This morning, at Out of the Ordinary, I am reflecting on the beginning of John's first epistle.
Our refusal to entertain the possibility of wrongdoing could very well mean that we don't like to admit that we have sin. We may know it on an intellectual level, but our conduct says something else. Pride is at the root of our sin. We think we know better than God, and we live by the truth we create for ourselves. Yet John reminds us that if don't walk in God's truth, we walk in darkness, and are not practicing the truth (I John. 1:6).
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Why has it taken me so long to read Jude the Obscure? I loved Hardy's other novels. Perhaps I gave too much credit to that individual who told me it was awful.
Jude Fawley wants to be educated. He aspires to something greater. A humble stone mason, he leaves for Christminster to pursue his dream of being educated. He must work in the day to support himself, though, and his dreams are so far from realization.
Once in the city, he wanders among the hallowed halls of learning and ponders:
It was not till now, when he found himself actually on the spot of his enthusiasm, that Jude perceived how far away from the object of enthusiasm he really was. Only a wall divided him from those happy young contemporaries of his with whom he shared a common mental life; men who had nothing to do from morning till night but to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. Only a wall -- but what a wall!
The wall before Jude wall was a physical wall, but also a figurative wall. Obstacles stood in the way of what he longed to do. I think we might feel like Jude once in a while as we ponder some of our own obstacles to things we would like to do.
So far, it does not sound like Jude wants to know how is aspirations fit into God's design. For those of us who claim Christ as our Saviour, if the wall before us is never overcome, we can know that God is still good, and that we were not allowed on the other side for God's good purposes.
I really enjoy reading commentaries. Their purpose is to help explain the biblical text, and often the translators, as they put together their material, express things in ways that I'm thinking but have not fully articulated. Commentaries can be dry, but they don't have to be.
I'm currently reading Karen Jobes's commentary on the Epistles of John. This commentary is from the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, and one of the features is how the translation is presented. This is a rather crude photograph, but demonstrates what some people call "block diagramming," or "structuring," or as Bill Mounce calls it, "phrasing." There is something similar called Bible Arcing.
Seeing how phrases relate to each other helps understand the flow of thought. It's also a good exercise to try phrasing yourself. I have been doing this with I John, and then comparing it to what Jobes has done in her commentary. I John is not easy to phrase, so I am glad I have this commentary.
Jobes comments about I John 2:4-5b: "The one who says 'I know him,' and does not keep his commands is a liar, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, in this one the love of God truly has reached its fulfillment."
She points out that truth is not merely a set of facts:
Truth is not simply a collection of facts about God or Jesus, but demands a response in lifestyle that is mindful of who God is. Commands are not simply a list of rules and regulations that reduce Christian religion to a legalistic system, but refer to believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and loving one another as he taught (3:23). The "word" (λóγος) is the full message of redemption that God has revealed in Christ, not simply words on a page.
Jobes has been careful to point out that according to John's writing there is an expectation of moral transformation in response to truth. But it is not just any "truth." It is the truth of God's revelation. As Christians, that is what ought to set us apart: that we hold God's revelation as truth. The difference between mere mental assent and true belief is how truth is seen in our lives.