As we spend time this fall, reading and learning from the First Epistle of John, our deep prayer is that you will take time to read this letter. To not only read it – but to live in it. To let the words come to LIFE for you.
· First, read and hear this as a letter written by God through John to YOU – What does God want you to know? To trust? To hold onto?
· Secondly, we invite you to ask the question – what is the letter of my life that God is writing to the world? John’s letter invites you to discover that God’s invitation of love does not stop with Jesus but continues to be written on all of our lives. What is God writing to the world through your life?
The First Letter of John was written as most assume by the Apostle John – near the end of his life – around 85 AD or later. It was most likely not his FIRST letter. Rather it is the first of three letters that are a part of our Scriptures.
In this letter John writes many times, I am writing these things to you. …
The first reason John writes is to invite us to share in JOY. We desperately need joy in our world so that we can pursue what is most important. John reminds us that our faith begins with JOY.
The beginning of the letter possesses language that is reminiscent of the Prologue of the Gospel of John:
I John 1:1-4 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
What is this shared joy? --That the incarnation AND resurrection of Jesus Christ is true. In the time of John’s writing, years now have passed by since Jesus’ death and resurrection. Theories have evolved and new enticing philosophies are emerging. There is the beginning of a belief called Docetism – Jesus seemed to be human, but he couldn’t possibly be. John’s sees the danger in this growing teaching which holds it is not necessary to believe that Jesus was human. If Jesus was not human, only seemed to be, then love did not take shape in human form. This call to love is only and ideal – something to aim for. Impossible to do!
John handles the dangerous teaching, by speaking of the JOY of what he witnessed. And, his JOY is now our JOY. Jesus’s life and death and resurrection was real. And, that means that Jesus Christ – our Risen LORD IS REAL Today. Jesus – is the Word of LIFE that shapes our lives. What they witnessed is true: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
This is the good news John shares from his life story that impacts our life stories:
· Jesus was with the Father from the BEGINNING – (In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God).
· Then JESUS was with us (John says). You wonder how John is reflecting upon his memories – I walked with Jesus and I did not fully understand, I watched him die, I entered his empty tomb – I then put my fingers in his side where blood had poured out. And, with Thomas, I exclaimed, “My Lord and My God.”
· Now, John writes fervently and passionately about our radical new reality. Jesus is God’s self-communication to the world. Do you want to know God? Then you want to know Jesus.
But, it doesn’t stop there. God has spoken in Jesus – Now God wants to speak through you about a joy that transforms the world.
Eugene Peterson: “Jesus was radically reconfigured and redefined by resurrection.
And, now we are invited to be radically reconfigured and redefined by resurrection.”
Jesus is real – and it is through Jesus that you know who God is. This is critical because as we ask the question, how do we know how to find our way – how do we know who God is and what God wants – we look to Jesus, we listen to Jesus, we walk like Jesus.
John may be referring to the very words he heard from Jesus found in John 15 when Jesus speaks of shared joy.
Jesus – “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The world cannot take away this joy; a joy that has discovered the secret that all of life is best lived when we love one another.
What is the message of joy that God is writing through your life?