They asked me to teach Sunday School, Adult class. I consented to teach a series on the book of I John, but my books are all packed and in storage, awaiting our move. So I ordered two new commentaries and decided to make new notes from scratch. I suppose it's good for me to work through the book anew. Fresh study helps my soul.
It's a book about assurance (among other things), and who doesn't need help with assurance? Every now and then I get feeling that I must be a reprobate, because I am so closely acquainted with my ugly sins. I need God to tell me that He loves me anyway and everything is alright. But the book doesn't say that! It does not give me the warm fuzzies I was hoping to get.
Basically it says, "If you want to be sure you are a Christian, live a holy life." Hey! That's just my problem. I don't live a holy life. What Jesus did for me on the cross is not a license to sin, but an incentive to holiness instead. John says that we know that we know Him because we keep his commandments.
It appears that the primary commandment in John's mind is the command to love one another. My recollection (and a decent concordance) shows me that this dovetails with everything else the Bible teaches. Romans 13:8 says, "he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." Several other scriptures say much the same (Galatians 5:14; James 2:8 and Mark 12:31). And sure enough, John gets around to telling us that we know we have passed from death into life because we love the brethren (3:14). Actually that's a little more comforting. I really do love the brethren. I need to love in deed and truth, not in word and feelings only.
One of the thoughtful class members asked me if 3:9 meant that God breaks addictions. Of course I had to say "yes", but I kept chewing on that thought. Is it possible for Christians to get strung out on coke or heroin? It is a sinful choice to even try drugs like that, but we all know that Christians do sin. Of course it is a tragic reality. Then there are those who become Christians while addicted. So the question is: does Jesus break those addictions? I know nothing of the drug experience, personally, but the Bible demands that I answer affirmatively. Who wants to say that God can break the power of sin in our lives, but that there are some addictions that are too hard for Him to break? The thought is monstrous. To ask that question is to answer it.
Now what about other addictions? Gambling, stealing, fornication all claim to be addictions. The medical model for sin is easier to bear. There is no more call for repentance, and there is no more guilt and revulsion. He's not really a womanizer; the poor fellow has an addiction to sex. And then what about my dear Christian brothers and sisters who tell me that the 12 step program of AA was necessary for them to quit drinking? In fact Christian fellowship in the church is not sufficient to keep them from falling off the wagon. They "need" to attend meetings of AA one or more times a week. Is that the deliverance Christ provides? I don't know enough to answer that question. But I do know that the power of the cross is enough to break the addiction to alcohol. That is either true or it is time to tear up my Bible and throw it away.