same! And still go to heaven!Hence the popular bumper sticker:
Or window sticker, or button, or hat, or T-shirt; found at many a Christian bookstore.Now yes, this message can be used to describe just how expansive and generous God’s grace actually is. You don’t have to be perfect to come…

We sin, and need Jesus’s help.

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1 John 1.8 – 2.2.There are a number of immoral folks who figure if God has a dark side, it justifies them having a dark side. I wrote on this previously: Gnostics and determinists claim God co-opts evil as part of his cosmic plan. So people figure if he’s not tainted by such behavior, there’s no reason they can’t commit the occasional sin… if it’s ultimately for the best.Funny how often people wind up committing such “occasional” sins. Seems there are an awful lot of these occasions.But the very idea is rotten to its core. If God has an evil plan, it makes him an evil God. Period. And as John had to point out, God has no dark side. God is light. Not just in the light, like we can be when we follow God: Is light. In John’s other writing, Revelation, he even describes New Jerusalem as lit by the Lamb himself instead of the sun. Rv 21.23 Since Revelation is all apocalypses, I don’t think it wise to interpret that literally, but certainly you get the idea we’re going to live in God’s pre…

God doesn’t have a dark side.

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1 John 1.5-7.Gnostic religions have always taught weirdness about Jesus. Some of these ideas leaked into the first-century church; hence John’s first letter, correcting his church. Loads of these ideas are still around. Some are outright heresy.Others aren’t technically heresy… because heresy is defined by the creeds, and for whatever reason the creeds didn’t get to that particular error. Often because the ancient Christians figured, “Well of course that’s wrong; haven’t you read a bible?” And of course Christians haven’t read their bibles. (Read your bible!) They let their favorite teachers read ’em for them, and blindly follow these teachers without double-checking any of their proof texts. That’s how gnostics have always got away with it.And one of the more popular errors is about God having dark side.It’s based on determinism, the belief God is so sovereign, he controls absolutely everything in the cosmos. God’s the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle of Athens, the first cause of everyt…

Gnostics.

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1 John 1.1-4.Y’ever noticed somebody on the internet who claimed they knew stuff? Secret stuff? Stuff where, if you click on this link and read their blog, or buy this book, or watch this video, or attend this seminary, or buy any their other products, you too can learn these secrets?Better career, bigger income, more money, more leisure time?Better health? Conquering disease, especially without Big Pharma or the healthcare industry enriching themselves at your expense, or even maliciously keeping you sick?Better nutrition? All the stuff the food industry’s replaced with chemicals, or is manufacturing in substandard ways for a quick buck?More freedom?—’cause the government’s not telling you stuff, or big business doesn’t want you to know what rights they’re exploiting?Better sex?—which you don’t know about ’cause of various cultural taboos?Other secrets “they” don’t want you to know?People love the idea of having exclusive information, of knowing stuff the general public doesn’t. And …

When Christians won’t even let you think.

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Some Christians get awfully dogmatic.Dogma is another word for doctrine, Christianity’s fixed ideas or official beliefs. It’s an old-timey word, so you tend to only hear dogmain older churches, or used to refer to that one movie about fallen angels who try to take advantage of a dogmatic loophole. But while the adjective doctrinal tends to mean “deals with doctrine,” dogmatic tends to mean “demands we follow doctrine.” Dogmatists are the doctrine police of Christendom.And while the older churches have a settled, limited, fixed number of dogmas… certain Christians kinda crank out a new doctrine every week.Fr’instance this one Texas pastor I know; I’ll call him Alfons. He has a newsletter called “These Doctrines,” in which Alfons goes over all the things he expects the Christians of his church—and really, Christians everywhere—to believe. For the most part they’re typical Fundamentalist principles: God’s a trinity, Jesus is both God and human, Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to hi…