- What would you say are the biggest issues/challenges that
This country faces
Your local community/neighbourhood faces
You face individually
2. Do you think that these are the issues that churches/vicars/pastors talk about?
We live in a messy and messed up world. We see the symptoms in a refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism globally. We see it in communities blighted by drug and alcohol problems. We see it in our own families where so many of us experience brokenness and deep, unending pain. And so often, religion and church can seem a long way away from those things.
But in fact, talk about God is, or at least should be deeply relevant to those things. You see, there’s two ways that we can try to make sense of our world around us. One way is to try and escape into a dream world. The other way is to face up to the truth and see things as they really are and as they really should be. We have a choice, either to believe truth or lies about God, the world around us and ourselves.
This course is all about being rooted in the truth. This course is about separating the lies from the reality. As we work through it, we will find that the truth offers hope and meaning, the truth leads to life.
What does the Bible have to say?
We’re going to be looking at some passages from the Bible that will help us to make sense of these big questions. Now, it might be that you’re a little suspicious of the Bible. Is the Bible itself reliable? Is it just made up, full of fables? How can a 2000 year old book be relevant? But if we are going to tackle the questions then we’re going to have to start somewhere. We all end up having a final authority that we go to whether that’s scientists, our own reasoning, celebrities or our mums! Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word and so we treat it as our final authority. Why not try it out for yourself. Have a look at what it says, question and challenge it and find out with us whether it’s claims ring true and its argument holds together.
We’re going to have a look at some words that a man called John wrote. John was a friend of Jesus, one of the first disciples and he wrote a couple of letters to churches which have been preserved for us in the Bible.
- What does John say about how we should live and treat each other? (v7, v11-12)
- What is God like? (v 8)
- How does God show/demonstrate his love (v9-10)
The two main lies we end up believing about God are
- God is not powerful, he is weak or absent
- God does not care, he does not love
We believe the lie that God is not powerful that he is weak when we think that events are subject to chance/luck. We believe it when we try to sort out the mess by ourselves. We believe that God is weak or absent when we believe that he does not really exist at all.
We believe the lie that God is not love when we assume that if there is a God there that it/he is happy for us to suffer. When we talk about “fate” we are really saying that we have a God (a higher force) that is impersonal and therefore unloving. Sometimes we think that God does not love us because we do not deserve to be loved. We think that we are too messed up and have caused too much mess and pain for anyone to love us. We have been told by so many people that we are unlovable.
Yet the Bible is very clear that the opposite is true. There is a God who is real and powerful. He created the World around us (as we will learn about in a future study). He holds the stars and planets in space. He made you and me and knows every detail of our lives. The Bible is also very clear that this God is love. Notice that John does not say simply that God loves or cares. Love, along with holiness, justice, infinite power etc. is described as one of God’s essential characteristics. This means, that it is something that he cannot stop doing. He always will be “love.” It also means that he didn’t start loving. He always has been love. Christians know that this is possible because they believe in The Trinity. This means that there is one God who exists as three persons. So, from eternity, the Father has loved The Son and The Son has loved the Spirit and vice-versa.
John says that God has shown his love by acting. God has shown that He is love by showing that he has the power to act. God uses his power to rescue. Like a fireman or lifeguard, God uses his strength for good, not to harm but to deliver people from mess. The Bible is full of accounts of God doing just that, rescuing, saving , forgiving individuals, families, cities and nations.
John tells us that God’s ultimate rescue act involved sending The Son (Jesus) to rescue us from the mess that we find ourselves In, the mess we have created for ourselves. The Bible calls this mess “sin.” It means that we have rebelled against God and tried to live as though he doesn’t exist. We’ve lived a lie and the result of living this lie is the mess, pain and cruelty around us. John says that Jesus’ death on the Cross, was God’s great rescue act to deliver us from the mess and the penalty of sin. Over the next few sessions we’ll be finding out what that means.
But at this point, the important thing we can say is that there is a God who is love. There is a God who cares about you and there is a God who you can trust and depend on.
A look at ourselves
We try to finish our Bible studies by looking at what the implications of what we have learnt are for our own lives.
- Do you find John’s description of God and of what Jesus has done convincing? Do you need further evidence to accept the Bible’s truth claims about God?
- How might it help you in your daily life to know that there is a God who is love and who is in control?
- John says that because God is love, if we know him, we should love too. Jesus said that this requires us to love God with our whole being and love our neighbours and even our enemies as much as we love ourselves. To what extent is your life characterised by this type of love?
Now Go To Part 2