1 John 1:4-10
Before we begin, lets pray:
We thank you for this opportunity to gather in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and hear the proclamation and teaching of your Word. We pray that this time would be edifying to us, and glorifying to you.
We pray all of these things in Jesus’ name. And Amen.
Tonight, we’re going to be spending time in First John. We’re going to be in chapter one. We’re going to be looking at verses four through ten, and then after looking here, we’re going to be spending time reading and looking throughout the rest of the letter.
The title of my message this evening is That Your Joy May Be Made Full.
As we know – at this current time, there are those who are in the church here at Trinity who are going through difficult times.
Some of you have had close family members and friends pass away, and go on to be with the Lord. We miss them greatly, and we look forward to the day that we will be reunited with them.
We have some here who are currently sick and battling various illnesses and diseases, and are undergoing treatments for these things. You are in our prayers.
There are others here who have recently lost jobs and are currently relying upon the Lord to provide for them and their families. The Lord knows all about all of these things.
The main thing that I’m wanting to point out tonight from the beginning, is that there are many here tonight who are facing circumstances, and many of you are in need of your joy being made full.
My goal tonight is to demonstrate to you from the Scriptures how this can be.
But, before we dive into our text this evening, I’d like to take time to set up for you some of the history and events behind First John, and why it was written.
Now, First John was written by the Apostle John sometime after the fall of Jerusalem. Scholars believe that it was written sometime between the years of AD 85-95. An interesting thing about the letter is that it is not addressed to a certain church or person. It is what is referred to as a general epistle or a general letter.
It is believed that it was likely written from the city of Ephesus, where John would serve in ministry through the rest of his natural life.
There were several reasons why John wrote this letter. Scholars are split between whether John is writing about the Judaizers, or an early group of Greeks who tried to impose their philosophy on Christianity known as the Gnostics. I am undecided on the matter. I believe that the text displays characteristics of both groups, and addresses errors put forth by both groups. But, regardless of who the text is addressing, there were some concerns that had arose within the church. There some in the church who had started applying a Greek philosophy to the Christian faith. This particular philosophy taught that the spiritual realm was good, and anything in the physical realm was evil. The teachers of this philosophy took this concept and applied it to the person and work of Jesus Christ, which led to a false teaching which taught that Jesus was actually a spirit, who only appeared to have a fleshly body. They denied that Jesus actually came in the flesh.
John addresses this throughout his letter, and you’ll actually see this in several places. If you read this letter, you’ll see it in the opening verses where John says, “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, of the Word of life.”
John was giving his eye witness testimony, and was reassuring the church who was hearing these false teachings, that this teaching that they were hearing was false. He and the other Apostles had seen Jesus in the flesh with their own eyes, and their own hands had touched Him, and had felt the wounds on his body. He didn’t merely appear to have a body. He literally took on flesh according to John.
Now, another reason why John wrote this letter, and I believe this is the main driving factor behind the letter; was and is for the joy of the church. There were many in John’s day, just as there are in ours, who were in need of joy.
I believe we often times look back at this period when the Apostles lives as a sort of golden age, where the church was full of joy, and was entirely pure and without error, but that’s not necessarily the truth. We know from reading the New Testament, that there was real error in the church at this time, and there was real hardship. There was also real persecution.
John was aware of this, and had experienced it himself at the hands of Rome. He writes in his letter with this is mind, and he writes and shows us where to look so that we may have joy in the midst of hardship.
Now, if you would, look with me to our text.
4. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
This is God’s Word.
I want to start by summarizing the text. John is saying this:
We’re writing these things in this letter for your joy. So that you may be full of it. This is the message that we’ve heard of Jesus, and we declare that same message to you. God is light, and in him, there is no darkness. If claim to know God, and to have a relationship with him, while living in unrepentant sin and darkness, we lie and do not tell the truth. If we say we follow Jesus, yet walk in sin, we make it known that we are liars.
However, if we walk in the light, as Jesus himself is in the light, we have fellowship with Him and His blood cleanses us from all of our sins. If we say that we do not sin or that we have no sin in our lives, we are deceived and the truth is not in us, and not only this, but we also make God a liar, and his word is not in us.
John Calvin, in his commentary on 1 John said this about this passage:
“The sum of what is said is that since there is no union between light and darkness, there is a separation between us and God as long as we walk in darkness.”
Now, it should be noticed that John clearly makes a hard distinction between those who walk in darkness and those who walk in light. He contrasts them, and makes it clear that the two cannot co-exist.
So the questions that we need to be asking tonight is how can we know who is walking in darkness and who is walking in light, and how can knowing this can make our joy full?
If we look throughout this letter, we will find that John lays out marks of true faith and false faith. He lays out what it looks like to walk in darkness and to walk in light.
The first set of marks that John gives to us is found in our text. They can be found in verses eight through ten. There, John says, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Going on from there, he says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confessing our sins should be the norm for each and every Christian. This is what it looks like to walk in the light, according to John.
Confession of sin is when we come to God, and we say the same thing about sin as He does. We acknowledge his perspective about our sin. We come to him and say, “Father, I know that what I’ve done today was sinful. It was no small sin, for Christ died for it, and I am in need of your forgiveness and cleansing.” Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation.
When we fail to confess our sins, what we are saying to God is that we have no sins to confess. If we have no sins to confess, then we have no need for an advocate with the Father. And if we have no need for an advocate, then we have no need for Christ and his cleansing blood.
Christ in the Gospels says that it wasn’t those who were whole that he came to save, but the sinners. Paul in his epistle wrote that Christ came into the world to save sinners.
Every time we confess our sins, something actually happens. They’re not covered up, they’re washed away entirely by the blood of Christ.
Who here has heard the old hymn, “What Can Wash Away My Sin”?
The lyrics to that old hymn read:
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh! Precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
The very thing that we sing about here in this hymn, occurs over again and again every time we confess our sins to God. Every time we confess our sins, the Scriptures say that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. Though our sins are like scarlet, the blood of Christ makes them as white as snow.
Confessing our sins continually remind us of our weakness, and sinfulness, but it also creates in us a desire to want to be obedient to God. This leads us into the second set of marks.
From here, John goes on. The second set of marks that are laid out for us are found in 1 John chapter two, verse three.
John writes, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him.”
God desires for His children to be obedient. The writer in 1 Samuel 15:22 wrote, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
God is very interested in our obedience, just as any good Father would be.
The Christian faith is a living and active faith. We are called by God to work out our salvation. Those who say they know God, but have no interest in keeping his commandments have no faith at all, and the truth is not in them. John writes that we know we are in him when we keep his commandments.
Have you ever met someone who claims the name of Christ, yet claims that they are free to live how they want? I’m sure that we’ve all met someone like this. This is a mark of walking in darkness.
Let me tell you a quick story. A couple of years ago, I worked with a man who was a pastor of a church, and unfortunately this man was the embodiment of what John is talking about here.
When I first started working at this place, we really seemed to hit it off. We would discuss church, theology, and ministry. And shortly thereafter, things began going downhill in our relationship. This pastor had a drug problem, and would come to work under the influence on a regular basis. Not only that, but he would use the company vehicle to support his habit. There were times where we would be in the facility, and there would be people coming in and out of his office buying and selling drugs.
One day, I got in one of our company trucks, and it was apparent to me as soon as I had opened the door that this man had been using drugs in the truck. So at this point, I shut the door of the truck, and I went to him privately. I said, sir, with all due respect, on a professional level, you cannot continue to engage in this type of behavior. You put everyone in this facility at risk, and on a more important note, I am concerned for you on a spiritual level. You are a pastor. You are a man who stands before a congregation on a weekly basis, who speaks the Word of God, and shepherds the souls of the people. You cannot be displaying this kind of behavior. To be an elder, you must be sober minded and above reproach. This is not the behavior of a man who is called to Gospel ministry.
You know what he said to me? I remember this like it was yesterday.
He had his back turned to me, and he would not turn around and look me in the face. He only turned his head and looked at me back over his shoulder and said, “Man, you gotta realize that I’m not a pastor when I’m not in the church.” And then he walked off…
This is the type of behavior that we’re talking about. This kind of behavior is the embodiment of what John is talking about here. This is willful sin, with absolutely no remorse, conviction, or desire to repent. Let this mans example be an example to you this evening. Are you walking in darkness while you claim to know Christ? Are you willfully disobeying God and walking in darkness?
Now, I want to be clear about something. Keeping God’s commandments does not put us in Him. It does not give to us salvation. It in no way joins us to Christ. Our good deeds are not capable of that. They are as filthy rags before the face of God. We can only be joined to God through faith in Christ alone, and even that is a gift given to us by God, lest any man should boast. But, obeying the commandments, and doing good works are the fruits of someone who is truly in Christ, and walking in the light. We are saved by a living and active faith, not a faith that does not produce fruit. We can in no ways be comforted if we claim to remain in Christ, as long as we are living in constant and willful sin. He will surely cut us off from Him if we continue to live this type of lifestyle.
Jesus said in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. . . I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
The writer of Hebrews said this:
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
We must abide in Christ by faith. We must love God, and love others. Doug Wilson, who is a pastor in Moscow, Idaho, says this, and I like this, I believe it summarizes exactly the point that we’re trying to communicate this evening. He says, “we must work out what God works in.”
This leads us directly into our third mark.
Turn with me to 1 John chapter three, and we’ll be looking at verse ten onward.
“In this, the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: that whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brothers righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto live, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Now as we see, this goes hand in hand with what we read just a few moments ago. We see the same kind of language. We see that we are to be doers of righteousness by being obedient to the commandments of God, and we are to abide in Christ by love. John draws another strong contrast as he did earlier with light and darkness. This time, he points out that there are two kinds of people in the world – children of God, and children of Satan. No one can belong to both families at the same time. Either one belongs to God’s family, or one belongs to Satan’s family.
Those who hate their brothers and only serve themselves do not belong to God’s family. Rather, they belong to Satan’s family. This is the exact behavior that Satan displayed in the beginning. Rather than serving God faithfully, he chose to serve himself, and attempted to usurp dominion over God, and because of this He was cut off and was cast out of Heaven.
This should make you think about your own behavior. Are you serving those whom God has put in your life? Or, are you serving yourself? Consider this.
So how does God expect us to love our brothers?
By following Christ’s example, and becoming a servant. As John asks here in verse seventeen, how does the love of God dwell in those who see a need, and not meet it? How can we love the brethren, if we are not willing to humble ourselves as Christ did, and serve?
Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus made himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant. This is what God expects of his children. He has loved us, and has served through His Son, Jesus, and he expects us to take that model, and reproduce it with all those we come in contact with.
Jesus said in John thirteen, verse thirty-five:
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”
How can you love Christ, if you are not willing to model yourself after Him and make yourself of no reputation and take on the form of a servant just as He did (Phil. 2:7)?
The answer is, you can’t. We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethern (1 John 3:14).
This leads us to our last set of marks. Look with me in 1 John 4:3. There, John writes:
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
This is the foundation of everything we’ve discussed this evening. You will never be able to obtain any kind of lasting joy if you deny Christ, and who the Scriptures say that He is.
You must confess that Christ came in the flesh, was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, that he died, was buried, and was resurrected for the forgiveness of sins, and reigns at the right hand of the Father and is making his enemies His footstool, and will come again to put the last enemy under his feet, which is death.
Those who do not confess this are anti-christ, according to John.
You must believe this very thing this evening, or you can have no hope of obtaining lasting joy. Before you can ever bear the fruit we’ve discussed this evening, you must first be connected to the Vine. You must be a part of the Olive Tree, the covenant people of God spoken of in Romans 11. You must be connected to Jesus Christ.
If you’re a Christian, and you’ve examined yourself throughout this message, and you’ve seen that you’re not bearing these marks as should be, then you must turn away from the darkness, and follow Christ, who is in the light,
OR expect to surely be cut off from His covenant people. If you continue to willfully live in sin, Jesus says in John fifteen, that you will be cut off from Him, taken away, and cast into the fire. What you can look forward to is judgment and fiery indignation, as the writer in Hebrews said.
So the final question tonight is how does all of this work together for our joy?
If you are one of those people whom I addressed at the beginning of the message tonight, let me sum this up for you. When we look at these marks of faith, and see them manifest in our lives, our cups ought to overflow with joy. Our cups should run over, because we know that Christ as done a true work in our lives. And if Christ has done this work, there is nothing that can undo what he has done. If Christ has brought us from death to life, then we are heirs along side of Him. We have obtained an inheritance far beyond what we could ever imagine. Not only that, but if we are truly in Christ, we can now confidently stand holy and blameless before him, because we have been adopted as sons of God.
If you are in need of joy tonight, look to Christ. He is the author and finisher of your faith. He has worked these marks in you, and you may rest assured that if you truly possess them, he will complete in you that good thing which he has started.
Now, I want to close with saying this. I don’t doubt that there are some here tonight who had heard this message who have examined themselves, and rather, than overflowing with joy, they feel much conviction and holy despair, because there has been a sad realization that these marks have not been worked in their lives.
If that is you tonight, I want to say this to you. It is not to late for you. Your joy can be made full, but you must first come to Christ.
Tonight, Christ beckons you. The writer of Revelation said, “the Spirit and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Let no obstacle hinder you. Do not persist in unbelief or harden your heart. Stop loving this world. Stop clinging to your sins, and don’t be a fool and think that you’re too good of a person for God to damn you. Do not delay. Humble yourself today, and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. He is rich to save all who come to him.
Before I turn the service back over, let us close in prayer.
I thank you for this evening and the time that you’ve given us together. Thank you for the opportunity to proclaim your Word another time.
We pray, Lord, that those whom were in attendance tonight were edified and built up. We pray that their joy was made full.
Holy Father, we also pray for those whom are in attendance tonight who may have been brought low by of this message, and may feel things like conviction and holy despair. We pray Lord that you would deal with them, and that you would lift them up, and that you would bring them from death to life by bringing to them the salvation accomplished by your Son, Jesus Christ. We pray all of this in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.