At Grace Church, we believe that the most effective way to help students love and follow Jesus is by seeing it modeled in the home. We call this Family Discipleship. Family discipleship happens in the day to day, as parents take the lead to show their students what it means to love Jesus deeply and follow Jesus closely.
In light of this, we want to partner with you in this effort by providing you with helpful resources and keeping you updated on what your students are learning. Our Grace Youth Family Discipleship blog posts are meant to help you reinforce what your 7th-12th graders are learning on Sunday morning and implement it in your home throughout the week. Each week we will post a summary of our Sunday morning teaching and an outside resource to help you learn how to lead your youth with Christ-centered care.
1 John So Far
For the past 7-8 weeks, we have been journeying through the book of 1 John in our Sunday morning youth equipping hour. What have we covered?
Oftentimes in the Christian life, we come face to face with the reality of doubt. Doubt is a sin that likes to masquerade itself as virtue leading to truth, but in reality it is a lack of faith to be repented of, since as James says, “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). And yet, in our quest for Godward holiness in reliance on the Spirit’s power, our faith is so often weak, and we find the “waves of the sea” too strong to handle. We doubt—the character of God, the work of Christ, the purpose of our circumstances, and ultimately our salvation itself.
John’s readers find themselves in a similar situation. Surrounded by the waves and buffeted by the winds of doubt. False teachers have crept into the church, breaking off from the body and failing to ascribe the ever-important title of “christ” and “son of God” to Jesus (2:22; 4:1-3). These false teachers were persuasive, casting small seeds of doubt into the believers in John’s scope and sphere of influence, causing them to forget the core nature of the gospel and the clear distinction every follower of Jesus should have from the rest of the world. And so, John writes his first letter to remind them of the truth in face of their doubt, the “message” that he has received directly from Jesus: the message of the word of life. He says as much in 1:1-3. Read as John aims to directly combat the doubt of his readers concerning the truth of the gospel which brings “fellowship” with God and others, and the assurance of their faith, which brings eternal security:
"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."
So what is it that John is proclaiming? Nothing less than the good news of Jesus Christ: all sin, and those who are in Christ receive Jesus as their advocate and sacrificial payment in light of their sin, free to love God by obeying him and sacrificially loving the body of God. His main point in his first section? God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
Under the the confession that “God is light”, John begins his letter with signposts of truth, or evidences of light. We can call them marks of true christianity, or “marks of light”. In poetic sermon form, he reminds his readers of the truth (the light) which battles their doubts. And so, as a youth group, we have considered at least 6 marks of true christianity from the first two chapters of 1 John. These are the “marks of light”, because they are true and come from God, who is light, and are modeled by Jesus, the “light of the world” (John 8:12).
True Christians walk in the light by confessing sin (1:5-10).
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”
When they do sin, true Christians turn to Jesus Christ alone as their advocate before the Father and the sacrificial payment for their sin (1:2:1-2).
“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins…”
True Christians keep the commandments of God by loving sacrificially, just as Jesus loved (2:3-6).
“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
True Christians love their fellow brothers and sisters of the church and commit themselves to the church (2:6-11).
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”
True Christians do not love the world or the things of the world (2:12-17).
“Do not love the world or the things of this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
True Christians acknowledge and abIde in the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and therefore abide in God himself (2:18-29).
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?... If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.”
In case we forget why John is reminding us of the marks of true Christianity, he wraps up the second chapter with a charge: abide in him (2:28). Why? Not so we may think highly of ourselves, forgetting we are sinful and in need of propitiation. Not so we might love the praise of the world as they see how well we model the culturally celebrated Christian moral code. No, we abide in Christ—in his light, in his work, in his love, and in his truth—so that we might find confidence and “not shrink back from him in shame”. We abide in Christ, modeling the marks of true Christianity in order to kill doubt and plant a garden of assurance that lasts until Christ comes on the clouds to bring his beloved church home.
This is 1 John so far. In order that our joy may be complete (1:4), the “apostle whom Jesus loved” writes to us, the children of God, so that we might know and abide in Jesus who is true light, and so have confidence in the face of doubt. Here is a word for all who call upon the name of Christ, young and old, new and mature: Jesus Christ, the righteous light of the world, modeled a life of walking in the light, free from sin so that he might be our advocate and propitiation when we sin, in full obedience to God, out of love for the people of God, not loving the world but laying down his life in love for unworthy sinners. We can trust him because he is the Christ, the anointed one from God, the hopeful promise handed down from the ages, and because he is the son of God, God made flesh for us. By trusting him, we abide in him, and by abiding in him, we find a rock of faith to stand in no matter what kind of waves and winds of doubt blow through.
Questions to Ask Your Youth
If someone were to ask you “what does it mean to be a Christian”, what would you say?
What does it mean to “walk in the light”? How can we do that daily?
Do you know what it means that Jesus is our “advocate” (representative) before the Father? What does it mean that Jesus is the “propitiation” (sacrifice/atonement) for our sin?
How does Jesus show he loves us? How do we love and live like Jesus does, and therefore obey the commands of God?
What does it mean to “love the brothers and sisters” of the church? How can we do that?
What does it mean to “love the world”?
What is the is the “truth” about Jesus that we must profess? Do you know what it means for him to be “the Christ” and “the son of God”? Why is this important?
How do we “abide” in Jesus? What does abiding in Jesus, and modeling marks of a true Christian, do for us?
Check out this helpful video, complete with artistic animation, outlining the epistles of John.