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Cover image: “Perfect Love” by Del Parson.
1 John is one of my favorite books in all of scripture. It brings us right home to God’s nature, who He is, and what He is about. The truth that God is love is an overarching theme woven into almost every verse. Who better to teach this principle than John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved?”
John is thought to have written three letters, possibly from Ephesus, sometime between A.D. 70 and 100. These letters were written in response to Gnosticism – a prevailing set of ideas that regarded the body as evil and the spirit as the ultimate good. Gnosis in the greek means “knowledge.” Gnostics believed they had received special knowledge that defined God as wholly spirit.
John’s letters, written with great tenderness and love for His Savior, point out that God “came in the flesh” and was not without body, parts or passions, combatting a gnostic belief that prevailed for years following the Great Apostasy. John was a first-hand witness to Jesus’ love, example, and teachings. He watched the Lord minister, heal, suffer, bleed, and eventually conquer death — all very corporeal and mortal acts. He touched the nail marks in the hands of the risen Lord, and in this letter, sets out to establish Christ as a truly accessible God — one who was born, died, and resurrected to lead God’s children home with His illuminating light and love.
Scriptures to Post or Memorize
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – 1 John 2:1
“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” – 1 John 2:10
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15
“When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3: 2
“Hereby perceived we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” – 1 John 3:16
“Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18
“Try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world… Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” – 1 John 4: 1-2
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that liveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that liveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth our fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4: 18
“We love him because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.” – 1 Jon 5:14
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” – 3 John vs. 4
I think it is worth reading each of these above verses with your family and discussing.
God is Light, and God is Love.
Isn’t it appropriate that this week we enter the Christmas season considering the two words John used most often to describe our Lord and Savior — Light and Love. He wrote, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” And in 4: 8, John wrote, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
The Church’s “Light the World” campaign is a perfect way to put John’s messages of light and love into action. If you haven’t signed up yet for the daily prompts from Light the World you can do so here! Join the movement! Encourage your children who have phones to sign up as well. All of us can collectively pour loads of light and love into our communities!
Also, be sure to watch and share the stunning, new Nativity video just released by the church. View here.
Walk in the Light Activity: Create an obstacle course (or have your kids do it) with soft items that won’t injure anyone. Couch cushions, pillows, bean bags, etc. Turn off all the lights or perform this activity in the evening when it is dark. Challenge each family member to complete the obstacle course with the lights off. They can view the course in the light, but then turn the lights off. Discuss what it means to “walk in the light” spiritually and how much easier our lives can be if we walk in the path and light of our Savior’s example and teachings. Read 1 John 2: 10. Also read D&C 50:23-24 and D&C 88: 67-68.
Advent Activity: Purchase an Advent Wreath with candles and follow the liturgical practice of Advent. Light a candle each Sunday during December to demonstrate the power and beauty of Christ’s light and the expectant waiting for the Light of the World to be born. Advent literally means “coming” and isn’t it profound that in the darkest days of the year, we light candles and sing hymns in anticipation of His coming light. For more about Advent and its history, read here.
We Can Become Like Jesus Christ
Read 1 John 2:8-11. These verses discuss how important it is to love others and work through any hatred we are tempted to feel towards an individual. This is especially important in families. I find this is where my children struggle most, in that safe haven of home where we succumb to letting down our guard and poorly treating those we should love best.
Like all of God’s commandments, this counsel is not just to strengthen relationships and bless others; it is for our personal happiness. It is impossible to be free and happy when we are filled with hatred and negativity towards others. We are promised that when we demonstrate Christlike love, we will receive and reflect the same light Jesus Christ possesses.
Discuss: How do you feel when someone wrongs you, gossips about you, or does something that hurts you? How can you handle those feelings the way the Savior would? How can we improve and strengthen our personal family relationships? Talk about forgiveness and the goal of giving others the benefit of the doubt by generously interpreting their actions and words.
I often tell my teenage children that if someone wrongs them, and they have done nothing to provoke it, that’s that person’s “business” (their thoughts, feelings, and actions.) You can’t change someone’s business and it’s not worth spending time consumed in someone else’s business, wondering why they did what they did. All we can control is our own “business” (our thoughts, feelings, and actions). So I then encourage my children to draw that individual into their circle of friends, even if only in their mind. It doesn’t mean they have to spend more time with them, but drawing that person into their figurative circle of friends frees their heart and mind from hatred and allows them to show up for that person with more love.
Joseph Smith taught this grand truth about leading with love: “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 240).
Read 1 John 3:2. This is a powerful one-verse sermon about our potential to become like God.
Read 1 John 3:16. The ultimate testimony of love is giving our life for someone else, as Jesus did. I love that this reference goes so perfectly (note the exact chapter and verse) with John’s testimony of God’s love in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…”
Read 1 John 4:7 “Let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” This is John’s sentinel message. He returns to it again and again. No wonder he is called “John the beloved.”
The Great Apostasy
Read 1 John 2: 18. John writes, “Little children, it is the last time… even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.” Note that John lived to see the beginning of the Great Apostasy. It is “the last time” he says. Not the last days. The end of the world was not occurring, but the end of the Church in that day was.
1 John 4: 3. Here again we see the elements of gnosticism and docetism John is trying so fearlessly to preach against. Docetism was the belief that any true Messiah could not have been manifest in the flesh because it would have desecrated his divinity. John decries this idea stating that any spirit that preaches Christ did not come in the flesh “is not of God.”
LDS Scholars, Ogden and Skinner, point out that even if one were to believe the tenets of gnosticism, the only real answer to such a plight IS a Redeemer who can save us from our fallen, natural state. “All these things point toward the need for a Redeemer, not away from one. At the core of salvation is the mercy, power and bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the only true Savior and Lord, omnipotent and omniscient, the literal, biological Son of God” (Acts Through Revelation, Ogden and Skinner, 300).
“Has No Man Seen God at Any Time?”
It is important to clarify 1 John 4:12 with the help of the Joseph Smith Translation. Joseph changed this verse to read, “no man hath seen god at any time, except them who believe.” The scriptures record a number of instances when God has appeared to faithful individuals.
Activity: List as many of these individuals as you can. Cross reference D&C 67:11 for further clarity.
We Can Overcome the World
Read 1 John 5: 4-5. “Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world… Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
When we talk about “overcoming the world,” sometimes that feels like a finish line we won’t cross until we arrive on the other side of the veil, having lived a faithful and obedient life. But overcoming the world is something that can happen daily, even hourly. It happens each time we rest our minds on Jesus and believe in His ability to save us with His grace, to forgive our sins, to protect us from danger, to strengthen us to resist temptation, to part the Heavens for healing and miracles, to walk with us in moments of uncertainty or darkness.
John also wrote in vs. 18 – “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but that he is begotten of God… and the wicked one toucheth him not.” Once we are “born of God” and turn our hearts to Jesus and begin that path of change and repentance, the Adversary loses power over us. In effect, he cannot touch us as long as we stay turned toward the Savior, moving constantly towards Him, repenting as we go, and striving to be more and more like Christ.
2 and 3 John
These other letters from John are more personal. Some scholars think it is possible 2 John was written to John’s immediate family as he describes himself as “the elder” and writes of “the elect lady.”
3 John is written to Gaius who may have been a regional official of the Church. My favorite verse from this letter is verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Testimony: Share your testimony as parents about how much joy it brings you when you see your children walking in truth. Compliment them on their good choices and righteous living. Point out the Christlike attributes you see in them. Express your confidence in them. Children rise to the good we see, especially when we verbalize it and celebrate it.
This letter, written by Jude, likely between A.D. 70 and 90, is determined by most scholars to be the same Jude who was brother to James the Just, Jesus’ brother. Not much is known about Jude, thus the reference to his better known brother, but it is supposed that he came later in life to the faith, possibly shortening his name from Judas to Jude, to avoid connection with the great betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
Jude condemns practices and people who rejected authority only to elevate themselves. He wanted to expose false teachers and encourage Church members to stand firm in their faith and fight for truth. He encouraged them to build each other up, pray and feel after the Holy Spirit, and remember the words and mercy of Jesus Christ. Read Jude 1: 17 – 22.
Jude writes of spiritual dangers that crept into the church: “ungodly men that… denied the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Discuss: What spiritual dangers have crept into our home or family? How can we combat these dangers?
Doer of the Word Challenge
Here are some ideas for incorporating the principles of this week’s CFM lesson into your personal and family life.
— Participate in the Light the World Challenge
— Celebrate Advent
— Keep a December Journal and note the way you see God’s light and love in your life each day.
— Choose an attribute of the Savior you want to develop during 2020. Decide how you will progress in this area.
— Sit down with the youth of your family and help them set their goals with the new Children and Youth Program. Choose which ones you can work on as a family.
— Decide how you will simplify or change traditions this Christmas so you can feel God’s love more abundantly in your life.