Litmus 1

Of late, within my community of “fellow soldiers”, there has emerged an emphasis on focusing on things pertaining to the kingdom of God and to the Holy Spirit. And one book that come to the forefront in these discussions is the 1st epistle of John (or 1 John, as most would know it). Along with this book came a warning from the Lord to be wary of deception. There is convergence and congruence of these two phenomena surfacing at the same time. The 3 epistles of John have something to say about false teachers and false teaching.

Some time ago, I preached through 1-3 John at OasisCF. I felt it was appropriate to share those messages here in this season. My series was entitled “Litmus”, reminiscent of little strips of paper (see the picture above) used to determine the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid. In the next few posts, you will see my sermon manuscripts that have been edited and/or brought up to currency. My prayer is that they will help someone in the battle against deception, falsehood and the spirit of antichrist. May the Lord be with you!

Let me start by saying that there are 2 main themes that intertwine in 1 John – LOVE and TRUTH. And these two are foundational to our bulwark…

The “That” Man
1 John 1:1-4

It is interesting how something true can be twisted and made false. Take eclipses of the moon, for example. The Moon was represented by a mirror in China. During a lunar eclipse, people practiced a very old tradition by beating on mirrors. It was believed that a dragon swallowed the Moon during an eclipse and beating the mirrors would cause the dragon to cough it up and return it to the sky. Today, of course, we know that there are no dragons involved in lunar eclipses. Only the sun, moon and earth are involved so people know that there really is no need to beat on a mirror when one occurs. 

Wrong beliefs easily lead to wrong behaviours. One strategy to address the issue of wrong beliefs is to keep reminding others about the truth.  As we consider the opening verses of 1 John 1, we will see an example of such a reminder.

  • For a start, I’d like to remind you that John was writing because false teachers had brought false teachings into the church. Just keep that in mind as we go through the passage because it will help you to understand how serious the situation was and how dangerous it can be.
  • Our passage today points us to 2 absolutely vital truths that we must hold on to, no matter what happens.  I wonder if you noticed that v1-3 is actually 1 sentence. To help bring these 2 truths to light, I have done a simple diagramming of the sentence.

  • The certainty that Jesus Christ really was God with us! (v1-2)
    • As you can see, “That” refers to the “Word of Life”. In fact, v1 is similar to John 1:1, in which John also talks about the Word. John affirms the following about the Word.
      • The Word of Life is eternal. Before time began, the Word of Life existed. This is what John refers to when he refers to “the beginning”. He truly is God and not some fictional character.
      • The Word of Life came to us in human form. His name was Jesus Christ. He was fully God AND fully human too. John testified that he had heard, seen from afar, studied up close and even touched Jesus. He was no phantom, He was flesh and blood. I think John must have found himself in a very unusual situation – someone was saying that he had placed his head in the bosom of a ghost (John 13:23).
    • Verse 2 gives us more affirmation, this time concerning Christ’s purpose in coming to us.
      • He is the one who brought humanity the HOPE and REALTY of eternal life from God.
      • The reality of eternal life was revealed when Christ rose from the dead.  As an eyewitness to the resurrection, John could testify to this and he now proclaimed it to others too. Like the other apostles, John was simply testifying about things he had seen and heard.

  • The necessity of Christian fellowship! (v3-4) God sent Christ in human form to be the doorway through which we can enter into God’s kingdom and into eternal life. These facts are true (v3-4) and John proclaims them to believers.  The aim of sharing what he had seen and experienced was to cultivate one thing that is vital in the Christian life – fellowship. What is fellowship? Someone once said that fellowship is 2 fellows in the same ship. Although that is a pun, it also has some truth to it. 2 people in the same ship would be heading the same way. 
    • The Greek word for “fellowship” (koinonia) means partnership or communion. In order for partnership and communion to take place, there must be some measure of unity. Most friendships start where there are things in common. Of key importance to fellowship among believers is unity in accepting the facts about Jesus Christ – who He was and what He did.  Christ is the central figure in Christianity. His actions and authority are something all believers must agree upon.
    • As God’s people, we seek to have fellowship with God. Once again, Christ is involved in forming this fellowship.  Without Christ, we cannot have fellowship with God. It is only through Christ that we can. What can humans have in common with God? The scriptures exhort us to have the “mind of Christ” i.e. to share God’s viewpoint on matters.
  • What is the Lord speaking to His church today?
    • Be certain. An unknown writer once wrote these words. “I am glad that my knowledge of eternal life is not built on the speculations of philosophers or even theologians but on the unimpeachable testimony of those who heard, saw, gazed at, and handled Him in whom it was incarnate. It is not merely a lovely dream, but solid fact, carefully observed and an accurately recorded fact.”
      Christianity is not based on a concept or idea; it is based on a person – Jesus Christ.
      It is not based on behaving well; it is based on believing right.
      In these times when beliefs are challenged, threatened and ridiculed, we will see different movements come and go, each putting forward their own particular set of beliefs. The difference for Christians is that our faith is placed on a living person who does not change (Mal 3:6). He is consistently good and consistently just even as He is consistently merciful.
      Truth does not change. So if we hold on to Truth, we can have certainty that He will deliver us.
    • Don’t be apart. Be a part! What does true fellowship look like? Let the Bible show you. It is us having fellowship with one another even as all of us have fellowship with the Lord together. We don’t all have to behave and think identically to have fellowship. God created each of us unique. In order to have fellowship, there are certain key things that all of us must hold to. The most essential belief concerns Jesus Christ, who He is and what He did for us. There may be other things that we share with others that help to foster fellowship. (In my church, we have 7 core values that help us hold unity.). Amos 3:3 helps us understand that we can only have fellowship if we are heading in similar directions.  It’s difficult to have fellowship if we disagree on many major points. So don’t despise fellowship. Let’s create and maintain an environment where everyone and anyone is welcome to experience Christian fellowship.
    • Be joyful. In v4, we read that fellowship with God and each other brings us complete joy. Most people would see how that applies to having fellowship with Christ. But people are another story. No doubt, along the way, we’ve had our unpleasant experiences when relating with other believers. But this doesn’t mean that fellowship is not good!
      God uses His people as channels of blessing. We are His hands, His feet, His mouthpieces. God very often blesses us through other believers. When true Christian Fellowship happens in the church, we experience great joy. The joy that comes because of fellowship is strong enough to see us through tough times.

Conclusion

The title of this message is The “That” Man. By now, you should have realized that I am referring to Jesus Christ, God the Word who has always existed and who became flesh so that humanity might see God and come into relationship and fellowship with Him.
It is interesting that John would start out a defence against false teaching by talking about fellowship. I suspect he had the same concern as Paul that disunity within would destroy the church. Understanding that Jesus Christ was the God-man and having fellowship with God through Him are vital in safeguarding the church from false doctrine. Having a strong sense of partnership between believers helps prevent false teachers from sneaking in and stumbling Christians. Let us always value true fellowship with God and His people because Jesus really is who the scriptures claimed He was and He did all that the scriptures say He did. This makes our fellowship with Him and with His people one of the most valuable possession we have!

What do you reckon?