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Entries in Jobes (4)

Wednesday
Nov052014

It cannot give us victory

From Karen Jobes's commentary on I John, reflecting on I John 5:5:

Without faith in Christ, no one is able to face down the evil, the hopelessness, and the self-defeat that this world presses on us day by day. There may be many self-help gurus who write and speak about how to live a better life, and some of what they say may be helpful and worthwhile. But what is of the world cannot give us victory over the world. Without trust in Christ, who came into the world from God, even the most successful life is swallowed up in the defeat of death.

I can't help but think of the many ways we as Christians unconsciously try to use worldly ways to overcome the very world we live in. The political process, more education, more social justice, more financial security. And yet, ultimately, none of those things can overcome the world. They may offer a poorly placed band-aid, but ultimately, they cannot do what only Christ can do. 

Tuesday
Sep092014

A cacophany of "Christian" voices ...

From Karen Jobes's commentary on 1,2,3 John:

The question of who has the authority to declare the truth about Jesus is not a bad starting place even for theological conversations today, for we live in a world full of not only a variety of religions, but also a cacophany of "Christian" voices with a wide range of opinions about who Jesus was and about his relevance for the times in which we live. It is important for those who minister God's Word to realize that spiritual authority is not vested in themselves, by any credential or merit, but is vested in the truth of the One whose Word they proclaim.

Wednesday
Aug272014

To be the perfect friend

Many years ago, I was in a friendship that ended badly. All relationships have their ups and downs, but this one could only be classified as toxic. It started out very well, and then deterioriated.

How can you walk away from a friend?

There was no open conflict for a long time. I told myself to overlook the offenses and the way she manipulated. I needed to be more forebearing, more loving. When I discovered quite by accident that my situation with her was only one in a long line of similar ones with other women, I began to wonder if perhaps I wasn't all to blame. My husband said he thought I should consider just stepping back. I found that hard to contemplate. I couldn't bear the thought of giving up. Surely, walking away from a friend meant I had not loved enough. 

I finally had to confront her about an issue, and was met with a cold, hard stare. She wouldn't speak to me after that. Now the feeling of failure really did set in. It was only after quite a number of years of distance that I finally understood that I could not be the perfect friend. I could not love enough to make the necessary difference. For a long time, that bothered me, but when I realized that it actually revealed my own pride, it was easier to accept what had happened. I was indeed culpable, but perhaps not in the way I thought.

God reassures our hearts

Recently, I was reading I John 3, the passage about love. Christ laid down his life for the brothers, and we are to do the same (I John 3:16-18). This is, in fact, the way we know we abide in Him. Later in this passage (I John 3:18-24), John provides comfort for those who feel their heart condemning them in this area of love. He reminds the readers that whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater, and knows everything. God knows our motives. We may carry guilt because we feel like we have not loved enough, but God knows our hearts better.

In the context of this passage, Karen Jobes in her commentary on I John, has some wise words about this issue:

God recognizes that our flawed, inadequate attempts to love others are genuine acts of faith and love. He knows all about people we attempt to love and the situations that have given rise to their needs. Our attempt to respond to another's need may be misguided or miscalculated. The person we try to love may rebuff our good intent. Our loving act may actually flow from motives that are not unmixed with selfishness or our own needs. There are many reasons why even our best acts may leave us feeling unsettled, unsure, and confused inside. Love can be complicated, and God knows that; his own love for the world has been misunderstood, rebuffed, and rejected. Still, he continues to love his creation by providing what we need to sustain life physically and spiritually.

The apostle knows that his readers need to quiet their hearts in order to continue in their faith in Christ and in their love for others. For a heart that constantly accuses us of disappointing God will erode our resolve to love.

Love is non-negotiable for the Christian

We can love others without expectation, squash our feelings of being offended, and offer as much of our hearts as we can, and things can still go wrong. But God knows our hearts. We should be encouraged by John's words, that God knows our hearts, and that he can wash away any lingering guilt. Guilt can make us build walls without our even realizing it, and we may be reluctant to love others. That must not be; love a non-negotiable for the Christian. John has just made that clear. But God can reassure our hearts, and that's a wonderful truth.

Saturday
Jul192014

Not simply words on a page

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.