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Third Sunday of Easter
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, April 15, 2018

Speaking from Experience

Text: 1 John 1:1–2:2

This week I have been thinking about the difference between the Apostle John who wrote the epistle that we read from this morning in 1 John 1:1–2:2 and the disciple John who along with the other disciples encountered the risen Savior Jesus Christ in our reading from Luke 24:36–49.

The encounter with Jesus who suddenly appeared to the disciples, happened right after his resurrection which scholars place between AD 30–36 and the Epistle of 1 John was written between AD 85–95 toward the end of the Apostle John’s life. In our epistle reading we are hearing from someone who has lived as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ for 55–65 years and had been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. At the writing of his epistle, John was one of the last disciples to be alive. According to church history most of the other disciples had been martyred with the exceptions of John and Simon the Zealot. Even the Apostle Paul had been put to death for his faithfulness to Christ around AD 62–64.

With this in mind, I wanted to read and study John’s epistle with the understanding that the writer was someone who had faithfully followed Jesus from the beginning. He was writing to encourage the reader to fully understand that he had given his life to the proclamation of the gospel because he had come to understand that all of life was centered around the person and work of Jesus Christ. My goal this morning is that we capture the power of the apostolic witness of this epistle.

Years ago, my uncle Cyril, my father’s older brother, came to visit my father who lived with us. At this time Cy was in his mid 80s and one of the godliest men that I knew. He was delighted that I had gone into full-time ministry and wanted to encourage me to faithfulness no matter the circumstances that I was in.

I listened intently to his words of wisdom because I had observed his faithfulness to God and passion for his word even though he had gone through many tragedies in his life. I remembered how he and my aunt Chris had ministered to others at the funeral of their oldest son, Joel who had drowned at the age of 22. I watched my uncle love and serve his wife through years of declining health and mental deterioration, but I never heard him complain. I saw through him what love looked like.

I thought of him this week as I imagined the Apostle John sitting down to write the words of life in 1 John 1:1–1 to 2:2. I think it vitally important that we remember the witnesses of our faith that have gone before us and realize that the church was built upon their shoulders and commitment. Hopefully, this will spur us on to be those types of witnesses that others can look back in remembrance and be encouraged to persevere.

Before we turn to 1 John let’s briefly consider the scene of our Gospel reading from Luke 24:36–42.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it before them.

Last week we considered the same account from the perspective of John 20:19–31 and I don’t want to revisit the same story accept to point out the differences that Luke alludes to in his epistle. Just like in John’s gospel, Jesus suddenly appears in the room even though the door is locked, and the disciples are “startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” Jesus knowing the affect this would have on them offers them “Peace”. He wanted them to know that there was no reason for fear because he had come in peace. He wasn’t a ghost and did not come to chastise them for running away when he had been arrested. He then offers them proof that he isn’t a spirit and not only shows them his wounded hands and feet but encourages them to touch him and feel the reality that he is material and full of life. His body is transformed, but it is the same one that he had before the cross, upon the cross, and laid in a tomb.

Still in shock the disciples are nevertheless overjoyed but have a “this is just to good to be true” moment. To further dispel their doubts, he asked for something to eat and right before their eyes he eats a piece of fish. He wanted them to see that his transformation was not merely his spirit but his body as well. His incarnation as God who had come down in the flesh was not temporary but eternal. He would be their representative and mediator eternally as Paul would later write to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20–21,

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Jesus wanted the disciples to fully understand that he was not merely going away because he had finished his work on their behalf but as the God/Man he would always be working as their mediator for all eternity. Then in Luke 24:44–49 Jesus reminds them that he had told them all that would happen and that it had been written about him in the law and the prophets. He then opened their minds so that they would understand the Scriptures. Now they would see the reason Jesus had come and their mission of proclaiming the gospel message to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem. He then leaves them with this command,

“You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Now that they from the Scriptures were able to see clearly why Jesus came and their role in continuing his work, the last part of their equipping would come at the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon and into them in power just as Jesus had promised.

With this in mind let’s look ahead 55–65 years later to 1 John 1:1–4,

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.

John begins his letter by summing up the important beginning of his Christian life and ministry. Jesus Christ had been the focus and foundation of all that John had experienced for the previous 55–65 years. He had been one of those privileged to see, hear, and touch the creator, the Son of God who had existed from the beginning. This of course echoes the beginning of John’s Gospel where he had written,

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 anything made that was made.

John 1:1–3 mirrors the original creation account of Genesis 1:1 and shows that the incarnation account was as significant as creation itself because it is the beginning of the new creation, the re-creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. John was an eye-witness who had physically experienced God in the flesh: he had heard his voice, he had touched him and been touched by him, he had seen with his own eyes the reality of the Son of God performing miracles and he had experienced these same things with the resurrected Savior. He had lived in close fellowship with Jesus both physically and now through the witness and power of the Holy Spirit. John reminds his readers that the fellowship that begin with Jesus was extended through the offer to fellowship with the Father as well as the Son.

This had completely changed the direction of his life as the proclamation of the gospel had become to primary focus of his life. He had not written his gospel account until around AD 85–90 according to early church tradition because he was focused on the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus, the one who had so deeply touched him forever. He reveals why he wrote his gospel in John 20:31,

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In both the Gospel of John and the Epistle of John both seem to have been written because the early church was experiencing an attack against the deity of Christ and the claim that he had not really come in the flesh but was a divine spirit who had inhabited the body of a man named Jesus from Nazareth. John is testifying as an eyewitness that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and the only way to the Father and to eternal life. His life long passion was to preach, teach and demonstrate the truth of the Gospel message that Jesus Christ was the Divine Son of God who had come in the flesh so that men and women everywhere might be reconciled to God. For this purpose, Jesus had laid down his life for the sins of man, the creator sacrificing his life for the salvation of his creation.

John knew that to understand this truth was of first importance because it proved that the eternal God was accessible to men and women in the most basic of ways, he wanted to be experienced and known personally. In verse 3 John refers back to those things that the disciples had seen and heard and were now declaring to those who would listen. The goal was, 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.

John’s passion was that others might join with those who now followed Christ and in doing so would enter into fellowship with the church which meant sweet fellowship with the Father and Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.

This would have been a revolutionary idea to John’s readers. In the Greek culture the idea of fellowship was prized but it was only men to men. To claim that men could have intimate fellowship with the creator of the universe would have been unthinkable. John uses the word koinonia to describe the type of fellowship he was speaking of. It didn’t mean a simple awareness but speaks of sharing a common bond and common life with another person. This simple and bold statement could be made by John who had experienced that relationship with God for many years. Jesus had first introduced this type of radical thinking when He invited men to address God as Father in the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6 and Luke 11. For those who have been afraid of God and his power this would have had the same appeal as a prisoner being invited to spend time with the warden, but John knew better.

John had discovered that fellowship among Christians who together experience fellowship with God brought real lasting joy, no matter the circumstances they found themselves in. Again, Jesus had introduced this concept the night before his crucifixion, even though he knew the cross was before him: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus was demonstrating that obedience to God brought about a depth of joy unimaginable. John is writing as one who experienced that joy and wanted others to know that joy as well. In verses 5–7 he reveals to source of the joy. Let’s read 1 John 1:5–7,

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.

John wanted to make it clear that these were not his words or a message that he had thought up but came directly from the source of all light. He had written at the beginning of his gospel in John 1:4–5, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” In verse 9 Jesus is called “the true light that gives light to everyone.”

This was the light that broke into a world of sin and darkness. In this gospel and in 1 John, he is alluding to the primeval light that broke into the darkness of creation in Genesis 1:1–4. In these passages darkness represents sin and death; light is the characteristic of goodness and life. All this is associated with God’s moral holiness and the fact that he has no connection with the darkness of evil. John is inviting the reader to escape the ravages of sin and death and enter the life of light and joy with God and his people.

John then contrasts two entirely diametrically opposed ways of living. He does not suggest that those who walk in the light never sin but that those who continue in patterns of sinful behavior are lying to themselves if they assume that they are walking in the light. This is one of the reasons that John is inviting those who want to walk in the light to come and walk in fellowship with the people of God. It’s as much for protection against spiritual blindness as anything else. We are to encourage and exhort one another to stay in the light of Christ.

I began this morning with imaging the differences between the disciple John of Luke 24 and the Apostle John who wrote the gospel and the epistle many years later. I think the major difference had to do with what he had learned and experienced in his walk as a servant of the living Savior. There were simply things that he no longer wondered about but knew with certainty as to their truth. He now knew intimately the God that he served, and I suspect the depth of his love and commitment was complete.

To know God through his word and Spirit builds a bond and desire that is very hard to comprehend by those who have not yet seen or experienced God in fullness. I have recently fallen in love with a song that never fails to bring me to bring me to a time of worship and reflection on the reality of the greatness of God. It’s by Hillsong United and it’s entitled, So Will I.

I beg your indulgence as I read you the words in their entirety. I would recommend that you close your eyes and listen to the power of the words and imagine the Apostle John’s commitment because he fully understood the truth of this song.

VERSE 1: God of creation there at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

CHORUS 1: And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You've made
Every burning star a signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I.

VERSE 2 God of Your promise,
You don't speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

CHORUS 2: And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

BRIDGE: If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we'll sing again a hundred billion times

VERSE 3: God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created the light of the world
abandoned in darkness to die

CHORUS 3: And as You speak a hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You've done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I

I can see Your heart Eight billion different ways
Every precious one A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

TAG: Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You're the One who never leaves the one behind.

Let’s pray

©2018 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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