Let’s first start with a little introduction into the book of First John. We should start with just a little background on John. For some of you who are familiar with the Bible and the people therein you might be tempted to skim past this intro and skip down to dig into the meat of this teaching. I implore you not to be so hasty and to read through what is posted in its entirety. The John who penned this book was the apostle John. He also wrote the gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation. This is the John that was one of the 12 disciples, was one of the inner three. Peter James and John got to experience some things with Jesus that the other 12 did not. Those three were the only disciples there for the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the mount of transfiguration and the distress of Jesus in the garden of gethsemane. John and his brother James were known as the sons of thunder. During the time of Jesus walking on earth we see John not understanding things, trying to stop others from casting out demons because they weren’t part of the 12 (see mark 9: 38-40). In another instance John wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume a village that did not receive Jesus (see Luke 9: 51-56). John also wanted the seat of honor, not knowing what he was really asking for (see mark 10: 35-40). After Jesus death and resurrection John and Peter took off often together preaching this new faith in Christ. As such they were often arrested, throw in prison, and beaten. John remained in Jerusalem as one of the leaders of the church.
The book of first John was written around 80-95 AD. It was written during a time that a sect began to rise, the Gnostics, that claimed to be Christians but denied the deity of Christ, thus making them not Christian. In this book John combats these lies by showing what Christian character looks like. A Christian is not defined by single acts of sins or by single acts of righteous acts. Instead it is by what our character is like. In this book profound truths of the gospel will be presented in such simplicity of words, the text will be simple to read, but they truths behind what we will uncover today and the days to come will be complex and thought provoking. In this letter John will encourage genuine love for God and for one another.
Now that we have some background under our belts let’s dig into the first chapter of first John.
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you may also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John starts this letter immediately pointing to Christ and him being eternal. John also let’s us know that he has seen, heard and touched this very Jesus. We are not quite as privileged as the disciples were to have walked with the Lord while He was here on earth, but they have left trusted accounts for us so that we can get to know this Savior that we serve. The truth is that none of us deserve this fellowship with Christ. But Christ Himself invites us into it. The other profound truth is that true fellowship only exists when we have fellowship with Christ!
4 and these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
God is concerned with our joy. Let take a little pause and hang out on this word joy for a moment and contrast it with the message the world seems to scream at as. The world tells us we should be happy. It is all about promoting happiness, avoiding things that don’t make us happy, and if we can’t seem to just be happy all the time the world tells us that there is something wrong with us. As Christians we can sometimes confuse the means and jump on board with this mindset thinking that scripture teaches us to be happy. Happiness is a feeling that is determined by our circumstances.
HAPPY adjective [from hap.]
1. Lucky; fortunate; successful.
2. Being in the enjoyment of agreeable sensations from the possession of good; enjoying pleasure from the gratification of appetites or desires.
Joy is something altogether different.
JOY is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.
Joy is found in Christ alone. There is an acronym for joy that I find so true and so relevant.
The world tells us to be self centered and to take care of yourself first, because no one else is going too. That is so opposite of what the Bible teaches us. We are to care about the needs of others above our own, esteem others better than ourselves. Because we have grown up in this culture with ideals that are so foreign to what is laid out in the Bible we can sometimes want to kick against it and go with what is known because it is what is comfortable.
Our joy comes from fellowship with Christ! Joy is not circumstantial but is dependent only on our fellowship with Christ. I will end my rant on joy versus happiness now and continue on with our study on the first chapter.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Here we see John explaining further that partnership with God is to look like. We need to meet God on His terms. That means we need to take a look at the character of who God is. The first thing that John points out to us is that He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This means that God is completely pure, and that there is no shadow of turning in Him (James 1:17). This means that God is completely holy, and He calls us to be Holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). God is the one who sets the standard in our life and we are to live according to His Word. If this seems impossible to you the truth is it is impossible for you to do. We, fallen human beings, could never fulfill the law. The good news is that Christ came and fulfilled that law for us and has giving us His Holy Spirit that helps us live.
6 if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Simply put we cannot claim Christianity and walk in all the same ways of the world. We should not be continuing in sin. John is going to go on to answer the question that I am sure was just raised in some of your minds, “well we all sin and we can’t help that, right?”. The issue being raised here by John is that of habitual sin. Hebrews 4:13b all things are naked and laid open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account. The truth is that God already sees all things and His blood is sufficient to cover all of our wrong doings. All He asks is for us to bring them out into the open. We should have no hidden sins from the Lord, but should be honest with our Savior about all our shortcomings.
7 But if we walk in the light and He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
When we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another. Have you ever tried to have fellowship with someone that is trying to keep a sin hidden? Even if you don’t know what the thing is, there is something clearly off with your relationship. What fellowship really is, simply put, is two people walking together in agreement. True fellowship is people walking together in agreement with God.
The blood that Jesus shed on the cross does more than just cover our sins, it completely cleanses us from them. It is the great exchange. We go from darkness being outside of the fellowship of God to be brought in, not by anything we have done, or could have done, but simply by the Blood shed on our behalf. I don’t know about y’all, but when I am reminded of that truth it encourages my soul to continue in the faith. For someone to pay my way through their death, and a brutal death at that, they deserve my life, my passion, my all. Hearing that good news reminds me why I live, to love Him and make Him known.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I alluded to this fact earlier, we are all sinners. We sin everyday. For me personally my commonplace sin is idolatry, I place myself on the throne above God. I can fall into wanted to serve myself rather than God. The truth is if you wanted to just look at the “big sins” and judge by our standards we could convince ourselves that we are doing good and don’t struggle with sin. Then we would be living in deception. Look at the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7) and you will find Jesus do things like redefine murder as hatred in your heart or adultery as lustful looks. If we judge by those standards and are honest with the condition of ourselves we will note just how much of a sinner we truly are.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confession guys, that is all It takes for us to be cleansed. We get to enter His holy throne room, confess all our unrighteousness and we walk away clean. Confession is not just bringing them openly before God but naming them, agreeing with God’s stance on each one of them, and forsaking them. We need to make these confessions, taking God at His Word, believing that He will forgive us. And we need to forgive ourselves, not wanting to take any punishment the Lord isn’t giving and walk in the grace He has provided for us. I can struggle here guys, just being honest. I can want to punishment self because I feel the guilt of what I have done. Christ has paid for it and for me to try and punish myself in payment for it says that I do not believe Christ’s payment was complete.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.
Again John hits the point that we cannot say we have not sinned. God clearly says in His Word that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). There is this idea among Americans that we need to clean up before coming to God. This so so far from the truth. We do not need to be sinless people, simply sinners who are willing to come before God in honesty and allow Him to change us from the inside out. He really does put a new Spirit and nature inside of us. He changes our hearts. Like Ezekiel says He takes our heart of stone and Gives us a heart of flesh. He changes our desires and we begin to do and live and be more and more like Him. Not because we have suddenly learned how to only act good, but because He takes up residency inside us and we start to trust the guiding of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead our lives. We are still fallen human beings and still sin daily, but His grace is greater!