The agenda of Almighty God in this present age can be viewed largely as a call to the people of this world to come into an intimate relationship with God the Father, with the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the people who are already in that kind of relationship.
This is really a shocking statement if you think about it deeply enough.
Do you believe that Almighty God wants to be known by you, and indeed by all men, as Father? Do you believe that Our Father in Heaven wants all people everywhere to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and be known by Him? What are the implications of this? And what does it mean, anyway?
If anyone can tell us what true Christianity is really about, it should be the apostle John. He describes himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). John was there at the cross when all the others had fled the scene hours ago. He was one of the first to be at the tomb and see the body gone. John also wrote an account of the story of Jesus which delves deeply into who Jesus truly was and is. This is known as the gospel of John. He also wrote letters to churches, three of which are in the Canon of Scripture. John later wrote the Book of Revelation as a prophet and seer.
You would think that a man so close to the Lord Jesus, who was there from the beginning, would have a very good idea of what message was important to pass onto the people of God, and those who should hear about Jesus. As I have re-examined and pondered the writings of the apostle John, I notice that at the heart of what he reveals that God the Father and Jesus wants is this: heartfelt relationship. The flow of divine love. Fellowship Gk: “Koinonea” – a kind of sharing of life, thoughts and resources in which the love of God flows. This is what God is inviting us into. It is also what the Bible teaches the early church was doing when it first started – this is what it says clearly in Acts 2:42 “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers”.
The letter of 1 John chapter 1, if you think about it deeply, is very challenging to the regular perception of what the gospel message is all about. John begins by saying that he is declaring what he (and others with him) have seen with their eyes, touched with their hands, and known experientially – that is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ – whom John often refers to as “The Word of God”.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard,what we have seen with our eyes,what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life — 2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us —
For John, true eternal life is tied up with connection and relationship with this Divine Word. And John spends an entire letter talking about what this connection and relationship looks like when it is real. In short, it is about “light” and “love”. Walking in light and walking in love by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is what makes for a true Christian according to John. To be “in Him” is to be “in the light” and “in love” – “divine love”. We are exhorted to stay in Him – to stay in the light and to stay in the love of God by loving the brethren.
Much of evangelical Christianity tends to emphasize very strongly a point of initial saving faith in God which brings you into the Kingdom. And then we have all these fierce debates about whether anyone so brought into the Kingdom could ever be lost. But John doesn’t seem to approach the issue in this way. His way of approaching it is actually very challenging. He expresses things in a very binary kind of way in His letter – you are either “in the light” or “in darkness until now”. And the way you can know is by whether you really love the brethren. We see that in the second and third chapters of 1 John especially.
The Purpose of God and John’s Purpose in Writing
Can we allow the letter to speak to us – at least the first chapter? I’m continuing this quote of 1 John 1 from the New King James version of the Bible
3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
John reveals his purpose for writing: that you (the reader) would have fellowship with them (the apostles who knew God) and by implication and extension – with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. The other reason was that our joy would be full.
So God was calling people then, and is still calling people today – into fellowship. Fellowship with the Father and with Jesus comes as a result of fellowship with true Christians who are already in fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. When this fellowship is complete, our joy will be complete also. God loves us, and this is why He wants us to have full joy. Jesus said the same things in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” So we have two Scriptural witnesses telling us that this is what the LORD God really wants for us. Hallelujah!
Good News for the World and Good News for the Church
The Gospel is both Good News for the world, as well as being Good News for the church. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. John says he is declaring Jesus – someone He knows personally, so that we can have fellowship with the real Christians and also with the Triune God. This is the purpose of the gospel. This is the call of the gospel. It is not only a call to an intellectual acceptance of facts about the death and resurrection of Jesus making a way for us to come into forgiveness and acceptance with God – and that we may escape hell and judgment. It is a call to a new family, a new fellowship, a new identity and a new way of living as well.
I think it is time for evangelists (as well as pastors and teachers and all the ministers of God) to place more emphasis in the message on the nature of the call to repentance – that it means coming into light and into fellowship with loving believers and with God Himself. It is not merely a call to somehow attain the status of “saved”, “born again” and so on – and there are debates going on amongst sincere Christians about exactly what it takes to attain that status. But if people begin to come into fellowship with believers who know God, who preach the truth fully, then they will also realise that they are called to forsake all kinds of darkness, forsake a selfish, isolated life and declare their allegiance to Christ by being baptized in water as the death and burial of their old life so that they could live a new life – one that is characterized by “light” – the love of truth (the Word, and honesty and transparency) as well as love for the brethren, through the Spirit.
The Scripture goes on here to define the message that John preached.
Fellowship with God
5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.
There is no Yin and Yang philosophy here. There is no Masonic mixture and confusion. There is no message of God being the author of evil as well as good. God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.
John now goes on to talk about a particular kind of deception that is common today.
6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.
A lot of people claim to have fellowship with God – but by their deeds, they deny God.
“They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being [d]abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:16).
To have real fellowship with God, to know God – we must forsake evil works. We must forsake darkness. We cannot live in darkness and yet truly walk with God (1 John 1:6, Hebrews 10:26ff). We cannot be habitual liars (Revelation 21:8), habitual lusters, habitual lovers of worldliness and proud ways (1 John 2:15-17), or habitual haters (1 John 2:9) – and truly claim to be in the light or to know God. No one who lives like this can be sure of entering heaven – no matter what statement of faith they may subscribe to. These Scriptural declarations right here should give many a strong motivation to repent and forsake the darkness. There is real danger – not only for people of the world – but also for church people! There are many people in the visible church who practice darkness, and yet would claim to be God’s people.
The message needs to go out strongly that this just isn’t the case. We need to be very careful also about assuming that the blood of Jesus covers us while we deliberately walk in darkness. John’s message in the next verse tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses those who walk in the light – in honesty and truth, and who have fellowship with one another in Christ.
7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
There will always be a need however for all Christians to go deeper into the light, and further into their relationship with God, which will in turn expose new previously unrecognised areas of sin and darkness. Anyone in this life who claims to have no need for this, is deceiving themselves according to the following verses in 1 John.
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
What is this Saying?
The Good News for Christians here is that we can confess our sins, come to the light and receive true and full cleansing. This we must do, as often as our consciences, enlightened by the Word of God, reveal the need for this. This cleansing is for believers and unbelievers alike. We are all called into fellowship with God and with one another. This will only happen truly as we come to the light of God’s Word together, recognize our unloving ways where they exist, and truly surrender so that the love of God can work in and through our beings, creating the kind of genuine family fellowship with God and His people that God desires.
Application to Evangelism
As someone who at times is free to devote more time to preach the gospel of Jesus to people in the power of the Holy Spirit, I am challenged to lay out the call to repentance clearly in terms of light and darkness in the same way that the apostle John does in this letter. I am challenged to call people to forsake their selfish, individualistic ways, and come into the joy of loving fellowship. At least let people understand that this is part of what it means to repent, come out of darkness and be a child of God. All too often, we’ve rushed people into a prayer of dedication without really being led by the Holy Spirit in what we were doing – and people never realized that they needed to join in fellowship with God’s people and consequently in fellowship with God. I’m not necessarily talking about joining in some large assembly in a building whether you sing, hear a sermon, have a cup of coffee and go home. I’m talking about devoting yourself to really being with, and loving other true Christians who pray and have a relationship with God where they are accustomed to obeying His voice.
Application to Church Life
Of course, the challenge for many of us is to even find Christians who understand the call to this kind of loving fellowship, and have surrendered to the Lord so as to embrace it. I believe that in order to show this kind of fellowship to the world, we will need to meet in our homes and seek ways to help each other in our lives – practical (material) as well as emotional and spiritual ways. This is the kind of love that was practiced in the early church (1 John 3:16; Acts 2:44, 45).
We need to do the best we can in this regard until God shines further light and makes a way clear. It is important to seek out Christians who pray and study the Bible together. But because Satan has already sown so much deception, and because so many of us who profess Christ are still so broken sadly, at times we need to be open to reconsider our commitments to certain groups so that we can pursue greater light, greater holiness, greater love and greater fellowship with God and His people.
God bless you as you seek to walk in the light and the love of Jesus. This is truly the place where we can have answered prayer (John 15:7) and experience in greater and greater ways the unity of the Spirit spoken about in John 17.