Connections 05.16.2021: Learning from Experience

1 John 5:9-21

The writer of 1 John talks a lot about what we know.

For example, he says, “By this we know that we abide in [God] and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (4:13). For another example, he says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (5:2).

Even when he doesn’t put it in those terms, the writer still focuses on what we know. Indeed, one of his main purposes in writing the book is to remind his original readers (and us) of what they (and we) know.

This is the case from the beginning of the book. The writer opens by talking about what he and his fellow witnesses have experienced for themselves. They have seen and touched and heard Jesus. The writer says that he wants his readers to experience Jesus for themselves so they can share in the joy and fellowship that bind believers together (1:1-4). He goes on to say, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father” (2:24).

The writer wants his readers to believe in Jesus based on the testimony they’ve heard from him and other witnesses. But such belief goes beyond hearing that testimony—it requires their basing their lives on their own experience of and with Jesus.

Our writer raises the stakes in this Sunday’s lesson text. He does so by saying that his readers have heard testimony about Jesus that is stronger than even the testimony offered by human eyewitnesses. They have received God’s testimony (vv. 9-12). This is what the writer says about God’s testimony concerning Jesus: “This is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (vv. 11-12).

The author of 1 John insists that his and his fellow witnesses’ testimony about Jesus is true and worthy of belief. In this week’s lesson text, he says that testimony about Jesus is available that is even more worthy of belief—it is God’s testimony. And God’s testimony is that we have eternal life—life that matters, life that endures, life that is really life—when we live in relationship with his Son.

Now that we have that life, we should live it. We should experience it as fully as we can. The more we experience it, the more we will grow in it. And the more we grow in it, the more alive we will become.

I’d like to live my life in such a way that when I draw my last breath, it will be the last breath of someone who is more alive than he has ever been before so that the step from this life to the next won’t seem very long at all.

Discussion

  • How do we receive God’s testimony about Jesus?
  • What does it mean to “have the Son” (v. 12)?
  • What do verses 14-15 teach us about prayer? What does it mean to ask “according to [God’s] will”?
  • Why do you think the writer ends with the admonition, “Keep yourselves from idols” (v. 21)?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara, grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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