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Sermon - January 25, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon #1178

January 25, 2015                                                                                1 John 1:1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“The Word of Life”

 

           

1.Giving Testimony

a.Heard

b.Seen

c.Looked at

d.Touched

 

1 John is a very short letter as are the following epistles from John, 2 and 3 John.  This one begins much like the gospel of John, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”  1 John begins, “That which was from the beginning.”  The beginning here is most likely the beginning of John’s contact with Jesus Christ, he is sharing the beginning of Christ’s ministry on this earth.  He is sharing the gospel that was actually witnessed as seen in the four verbs to open the letter... “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.”  John is giving testimony like one would do in a court of law.  John has this tremendous experience of actually having been with Jesus on this earth in a physical, visual, and auditory manner.  He heard him speak.  He saw him heal blind people.  He was touched on the shoulder.  He shook Jesus’ hand.  He shared meals and journeys and probably lots of humor.  That is, John lived with Jesus as friend and disciple.  He lived with the very word of life.  He rubbed shoulders with the Word that became flesh and blood.  So John is telling us his story and he tells his experience partly to bring us into the story as well. 

Look at verses 3, 6, and 7.  This is one of the main reasons to tell us about Jesus.  “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”  The story draws us into the fellowship of John and with God.  This is the power of story and testimony – we are drawn into the narrative in such a way that we are also drawn into fellowship.  We now share the identity of the story as if we had heard, seen, looked at, and touched.  This is the power of the living word.  We now are part of the community of the Word of Life.

      One other thing about this sharing of fellowship – when what John touched and saw is shared through testimony with the hearer, the hearer is just as reliable a source as John.  Each generation of hearers all the way down to us is as reliable a witness as John.  We have touched Jesus because Jesus has touched us.  “He touched me and oh the joy that floods my soul.”  We become a part of the testimony in what we have seen and heard, and we continue to share that story.  Now, yes, it is true we have not touched Jesus as we are able to touch one another, but there is a great blessing Jesus gives us in John’s gospel.  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  In one sense I think it is a little more powerful to share in the testimony when we have not seen but believe.  It takes that little bit more faith.  It means we are willing to take on the fellowship without the imperial data that so many people require.  Blessed by the Word of Life!

 

2.Subject – The Word of Life

a.Manifest

b.Eternal

c.Proclaimed

d.Fellowship

 

What has touched us is the Word of Life.  There is no other word with the same touch.  It draws us to Jesus.  This is the subject of John’s testimony.  Jesus is the one who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  Jesus came that we might have life in abundance (John 10:10).  The word has always led to life.  Psalm 19 speaks of the law of the Lord reviving the soul (7).  Psalm 119 testifies that the word gives us life (50).  This is the significant wonder of God’s word.  It is what makes it living and active (Hebrews 4:12).  The Bible talks a lot about the word and when it makes that connection with the word becoming flesh in Jesus, we do not have a disconnect between word and Jesus.  What we have is a word that is embodied in the person and work of Jesus.  He is the fulfillment of the word, the embodiment of the word, the source of life.  This is why we are so strong on issues of life, in the unborn, in end of life issues, in all things pertaining to life and death. 

I’ve highlighted four more words that open the word to us.  First, the word has been manifest.  It has been displayed in the person of Jesus.  He is obedient to it, joyous in it, and living it.  The life was made visible and clear.  Paul says in Colossians that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  If you want to know God and the word of God, Jesus is a great place to start.  God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. 

Second, the word is eternal.  God’s word does not cease.  I’ve probably told you this before, but someone once shared a Jewish story that asked, “What do the angels do on the Sabbath?  They study the Torah.”  The Torah, the word of God continues on from this life into our life to come.  I think we will still be reading and celebrating the word in heaven. 

Third, the word is proclaimed.  Three times in the ESV, verses 2, 3, and 5, proclaim to you the eternal life, proclaim also to you, and proclaim to you, the message is shared.  What this says is that the message is important, that is, what is said.  But it is also emphasizing that we indeed say it.  Do it.  Proclaim it.  Be a messenger. 

Why the proclamation?  Why the testimony?  The letter begins giving the proclamation for the sake of fellowship.  The fourth word is fellowship, a word I have already lifted.  The message is proclaimed because in the message we share fellowship.  Our life is experienced together in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We talk about unity in the church and that unity is known in and around the gospel.  This is what holds the church together – the message.  It is not in programs, not in style, not in structures, but in a living word.  We trust in this word we share together.  We believe that because it is the word of life it leads to life when it is lived.  It must be lived in relationships, in marriage, in parenting, in the workplace, in societies if they seek to thrive.  So we think it important to follow the Ten Commandments, to live the golden rule, or to shine the light of Christ in the darkness. 

John concludes verse 4 saying that this is for the sake of our joy.  Some versions say “your” joy, it is not that crucial which way we go with that.  John’s joy and the folks he writes to and our joy as well is complete because we have received the Word of Life.  Those who give testimony and those who receive it are both going to find joy in this Life that is Jesus.  The entire Bible is geared toward this joy because the entire Bible is aimed at revealing Jesus. 

 

3.Light and Darkness

a.God is light

b.No Darkness

 

Here is the message in verse 5, “the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”   God is light.  These are words that reveal God: light, life, eternal, no darkness.  God is light.  Walk in the light.  In the Isaiah passage we read a moment ago, 2:5, walk in the light.  If you have walked in darkness you know the perils.  Toes stubbed, tripping over toys, bumping into furniture.  We scramble for matches or a flashlight.  Then when the light comes our eyes get their bearings and we are saved.  My cell phone has this flashlight called an assistive light.  The word assists us in life, to see and to know.  Light and darkness are often compared to life and death, to right and wrong.  If we walk in the light we find life and we do the right things.  We sometimes tell our teenage children when they ask for a curfew, nothing good happens out there after midnight.  It is dark.  It is where people seek to hide their deeds.  Many news stories that involve criminal activity happen in the dark.  We try to hide things in the darkness, but light exposes sin.  We wait for things unknown to “come to light”.  So, we want to be a people who walk in the light.  Psalm 119 says that the word is a lamp to our feet.  Walking in the darkness is more difficult.  The light shines our way and the word shine light on our way.  We need the light, the source, the enlightenment for life so that we can see what to do and what to say and when to say it or when to be quiet.  This word of life, this fellowship and way of living is given direction from the source of light. 

In God there is no darkness.  In heaven there will be no sun because God is the eternal light, no night, only day.  “22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Rev. 21:22-27).   Jesus is now the light of the world, shining in the darkness of this world (John 8).  We are told that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5).  We are a light because Jesus is the light. 

 

 

4.If we say…

a.Fellowship – darkness – liar

b.If we walk in light – fellowship – cleansing

c.Claim no sin – deceiving

d.Confess sin – forgiveness

e.Claim no sin – no word of life

 

I want to talk now about the “if we” sayings that finish chapter 1. 

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

            We cannot say one thing and yet do another.  How many times do we see that in others and perhaps even in ourselves.  People who claim to know the Bible but never really live the Bible.  The opposite of that is the next verse.

 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

            It is such a joy to share this fellowship.  Our fellowship, I believe, is better since we have shed the disunity of diverse theological and biblical views.  The greatest contrast of this fellowship in my recent experience has been the difference between Presbytery meetings of old and the ones I now look forward to in the EPC.  The fellowship among people who believe in God’s word, who share common essential truths, and who genuinely seek unity of heart and mind, is so joyous.  It refreshes my life.  I like the term sweet fellowship.  It is sweet because it is cleaned and cleansing.  Last week when I was starting to sense a little bit of health coming back from a cold, I yearned for a clean crisp orange.  It leaves the pallet clean, not coated with grease and cheese like a nasty old burger, but sweet and clear.  Christ has cleansed us for fellowship.

 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

            This is such a temptation for us to deceive ourselves.  We are so easy to point out the speck in someone else’s eye and never see the log in our own (Matt. 7).  We are quick to criticize others but reject criticism of ourselves.  If we say we have no sin – deceived.  How quick we can deceive.  “It wasn’t me.”  In the Disney space comedy Rocketman, Fred Randall is a goofy engineer who happens upon a chance to go to Mars.  All through the movie when something goes wrong his line is the same every time, “It wasn’t me!”  We don’t own up to our sins sometimes and we deceive ourselves.  We don’t own up to deflated footballs!  We don’t admit we have sinned in some way, either by what we have done or not done. 

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

            The gospel in verse nine.  Confession is indeed good for the soul.  All we can do sometimes is confess.  We don’t desire to deceive ourselves, we want to walk in the light.  Can we take a serious look at ourselves to see if we are living as righteously as we might think.  Well, we are in comparison to others, we might rationalize

 

10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

            Confession is a sign that we indeed know the word of life.  Because our comparison is not with others, but to the Lord and to his word that reveals our sinfulness.  Individually and corporately we seek the word in us that we might not sin against God.  If the word is not in us it is easy to deceive ourselves.  If the word is not in us it is more difficult to even know if we sin.  The word is the gift that reveals our sin and then when we confess, Jesus is there to forgive!  We are made clean, our joy complete, and the Word of Life dwells in us.  This is the message John proclaims and gives to us to proclaim as well.  It is good news!  Amen.