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I John 1

I John 1

Today we begin a series of messages based on the letters in the Bible written by John. 

There are three letters by John, bringing us a total of seven chapters. The goal is that by the end of of the series, we will have a clear understanding of what John wrote in his three letters. The hope is that what is discussed will expand beyond head knowledge into heart knowledge, as in affecting how we live our lives.

For this message, chapter 1 of I John. To get ready for that, let’s think for a few moments about who John was and the condition of the Christians to whom he wrote, probably not confined to one congregation, but to Christians in general.

John is accepted to be the John who had been one of Jesus’ disciples. The one who wrote the Gospel of John, which is of course one of four Gospels that tell us about Jesus - what Jesus was like, some of the miracles He performed, some of the teachings He presented.

A few other things about John. 

John is the one often described as the disciple Jesus loved. Jesus of course loved all His disciples, but there was apparently a special softness of heart Jesus had for John. So close was their relationship that shortly before Jesus died on the cross, He established a relationship between His mother Mary and John. Jesus wanted to make sure His mother would be cared for. He gave that task to John. Jesus knew John would need encouragement to face life without Him. He gave that task to Mary.

It is believed I John was written about 50 or 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Something else about John is that over the years, at least most of the other disciples of Jesus had died, all of them because of cruel persecution that made them martyrs. John, however, survived.

I have read that John, as he aged, was reportedly upset he was still alive. He was upset he had not been called on to be martyred for the cause of Christ. What I have read suggests he thought the Lord did not deem him worthy of martyrdom, which was very troubling to him.

Interestingly, John himself did suffer. Not fatally, but he did suffer. When some of us took a Steps of Paul tour through Greece and Italy, we visited Patmos, which is where John was imprisoned for being a Christian. It was there he received The Revelation that concludes the New Testament. Patmos is a small island. It is often damp and cold. And, the other prisoners when John arrived there were not fellow believers in Jesus, so John experienced social isolation.

When we visited Patmos, we learned that by the time John was released from imprisonment on the island, just about everyone, fellow prisoners and guards alike, were Christians. What a wonderful evangelistic experience John had while confined to the island.

But he did suffer. Again, not unto death, but he did suffer, including on the island of Patmos. It may have been after his imprisonment there that he wrote his New Testament letters. Letters that had a specific purpose, which was to inspire Christians to do two things - maintain enthusiasm for their Christian faith and guard against false teachings that were beginning to make the rounds of Christian churches.

Both those things were related to the progression of time. Again, the date for I John is estimated to be 50 or 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, which would make John’s readers second and maybe third generation Christians. By that time, the newness of the Christian faith had faded.

The excitement of the Christian experience, strong at the beginning, had apparently faded as the faith journey continued. It began to appear Jesus was not going to return soon. It appears at least some of the Christians were finding the daily walk of faith to be tiring.

Perhaps because of that, false teachers had begun to appear, going to various Christian churches, preaching things about Jesus that were not what the disciples like John had taught. Hearing other teachings should have been a warning for the people in those churches, but again, the newness of the Christian faith had faded. At least some Christians began to want and cling to something newer.

Just a couple examples of the false teachings going around.

One taught that Jesus only seemed to have had a body, but was instead totally spirit, which means, the false teachers said, He did not really suffer when He was crucified. Neither did He really die.

The danger of that false teaching is that if it was true - which is was not, but if it was - Jesus could not have been the sacrifice needed for salvation. Sacrifices had to yield blood and die. If Jesus did not really do that, He could not be the sacrifice the disciples taught He was, so we would still be spiritually dead.

The idea Jesus was just spirit was a false teaching. Another false teaching was that only very smart people could understand Jesus and the blessings He has available. It was only the very smart people who could ever have a close relationship with Jesus.

Well, that would certainly leave me out. And it led to a specific danger. If people are  separated according to intelligence, there can be no Christian fellowship.

Some could fellowship with one another. The smart ones could get together. The dumb ones could. But Christians in general could not have fellowship together if this second false teaching was allowed to stand. Why would the smart ones lower themselves to associate with the slow learners? How could the slow learners ever feel worthy of being with the super smart?

At the time John wrote his letters, there were some age-related problems in the Christian churches. Problems that were against what John and the other apostles had taught. It was those problems John addressed in his letters, starting with chapter 1 of I John. 

In verses 1 through 4 of chapter 1, John opened the letter by establishing his credentials. Let’s read those verses together.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.”

Do we see John’s credentials? 

He and the rest of the apostles were privileged to have heard Jesus Himself - His voice as He had taught and dealt with people. Those to whom John wrote had heard about Jesus, but John and the other apostles had heard Jesus directly.

John and the other disciples had not only heard Jesus, they had seen Him with their own eyes. They had seen Him heal and do other miracles.

Not only that, they had touched Jesus, including a very special time on Easter evening. Following His resurrection, Jesus had appeared to His disciples. They had touched His hands where the nails had been struck, pinning Him to the cross on which He had died. The touch was proof Jesus had had bodily form.

Proof that extended to them actually looking upon Him while He ate that evening and again later in their presence.

John’s goal in stating his credentials was not to act superior. Instead, he established that he had had the authority to teach about Jesus and still did have that authority. Authority based on the fact he had been with Jesus, which none of the Christians to whom he wrote and none of the false teachers had been. John had the authority - the right - to testify and proclaim that Jesus was and is the one and only source of eternal life, now and always.

John at least hinted that he, and other disciples like him - notice he used the word “we” - spoke nothing they had not experienced personally. What John himself had seen and heard is what he proclaimed.

Notice the two benefits he expected to gain from his preaching. Fellowship and joy. 

Fellowship. Yes, John had a different spiritual background than did those to whom he wrote, but he did not hold that over those people. Actually, He did to the extent he claimed they should respond to his teachings because he had been with Jesus, but beyond that, he was willing to accept them as spiritual equals for the purpose of fellowshiping with one another. Fellowshiping for mutual spiritual encouragement.

Joy. For John and for the other disciples of Jesus, it was joy that they could share their faith. It was joy when those to whom they wrote or spoke responded by also accepting Jesus. It was joy when they felt the fellowship of other believers.

There is of course a purpose to Sunday morning messages beyond just covering some Bible passages. The purpose is to be challenged to apply what is covered. It seems to me two things we can be challenged to apply from the first part of I John 1 are centered on joy and fellowship. Do you desire fellowship with other believers? I think we do, but let’s keep that up. That is one thing John taught in the first part of I John. Do you find it a joy to share your faith and have people respond, even to the point of fellowshiping with you? John is an example of that. An example of how to have spiritual joy.

Let’s go on. Again let’s read together, this time verses 5 through 10 of I John 1.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I notice two key words in verses 5 through 10.

One is light. See it? God is light. Fellowship with God, which comes from accepting God’s Son Jesus as Savior, gives us light.

We know light has benefits. Physically it lets us see the path we should be on, it provides warmth, it promotes growth, it keeps darkness away.

All of which have spiritual applications. God has a proper path for us, His people, to be on. It is His light that shows us that path. When we follow God’s path, we can feel the warmth of His love. That warmth should create in us the desire and the ability to grow in our faith in Him, making it increasingly likely we will be able to stay on the path He wants us on.

And hey. There are a whole lot of dark things around us. Bad things that want to take us away from God. How can we survive? We can survive by accepting the light of God, which He has available for us as we fellowship with Him.

Do you have light? You do if you accept Jesus as your Savior. If you do not have light, do you realize the need for it? If so, accept Jesus, even now. Then and only then can you have true fellowship with God.

And, John added, fellowship with other believers. The desire for that is what John wrote about in the first part of I John 1, which we talked about earlier.

Light is a key word in the second half of I John 1. The other key word is sin, which appears quite often.

For instance, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. It can be difficult and humbling to admit we have sins in our lives, but we do. And if not now, then in the past, at least before we came to accept Jesus.

This is not the only place that is taught. There is a verse in Romans that has this. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We - all of us - at least have sinned. John wrote that anyone who says he or she has not sinned is deceived and untruthful. And there is more .John also wrote that if we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us. Wow. That is serious stuff.

An important step for anyone appears to be admitting there are or at least have been sins in his or her life, but there is much more in these verses about sin. Some very good news.

 Our sins can be forgiven and we can be cleansed from all unrighteousness. It is the blood of Jesus that does that. And notice the word “all.” Never has and never will anyone be so far gone as to be out of the reach of Jesus’ love and cleansing.  A sinner may feel beyond reach, but that is not the Lord’s restriction. He is ready, willing, and able to forgive and cleanse anyone and everyone from any and every sin.

He will do that for all who confess their sins - all who admit their sins, express sorrow about them, and ask for forgiveness.

And consider what it means to be cleansed. It includes helping us want to stay away from whatever sin or sins we have had or do have in our lives. Which means we can use His light to beware of the darkness around us. Light that will give us fellowship with God and with other believers.

*       *       *       *       *

I John 1. Written by the apostle John. Written about things he himself personally saw, heard, an experienced from Jesus. It was his joy to write, including sharing the wonderful news that God is lighT. A light available to all who will accept God’s Son Jesus and admit their sins and accept forgiveness, thereby also being cleansed from sin.

How to apply all that is for each of us to determine, done with and through prayer. I hope each of us will do that. I challenge each of us to do that. With that in mind, let me close with a devotional relating to God being light.

What is darkness? On a physical level, it is the absence of light.

To achieve darkness in this room - to get rid of all the light in this room - what would have to happen. We would first have to turn out all the electric lights. We would then need to cover all the windows with darkening shades.

Even spiritually, it is possible to walk in darkness. It will happen if we turn off the light of God, as in acting as if there is no God who tells us in the Bible how to live. That can include stopping coming to church or no longer reading the Bible. 

Add to that a disinterest in praying, and you have a type of covering the windows of your soul in a spiritual sense, not letting the light of God even seep into your life.

Do not allow those things to happen. Keep fellowshiping with God and with other believers. Keep rejoicing in God’s light. Do both through accepting Jesus and living according to His teachings. That way, not only people like John, but you, too, will have spiritual joy.

Today’s closing song highlights the part of I John 1 that promises forgiveness and cleansing for all Christians - for all who accept Jesus as Savior, including confessing their sins. 

It Is Truly Wonderful.

He pardoned my transgression,

He sanctified my soul;

He honor my confessions,

Since by His blood I’m whole.

It is truly wonderful 

what the Lord has done,

It is truly wonderful, It is truly wonderful;

It is truly wonderful what the Lord has done.

Glory to His name!

He brings me through affliction,

He leaves me not alone;

He’s with me in temptation,

He keeps me for His own.

It is truly wonderful 

what the Lord has done,

It is truly wonderful, It is truly wonderful;

It is truly wonderful what the Lord has done.

Glory to His name!

He keeps me firm and faithful,

His love I do enjoy;

For this I shall be grateful

And live in His employ.

It is truly wonderful 

what the Lord has done,

It is truly wonderful, It is truly wonderful;

It is truly wonderful what the Lord has done.

Glory to His name!

Lord, thank You for the call and the encouragement to confess our sins so we can have the joy of fellowship with You and with other believers. Thank You for being the light, from which we will benefit just by wanting it and accepting it. Thank You for Your words through John. Amen.

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