Walk the Talk

1 John 1:1-7

September 1, 2011 | Brian Bill

We’ve had this scale in our bathroom for as long I can remember.  You can tell it looks old but what you don’t know is that the readings aren’t very reliable.  No really, they’re not.  Sometimes when I step on it I feel extremely svelte and other times I feel like a beluga.  Now some of that can be attributed to my late night nachos and cheese but we’ve discovered that the scale actually is all messed up.  Because of that, we don’t use it.  We walk by it, step over it and sometimes push it out of the way but we’ve never thrown it away…until today.  What we really should do is just buy a new one but I don’t think we want one that is accurate.  It’s sometimes better to not know the truth, if you know what I mean.

That reminds me of the conversation two kids were having as they closely examined some bathroom scales at Wal-Mart.  “Have you ever seen one of these before?” one asked.  “Yeah, my mom and dad have one,” the other replied.  “What’s it for?” asked the first boy.  “I’m not sure,” the second boy answered, “But I think you stand on it and it makes you mad.”

We’re beginning a new series today called “Confident Christianity” and we’re going to be standing on the scale of God’s Word from the book of 1 John.  Instead of getting mad, I believe we’ll end up being very glad.  Could I encourage you to read this brief book at least twice before next Sunday?   

Who, What, Where, When, Why

The apostle John wrote this book, along with the Gospel of John, the brief books of 2 and 3 John and the Book of Revelation.  When he wrote this letter he was living in Ephesus and would have been in his late 80s or early 90s.  In his old age, he’s reflecting and reminiscing and as the only apostle still living at the time, he spoke with great authority.  There’s something about an older person sharing spiritual truth that makes us sit up and listen. 

1 John is known as a general letter, meaning that it was not sent to just one congregation but was circulated among the believers.  The tone of the letter is tender as he refers to his readers as “little children,” but he also is tough on those who are spreading false teaching.  His predominant purpose is to remind believers that they can be certain about the truths of Christianity and confident in their relationship with Him.  His writing style is a bit like a sermon and he uses repeated themes to call us back to the basics.

Often the letters that make up much of the New Testament were written to counteract some heresy that had infiltrated the church.  In fact, a lot of the councils, and the creeds that came out of them, confronted error and clarified truth.  The Apostle Paul warned about this widespread distortion of truth in Acts 20:29-30: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

The word “heresy” means to “select or choose.”  False teachers teach some truth but then mix in their opinion as they select certain themes and ideas to focus on.  John is dealing with a false teaching called Gnosticism which taught that matter is evil and only the spirit is good.  This has a lot of nuances but the most dangerous is that they believed Jesus did not really have a flesh and blood body but was more like a phantom.  According to this view, Jesus didn’t really die or rise from the dead.  Gnosticism, which got its name from the word “knowledge” in Greek, also taught that only those who had special knowledge could be saved.

Because of this belief, two behaviors emerged.  By the way, wrong beliefs always lead to wrong behaviors.

  • Flesh fasting – Since the body is evil, any urge must be purged.  In this view, people would unplug from the world.
  • Flesh feasting – Do whatever you want because matter doesn’t matter.  These people went to the other extreme and unplugged from any moral restraint. 

There’s a legendary story that one day John went to bathe and noticed that a false teacher named Cerinthus was beginning to descend into the pool.  John immediately rushed out and is reported to have said, “Let us fly, lest even the bathhouse fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”

He is a fact, He is to be proclaimed, He is to be shared and He leads us to joy

John doesn’t waste any time getting to the core issue of Christianity, which is Christ Himself.  I don’t have to tell you that there is much confusion today on the street about the essence of true Christianity.  As we will see, Christianity is not just a system of thought or a philosophy.  It is a person – Jesus Christ – and He is a fact, He is to be proclaimed, He is to be shared and He leads us to joy.

Let’s read the first four verses of 1 John.  By the way, I was originally going to preach on the first seven, but there’s so much in this opening passage that I thought it best to save some for next week: “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.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.”

Christianity is weighty.  When we put it on the scale, here’s what we learn…

1. Christianity is fact, not fiction. 

Our faith is not built upon a fable but is rather rooted in the facts of history.  Jesus Christ was a historical figure and invites investigation.  We see this in 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…”  

John begins his letter with no introduction or greeting.  Instead, he starts off much like he did in the Gospel that he wrote in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”   Jesus is eternal, without beginning or end.  This also echoes back to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 

The sense also is that the message about Him has not changed.  John has been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and the records about Him are true.  John heard what He said, saw what He did and also touched Him.  This is a fact, not fiction.

    • He heard.  Imagine all the amazing things he heard Jesus say over the course of three years.
    • He saw.  John says that he saw with his “eyes,” meaning that Jesus was not a figment of the imagination.
    • He looked at.  This goes beyond just seeing but means, “Careful and deliberate consideration; to see with understanding.”  We derive our word “theater” from it as used in John 1:14 where it says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…”  
    • His hands touched.  This same word is used by Jesus after His resurrection in Luke 24:39: “Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself!  Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 

John in essence is saying that he was an eyewitness.  This reminds me of the opening verses in Luke’s Gospel: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Christianity is fact, not fiction.  My guess is that some of us have heard this so many times that we’re no longer moved by these truths. 

2. Christianity is proclaimed, not private. 

Once an individual encounters Christ, one cannot help but proclaim Him to others in the last part of verse 1, in verse 2 and in the first part of verse 3: “…This we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard…”  

The word “appeared” appears twice and means, “To be put on display for all to see.”  Since Jesus has appeared, we can’t help but announce this news to others.  Notice the three times “proclaim” is used here.  This word means to report or announce as a messenger.  He also uses the word “testify” which is a word from the court system, with means to bear witness of what one has seen and heard.

I love how eagerly the early church engaged in evangelism as stated by Peter and John in Acts 4:20: “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  This is what’s behind the outreach element in our Mission Statement: “To connect people to Jesus and equip them to be growing and faithful followers.”

Are you keeping your faith private instead of proclaiming it?  Is there someone you need to share Jesus with this week?  

3. Christianity is shared, not selfish. 

The purpose of proclamation is that more might share in fellowship with others and with God.  This is clear in verse 3: “…So that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”  The phrase “so that” shows us that this is another one of John’s purposes in writing.

We often define fellowship as synonymous with food.  But it’s much more than that.  It literally means to have in common or communion.  One definition states:  “The setting aside of private interests and desires in order to join with another or others for common purposes.”  Or as they say in the Navy, “Fellowship is two fellows on the same ship.”

Note the two dimensions of fellowship.

  • Horizontal – with one another.
  • Vertical – with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Actually, you can only have fellowship with a Christian if you are in fellowship with Christ.  I like what Pastor Steven Cole says: “True Christianity is an experience rooted in revelation and realized in relationship – with God and with other believers.”  This two-dimensional fellowship should always be deepening in both directions.

I wonder how many of us can honestly say that we are as committed to community as the early church was as seen in Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship…”  I believe that one reason they had such deep fellowship was that they were deeply devoted to one another.  Another reason why this happened is because they met in homes where they actually did life together.  

Are you committed to a weekly gathering of a smaller community of Christ-followers?  If not, determine to plug into a group this fall.  There’s no place for lone-ranger Christians.  As we’ve said before: If you unplug, you will unravel.

4. Christianity is rejoicing, not repressive. 

Some of us don’t exhibit much joy but with Jesus in our lives, we should be filled with rejoicing.  We see this in verse 4: “We write this to make our joy complete.”  The word “complete” means to be filled full.  Someone has said that if fellowship is the answer to spiritual loneliness, then joy is the answer to spiritual emptiness

I like how Psalm 16:11 reads in the King James Version: “…In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”  John gets fired up with rejoicing when he finds out that a friend’s children are growing in Christ.  Check out what he writes in 2 John 4: “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”  For those of you who are seeing your kids follow Jesus, there is no greater joy, is there?  John was also amped up when he saw his spiritual children living lives of obedience in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 

Let’s summarize… 

  • Christianity is fact, not fiction
  • Christianity is proclaimed, not private.
  • Christianity is shared, not selfish.
  • Christianity is rejoicing, not repressive.

I like another outline that Pastor David Legge used when he preached on this passage.

  • Jesus must be encountered
  • Jesus must be experienced
  • Jesus must be expressed

Christ, Community and Communion

I asked Beth this week why we’ve been keeping this scale since it doesn’t work.  She had a good answer.  She said it serves as a visual reminder that we could be going up or going down at any moment.  

Friends, the only way to know for sure if you’re going north or south spiritually is to know the Savior.  That reminds me of Daniel 5:27: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”  This message appeared to Belshazzar as handwriting on the wall, because he was filled with pride.  

when we walk the talk we proclaim the truth

Do you feel weighed down today?  We’ve all been weighed and found wanting.  But Jesus invites us to encounter Him so that we’ll experience eternal life and then express this life to others.  In short, when we walk the talk we proclaim the truth.

Do you feel dirty today?  I’m told that 200 people went to the Mudbowl last Sunday night.  I don’t know what I was thinking because I showed up in a white Packer t-shirt and for some reason people defaced it by covering me in mud.  I was a mess but I was nothing like most of the students!  It made me think that we’re all spiritually dirty and only through a relationship with Jesus can we be made clean.  I love what Jesus said in John 15:3: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

Another illustration stands out to me.  A couple weeks ago after Josiah and Meta Hanson’s wedding ceremony, Meta turned to Josiah when they were outside and asked, “Does my face look ok?”  Josiah smiled and said, “You look perfect.”  Friends, because of Christ, those who know Him through the new birth have been declared perfectly righteous.

Let’s affirm the factualness of our faith right now as we celebrate communion.  Let’s engage our senses as we see the bread and the cup, which reminds us of the fact that he came in the flesh, died on our behalf, was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and is coming again.  Let’s touch the elements to remind us that Jesus was real, and still is.  Let’s taste together as we remind ourselves that this is but a foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  And let’s now use our ears and listen to Jesus Himself as quoted by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Listen as He gives new meaning to a common meal.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?