Posts Tagged ‘Arlin Sorensen’

Proverbs 1:1-9

Proverbs 1:1-9 has the author, Solomon, beginning his 31 chapter sprint of wisdom and memorable statements.  Proverbs teach wisdom through short points and principles but should not be regarded as “laws” or even universal promises. Proverbs by design lays out pointed observations, meant to be memorized and pondered, not always intended to be applied ‘across the board’ to every situation without qualification. A proverb is not a magical formula. “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth”.

Solomon does clearly lay out what his intent is in writing these verses:

  • Wisdom
  • Instruction
  • Understand insight
  • Deal well in righteousness, justice and equity
  • Give prudence
  • Knowledge
  • Direction

The opening the proverbs of Solomon should not be taken to mean that Solomon was the sole author of all these proverbs. There are a few other authors specifically mentioned. Yet, it may well be that Solomon collected all these other proverbs and set them in his book. Three of these authors are named (Solomon, Agur and Lemuel), others are mentioned collectively as ‘Wise Men’, and at least one section of the book (the last) is anonymous.

We may be living in the ‘information age,’ but we certainly aren’t living in the ‘age of wisdom.’ Many people who are wizards with their computers seem to be amateurs when it comes to making a success out of their lives.  Proverbs seems to be written exactly for us today. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” The Book of Proverbs is not only for the simple and inexperienced. Even a wise man will find much to help and guidance, if he will only listen and learn. Even a man of understanding can attain wise counsel from Proverbs.

Solomon points out the truth that it is the fear of the Lord that is behind all wisdom and knowledge. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Solomon calls out the importance of parenting and teaching kids.  Too much of today’s society wants to pass that responsibility to the school or church, rather than being accountable to train up our kids in the way they should go.  It is one of our duties as a parent, and done well, they become a blessing. The idea is that the instruction and law given from parent to child will adorn the life of their children, if they will only receive it.


3 John 7-15

In 3 John 7-15 the elder continues to remind us that we are all part of the ministry of the Good News.  “For they are traveling for the Lord and take neither food, clothing, shelter, nor money from those who are not Christians, even though they have preached to them.” We all have a part by going or have a part by helping, but everyone has a part and should do it well. “So we ourselves should take care of them in order that we may become partners with them in the Lord’s work.” Our role in the ministry is vitally important at those who give themselves to do the work, need to be supported and cared for by those of us who are not actively in the trenches day to day.

John goes on, after giving us the positive example of Gaius, to a much less positive role model. “I sent a brief letter to the church about this, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me.” John publicly rebuked Diotrephes by name. He calls him out as one who wants to be viewed as leader, but refuses to submit to authority.  Those two actions are in direct contradiction to each other. The problem for Diotrephes was pride. In his pride, he did not receive the apostles such as John.

Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or others; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show hospitality. “When I come I will tell you some of the things he is doing and what wicked things he is saying about me and what insulting language he is using. He not only refuses to welcome the missionary travelers himself but tells others not to, and when they do he tries to put them out of the church.” Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or his associates; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show such hospitality.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do what is right prove that they are God’s children; and those who continue in evil prove that they are far from God.” How we live and act matters. It shows our standing with God.  John shifts yet again to a good example. “But everyone, including Truth itself, speaks highly of Demetrius. I myself can say the same for him, and you know I speak the truth.” Demetrius was so faithful to the truth that even the truth was a witness on his behalf.  John wraps up his letter, indicating that he hopes to come see them soon. “I have much to say, but I don’t want to write it, for I hope to see you soon and then we will have much to talk about together. So good-bye for now. Friends here send their love, and please give each of the folks there a special greeting from me.”

3 John 1-6

In 3 John 1-6 the elder writes to Gaius, a man whom John deeply loved.  He begins the letter with a blessing and prayer – that Gaius will prosper and be healthy.  John is praying for things to go well with this obviously deep friend.  John here makes an analogy between the condition of our health and the condition of our soul. Many of us would be desperately ill if our physical health was instantly in the same state as their spiritual health. Think about that. “From: John, the Elder. To: Dear Gaius, whom I truly love. Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.”

As a spiritual leader, nothing pleased John more than to know that his children walked in truth. John knew that Gaius walked in truth because his brothers in Christ came and testified that Gaius was living according to God’s truth. His walk of truth was noticed by others, and they could talk about it because they saw it. It was lived transparently for all to see. “Some of the brothers traveling by have made me very happy by telling me that your life stays clean and true and that you are living by the standards of the Gospel. I could have no greater joy than to hear such things about my children.” And the result of a life well lived is to bring joy to all who see it.

To walk in truth means to walk in a way that is real and genuine, without any phoniness or concealment. Gaius does that.  But he also sets a good example by the way he cares for others. John praised Gaius for his hospitality. This may seem somewhat trivial to us, but it is not to God. This is practically living out the essential command to love one another; it is love in action. “Dear friend, you are doing a good work for God in taking care of the traveling teachers and missionaries who are passing through.” John knew that when Christians assist those who contend for the truth, they become fellow workers for the truth.  It makes us part of the work of the ministry.

They have told the church here of your friendship and your loving deeds. I am glad when you send them on their way with a generous gift.” As Christ Followers, we must be part of doing something to help the spread of the gospel. Then we must do it in a manner worthy of God. God calls every one of us to have a part in the great commission.  It isn’t optional.  Gaius is doing that, not only by caring for the teachers and missionaries that passed through, but also by supporting them with money when they moved on to the next place.  Love is an action word, and Gaius demonstrates that clearly for all of us to see!

2 John 8-13

In 2 John 8-13 the elder reminds us that we need to cling to the prize of Jesus.  We don’t want to come up with less than what Christ offers to us. “Beware of being like them and losing the prize that you and I have been working so hard to get. See to it that you win your full reward from the Lord.” The world will try and pull us away from Christ.  To deny the Biblical Jesus is always to reject the Father and the Son both. John here draws a critical line of truth, over which it is heresy to transgress. We have to remain true to what Jesus taught because if we don’t, we are wandering from the truth and move away from God.

For if you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will leave God behind; while if you are loyal to Christ’s teachings, you will have God too. Then you will have both the Father and the Son.” It’s dangerous territory to get away from truth.  To say no to God’s way of revealing himself is to say no to God himself. We must be careful never to go beyond Jesus teaching as that is like  “going beyond a boundary.” We must never go “beyond” the teaching of Jesus, of who He is and what He has done for us. If we do, we lose our connection to God – we leave Him behind.  In order to stay in line with the teaching of Christ we must know those teachings, which ultimately means we need to know His Word.

There are plenty of false teachers out there pedaling their version of what Jesus taught.  John warns us to stay far, far away from them.  “If anyone comes to teach you, and he doesn’t believe what Christ taught, don’t even invite him into your home. Don’t encourage him in any way. If you do, you will be a partner with him in his wickedness.” His warning goes well beyond not listening to them.  We aren’t to even be around them.  Sometimes we fail to recognize the importance of who we hang out with or allow to speak into our lives, even if we are leary of their words and actions.  It still impacts us.  We need to stay away.

We should make a distinction between those who teach these Christ-denying doctrines and those who merely believe a false teaching. John has given us much wisdom and direction in his letter.  He intends to come and visit this church soon, and to celebrate life together in Christ. “Well, I would like to say much more, but I don’t want to say it in this letter, for I hope to come to see you soon, and then we can talk over these things together and have a joyous time.” John writes this letter to a particular church, but ends by expanding the audience to other churches through his final words. “Greetings from the children of your sister—another choice child of God.”

2 John 5-7

In 2 John 5-7 the elder returns to a very specific and familiar topic. “And now I want to urgently remind you, dear friends, of the old rule God gave us right from the beginning, that Christians should love one another.” John wasn’t just mentioning the rule to love in passing.  He gives an urgent reminder.  Loving one another is not a mere suggestion.  It is one of God’s rule for Christ Followers.  We aren’t living a solo life as a Christian.  We are part of the body of Christ and one of the most important roles we have to fulfill is that of loving one another.  It’s so important that John feels the need to remind us yet again.

The integrity of our Christian life can be measured by our love for one another.  It’s not an optional act or choice.  God expects it from His children. “If we love God, we will do whatever he tells us to. And he has told us from the very first to love each other.”  Obedience to loving one another is not something we should even consider an option.  It’s been His command and expectation forever of those who follow Jesus.  And if we love God, obedience is the result.  We do this not because we think His commandments are heavy burdens, but because we see that they are best for us.  God loves us and his commandments lead to His best for us.

John warned against those who thought the only important thing in the Christian life was a vague love that had no heart for obedience. “Watch out for the false leaders—and there are many of them around—who don’t believe that Jesus Christ came to earth as a human being with a body like ours. Such people are against the truth and against Christ.” John was aware false teachers were a danger to the church in his day. And they are certainly still a danger to the church today.  There are many who question Jesus and His time on earth.  They dismiss the story of Mary and Jesus’ birth.  They question His crucifixion and the resurrection from the grave.

John makes it clear that we must confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This means Jesus came as a real man in His first coming, and also means He will come again to the earth someday.  John warned us against antichrists in his first letter. They are those who not only oppose Jesus, but also offer a substitute “Christ.” False teachers are everywhere in our world today.  Some are blatant in their lies and false information.  Others water down truth and try to stay close enough to truth to sneak in their false teachings.  As Christ Followers, we have to check everything we hear against the one source of truth – God’s Word!

2 John 1-4

In 2 John 1-4 the elder, likely now about 90 or so, writes a letter to a woman and her children who were important members of a local church. “From: John, the old Elder of the church.” The letter is likely targeting the entire church body rather than this one particular family which is how it appears here in the Living Bible version.  “To: That dear woman Cyria, one of God’s very own, and to her children whom I love so much, as does everyone else in the church.” The reality is that John was writing more broadly than just to Cyria and her kids.  He was admonishing the local Body.

This church had truth embedded into their hearts.  “Since the Truth is in our hearts forever, God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son will bless us with great mercy and much peace, and with truth and love.” If we know and love the truth, we will love those who also know and love the truth – the truth which abides in us also lives in others who know the truth.  Truth binds us together, and the love of Christ in us seals that bond.  John is quite focused on the idea of truth, as he was in all of his writings. He used the word truth some thirty-seven times in his New Testament writings.  This is a very important topic to us as Christ Followers to get our arms around.

Why does truth matter?  Because the truth does not change. The truth will be true forever, and we will have the truth forever in eternity. Many people today think that the truth changes from age to age and from generation to generation, but the Bible knows that the truth will be with us forever.  They want to base truth on their feelings or emotions or what seems fair.  That’s now truth in God’s world.  Truth is constant and unchanging.  It never moves.  And with truth comes great mercy (us not getting what we deserve) and much peace (God’s peace – that passes all understanding and goes far beyond what we can see or understand).

How happy I am to find some of your children here and to see that they are living as they should, following the Truth, obeying God’s command.”  John is full of joy to find the believers walking in the truth.  Obedience is one of the marks of a true disciple and warmed his heart to see that in the church.  Truth is not only important for its own sake, but also our walking in truth shows we are walking with the Lord.  John is referring to a straight and steady walk of obedience, not veering right or left, but staying the course and walking confidently with Jesus.  That brings joy to any shepherd of any flock!

1 John 5:19-21

In 1 John 5:19-21 John continues to explain our interaction with sin and the enemy.  We have a very real enemy that is out to kill, steal and destroy.  In much of our surroundings, Satan and his band of demons have more than a foothold, they actually are in control and evil reigns.  But as God’s children, we are not subject to that influence. Jesus has already won the victory and it is ours. “We know that we are children of God and that all the rest of the world around us is under Satan’s power and control”. We may be impacted by the enemy, but we will not be controlled.  That is the key truth about evil and the Christ Follower.

So since we are born of Him, we are set apart from the world – we are no longer under the sway of the evil one, though the whole world around us still is. Knowing this means we can be free to be what we are in Jesus and separate ourselves from the evil rebellion in this world we live in. We can have victory through Jesus.  That’s what He came to give us. “And we know that Christ, God’s Son, has come to help us understand and find the true God.”  We are challenged to know Jesus, not just know about Him, but to truly know Him intimately through a deep and abiding relationship with Him.

As we do, we find God.  Jesus is the path to God.  We cannot find Him on our own. If God did not reveal Himself to us through Christ, we would never find Him. We know Him, and can know Him, because He has revealed Himself to us. “And now we are in God because we are in Jesus Christ his Son, who is the only true God; and he is eternal Life”. John tells us who Jesus is. He was a man, but He was not only a man. He was totally man and the true God and eternal life. John does not, and we can not, promote the humanity of Jesus over His deity, or His deity over His humanity. He is both: fully God and fully man.

John wraps up his letter with one last warning. “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. Amen”.  While it may seem like a strange way to end this letter, it is vitally connected to the message of fellowship with God.  What John is talking about here is idolatry where we let anything get in the way of keeping God where He rightfully belongs, on the absolute throne of our life. We can only have a real relationship with God if He is there! Idolatry, whether obvious or subtle will always choke out a real relationship with God, and damage our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Jesus.  We can let nothing get between us and God and must guard our heart in that way!

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