SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: Joy in Jesus
TEXT: 1 John 1:1-4 ESV
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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
Last week we started a new series looking at the letter of First John. And we began by examining one verse — which is really the theme verse for the letter. The verse we looked at is found in First John chapter five verse thirteen where John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)
And what we discovered — from this verse — is that the gospel of Jesus Christ crushes all doubts and assumptions we may have about eternal life. Meaning when you and I really encounter the gospel of Jesus Christ — something powerful happens to us. Why? Because the gospel is a powerful message, a life-changing message, an eternity-altering message. And John gives us a great promise that’s interwoven throughout his letter — the promise that a person can know with confidence that they have eternal life. A confidence based on what they believe and who they believe in — what they believe is the gospel and who they believe in is Jesus Christ.
And one reason why we call the gospel the “good news” is because it’s the only news powerful enough to crush all doubts and assumptions about eternal life. And my hope is that your joy and my joy — that our joy together — will increase as we grow in our understanding of the love that God has for us. Joy that increases as God’s love for us births in us a deepening love for one another.
This is how I and your elders hope we grow as a congregation. That we grow in our love for God which manifests itself in our love for one other because our joy and hope and life are completely zeroed in on the Son of God — Jesus Christ. For — as we’ve already learned and will continue to hear from our author, John — the mark of true love for God is our love for one another.
And this goes against our culture’s definition of love that you and I are caught up in. A poor definition of love that’s affected the American church’s — where love — now means…
What I’m hoping for us — over the next few months — is a deepening love for one other that springs forth out of a growing love for God that will cause us to abandon our culture’s poor definition of what it means to love. That — as we treasure Jesus more and more — our love for one another will become intensely more evident.
I say this — because — one thing that I’ve learned during my time in pastoral ministry is this: Everyone desires to be loved. But — more importantly — everyone needs to be loved. And a congregation will be known by its love for one other — no matter how ungodly or godly their love for one another is. And — personally — if you’re a Christian — you will be known by your love towards the people who are part of this church. For as Jesus has loved you — he’s commanded that you love them. I hope we’ll all spend time reflecting on our own reputation of loving others in this church. How does God want you to grow in your love for others in this congregation?
So with that as a rather lengthy introduction — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to First John chapter one. We’re going to begin in verse one together today. We’re in First John chapter one — beginning in verse where we read...
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. - 1 John 1:1-4 (ESV)
If you don’t know — I have a life mission statement. Something I did years ago was a wrestling with God as to why I exist. And here’s where that journey led me. I exist “to glorify God by making disciples who find their joy in Jesus.” So my purpose in life — my reason for living — the reason why I’m in ministry is: to glorify God by making disciples who find their joy in Jesus.
Now, if you’ve never sought out your purpose in life — the specific calling God has for you — I can’t encourage you enough to do so because — once you know your purpose — your reason for existence — then it’s easy to spot the distractions in your life that are keeping you from accomplishing your God-given mission.
So why did I share my life mission statement with you? Well — because I read it every day to remind myself of my calling — questions like these are constantly on my mind.
You see, we’re all equal offenders of not living out of the incredible good news that’s been given to us in Jesus Christ. Our passion is weak. Our testimonies are frail. The gospel message often goes unheard because we don’t share it. Our joy is lacking. And our love for self is greater than our love for one another.
And when we get distracted from finding our joy solely in Jesus — we go searching for joy in other places. And these become the idols we worship because they give us a joy that we’ve lost in Jesus. These idols then become what we talk about, what we live for, what we share with others, what we dream about, what we post about, and what we center our lives on.
Instead of finding joy in Jesus — which results in eternal life-giving words coming out of our mouths as we proclaim the good news — not only do our words hold no eternal life-giving value to our lost world — but our love loses its power because we live for things other than Jesus. All resulting in us saying we believe that the gospel changes lives — all while living as if it hasn’t even changed our own.
Yet — in the midst of these sobering realities — there are sweet reminders of growing joy among some among us. In those recently baptized on Easter Sunday. In our college students who I spoke to on Thursday night about Jesus’ return as King. In your elders who find it a joy to be your shepherds.
And my hope is that God’s word for us today — will stir in our spirits a re-igniting of the joy that each of us — who believe in Jesus — have experienced. All so that our love for one another grows. Because our love for one another defines for the watching world what we mean by being “disciples who find their joy in Jesus.”
And — for this to be our reality — we must understand why and how a Jesus-centered joy-filled life changes the way we love one another. Because our love for one another multiplies when our lives are centered on Jesus. For we’ll love one another with a greater intensity, sacrifice, and compassion when our lives become more intentionally centered on Jesus. What do I mean by being more Jesus-centered?
I mean where Jesus is the central glue that holds us together. Where our common ground — in what we believe about Jesus — creates a unity among us that’s stronger than areas of difference that are trying to divide us.
When I say being Jesus-centered — I mean that Jesus is your life and joy. For — when your and my life is focused on Jesus — he really is what our lives are all about. And — when Jesus is our life and joy — loving one another as Jesus has commanded us to — becomes who we are and what we do.
So what joy producing truths — do we believe about Jesus — that unites us together in such a bond that our love for one another increases?
Look with me back in verse one, where John writes, “That which was from the beginning…was with the Father.” -1 John 1:1a, 2b (ESV)
That which was from the beginning…was with the Father. And who is John wanting us to think of here? Jesus. Jesus unites us together because we believe that he is from the beginning. What beginning? The beginning of all beginnings.
Our letter opens with words that echo the opening sentences of the gospel written by our author. John’s gospel opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” - John 1:1-3 (ESV)
And to be clear — Jesus is who John’s talking about here. We knows this because in a few verses later John writes, “John (that’s John the baptist) bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” - John 1:15-18 (ESV)
And these words of John’s gospel echo the words from the book of beginnings — Genesis — which opens with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” - Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
What John’s trying to make clear to us is that before time began — before anything was created — if we were to go all the way back to the beginning of everything…Jesus — was — there. Jesus already existed. Jesus has always been and will always be. For Jesus is eternal — meaning he has no beginning and no end — he is from the beginning.
Since the early creeds of the Christian church — this belief — that Jesus is from the beginning — or eternal — has been something that’s united followers of Christ. The Nicene Creed, written in the year 325AD states, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” - Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed was written to counter false teachings by a man named Arius who was teaching that Jesus was not eternal, but was the first created being of God the Father. Arius taught that Jesus was a creature — not Creator. This heresy continues today and is taught by the Jehovah Witnesses. But the biblical teaching about Jesus — that he’s always existed — that he’s eternal — that he existed before the beginning of beginnings — is to unite us as Christians. It’s part of the foundation of our faith that we stand upon. A Jesus-centered joy-filled life recognizes that he is from the beginning.
What else does a Jesus-centered joy-filled life believe — how else is he to unite us? Jesus unites us because we believe that he came in the flesh. Look with me again in verses one.
“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…” - 1 John 1:1-3a (ESV)
John’s giving us evidence proving that Jesus was a real person — an actual human being — that he came in flesh and blood to this earth. In these opening verses — John uses the word “heard” twice, the word “seen” three times, and “looked upon” once. John says that he and others have touched Jesus — demonstrating that Jesus had flesh — he wasn’t a ghost or a spirit-only type being. Jesus has been heard and seen and touched.
But — most importantly — John says that Jesus was made manifest to us. John uses the word manifest twice in verse two. This word — manifest — has the idea of something being made visible or being revealed. In our context — and knowing our author — it reminds us of words from John’s gospel once again.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” - John 1:14 (ESV)
John’s telling us he and others are witnesses who have testified about Jesus being here on earth in the flesh. They heard Jesus, saw Jesus, looked upon Jesus, and touched Jesus. And these testimonies are reliable and trustworthy. Why is this important?
The witness, the testimony, the evidence that Jesus has come in the flesh has been made plain so that everyone might see it and believe. Yet the reason why so many people choose to ignore the evidence isn’t because the evidence is unreliable or lacking in proof — they choose to ignore the evidence because they don’t like what the evidence reveals about themselves. What does it reveal? That they’re guilty because of their rebellion against and rejection of Jesus. You see, believing the testimonies found in the Bible crushes a person’s pride and arrogance and — for many — the sacrifice of their pride isn’t worth the eternal life being offered to them through the sacrifice of Jesus.
But for those who have repented of their sins and received Jesus Christ as their Savior — believing that he came in the flesh is a truth that unites us. Believing that Jesus came in the flesh is something we center our lives on. It brings focus to our lives — because our beliefs about Jesus is our unity as a congregation. And we believe that he came in the flesh.
Finally, Jesus unites us because we believe that he is the Word of God. In our verses — what exactly is John referring to that is “from the beginning, that has been seen, heard, and touched”? We know he’s talking about Jesus — but how does John refer to Jesus? Look with me again in verse one. John ends the verse with the phrase, “the word of life.” - 1 John 1:1b (ESV)
Earlier we read the opening verses of John’s gospel and I want to draw our attention back to verse one. In this verse, John refers to Jesus as the Word three times. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” - John 1:1 (ESV)
Now — John’s referring to Jesus here — and three times Jesus is called the Word. The Word was in the beginning. The Word was with God. And the Word was God.
We’ve already seen how all true Christians believe both in Jesus’s eternality and that he came in the flesh. But — believing that Jesus is the Word of God — means we believe that Jesus is God. And believing that Jesus is God unites all true believing Christians together. The truth that Jesus is God produces an unwavering joy in the hearts of those who believe.
This is an essential part of our Christian faith and to deny that Jesus is God is to deny the very foundation on which our eternal hope is built. And — Jesus being God — means that he has every right to demand whatever he wants of us. He has the freedom to command his creatures whatever he wills. And Jesus has commanded that we love one another. In the thirteenth chapter of John’s gospel Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:34-35 (ESV)
Remember — he’s the Word of God. He came in the flesh. He is eternal. These three beliefs are essential for us to become a more united community. Because this Jesus — the eternal God who became man — demands our attention and full devotion. And — when we believe these core truths of the Christian faith — we come to know who we are really dealing with in Jesus Christ. For example, in hearing what Jesus demands of us — “as I have loved you, love one another” — we realize that he demands our full attention. He demands to be the center of our lives. He demands to be the center of this congregation. Because Jesus is the only way that we can love one another. And with him as our focus — we can accomplish our mission as we strive together to be a Jesus-centered, joy-filled, loving one another congregation.
OK — so let’s get real practical. What happens to a group of people when Jesus becomes the foundation of their unity? Meaning what should we expect to be different about a group of people who center their lives individually and collectively around Jesus being the eternal God who has come in the flesh? What would this kind of church look like — how do the people in a church like this behave — what makes them different from other congregations who say that Jesus is the center, but really unite around something other than Jesus?
Two things happen. Jesus becomes their life and Jesus becomes their joy. A congregation that’s Jesus-centered experiences two things. We — Gateway Church — will see two specific things happen when we center our lives and ministry on Jesus. He will be our life. And he will be our joy.
First, Jesus will be our life — and this is absolutely amazing. In our verses John refers to Jesus as 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.” - 1 John 1:1-2 (ESV)
Jesus is the word of life — he is eternal life — and he gives us eternal life as he gives us himself. And when you and I have been given something as valuable as eternal life — surely this will be what our lives become centered around, right? Surely something as infinitely valuable as the sacrifice of Christ — which earned us our eternal reward — is worthy of being the center for us as a congregation. One would expect — and the watching world has every right to criticize us for this — because one would expect that there’d actually be something life changing about us if our lives are centered on the eternal God who came in the flesh to change lives. And surely this truth would be something that unites us together.
Jesus being life — gives us life. And in giving us life — he demands our life. Jesus sets us free from our slavery to sin — not so we live for ourselves — but so we live for him. You’re not your king — he’s your King. You’re not your own — you belong to God. You didn’t pay your debt — you’ve been bought with a price. And Jesus gave himself for you so that you now give yourself for him. Centered on him. Focused on him. Individually — and as a congregation — our lives and ministry united around Jesus.
And when Jesus is our life — he becomes our joy. For when we grow in our Jesus-centeredness — the very reason why we live, and move, and breath, and exist is for him alone. And this kind of God-exalting, Jesus-centered life results in another gracious delight for us. Because this duty of living for Jesus becomes our greatest joy. Because Jesus will be our joy.
We see this in verse four where John tells us that the reason he’s written these things — these things being that Jesus is eternal, and came in the flesh, and that he’s God — is “so that our joy may be complete.” - 1 John 1:4b (ESV)
Something incredible happens when our lives are Jesus-centered and focused on living for our great Savior and consumed with obeying his commands — through his power and by his Spirit our joy is complete. It’s finished — our joy is perfected.
For your joy and my joy — and our joy together — will be birthed out of our understanding of the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ. Which will ignite in us a deepening commitment towards greater love for one other. Which results in an increased joy for us.
And our hope will abound in the gospel as our joy increases and grows because of the Jesus-centeredness of our lives. Each of our lives — up until our very last breaths — becoming more centered on Jesus. And our joy in Jesus — actively works itself out in our lives — will be evidence of the life transforming power of the gospel that we both believe and have experienced.
This is what’s possible for us as a congregation if we live Jesus-centered lives. This is what God has promised can be our reality if we focus our lives on who Jesus is — the eternal God who came in flesh — and what he’s done for us — lived, died, and rose from the grave in love for us. And what we’ll experience is a growth in our love for God — which will manifest itself in our love for one another — all because our joy and hope and life are completely zeroed in on the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And as our lives intersect with people who are in desperate need of being loved and are lacking in joy — they’ll experience their Creator’s love for them through you and me and have a taste of the joy they’ve been searching for.
What unites you to this church? Is it our beliefs about Jesus or something else — maybe even a good something else — like a particular ministry program? What should unite you with us? I pray that it will be Jesus.
What or who is the center of your life? What or who is trying to distract you from being focused on Jesus? I pray that the center of your life will be Jesus.
How we love one another — defines for our community — what we really believe about Jesus. Our love for one another tells the watching world, “Here’s what we’ve heard from him. Here’s what we’ve seen about him. Here’s what we’ve looked upon and touched.” Our love for one another communicates to our community what it means that the eternal God has come in flesh into our world.
How about we proclaim to our community that your joy and my joy is bound together through our faith in the eternal Word of God — who became man — Jesus Christ. And that our joy is complete in him. So that when people in our community want to know where joy can be found — we can say — “look at how we love one another. Look at how we’re Jesus-centered. Look at how we’re united because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” For — in looking to us and our love for one another — they’ll hear us proclaim that the joy they’re searching for is found in Jesus. Let’s pray.
Father, Son, and Spirit, I ask you to do a mighty work in each of our hearts so that our joy in you would be abundant and full and complete because our lives are centered on Jesus. Focus our hopes on Jesus — our dreams for the future on Jesus — our lives on Jesus. Help us so that Jesus isn’t an afterthought in our lives — but our only thought. Our center, our focus, our unity, our life, and our joy.
Jesus be our joy. Jesus be my joy. Maybe we should say that together as a congregation. Let’s say “Jesus be our joy. Jesus be my joy” to close this prayer together. Jesus be our joy. Jesus be my joy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
May you go with the joy that’s found only in Jesus. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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