Sermon January 5, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1426

January 5, 2020 1 John 1.1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Word of Life”

 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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. 8 If we say 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 we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

  • From the Beginning

 

With every new year we think, even if just for a moment, about new beginnings. Most people have good intentions to start anew with whatever resolutions are proposed. With God, we always have opportunity for a new beginning. With each confession, with every worship opportunity, with every engagement in the Word, we have a new beginning possible. John speaks of a beginning, “from the beginning”, and his beginning is with Jesus Christ. In the gospel of John the beginning is all the wayu back to the Genesis beginning. I think John liked beginnings.

John begins here 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 the beginning of John’s contact with Jesus Christ, he is sharing the beginning of Christ’s ministry on this earth. That is where life truly begins, when we come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Everything is new in Jesus. Everything is fresh and abundant and a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). It reminds me of Paul’s words in Galatians 2.20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is particularly the phrase, “the life I now live”. The beginning of life is with Jesus.

 

  • Our Testimony

 

It is this life with Jesus from which our testimony of life comes. John is sharing the life that he has seen with Jesus. We see this 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. He has had 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.

Did you now see? Did you now hear? This is what the testimony does for us; it brings us into the story of Jesus. We too are able now to tell of what we have seen and heard and looked upon concerning the Word of Life. I left out John’s experience of touching Jesus in that we do not share that physical reality, but what we do share is that Jesus has touched us in another way like He touched John, in the Spirit. In that sense we have been touched and have touched the Savior.

 

 

  • The Word of Life

 

This testimony of John is now our testimony as fellow believers. This Word of Life is our daily epiphany. Today we celebrate the epiphany of Jesus which means the manifestation of God in Christ to those who arrived and brought gifts. Our epiphany, our manifestation is found in the Word of Life. What has touched us is the Word of Life. What is now manifest to us is this Word. 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.

There are four more words that open the Word to us. First, the word has been manifest. It has been displayed in the person of Jesus. It is our epiphany. 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). God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.

Second, the word is eternal. God’s word does not cease. 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 might 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, proclaim, proclaim! 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. 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.

 

 

  • Fellowship

 

Look at verses 3, 6, and 7. It’s about fellowship, fellowship, fellowship. “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ...If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,” 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. 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. We are blessed by the Word of Life!

 

 

  • Joy Complete

 

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, the folks he writes to, and our joy as well are 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.

 

 

  • The Message

 

My last point today comes from verse 5, “This is 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. 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 setting a curfew, nothing good happens out there after midnight or eleven or ten. 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. 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.

I want to include the “if we” sayings that finish 1 John 1.

6If 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.

 

7But 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. There are few things as refreshing as good fellowship and gatherings with like minded believers. It refreshes our lives. I like the term sweet fellowship. It is sweet because it is cleaned and cleansing.

 

8 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!”

 

9 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. This is the message. This is good news! It is all in the Word of Life. Amen.

 

 

 
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