Last week we concluded our look at John’s first letter to the church. We’ve covered a lot of ground since our first message on Sept. 12th of last year so I wanted to review John’s major themes that we really need to embrace. John’s entire letter is important, but I think there are three major points for us to carry with us every day. These three points are tied together in John’s primary purpose statement found in 1 John 5:13.
The first major point we need to understand is the reality of Jesus. Gnosticism was being introduced during John’s time, but was not the rule of the day. There were detractors from the historic Jesus just as there are today. John was very clear about who Jesus is and what that means to humanity. You can’t be a Christian without acknowledging that Jesus was the Son of God. The very definition of the word Christian means follower of Christ. Acts 26:11 tells us that disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. Remember the principle of first mention. It doesn’t matter how the world defines a Christian. Acknowledging that Jesus was the Son of God means believing the testimony of God concerning His one and only Son. Only Jesus can atone for the sins of mankind. Why? Because Jesus is the, “propitiation for our sins” according to 1 Jo. 2:2 and 4:10. Jesus appeased the wrath of God caused by our sin; by our wrong doing, by us falling short of what God expects.
Not only was Jesus a real, live person that atoned for our sins, there’s some other things we need to realize about Him. If you want to have fellowship with God, you must have fellowship with Jesus. You can’t get to God without going through Jesus. When you go through the door that is Christ, you have fellowship with God and also fellowship with believers everywhere. John wrote, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 Jo. 2:23) Jesus is the Light of the world. When you shine the light, the darkness flees. Jesus is our advocate. He goes to God on our behalf. Jesus gives us the confidence to stand before a holy and perfect God. Jesus appeared in order to take away sins and destroy the works of the devil. “He who has Jesus, has the life.” That’s what we need to realize about Jesus.
The second major point of John’s letter is our salvation. No matter what people may say, John tells us we can know we are saved. Remember his purpose statement in 5:13. He wanted these beloved little children to know they had eternal life. When you believe in the Jesus of the Scriptures, there is no need to doubt. But remember, knowing that Jesus is the Christ carries some significant indicators in your life. How can I know I’m saved? One of the biggest indicators is your ability to love others, even when they don’t love you first or love you back. In fact, this may be the biggest demonstrator of a person that is an authentic Christian. How else can we love except that the love of Christ is inside us? This is not normal for people. It’s easy to love the lovable, but when we really love the unlovable, we know that love can only come from God. This can provide for some self deception too. “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1 Jo. 4:20) When we love the way God wants us to love, “His love is perfected in us.” (1 Jo. 4:12) People see God’s love manifested in real, ordinary people.
Finally, actions speak louder than words. This theme is seen throughout the letter so what do we need to understand about our behavior? A real relationship with God plants the desire in us to glorify Him. Glorifying God means following the principles He has set up for our good. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 Jo. 5:3) We’re not saved because of the way we behave. We behave a certain way because we’re saved. Right behavior indicates a right relationship. The walk of faith is a marathon, not a sprint. Most anyone can “act right” for a short time. Even though we may not ever be perfect, there should be progress in our lives. You should be growing more and more like Christ each day. Where there is no change, there can be no salvation. 1 Jo. 2:1 says, “I am writing these things to you so you may not sin.”Sin here is a verb. Do not to commit a sinful act, don’t have a sinful thought. John is telling us to be perfect. In 1:8 and 10, John said that if we say we have no sin, we’re deluded. This is why verb tense is so important in Scripture. This is in the aorist tense indicating a single point in time. He is saying don’t commit individual acts of sin. BUT since you will, God made a way to cleanse us through the blood of Christ who John calls the Advocate in v. 2. Advocate is a legal term that means someone that speaks on behalf of another. Jesus Chris the righteous intercedes on our behalf before the Father. You might be thinking, is there a cut off limit? Is there a number of times I can get away with? What’s the difference between these sins and a lifestyle of sin? If you have to ask, you don’t get it. We need to agree with God about sin. The point of is not to get as close to the line of sin as you can, but to stay far from it. We cannot reduce our Christianity to a set of rules and regulations. If we do that, it becomes religion rather than relationship.
Does it really matter how we act? I mean, come on, we still live in this sin sick world. Well in short, YES! One of the driving factors for John writing this letter was because Gnosticism discounted the humanity of Christ. Gnostics argued that matter was evil and spirit was good and the spirit was impervious to anything done in the body. All matter was evil and the source of evil. That included the body and the world, and everything in it. Since the flesh is evil, Jesus couldn’t have come in the flesh. Salvation they reasoned came not from Jesus, but from an enlightened level of knowledge. Ordinary Christians could not and did not possess this higher level of knowledge. Since knowledge equaled salvation in their mind, it didn’t matter what the body did. This was a convenient way for them to twist salvation into something it is not; that they could live any way they wanted without regard to sin. This is absolute heresy.
Another reason John wrote was because there were people trying to deceive the church. We’ve seen this too. There was only supposed to be 144,000 people saved, but that number has been revised due to the number of people following the false teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is documented evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophecies that included the rapture, the fall of the U.S. Government, and that the temple would be built in Zion. . . Missouri that is. None of his prophecies came true. Most recently, the rapture was to occur on May 21, now that has been revised to October. If that weren’t disturbing enough, we still have people that follow these men even though the Bible says they are false prophets. As long as the devil continues to prowl the world, false prophets will spring up and deception will occur in people who are not grounded in the Scriptures. Don’t let that stop you from being who Jesus wants you to be. One of the best ways to show that Jesus is alive is to demonstrate what he has done in your life. No one can explain away the complete transformation of a Christian by anything else except the power of God. We’re left in this world after salvation to live a life that brings glory to God, to tell people about His one and only Son, to demonstrate the love of Christ to people that desperately need to see it to believe in a holy and perfect God that loves them. As powerful and awesome as God is, He can’t save anyone apart from His Son. Don’t be deceived into thinking there is another way. Don’t get sucked into the world’s trap. It’s not about trying to get all this life has to offer. It’s all about living a life that is pleasing to God.
Jesus was really born in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died a horrible death, was buried and was raised again by the power of God. He was seen by the multitudes and ascended to heaven where He intercedes on our behalf. He is the Messiah; the One prophesied that would save the world from sin. We can know Him and that must make a difference in our lives. We know we have a relationship with Christ because He gives us the ability to love others unconditionally. Anyone can look at us, look at our lives and know that we are different because of our behavior.
Paul summed up his purpose in life in Phil. 3:7-14, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
What a great goal in life.