Dear Church Family,
We’ve just returned from a wonderful family vacation. We drove over 3,800 miles in our van, took over 1,500 pictures, and spent 15 nights in a tent. Those statistics don’t adequately describe, however, the beauty of all that we saw in Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake, Mesa Verde National Park, and the Grand Canyon. Even the pictures don’t do justice to what we were able to see and learn.
We were also able to visit and worship with three different churches while we traveling. While on vacation, we make it a priority on the Lord’s Day to visit a local church and worship with them. It’s one way that we can maintain the normal cycle of Sabbath worship, and it is a great opportunity to meet other Christians. The best part of vacation, however – for me anyway – is getting the opportunity to spend a lot of continuous time together as a family.
In particular, while camping, our vacation family worship took on a unique flavor (kind of like the food). In addition to all of our camping gear, we made sure to pack a couple of Trinity hymnals, so there were times where we would be sitting around our campsite, or driving to a hot spring in Yellowstone and singing hymns together. Over the course of the last three weeks, we studied together John’s first epistle. [I’m not trying to paint an overly-pious description of our family vacation – we struggle like everyone else in finding consistent times for family worship; and please don’t think that we were just continually walking around national parks studying the Bible and singing hymns. However, because we were all on the same schedule, we did find it easier to worship together as a family while on vacation.]
As it turned out, this study in 1 John was a great help and contrast to some of the various different non-Christian philosophies and religions that we ran into during our travels. At the end of each of our family worship times, Stacie would write down a couple of notes about what we learned that day. The thing that was most readily available for note-taking was the back of a receipt. So, with my K-Mart receipt in hand, I thought I’d share with you a brief summary of the lessons that we learned from 1 John as a family while on vacation. These are the abbreviated notes based upon the discussions that we had, but hopefully you’ll get the picture.
1 John 1:1-10
- Confess Sins
- Walk in the Light
1 John 2:1-11
- Keep commandments
- Love your brother
1 John 2:12-24
- Stay in the Church
- Confess the Son
1 John 3:1-12
- Fix our hope on Jesus’ return
- As children of God, practice righteousness
1 John 3:13-24
- Love your brothers in word, deed, and truth
- believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ
1 John 4:1-6
- Test the spirits: Jesus came in the flesh, listen to the Scriptures
1 John 4:7-21
- Love God and one another
- Confess that Jesus is the Son of God
1 John 5:1-12
Based on the power of Jesus’ baptism and death:
- Believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God
- Love God
- Keep His commandments
1 John 5:13-21
- Pray according to God’s will
- As one who is born of God, don’t sin
- Guard yourself from idols
The purpose of John’s first epistle is explicitly stated in chapter 5, verse 13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” In this way, 1 John is different from the Gospel according to John. John’s Gospel account was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). John’s Gospel was written to bring salvation, John’s first epistle was written to bring assurance of salvation.
Thus, as you peruse the notes above from 1 John, three major themes emerge which are intended to teach Christians about the three aspects of the Christian life that are intimately related: right doctrine, right relationship, and right morality. Or, said another way: what you believe, who you love, and how you live.
As I mentioned above, this study was very helpful for us as a family, particularly in the context of interacting with all sorts of different people who do not confess that Jesus came in the flesh or listen to the Scriptures (1 John 6:1-6). Christians are different from the world: we are called to believe differently, to love differently, and we live differently.
As we go about our daily lives, let us strive to make these differences apparent. Let us strive to make all three of these differences apparent in our interactions with unbelievers. Unfortunately, we sometimes only emphasize one or maybe two of these differences in our Christian witness. We do so to our own detriment and the detriment of those with whom we interact.
So, let us show the world that we believe differently: we confess that Jesus came in the flesh, that He is the Christ and the Son of God, the Savior of sinners. Let us show the world that we love differently: we strive to love God in all that we do, and to manifest that love of God in our sacrificial love for our brothers. Let us show the world that we live differently: we seek to honor God with our lives by keeping His commandments.
In these ways we will bear true testimony to the Christian faith, and we will gain assurance that we do indeed have eternal life.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch