If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry. You can bookmark this to check out the other free written sermons on my blog.
The letters of John – that we call first, second, and third John, are written by the last survivor of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. So John is giving testimony as an eyewitness of the great events of the Gospel Story. He does so because he knows that a message, however amazing, is always more powerful and transformative when it is personally believed and experienced than when it is just read about or heard about. And because he is the last one living of the original disciples, He knows what he has experienced and that his job is to pass it on. To pass on the story of Jesus, but also instruct the reader to experience the Messiah. In the first few verses of 1 John, he speaks of eternal life and fellowship with God and with each other. Many scholars read verse 4 to say that those two things, eternal life and fellowship, make your/our joy here in this life, complete.
It is not just that we have eternal life after we leave this world, but the eternal life begins in this world. The phrase eternal life in 1 John is the equivalent of such phrases as, “entering the kingdom of heaven”, “being saved” or “being in Christ” as explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “This means that anyone who is in Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” To take the understanding of eternal a step further, A. E. Brooke says today we would best understand what John means in the original Greek as “spiritual life”. Too often in the Bible the words “eternal life” are understood to mean our future immortal life, and when we misunderstand it this way we are cheated out of the richest gift Christianity has to offer people today which is a relationship with God now. And John elaborates on this when he talks about the fellowship with God. This is what he means by eternal life that begins today – a spiritual life that enjoys a relationship with the Creator now – not just after we leave this life.
And it’s a growing relationship. What relationship is not a growing relationship? There’s a Brad Paisley song, “I thought I loved you then” that talks about how he thought he loved this girl when they first met. Then he talks about how much more he loved her later when he took her back to where they first met and asked her to marry him. He talks about having babies and getting old together and how he knows he’s going to love her even more then. Each stage of life he looks back and says, “I though I loved you then.” And the insinuation is that he loves her so much more now than he did then, even though he loved her then. But the love gets deeper as time goes by.
You are not going to be in the beginning of the relationship who you are midway through or close to the end. John has changed as he has been blessed by living a long life and having a relationship with Jesus that surpasses time and space. 1, 2, and 3 John makes up only 2% of the New Testament. Yet 20% of the talk about love in the Bible comes from these three short epistles, or letters. When John was younger, it says in Mark 3:17 that Jesus gave James and John a nickname that sounds like it contradicts love – “Sons of Thunder”. In Mark 10:35-37 the sons of thunder want to know if they can sit at Jesus’ right hand and left hand when He comes into his glory. In Luke 9:54, after a Samaritan village has rejected Jesus, the sons of thunder ask Jesus this question: “Do you want us to call fire down upon them and consume them like Elijah did?” They experienced the grace and love of Jesus when He answered them – Slow down Sons of Thunder, You’re a little too eager to call fire down on people. (my words) – “I did not come to destroy people, but to save them.”
So John is writing to share his experience with Jesus as a way to spur others on to their own experience with Jesus. These words are in the Bible to spur you on as you build a relationship with Jesus. John wants you to not just know about Jesus, but EXPERIENCE Jesus. This idea of experiencing Jesus made me think of the apostle Paul who put it this way: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”
Someone can already know the Lord Jesus by faith. Someone can know so much of Him as to be able to preach a sermon or teach a Sunday school class. But the depth of one’s faith, the deep roots, come with experience. You probably know something about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington by what you’ve read about them. But you have never had an experience with them, nor can you.
I went to Ghana in Africa as a trip required by my seminary in 2010. There were 8 of us from the seminary going on the trip. I wanted Diane to go with me. The church we were serving at the time helped us raise the money and she was able to go. One other person from our seminary took a spouse. The other 6 did not. And I know at least two of my friends on the trip came home regretting that they did not take their spouses on the trip. Why do you think that is? It’s because no matter how they tried to explain it to their loved ones, they were never going to be able to adequately describe what they experienced in Africa. I can not describe the smell of burning charcoal wood. I can not express the feeling of holding hands with Afican children as I walk them to school. I can not make you understand what a $5 tip meant to a waitress in a soda shop in a Ghanian village. I can tell you that after she got off work she came to the home where we were staying to thank us for such an unheard of gift, but you cannot understand. But Diane understands, because she was there and we experienced it together.
Charles Spurgeon says in speaking about the Apostle Paul, and I ascribe this to John: He had experienced intimate acquaintance with the Lord Jesus—personal communion with the Lord to such a degree that he felt Jesus’ power at every point. He saw Jesus die and he desired to make this his own soul’s story—John would be dead with Him to the world by giving up claim to his own life and desires. John claimed the cleansing of his sin by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He knew that Jesus rose and John’s longing was to rise with Him in newness of life, claiming victory over the grave, but not waiting for the grave to celebrate. I can picture John toward the end of his life as he’s writing these letters, remembering his “sons of thunder” days. And realizing in his own life how his relationship with Jesus has grown, even though Jesus was not physically with him anymore. Yes, he even remembered that his Lord had ascended up on high and his great desire was to have reproduced in himself the life of Jesus so as to know all about Him by being made like He is.
So John writes this, in the last moments of his life, not just to inform you, but so that his joy may be complete, so that your joy may be complete, He wants you to experience Jesus. And when you do, everything changes. I’m convinced that much of the problem in the American church is that the people who make up the church know about Jesus, but have not experienced Jesus, or have not experienced Him in far too long.
An experience with Jesus leads to a Christian faith that does not begin with a resurrection after death, it insists above all on a resurrection with Christ now. If you don’t possess eternal life in Christ now, and by John’s definition – the spiritual life with Christ now, it is questionable if you will possess it when you die physically and leave this world. And if you do have the spiritual life in Christ now, through faith, you become a source of life to others. And you, like John, find your joy complete when you invite others to experience Christ.
I’ve been a Christian for 16 years and a pastor for 10 years. I have grown so much in 16 years. And I’ve grown like crazy in the 3+ years I’ve been here. I’ve grown closer to Jesus through mission trips and grown closer to Him through conflicts. I told someone the other day that I have no hard feelings toward anyone. I have grown closer to Jesus by forgiving everyone, not contingent upon how they feel about me. I’ve grown closer to Him through serving at the mission and grown closer to Him through relationships with some of you. I’ve grown in my relationship with Him through studying for sermons and writing my blog posts. And His promise and my hope is that as I keep seeking Him, He will surely reveal more of Himself to me.
And so the question I have for you today is are you His? Do you know Him? Do you Love Him? Have you experienced Him? John writes at the end of 1 John in chapter 5, verse 13 that this is written to those who believe. Contrast this with the Gospel of John which is written “So that you may believe” (John 21:31). 1 John is written to you who believe. And it’s written so you will begin to live out your eternal life today so that your joy may be complete.
But I cannot gloss over that there may be some of you who are here today still needing to hear from the Gospel of John – you “who do not yet believe”. And to you I’d like for you to walk down the Roman Road:
Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”
Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 10:13 – “…for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9 – “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
For most here, you would probably consider yourselves in the “believe” category. I hope that means the “experience” category as well – by knowing that your eternal spiritual life began when you received the Lord as your Savior, and by having a relationship with Him and with other believers. To God be the glory for the experience of Himself.