Summary: First John 1:1-4 teaches where deep joy is found.
My 13th birthday present was this Bible. That was when I started getting serious about reading the Bible. I went through Hebrews, Romans, and 1 John so many times I could picture where the verse was on the page. If you said “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” I could say, “1 John 4:4. It’s on the right hand side, first column, near the top.” But all that familiarity didn’t mean I obeyed it very well. Knowledge is no guarantee of faithfulness. It also doesn’t mean there is nothing left to learn. Even though I’ve read it hundreds of times, I learned more again just this week.) Today we are starting a series from 1 John called Deeper. Here is what I want to cover in the next few minutes:
Why this series is important. What 1 John 1:1-4 teaches. Where deep joy is found.
Why is this Series Important?
We all want to be deep. I never have anyone contact me and say “Pastor, help me have a more superficial faith.” We want something that’s lasting, substantive, profound, and intense. We want deep lives. This series has the potential to change your life. It depends upon what you are willing to let God do. (Every few weeks I’m out weeding my front flower bed. It’s no normal weed that grows, but some traveling, viney, Satanic plant that spreads everywhere. Weed killer was like fertilizer. Last year I ignored them. This year I just pulled them every two weeks. Finally got out the shovel and started digging. Why are those weeds so pernicious/insidious? Because they are rooted deep….somewhere in the pit of hell. They live and even thrive regardless of what happens at the surface.) Sin is deep in the world, so we must be deep in Christ. This study of 1 John calls us to root ourselves in Jesus, in order to thrive in a fallen world.
What I’m going to say next sounds political, but it isn’t, so don’t get excited. We are not better off today than we were 4 years ago. And we aren’t better off today than we were 8 years ago, or 20, or 100. And 4 years from now we won’t be better off either, no matter who wins the election. How can I say that? Because that’s what the Bible says reality is. 1 John 5:19 “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Isn’t that encouraging? As Martin Lloyd Jones said: “The NT teaching is that however much the world may change on the surface, it is always under the control of evil and of sin…the world is will always be the world, it will never get better.” The roots are deep. One day Christ will come and set all things right, but until then, if you are a Christian, do not be surprised when bad springs up in the world. Don’t let that cause you to spiral into depression or hopelessness. Don’t let that de-motivate you from living justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. And don’t forget the first part of that verse. Even though the world is the world, all who trust Christ are the children of God. That can’t be changed. Victory is on the horizon.
That means to survive in a world that is dominated by sin, our roots must be deep. The Apostle John calls us to this deep life. In this series he will point us to a deep clean, the forgiveness that is ours through Jesus. He will call us to a deep knowledge, the maturity that comes to those who know God. He will challenge us to a deep hope, the perspective that changes how we live. We will start with Deep Joy. Some of you are not the slightest bit interested in that idea. Joy seems to deal with emotions and that isn’t what you care about. Others of you are wildly emotional and would love to stop the mood swings between happiness and misery. The rest of you are interested in deep joy, but aren’t sure it is actually possible. Let me explain why all of us should be eager to increase the depth of our joy. For authentic Christian experience, there are three parts. Picture a stool with three legs. There must be a “trisection of authentic Christian experience.” Truth, Obedience, Devotion. (believe right, do right, feel right)
We all find a different one of these more challenging than the others. One reason can be our emotional makeup. In the book “The Essential Difference: The Truth About The Male and Female Brain” Simon Baron-Cohen describes how “men have a tendency to analyze and construct systems while women are inclined to empathize.” [Amazon review] That means when men are operating sinfully they might not “relate very well to the emotional needs and lives of others.” While women might find it easy to connect emotionally, their sinful inclination might be to soften the hard edges of truth. Wherever our weak-point is, John challenges us to give attention to each of these three areas. If you are a follower of Christ, you can probably point to which of these is the biggest challenge for you.