We’re going to start a new series this summer. If you haven’t noticed already, in the seat in front of you is a small journal on the book of 1 John. If you like to journal, you can grab one of these. If this doesn’t interest you, don’t feel obligated to do this. And I would just make a special request, please don’t hoard all of them, just take one, all right? Because we have to share some with the next service as well.
But 1 John for us is a book that we’re going to dive into this summer. And I want us just to devour what the book is about. And the reason I want to do this is it is vital for our lives to root ourselves in the word of God. And the reason I say that is because the word of God is what transforms our life. It’s where the truth of God is proclaimed.
Truth believed transforms, right? And God wrote his word for us for a reason. And one of those reasons, I should say, one is just to know God, right? The truth of who he is. But the other reason is because sometimes people are just crazy and we say crazy things, and the way that you know if something’s true or not true, as it relates to God, is really in his word. If someone says something contrary to his word and God’s word is inspired of him and is true and it doesn’t match with what God’s word says, then you can look at that and be like, “Look, this says this, you say that, you are crazy and not this.” It gives us a foundation.
In fact, in Acts 17 it says this, “That the Bereans were more noble from those in Thessalonica because they received the word with readiness of mind and then they searched the scriptures daily to determine if whether or not it was true.” So God’s word becomes the basis for finding out if what I say today is half crazy or if it’s accurate, right? And so, God’s word becomes vital for us. It’s how we get to know God.
In fact, in Psalm 119, the Psalmist says this, Psalm 119 is all about the beauty of God’s word. But in verse 11 he says this, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” So, you see on this, it’s the contrary, like I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to sin against you, so your word in my heart, in verse 15, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees, I will not neglect your word.” I mean, he sees it as the foundation for our understanding what it means to pursue God and follow him with his life.
And so, this summer we’re going to look through one of those books as it relates to God revealing his word to us, and that is in the book of 1 John. 1 John is a very practical book for living in light of the Lord in our lives. The book, 1 John, gets its name 1 John because it’s the first epistle that John wrote. And epistle is the way of saying a letter.
There are a few different literary styles in the Bible. When you pick up the New Testament, your New Testament is clumped together based on literary genre styles. Like the first four books in your New Testament, they’re not the first four books written. Like if I give you a chronological list of likely how most of the books are laid out, there’s a little bit of debate over the timeline on how the New Testament came together, but we knew it was formed by the end of the first century.
A few of these books, you might see some people put it chronologically in a different place, but the first books in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were not the first books of the Bible written. Those are the Gospels, that’s why they’re together like that. The next book is Acts, it’s a history book of how the church grew from Jerusalem to Rome. And then you have the epistles, right? The epistles are letters, that’s what we’re going to look at today, the epistle of 1 John. And then at the end you have the crazy book of Revelation, right? An apocalyptic book. Who knows what’s happening? Everyone just prepare, right? Look forward to Jesus, it’s a worship book of Jesus and his victory, is really what it is. But it’s an apocalyptic literary genre.
The books that we’re going to talk about, or one of the books that we’re going to talk about this summer is 1 John. And John was one of the apostles or disciples of Jesus. He wrote the last five books of the New Testament. You have the Gospel of John, first, second, and third epistles of John, and then the book of Revelation.
John was most likely the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. This is why when you see these writings, I mean, Jesus is crucified people say between 30 to 33, or 29 AD to 33 AD. And so, here’s John in 90s AD writing his epistles. He is the last living disciple, he is the only disciple not martyred for his faith. And he’s writing this letter to us at the end of his life. I mean, this guy is somewhere between 90 and 100 years old writing to us this desire that he has, this desire the Lord has for us to pursue God with our lives.
And so, John’s writing these last letters. And when you study the literature of John, there are some new religious movements around John’s time, we’ll talk a little bit more about next week. But John tends to write his letters from a broad audience, for the entire world. When you study these writings, you’ll see a lot of them tailored to Roman society, Jewish society. John’s trying to keep the whole scope in mind, of this whole conglomeration of the Roman Empire and what he desires for them to know in light of who Jesus is, being inspired by the Lord.
So, John’s writing this book for us. When you study the New Testament, you might even be looking at this list thinking, “Okay, I see the writings of the first century, but why do we not have any more books of the Bible? Why are the Christian community after the first century end writings of the scripture?” And I’m not going to dive into this real big, I want to give you just a few verses. In fact, if you want to take your journal, write some of these down to look at later.
I’ll tell you the reason that the New Testament is concluding with the end of John is because the New Testament is written under apostolic authority. And after John there are no apostles. And so the reason why that we would say this is as a church community, the New Testament ends is because there’s no apostolic authority continuing.
And let me just give you a basis, if you don’t believe that, cool, but let me just give you some theological reasons rooted in scripture that you can go look up later to determine what I’m saying is crazy or not crazy, all right? If you turn to Acts 1, what you find in Acts 1 starting in verse 15 down to the end of the chapter, which is verse 26, you’ll see in this chapter that the apostles are talking about replacing Judas, who has just hung himself, right? They talk about the need for 12 apostles, that God had prophetically said that there were to be 12 apostles when the church is established. And so based on that prophetic statement that they root in, in verses 15 to 26, you’ll see that they go back and refer to this verse, they pick another apostle.
Well, when they pick this apostle, they give the qualifications for what it takes to be an apostle, which is an impossibility. So, check out Acts 1:15-26. It’s an impossibility today, but they lay out the foundation for being an apostle.
At the same time, even the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the foundation of which we believe is rooted in the prophets and apostles. When you lay a foundation for a home, how many times do you lay the foundation? Once, right? You get to Acts 15, Acts 15, Paul refers to himself in verse eight and nine as the last and least of the apostles.
And then when you study the rest of the New Testament, the rest of the New Testament, when it talks about leadership in the church, it never at any point in any of the New Testament epistles does it ever tell us how to qualify or appoint apostles. Because the understanding through the New Testament is that this was an office established by Jesus that wasn’t to continue.
Now I’ll tell you this, there is a difference between capital A apostle and lowercase A apostle. The generic term just simply means one sent forth. We would use that term today in relationship to a missionary. You send them forth for a purpose, to proclaim the kingdom. Like the apostles went into parts of the world where there was no Gospel.
The office of apostle, when you study them in the New Testament, they don’t live lives of luxury. In fact, Paul even chastised people for calling themselves super apostles. He said “Why would you want this? Why would you even want that title? We’re the most pitied of all people on earth. We’ve been persecuted, we don’t know if we’re going to have anything to eat. I’ve been shipwrecked, I’ve been beat, we don’t have anything to eat.”
This is not a life of luxury. They go into the uttermost parts of the earth and they lay their lives down for the Lord. In fact, that’s why we’re talking about John, who’s the only apostle that’s living at this point. I mean, John saw his brother, James, martyred for the faith. The first of the apostles or the disciples martyred was John’s brother. When you think about someone that’s really paid the cost, John has seen all of his friends go.
In the New Testament, the New Testament never talks about appointing further apostles. It only talks about, when it talks about church leadership, appointing elders. 1 Peter 5 uses that same term of elders for the idea of shepherds or pastors or bishops. All those interchangeably used in 1 Peter 5.
So, that’s why when we talk about the New Testament from a Christian’s perspective, when we say why are there not any other books? Letters continued to be written after this. In fact, one of my goals this week are to read the seven letter of Ignatius, he was disciple of the disciples. Ignatius wrote seven letters, you can read in church history where the leaders of the church continued to write letters to churches, but they would acknowledge in these letters, these aren’t scripture like you receive scripture from the disciples or the apostles.
The New Testament was written under the authority of the apostolic succession, from Jesus to the ones that he appointed. And so, when you look at the book of John, you have these five books in conclusion here. And here’s what I want to do this morning, I’m going to look at the beginning of 1 John towards the end, but really what I want to do is lay the foundation for who John is to get a perspective of the idea of the kind of individual that’s writing this letter to us.
One of the reasons I want us to have an understanding of exactly who John is is because of the way scripture references him. Interesting title that John has that’s different from all the disciples that followed Jesus. And this is mentioned about John in John 13:23, John 19:26, John 20:2, a few other passages in the book of John, but look how it references John here. The disciple who Jesus loved.
John references himself in these scriptures as really a best friend of Jesus. You ever thought about that? Jesus had a best friend. You can only have so many close friends in life, right? I mean, you have all kinds of friends, Facebook gives you more friends than you really know that you even have. But really in life you only have a few best friends that know you intimately. And I want to see the kind of person that their best friend is Jesus, and Jesus references him this way. What drew in the heart of God? What kind of person is Jesus’ best friend? Can I be like that?
In Mark 1, gives you the introduction to really when John was called by Jesus. I love the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:15, Jesus shows up and he pronounces the Gospel of his kingdom. And then right after that, verse 16, it tells us in Mark that Jesus goes around and starts to call his followers. The first ones that he comes to is Simon, or you would know him better as Peter, and Andrew. It says in verse 16, “As Jesus was going along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon Peter and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea, for they were fishermen.” So he calls them.
And then when you get to verse 19, the next two disciples that are stated here, it says, “Going a little further, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother,” who writes 1 John, “who are also in the boat mending their nets. Immediately he called them and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired servants and went away to follow him.” I love this description. In Mark, you see this often, but it’s a book of action. Mark’s a book of action.
But when John is called by Jesus, it tells us he didn’t delay in the decision. He immediately pursued Christ with his life. Now, I’ll give a little back story to this, I don’t think John’s like blindly following here. I don’t think John’s just sitting here like, “Oh, man, I don’t know what to do with my life. Oh, here’s somebody that might give me some direction, let’s go.” I think John was already aware of the idea of the Messiah coming, because he was familiar with John the Baptist.
John the Baptist had been teaching the pronunciation of the arrival of the Messiah who was to come. John’s story into this world was miraculous, where his father goes into the temple and he has a vision before the Lord and he can’t even speak until John the Baptist is born. So, Israel, God has been silent for hundreds of years, and now all of a sudden God starts talking to his people again. Over 400 years God had been silent, God starts talking to his people again. Then there where this miracle is taking place, it’s in John. John starts to proclaim that the Messiah is coming and so, I think these individuals are familiar with this and looking forward to his arrival.
And then in verse 15, Jesus shows up, proclaims the coming of his kingdom, and then he calls his disciples. And for them, they immediately make the decision. So there was an introduction to Jesus. But they didn’t delay in the choice of pursuing after him, because when they finally see this Messiah and they realize the calling to pursue after him with their lives, they abandon the small business of which they are helping run with their father, which is fishermen. And they pursue after Christ.
And as you start to learn about the life of John, you realize that John isn’t perfect. Yes, he follows Jesus immediately, but he has some learning and growing to do. In fact, when it begins to reference John here, it says, “And he appointed twelve,” so Jesus, at this point in his ministry, he calls individuals and he appoints a particular twelve, which we talked just a little bit ago, that become the twelve apostles. He appoints twelve, Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, and James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James. To them he gave the name Boanerges, which means the sons of thunder.
If you’re wondering what exactly that might mean, I mean, what it really means is if John ever becomes a political leader in this world, you don’t want him in charge of pushing the nuclear bomb button, right? I mean, he gets this name for a reason. He tends to lead more with wrath than grace. If you don’t agree with him, then he’s going to sock you, right? I mean, these two brothers have a reputation. Maybe viewed as like the greatest tag team to ever live. I mean, before the Legion of Doom, you’ve got James and John, right?
And so, John has this reputation in his life of being one that leads with this sort of thunderous attitude to the point that Jesus gives them that nickname. I mean, I can imagine after a while you just get tired of it to the point that you’ve just got to make a joke about it and laugh it off. Like, here’s everybody else and John’s still steaming about something that happened five minutes ago. Calm down, John, we’re all moving forward here, right? That’s the kind of attitude that John has.
In fact, he gives us an illustration of where Jesus might pick up that personality in Luke 9. Listen to this, Luke 9:51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face towards Jerusalem.” So Jesus is talking about his death, burial, and resurrection here. And so he sets his face towards Jerusalem. “And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to take the preparations for him.” So they’re making their journey to Jerusalem, and as they’re making their journey to Jerusalem, it requires them to cross the land of Samaria. The Jews didn’t like Samaritans. You know the story, if you’re familiar with the story of the woman at the well, they refer to them as half breeds and they look down upon that group of people.
In fact, many Jews wouldn’t even walk through this land. They would walk around this land just because they didn’t want to be tainted in their mind by entering into the region of Samaria. But Jesus, because he loves all people, didn’t care. And Jesus would travel back to this region. And here he is coming through this region to go to Jerusalem. And so he enters into the land of Samaria to make preparations for him. Verse 53, “But the people did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them and they went on to another village.”
I love that. It’s like John has a short fuse, right? This is not a very good pastor’s heart, right? John’s about to be an apostle and John what are you about? Killing people. That’s not a very pastorly thing at all. “God, you’re the ruler of all things, should we strike down thunder and destroy them?” And I like this and Jesus was just like, “No.” And they continue on. John’s got this fuse, like macho man, right? He’s grabbing a hold of the ring and going crazier, the ultimate warrior, right? “I want to kill them for you!” “No, let’s not do that.” “All right, let’s go.” You got some things to learn, John.
But this is the kind of individual that we see referenced in John 19:26 as Jesus’ best friend. I think it’s an encouragement for us, saying, “Look, if you know an arrogant, proud, overbearing person, there’s hope.” You know, when I think about John’s character, I think in our own lives, John has a personality that we can see, no doubt, through the first five books of John that once God gets a hold of his life, how incredible that is for the Lord.
I think about in our own lives where we struggle. Our greatest weaknesses are often really our strengths in rebellion against the Lord. Your greatest weakness, oftentimes, is the unsurrendered part of you that belongs to Jesus. Does that make sense? I can tell you, when I first visited Utah back in, I don’t know, 2002, 2003, before I even realized God would lead me here to help plant a church, I recognized in my life that I was stubborn, hard hearted and not afraid of fight. In fact, I would start them. That was me in my pre-Jesus days. And then God came in my life and he softened my heart.
And then I began to realize that my whole life when my mom told me I should be a lawyer because I was so stubborn, that God could use that. But instead of being stubborn, the way the Bible refers to that is long suffering. And then when I looked at Utah, the state of Utah and I looked at ministries that had come and gone over the years and what it would take to be here, I realized that through my life that God had really prepared me to live in a place like Utah.
My heart was in animosity towards God. I thought religion was foolish. And then I start to study the foundations of Christianity, which the foundations are so ridiculously solid, I wondered why I rebelled so long against God. But when my heart inclined and gave over to the Lord, and I began to realize, man, I grew up a poor kid, West Virginia, rough. And it was the kind of grit that you learned in those moments with a stubborn attitude, that when it becomes used for the Lord, that it can be long suffering. And rather than fight against people, God could use me to fight for them with compassion and grace.
And I think a lot of that’s what happened in John’s life. I mean, you think about who he was. He was a fisherman. In some areas of Israel, that occupation was looked down upon. Every day was about grinding it out. He was obviously zealous. And God used the place that we would read a verse like this and say, “John, you’re weak,” and begin to recognize that it’s an area of your life that’s just not surrendered to the Lord. But when you give it over God, the incredible things that he can do.
God wants to shape your heart. And I think in doing so, God doesn’t necessarily have to change your personality. What he does is he transforms your pursuits. God made us all unique, we all come from different experiences in life. And when we get a heart for what God wants to do in this world, he can use those experiences to connect with people and encourage them in pursuit of him.
And so God’s not necessarily about changing your personality, thought there may be some areas of life that God might want to transform. But God, rather than change your personality, wants to transform your pursuits. And if you’re just, okay, I see this happening in John’s life, he’s definitely got some areas in his life that you can tell just aren’t surrendered to God. Maybe even he’s not bought into exactly who Jesus is, though he’s following him in life. Where does this change happen in John’s life? Well, I’ll tell you, this week in scripture I looked for it. I examined, okay, John, where did this paradigm shift in your life happen where not only were you just following Jesus, but you were all in?
And I think it was in John 10:35, this section of scripture, I think for John, like it doesn’t tell us in the passage, but I think this might have been a little embarrassing for him when he started to think through this. By the way, I think this is one of the reasons you know scripture is true. This isn’t the only reason, I wouldn’t pin the validity of scripture on this, but one of the reasons I think we can look at scripture and say, “Okay, scripture’s true,” is because when you study the individuals that write scripture, they really don’t care how you view them, they care how you view Jesus, right? To the point where they’ll even use their own life illustration that doesn’t look that great, in order to show you how great Jesus is, right?
So, when you read about John, you see John just talking about all his screw ups. His desire in his life isn’t for you to look at John and be like, “John, you’re amazing.” But rather, look at Jesus and think, “Jesus, you’re incredible.” And so here’s one of those stories in Mark. In Mark 10:35, “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus saying, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘Well, what is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant that we may sit one on your right and one your left in your glory.'”
It’s like, how great does John and James think they are, these two beefcakes here? They’re like, “We’re like your right and your left hand, God. And so we’re going to tell you what you need to do.” If your faith in the Lord is to this point in life where you think God is about you coming to God and telling God what he needs to do for you, you’ve got it wrong. Okay? God didn’t create you so that he could become your servant and you tell him what he needs to do for you. God created you for his glory, right?
And so, the struggle in our own life is to recognize that when I live for God’s glory, it’s actually to my benefit. Right? But when I live for my own glory, it ends in my destruction. When you study the struggles that we have in society, I think a lot of the problems that we have in society is because people use their strength for their purpose. And what happens in that, when you live like you’re God of your life and you use your strength for your purpose, you treat other people like tools. And you take advantage of them.
When young men run in this world using their strength for their glory, they rape the world around them. But when we understand that things in this world are created for God’s glory, and that all things belong to him, and when we surrender to that and we live for his glory, we use our strength to his glory, to the benefit of people, and all of us end up blessed.
And here in this story, John is finding this struggle in a very personal way. He’s like, “You know what? I haven’t heard any of the disciples ask this yet. Jesus is the king. God, we’ll let you have your spot, we’re just going to sit on the right and left. And before any of the other disciples ask this question, we’re going to go ahead and take spot number two and spot number three. And so, Jesus, we’re here to tell you what to do for us. We’re going to take those second and third positions.”
And rather than heed what James and John are saying, Jesus tells them what to do with that thought, right? And so, verse 43, it moves on there, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man,” this is Jesus identifying himself, he referred to himself as the Son of man. “Even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for ransom for many.”
Jesus, using this word ransom, a beautiful word picture. This is a word that relates in the Old Testament to the word of redemption. One of the Passover Lamb. Jesus is saying he’s giving his life as a sacrifice for the benefit of people around him.
I think this moment was sort of a wake up call for John. Because what we tend to do, and Jesus taught this in this illustration, is we tend to look at position based on power and authority. Like, I want to be the top dog so I can tell everyone below me what to do. But Christianity flips that paradigm. If you want to be great in the Lord and his kingdom, become the lowliest of servants.
God’s people understand what it means to serve because we’ve been served by Jesus. He’s bought our lives with a price. I think the understanding of what Jesus was about began to become clear in John’s mind here, because of what happens in the life John from this moment forward. John’s thinking leading into this moment is exactly like our world. It’s all about me. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and just answer the question of whatever makes me happy. But Jesus is the opposite. He directs our desires through humility, the heart of a servant.
Maybe in thinking about this verse, as John’s going on this journey, is to stop and ask our question, how is God directing your life? Sometimes when we ask that question, guys, I think we tend to answer it by tasks. God wants me to do this, God wants me to do that. But I think when we begin to ask that question, before we start with a task, we need to start with our heart. Where is God directing your life? Because if God gets your heart, he’ll change your life. If God gets your heart, your tasks will become different.
But the story starts with where is the battle over your heart? And in this moment, John sees his heart about everyone else. But Jesus is saying, “Look, lay your heart down for me.” How is God directing your life? I think this calling is what drew out John’s heart, because of what happens in the description of John. See, when you see in John’s description in the Gospels as referred to as the beloved of Christ, or the loved in Jesus, that title doesn’t start happening until John 13:23 in the upper room with Jesus.
But if you look at the chronology of when this story takes place, this is when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, just before he goes to the upper room. And now, when Jesus enters the upper room, the title given to John is the one that’s reflected in John 13:23, John 20:2, John 19:25. John 19 is the story of Jesus hanging on the cross. I think in the moments of Mark 10 to John 13 and into John 19, Jesus finally understood what Christ was about. And I think this is the only reason that John is the only disciple that shows up to the cross when Jesus is being crucified. For the other disciples, they understood that this moment could really cost you your life. But in these moments, John didn’t care because what he loved was Jesus.
And so it says, “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister and Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.” When it comes to the care of your mother, if you know you’re not going to be around, what kind of person do you ask to care for her?
In Jesus’ and John’s day, this was sort of the welfare system, right? Your family took care of the family. And if you didn’t, you could die. And from history we know that Jesus’ father is not mentioned, so the thought is that Jesus’ father has long died, Joseph. Well, his earthly father, I should say, has long died. So the question is, who is going to take care of Mary? But who is the one Jesus asks? The disciple he loves.
Now, I want to be careful and say this, that I don’t think that Jesus … this word for the disciple whom Jesus loved, this title for John, I don’t think it’s saying that Jesus didn’t love the other disciples. I don’t think that it’s saying that John finally did enough to earn Jesus’ love. I think rather what it’s teaching us is that John is the first of the disciples really to begin to experience God’s love. Because John has lended his heart into the goodness of who Jesus is.
When you think about what it means to be loved by the Lord, and to be have this title, I should say, as John has, I don’t think it’s an impossibility for any follower of Jesus to be referenced this way. In fact, if you were to look in 1 John 2, starting in verse one, throughout the rest of the book, there’s a way that John refers to the church, little children, beloved in the Lord. Jesus sees you as loved in Christ. That same title used of John in these Gospels, he uses for the church. And why does he do that? Because the church is made up of those who understand who Jesus really is. And we’ve given our lives over to him.
So what kind of heart becomes such a close friend of God, just like John? Well, if I were to give you a verse that I think really sums it up for us, I would say this, in James 4, by the way, this isn’t James, John’s brother. James, John’s brother, I think has already historically been martyred at this point. But this is James, Jesus’ half brother. Not to confuse it with all the James and Johns in scripture, right?
But James, in chapter four, verse eight, I think he writes in this passage what it really means to be a friend of God. To follow after Jesus as if you are one of the beloved. To understand the same lesson that John learned in Mark 10:35-46. He says this, “Draw near to God,” and look, here’s the promise, “he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded.”
James is recognizing something for us within all of our lives. And there is this battle within us to live for two kingdoms, mine or Christ’s. This world or Jesus’. And James is recognizing in the dichotomy that that struggle is, that you can’t live for two masters. And he’s calling us in this moment to say, “Look, you want to be nearer to God, get rid of the double mindedness in your life. Live for one or the other.”
And the Bible tells you sin’s fun for a season. At least for a season you’re going to have fun. The struggle in our lives and experiencing the goodness of what it means to walk in the love of Jesus is in the battle in our own heart to relinquish that position to allow Christ on the throne of our lives.
And so in this call, James is saying draw near to God. How do you do that? Well, you’ve got to let go of something. And what do you let go of? The world that you think is so important. Purify your heart from that.
And then he says this in verse 10, just like John learned, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and he will exalt you.” You know what that is? That’s surrender. Look how it refers to God, in the presence of the Lord. You know what it’s referencing Jesus as here? Lord, King, the authority. Lay yourselves down before this King.
I think it’s a practice of Christianity every day, where we wake up every day and we say, “God, you made me for your glory.” And really the delight of life is discovered in that. I can fool myself into thinking if I live for myself that I will find joy. But I’ve lived this world long enough to know in the end I’m bankrupt. I’m tired of me. It doesn’t lead me to where I often fool myself into thinking it’s going to go.
But, God, you created me for your purpose. And I’m going to trust in the goodness of who you are over and above anything that I might put myself in a position in. Because I’ve seen who you are and it’s good. And it’s loving. And it’s gracious. And it’s sacrificial. For no other purpose than your glory and my well being. And so I’m surrendering myself to that.
I think this kind of attitude is what John learned. In fact, when you study the rest of this, in John 20:2 that we referenced a minute ago, that tells us that when Jesus’ resurrection starts to be proclaimed, who was the first disciple to the tomb? It’s John. The story tells us in John 20 that he wasn’t the first one to enter the tomb, because Peter was running with him and I think out of respect for he older generation or the older individual with him, he let Peter go in first.
But when your best friend dies and you hear your best friend comes back to life, you are the first one to that tomb. John runs to that tomb and in Galatians 2:9, it even says he become a pillar, that’s the way it refers to him as, as a pillar of the early church. So by the time we get to 1 John, John is the last of the original disciples or apostles. He has gone through a ton in his life. He’s probably a bit lonely, he probably, in these moments, longs to be with his loved ones. I mean, he’s probably lived life long enough where heaven has more that he cares about than earth. And he probably wants to see his friend, Jesus.
He saw his brother, James, martyred. He saw all of his friends martyred. He, himself, they tried to boil alive. He was exiled at one point to the island of Patmos because of his faith in Christ. And you think about this for a moment, the last living disciple, what kind of wisdom can you learn from this guy?
I think the early church recognized what they had on their hands with John. John, later in his life was in the church of Ephesus. But history even records, as John got towards the end of his life, so feeble that he couldn’t walk any more. Than when the church would gather, they would run to his home and they would physically carry him to the church. And they would just prop him before people. They were like, “John, teach us.” And history tells us, I mean, he got so old that the only thing that he could say was just, “Love one another.”
Can you imagine in a community like this, what Satan would desire to do to us? Tear us apart, right? Make us enemies, lack community. John knew that. And John, who wrote the book of Revelation, knew there was a battle in front of the church. Like even I can say to you today without even knowing what tomorrow, there will be a battle. What do you need? Man, you need a community living out the purpose for which God has called you to. How do you succeed in that? Well, I think John nails it, right? I mean, just a simple statement, Jesus’ commandments like love God. If you love God, you’re going to love what God loves. What God loves is people. The greatest thing that you can do in demonstration of your love for God this morning is take some time to care about people around you. We all need encouraged. We all have battles to face. Love one another.
If you were to take this book this morning and just read the introduction, remember by the time John writes this letter, I mean, he’s close to 100. He doesn’t want anything from you. Instead, I think he wants something for you. He understands the gift of what it means to pursue Christ with this life. And he wants to see this happen in the next generation.
We’re going to unpack this in the weeks ahead, but let me just read this opening paragraph. He says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,” an eyewitness account he’s talking about here, “which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the word of life. The life was made manifest and we have seen it and testified 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.”
John knows, he’s older now. A lot of the generation that physically saw Jesus walk the earth is passing away. But he’s saying, “Look, as an eyewitness who was there, I’m sharing this to you, I’m proclaiming also to you so that you may have fellowship with us. And indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ, and in this community.
And look, verse four, he tells you why he’s writing this, this is our goal. Verse four he says it, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” I love that. What does God want for you? What does John want? Man, he wants you to experience the joy of following Jesus. And he doesn’t just say you and your joy, but he’s saying in this passage our joy, collectively. What a beautiful thought, walking into this story. That it’s about a community in the joy of the Lord striving together.
John, in these final words, he records for church history that it’s about seeing the joy of the church moving forward. So here’s a thought for us this morning, as we go through this book, I want us to get the best that God has to offer for us as a community. How do we do this? Well, I think it starts in understanding what it means to be a friend of the Lord. Where is your heart? In order to glean the most out of God’s wording in our lives, I think it starts with addressing where our heart is going into that word. Why are you reading it?
I think the call in this passage is for us to surrender ourselves. And so when I think about the journey ahead of us, I think for us to take the most out of what God’s going to communicate together collectively so that we can discover our joy, is to also answer the question, what does it mean to be a friend of God? And that is to lay down our hearts before him.
I love the way that Jesus was patient with John. Stubborn, arrogant, shooting off at the mouth, and there was hope. There was hope. Jesus didn’t give up. He walked with John. And John in these moments finally understood that God was for him, not against him. And if he would just lean his heart into that, God would tremendously bless him in the joy for which he created him to belong in in Christ.
And so here’s what I’m going to do this morning, I just want to close with prayer. And I want to pray for our lives as we go through the story, that where our heart wrestles with God, that God could use this passage to give us a foundation to enjoy the journey with him.