Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Letter: A First Read

A Letter's First Read

Intro. Mail is part of the 21st century.

  1. Maybe you saw the movie “Letters To God” last year – they even came out with a Bible with some of the notes that were in the Bible discussed in the movie.
  2. And here is a pile of my mail from this past week.
  3. Maybe one of you would like to pay my phone bill.
  4. If you lived in the 1st century AD, you may have been handed a letter. You would have been told it was from John the Apostle.
  5. It started this way:
Read: I John 1:1-4 Pray

Trans:What would you do if you were alone on an island?

  1. All your food was provided
  2. Great views of Mediterranean
  3. People around all the time
  4. So what do you do?
  5. John wrote letters – three letters. We call them I, II, and III John
  6. Over the next several weeks we will spend time in I John.
  7. We will will look at what makes I John unique
  8. And what John wanted to the church to know as he waited out his final years.
T.S. As we look at I John 1:1-4, we will discover more about the author, more about the message, and more about his purpose for writing.
  1. The Author
    1. It is late in the first century – and a letter begins to be circulated among the church. But in that letter, no where does John claim to be the author.
    2. But that has been the church's claim from early in its history.

(Ill.) John was unique – he was the last of the disciples to die. Rather than being killed – he had been exiled to Patmos. Patmos was traditionally a Greek Island, but by the time of Jesus, had become essentially a Roman site to exile its prisoners – that is why we find John there.

    1. John was not only speaking for himself. Notice that uses the word “we” - the letter was not just his. He is speaking not only for himself, he was the final voice of the original twelve apostles. He is the last of the men that had spent three years living, watching, listening to Jesus. He was there when Jesus died. And, perhaps most importantly, John was there when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to return home to His father.
    2. Thus John's voice was his own and that of all the twelve. But as he wrote, John also spoke for someone else – he spoke for God.
    3. What John wrote came from his heart, it represented the teachings of the twelve disciples, but it also reflected the work of God in his heart.
(Appl.) I am a firm believer in the “inerrancy” of scripture. Inerrancy is the conviction that God has so prepared the writers of scripture, that when they write, that what is put onto paper is what God intended to write. It is true for Genesis, it true of the Gospel writers, it is true of John as he writes his last letter. Inerrancy means that we can trust the scriptures. They give us what God wanted us to have. And from them we are lead to live lives modeled after his plan for His world.

  1. The Message
    1. I am not going to discuss everything that John discusses in the five chapters of I John.
    2. But in these four verses before us this morning, there is very important point to remember.
    3. Here it is – John is not here to teach us theology, but he is here to help us understand what he has experience of Jesus Christ.
    4. In these four verses, John tells us that what follows comes from what he has seen, from what he has touched, and what from he has heard.
    5. This is no fiction book. It comes from his life.

(Appl.) I have to admit that sometimes it is hard to talk about the lives we have lived. Privacy is something that the modern American strive to maintain. We all carry a load that can hurt to share – But there are two times when sharing our past can be of help:

    1. The first is when we share with God. I mean he already knows our past – and only as we let him take that load that we carry can we begin to experience the healing that he offers. There is no hiding from Jesus – but when we are honest with Him, we begin to let go of that baggage, we begin to let go of that load that we have been carrying. And the second reason for sharing our past makes no sense till the first has occurred.
    2. The second takes a bit of courage and great deal of sensitivity. When God has dealt with our past, when we have experienced God's healing, when we have lived with the freedom that God has given us, sometimes our past can be of help to another. We don't tell our story to tell it – but we might choose to tell it when it will let another know that same freedom.
    1. So, John opens up his life in this letter – sharing what he has seen, heard, and touched, what he has experienced, as he has walked with God.
    2. Though the book will introduce us to some theology, it was not written to be a theology book.
    3. The message of I John is rooted in the life of John the apostle. As we study and read over the next few weeks, I hope that we never forget this.
  1. The Purpose
    1. So we have John, writing from his own heart as well as from that of the other apostles and from God's heart. He writes about the things that he has seen, touched, and heard. But we have said nothing, yet, about why he is writing.
    2. John suggests three answers:
    3. The first we have already hinted at – he is writing to introduce us to Jesus – what he has seen, heard, and touched. Sometimes, I think, there are those who use the phrase “meet Jesus” too loosely, but John really wants you to know the Jesus he knows. Nothing hid, no surprises – just the Jesus he spent three wonderful years with. The Jesus who he will spend eternity with – John wants you to know him.
    4. But there is another purpose – look at verse 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.” John is writing so that you can join the family – the family of God.
    5. Or, if you are already a member of God's family, so that you can be more faithful member of that family. He wants to prepare us to live as believers in a world that does not believe in God.
    6. Finally, he writes in verse 4 that he writes because he wants his own joy to be “complete.”
    7. When we serve another, when we help another, it is satifying – it is joyful. What more joy could there be but in helping lead others to eternity in Christ's presence.

(Ill.) Joy does not come from what we do – it comes from living close to Jesus. Here is John, exiled to an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, but he finds joy. If you find yourself lacking joy, ask yourself where God is? What role is He playing in your life right at that point in time?



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