Thursday, September 29, 2011

1 John 1:10

If we claim that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

There may not be many today who walk around speaking of their sinlessness, but it is all too common for modern man to think he is "good enough" to get into heaven. Most people suppose they will make the cut through their own merit - after all they aren't as bad as other people they know.

But God has throughout history made known the sinfulness of man. As the Psalmist penned, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." As James wrote, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." If anyone claims to be sinless, or "good enough", they are in essence calling God a liar. Therefore God's word is no way in them. The whole system of Christianity is based on the fact that man is a fallen being in need of a Savior. If any person denies this of course he is not a true Christian.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1 John 1:8-9

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we make it our habit to confess our sins, in his faithful righteousness he forgives us for those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Some scholars believe John was alluding to to the Nicolaitanes sect. Nicolaitanes believed that the freedom and forgiveness given to children of God meant that nothing was forbidden, and they could do whatever they pleased. Whomever John had in mind, the principle is timeless. There have always been those who supposed that their own sinful conduct was justified, either maintaining the right to act in whatever way they please or holding that as forgiven Christians they are perfectly sanctified and guiltless. John is clear - anyone who claims to be without sin lies and cannot truly be guided by the source of all Truth. If there is a true work of God on our souls we cannot help but sense the filth of our own hearts.

The whole Gospel of Jesus is founded on the truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No amount of good works can redeem. For this reason the incarnation was necessary. For this reason Jesus came to earth to teach, suffer death on the cross, and resurrect to redeem.

Though we are freed from the guilt of sin because Jesus' blood covers and his righteousness justifies, we are not without sin. Thank God that if we confess and acknowledge our sins he continues to forgive and sanctify us. He is just to forgive our sins, not because it is an act of justice but because he is true to his promises. He has promised to redeem his people, and he will hold up his end of the bargain whether we do or not.

In addition God cleanses us from unrighteousness by purifying our hearts and conforming us to the image of Christ. The longer we walk with Christ and are guided by the Holy Spirit, the more likely it is that we will put away our overt sins. We teach children the ABC's of salvation - Admit, Believe, Confess. The first and most basic step in becoming a Christian is admitting our own sins and shortcomings. But as we continue our walk with Christ we must continue to admit our sins as often as we become aware of them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1 John 1:6-7

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we keep living in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim Christianity yet live in sin and our religion is false. How many people claim to be Christians yet live their lives as anything but? Although it is true that this side of heaven we will struggle with sin in our lives, no true Christian can walk in habitual sin and experience the peace that comes from true fellowship with God.

The Gnostics of John's day indulged in any carnal behavior they desired, claiming that the body was evil and separate from the spirit. Since the body was evil it would do what it pleased, but the spirit and mind was still good. Today we are much less honest about our sinfulness. Like the Pharisee in the parable we thank God that we are not like other sinners. We categorize sins and never seem to place ours on the level of others. We lie to ourselves and others, and do not practice the truth.

Some commentators believe "fellowship with one another" refers to other believers. When we fellowship with other believers and have the strength of character to hold one another accountable for our actions we are able to live in the light as the blood of Jesus cleanses our lives of sin. Others (for grammatical Greek reasons) believe it refers to believers having fellowship with God. The fellowship and communion with God results in the blood of Jesus cleansing us from every sin - progressively being sanctified into the image of Christ.

Monday, September 26, 2011

1 John 1:5

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus and declare to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness-none at all!

In the presence of the Lord darkness and sin cannot stand. God is light – not a light or even the light, but light itself. He is everything that is true and pure, in him is true joy, and darkness cannot exist in His true presence. He is holy – absolutely perfect with no spot or blemish on His character.

John 1:4-5 describes Jesus as light: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Jesus referred to himself in John 8:12 as “the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is the sum of the gospel; God is light, and that light has been made available to all who would seek it. Without this Light the world cannot be navigated. Without this Light anarchy, terror, and evil would reign universal. Without this light all would be lost. There would be no hope, no future.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. -Plato

Friday, September 23, 2011

1 John 1:1-4 - Sermon Snippets

Sermon resources used John McArthurJohn PiperSpurgeon (the first two have audio options)

v. 1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

As a writer John is a straight shooter, jumping immediately into the issues at hand. Readers immediately know that this is a letter about Jesus, the Word of Life present with God even before creation yet fully man, written from someone with personal experience rather than secondhand knowledge and philosophical theories. In that day as in modern times believers were exposed and subjected to erroneous teaching. Many were being pulled astray and confused by philosophical arguments and smooth tongues. John confronts this head on with the divine truth he knows firsthand, the very Word of God made flesh.

As John MacArthur said, “Nothing is as important, nothing is as valuable as divine truth. The purest, the most powerful, the most necessary, the most valuable reality in existence is God's truth, the Word from God. It alone provides eternal life, and eternal life is the most necessary thing that exists. Since that is inarguably true, since the greatest reality the world possesses is divine truth, the greatest threat in the world is any idea contrary to that truth. Any high idea invented by men or demons raised up against the Word of God constitutes the greatest threat in existence. Therefore, all faithful servants of God throughout all of redemptive history, all of human history, all faithful servants of God have been given the responsibility to proclaim the truth and point out the error. It is a war between the truth and error. And it rages on today as it has through all of human history way back to Genesis chapter 3 where Satan told Eve that God didn't say something God did say. It's always been that way...the truth of God against the lies of demons and men.”

You may not have practicing Gnostics in your group of friends, but we see similar teaching in modern society. Americans see themselves as “spiritual” or “religious” without any belief in the Word of God or Jesus as Savior. It’s okay to pick and choose tenets from different religions and create your own morality – allowing each person to satisfy sinful cravings while believing in their own ultimate goodness.

v. 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

All the apostles but Judas Iscariot were veracious witnesses of the reality of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. They refused to recant even in the face of torture and death. To quote John Piper, “It is not because we lack reliable testimony to the truth of Christ that we are slow to believe. It is because to believe is to be broken and to let the blackness of our hearts be exposed to the light of God's holiness.” As long as Jesus remains a “good teacher” or historical figure there is no threat. But as soon as he is preached the way, the truth, and the life we must deny Him or admit we are consumed by sin, unable to find healing on our own.

v. 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Fellowship (koinonia) signifies communion or intimate fellowship. It is the knowledge that fellow believers are together on the important matters and share the values of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “You believe what they believe and love what they love. And so you delight to spend time together. You love to include them in all that you do. You cherish the thought of spending an eternity getting to know them better” (Piper). This can only come through prayer, memorizing Scripture, and spending quality time with fellow believers rather than in the world.

v. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

John knew firsthand that his joy was made complete in seeing others know the truth of Christ. Do we have the same passion for finding this joy? To quote Spurgeon, “For, here below, we get but drops and dashes of joy, unless we are brought into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ; and, then, we have the very joy of God in our souls…

“What an evidence of our Savior’s deep attachment to his people that he is not content with having made their ultimate salvation sure, but he is anxious concerning their present state of mind! He delights that his people should not only be safe, but happy; not merely saved, but rejoicing in his salvation. It does not please your Savior for you to hang your head as the bulrush, and go mourning all your days. He would have you rejoice in him always; for this end he has made provision, and to this end he has given us precepts…

“You cannot always rejoice, because, although your treasure is not in this world, your affliction is. Poverty will sometimes be too heavy a cross for you to sing under. Sickness sometimes casts you upon a bed on which you have not, as yet learned to rejoice. Losses befall you in business, failures of hope, forsaking of friends, and cruelty of foes; and any of these may prove like winter nights which nip the green leaves of your joy, and make them fade and fall off from your bough. You cannot always rejoice, but sometimes there is a needs-be that you should be in heaviness through manifold temptations. I suppose none of you are so perfectly happy as to be without some trial. Your joy will need to be looked after then, lest these water-floods should come in and quench it. You will need to cry to him who alone can keep its flame burning, to trim it with fresh oil.

“I suppose, too, that you have moods and susceptibilities which make it no easy matter to maintain perpetual joy. If you have not, I have. Sometimes there will be deep depression of spirit; you can scarce tell why or wherefore. That strong wing with which you mounted like an eagle will seem to flap the air in vain. That heart of yours, which once flew upwards like the lark rising from amidst the dew, will lie cold and heavy like a stone upon the earth, and you will find it hard to rejoice.

“Besides, sin will stop the beginning of your holy mirth, and when you would dance for joy, like David before the ark, some internal corruption will come to hamper your delight.

“I dare say you have learned by this time, my beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, how exceedingly necessary it is that this joy of ours should be abundant. When full of joy, we are more than a match for the adversary of souls, but when our joy is gone, fear slackens our sinews, and, like Peter, we may be vanquished by a little maid. When our joy in the Lord is at its full, we can bear that the fig-tree should not blossom, that the herd should be cut off from the stall, and the flocks from the field, but how heavy our sorrows are to bear, how impatient we become when the chains that link heaven and earth are disarranged, or the communication in any way intercepted. If we can see the Savior’s face without a cloud between, then temptation has no power over us, and all the glittering shams that sin can offer us are eclipsed in their brilliance by the true gold of spiritual joy which we have in our possession Oh! what rapture!

“Let us walk carefully, let us walk prayerfully, that so we may realize perpetually joy and peace even to the full. Let none of us be content to sit down in misery. There is such a thing as getting habituated to melancholy. If we begin to give way to this foolishness, we shall soon weave forged chains for ourselves which we cannot readily snap. Take your harp from the willows, believers. Do not let your fingers forget the well-known strings. Come, let us praise him. If we have looked black in the face for awhile, let us brighten up with the thoughts of Christ. At any rate, let us not be easy till we have shaken off this lethargic distemper, and once again come into the normal state of health in which a child of God should be found, that of spiritual joy…

“‘Love one another’... Well now, when are you happiest? When you feel spiteful and bitter towards everybody else, or when you feel charity towards the faulty, and love towards your fellow-servants? I know when I feel best. There are some people who seem to have been suckled upon vinegar; wherever they go, always see some defect.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

1 John 1:4

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

There is dispute among scholars as some manuscripts read “our joy” and some “your joy”.  A change in the translation would only slightly change the interpretation. Either “our joy” may be complete by bringing the readers also into fellowship with the Father and Son, or “your joy” would be made complete by a clear understanding of who Jesus was and with fellowship with Him and other believers. Strong’s concordance cites the Greek as μν (hémón), meaning company, which to me would signify a rendering of “our joy.”

Either way Christ Himself is the source, object, and center of His people's joy, and true joy comes only as a result of the fruit of the Spirit. John was linking his own joy with the spiritual welfare of his readers. He may have had in mind the words of Jesus that he penned in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

1 John 1:3

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.

John’s intent in proclaiming his intimate knowledge of Christ was so that his readers could have fellowship with the apostles – enjoying the same belief, peace, hope, and joy carried by each of the eleven.  As believers we gain the same free access to the Father through the Son, just as the eyewitness apostles.

The fellowship of the apostles is “with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”  Although this union did not put the apostles on the same level as God, they now had things in common with the Father. We have fellowship with God through prayer, meditation, and worship. When we have fellowship with the Father we will see things from his perspective, love people with his love, be filled with the fruit of his Spirit, and engage in the work he would have us do.

 The Greek “have fellowship" literally signifies a partnership. "We are laborers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Although God could perform his work through miracles alone, he chooses to fellowship with us and works through us so that our effort brings forth fruit.

How often do we chose to trudge through our day without fellowshipping with God and seeking to let Him live through us? How much more peace and fruit would our lives bring forth if we took the time to intentionally fellowship with Him?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

1 John 1:2

And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us--

Giving undertones of John 1:1-3, this verse undergirds the historic Christian teaching that Jesus is coequal and coeternal with God the Father. He was not merely a great teacher, great healer, and prophet – He is God made flesh dwelling among us! Through the incarnation our holy God revealed Himself bodily to such people as the author and did so in a way that could be understood by all generations to follow.  John was a witness to Jesus’ wisdom, holiness, humanity, miracles, love, and mercy during his ministry, watched him die from the foot of the cross, and after the Resurrection touched him, dined with him, and knew him to be the living God who had conquered death once and for all! John knew Jesus to be the giver of eternal life to all who would receive it. 

1 John 1:1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

What an amazing prologue - to think that the author heard with his own ears, saw with his own eyes, and touched with his own hands "the Word made flesh". Although powerful in and of itself, this statement would have been a direct attack on false teachers of the day trying to persuade believers that Jesus was not truly human but perhaps had been an angel or some other illusion. And how powerful for us today to know that such eyewitnesses of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus existed! John witnessed Jesus' ministry "from the beginning" and possessed intimate knowledge of the truth of Jesus' life and teaching. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1 John Background

As we begin our study in 1 John, it may be helpful to begin with a little historical information.

The author
John, along with his brother James & co-fisherman Peter, was one of Jesus' closest disciples. Before following Jesus he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Historically he has been considered to the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and was nicknamed a “Son of Thunder” by Jesus. He authored the Gospel of John, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Revelation. Although he was greatly tortured and was eventually exiled to the Isle of Patmos, John was the only disciple not to be executed. He led the church in Ephesus and later the churches of Asia Minor (modern Turkey – not China).

The book
Dates are always disputed, but 1 John was probably written sometime between 60-90 AD in Ephesus. No one knows to whom it was written, but it seems to be written from John to a church or group of churches, probably in Asia Minor. It is among the New Testament letters known as “general” or catholic” because they were not addressed to a specific reader or church. John warns his readers about false teachers who are actively trying to deceive them. These false teachers were probably Gnostic (believed matter was evil, spirit was good, secret knowledge and wisdom was available to the few who sought it), Docetic (Jesus had no human body and his sufferings and death on the cross was not real), or followers of the heresy of Cerinthus (“Christ” came upon Jesus at his baptism and left him to suffer and die alone on the cross).

I pray our study of this book strengthens your faith in the one true God as we see His love for us!