Summary: Four factors we need in order to have genuine joy in the spiritual journey.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus set out for the Orient and ended up in the Caribbean. Some people have said that Columbus set a pattern that’s continued for the last 500 years…that men still won’t stop and ask for directions.
For many of us guys, being someplace we’ve never been before is a challenge, and adventure, an obstacle to be conquered. Asking for directions spoils the whole fun of the journey. Maybe for Columbus Day we should only let people drive who ask for directions. But then again if Columbus hadn’t gotten lost we wouldn’t be here. Not all guys won’t ask for directions, but it sure seems like a lot of us are.
Well, in many ways our spiritual lives are much like being on a trip. In fact the dominant word picture of the spiritual life in every world religion is the image of a journey. Whether you realize it or not today, you’re on a spiritual journey. You may be reading this as a spiritual seeker, someone who’s not yet committed to following Jesus Christ but who’s investigating the Christian faith… you’re on a spiritual journey. You might be a skeptic or an agnostic or an atheist or simply not sure what you believe…you’re on a spiritual journey. Or you might be a follower of Jesus Christ-his disciple--and you’re aim in life is to please Christ, to live out his plan for your life--you’re on a spiritual journey. In fact, with the diversity we have here that reality is probably the only common denominator among us…that we’re on a spiritual journey together.
Well guys may resist asking directions when it comes to a car ride, but in the spiritual journey both men and women equally resist asking for directions. If life is a spiritual journey many of us tend to act like we have it all figured out, like we know exactly where we’re going. We often refuse to ask for directions.
Today we start a new series through the New Testament book of 1 John. I’ve entitled this series A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY because the little book of 1 John provides us with a reliable guide to navigate the rough terrain we’re likely to encounter in this spiritual journey we find ourselves in.
You see, the apostle John--who wrote the book of 1 John--was the only one of Jesus Christ’s original apostles to not be murdered by the Roman government. Not that they didn’t try! But John was a codgy old man who didn’t die easily. Eventually the Roman government banished John to an Island called Patmos. John was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ, one of the first of Jesus’ followers, and he wrote five books in our New Testament: The gospel according to John (the fourth book of the New Testament), three letters--1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, and then finally the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Before being banished to the Island of Patmos by the Roman Government, John served for many years as an overseer for all the churches in ancient Asia Minor.
Asia Minor is located in modern day Turkey, and there John lived as a kind of spiritual mentor--the last living apostolic witness to Christ’s life and resurrection--so he kept himself busy helping the Christians in Asia Minor develop into fully devoted followers of Jesus. John most likely wrote his Gospel for use among these churches in Asia Minor, to give them an accurate account of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some Bible teachers believe that a difference of opinion arose about how to correctly interpret John’s Gospel, with some people advocating new and novel ideas contrary to what John intended in his gospel (Brown, Burge). Soon the Christians in Asia Minor became bitterly divided down between those who held to the apostles’ teaching about Jesus and those who were believing new and novel ideas about Jesus Christ. So John wrote his first letter in order to correct these misunderstandings about Jesus Christ and the Christian life in the face of this terrible division that was destroying the churches and causing Christians to take dangerous side trips in their spiritual journey.
You see, the Christians in Asia Minor had reached a major fork in the road in their spiritual journey, with John as the last remaining living apostle beckoning them to follow the orthodox view of Jesus and with false teachers enticing the church to depart from the Christian path to follow their new esoteric ideas. Eventually this painful split would deeply wound the churches in Asia Minor, causing terrible division, and leading many into a false religion that later became known as Gnosticism. Ancient gnosticism is really quite similar to what you and I know of today as the New Age Movement. John is writing this letter as a roadmap to help the confused and troubled Christians in Asia Minor navigate these unexpected twists and turns in the Christian journey, to help them stay focused on the true Jesus and not be led astray down a different path. Shortly after writing this letter John was banished to Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, and then he eventually died and was buried back in Asia Minor.