Cover image of 1 John: The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ

1 John: The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ

There are two of Jesus' disciples whom I would particularly like to have known in the days of their earthly life. One is Peter, and the other is John. I like these two men. I am especially impressed by the change that fellowship with the Lord Jesus produced in their lives. This is what intrigues me about these two.Peter, as you know, was erratic, impulsive, brash. As someone has well said, "Whenever Peter enters a scene, it's always with a thud." He seems to have a gift for putting his foot in his mouth -- he suffered from hoof-in-mouth disease. Yet the Lord made him a steady, stable, dependable rock, as his name implies. He became a rallying point, a gathering point for the Christians in the days of the persecutions which broke out in the first century. It was only because he was with the Lord, and knew the Lord. Most of the change took place after the Lord's death and resurrection, however, so we do not need to feel that it was the personal presence of Jesus that changed these men. He changed them after he died and rose again, just as he can change us.John was the other one who was dramatically changed by our Lord. He was a young man, the youngest of all the disciples. In fact, many scholars feel that he was a teenager when he first started to follow the Lord. Perhaps he was seventeen or eighteen years of age. Along with his brother, James, he was a hot-headed young man, given to sharp and impulsive utterances with a tendency toward blowing off steam. He was probably a loudmouth, because Jesus nicknamed him Son of Thunder. That was our Lord's gentle way of labeling John's problem. He just kept the thunder rolling all the time. So our Lord called both James and John Sons of Thunder.But John became the apostle of love. He was noted for his gentleness and his graciousness and his goodness. He was called "The Virgin." As far as we know, he never married. There is no record that he ever did. But he was called "virgin" primarily because of the purity of his life. He became a man who was characterized by such an outstanding devotion and love for the Lord Jesus, that all his life he was singled out as the apostle of love.

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Counterfeits and Reflectors (1 John 2:3-6)

We are considering John's great analysis, in his first letter, of the way to maintain unbroken fellowship with the Son of God. Such fellowship is described to us by Jesus himself as the flowing of rivers of living water out of the center of life. It is something that cannot be hindered by anything outward because it comes from within. Jesus said, "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. ... 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water,'" (John 7:37-38 RSV). John adds, "this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive," (John 7:39a RSV).

25 Sep 2018

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Power in Prayer (1 John 3:21-24)

In our last study together in First John, Chapter 3, we looked at the problem of an accusing heart, i.e., a condemning conscience. What do you do as a Christian when your heart condemns you? As we saw, the usual result of a condemning conscience is a tendency to ignore God, to keep in the shadows and to distrust his love, to criticize his people and in many ways to manifest the fact that we have lost contact with the God who indwells us. The answer, as we saw in First John 3:19, was to reassure our hearts by a deed of self-giving love: "Little children, let us not love in word or speech," says John, "but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us," (1 John 3:18-19 RSV).

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Anyone who knows anything at all about Christianity knows that it puts great stress upon believing. Not believing myths and legends, as many seem to think, but believing facts. Faith is not a way of convincing yourself that something is true when you know it is not, as someone has defined it, but faith is believing something that is true. In order to be a Christian you must be a believer, because from faith comes life, strength, peace, and joy, and all else that the Christian life offers.

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The Teaching Spirit (1 John 2:26-27)

Our last time together in this letter was to see what John had to say about the tremendous adequacy of the Word of God to bring us, if we submit to it, to the full experience of vital, fruitful living. It never fails to thrill me that Christianity is not trying to produce religious plaster saints, but thoroughly human individuals who operate as God intended them to operate. The whole thrust of the Christian message is to the end that we experience life as God intended life to be. And the instrument that will do this is the Word of God. It is designed to that end.

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This is the first of a new series on a new subject in First John: Maintaining Truth. Of recent weeks, the attention of the Christian world has been captured by certain attempts to bring heresy charges against Bishop Pike because of his public denials of such important doctrines as the virgin birth of Christ, the Trinitarian character of the Godhead, and other headline-catching statements which he makes from time to time. Such attempts at heresy trials are not new in the Christian church. In every century there have been ecclesiastical leaders who have been charged with heresy. Such charges point up the concern of the church for maintaining the truth of God for which it has been put in the world.

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We have already noted that the first note of this letter of the Apostle John is one of power, the power of a Christian. And the power of a Christian is Jesus Christ himself, living within a human being today. It is Christ living in you, being God again in you, expressing his life in terms of your personality. Therefore, the key to this is fellowship, the sharing of the life of Jesus Christ. This is the note on which this letter begins.

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Love's Accomplishments (1 John 4:13-21)

This week an editorial caught my eye as I was reading through the paper. The heading said, "Love Menaces The City." It struck me rather forcibly that love should ever be considered a menace. This week in Tampa, and in Cleveland, and in other cities, there has been violence in the streets menacing the life of a city, but in San Francisco it is love that is a menace. In the editorial there were quotations from Dr. Eric Hutchinson, who is professor of chemistry at Stanford University, who was discussing the situation in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, and the hippie society there with its emphasis on love. Among other things, he said these perceptive words:

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What Shall we Be? (1 John 3:2-3)

Beloved, we are God's children now, it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 RSV)

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No Son, No Father (1 John 2:22-23)

In considering this letter we have already seen how John recognizes the existence in his day (as it is also in ours) of a counterfeit Christianity. He has described its general characteristics. It makes its appearance in cycles in human history. It is always characterized by an attack upon the person of Christ and those who teach along these lines eventually depart from New Testament Christianity, though they begin within the circle of the church, the fellowship of faith.

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Who will deny that love is the dominant theme of the age in which we live? Everyone talks about love, though not everyone practices it. A kind friend sent me a recent survey conducted by a team of professional pollsters, asking the question, "What do people love the most in life?" Categories were children, animals, God, the United States, their enemies, and themselves. It was discovered that 92% of the people said they loved children, barely edging out God at 86%. The United States, surprisingly enough, came third at 75%; animals were fourth, at 66%. Only 33% would acknowledge loving themselves (fifth place), and only 20% confessed to loving their enemies, all of which probably reveals that Americans love surveys most of all, and understand themselves least of all.

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The Greatest Revolution (1 John 3:4-5)

As we begin this fifth biennial Missionary Conference with its theme, "Across the Street and Across the Seas," ordinarily it would be expedient to interrupt our studies in the Epistle of First John and bring a special message in line with the missionary thrust. But I shall not do that largely because the passage at which we have arrived in John's letter offers an ideal text for a missionary conference. I am sure that is more than mere coincidence. We are looking at First John 3:4-5. These two verses give us the most penetrating analysis in the whole Bible of the reason for human distress and darkness. They also declare in one mighty sentence the answer of God to this human distress. Thus, they describe the message which for 1900 years has laid hold of hearts, both young and old, and compelled them to go out across the street and across the seas in the name of Jesus Christ.

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The Christian's Tranquilizer (1 John 3:19-20)

In the letter of First John we are now examining the theme of love which, as you recognize, is unquestionably the most talked-about subject in the world today. In the beatnik brothels of Haight-Ashbury it is perhaps the most popular word in the hippie language; the jargon of psychologists and psychiatrists is certainly replete with references to love; and from Hollywood we encounter their version of love in enormous quantities of technicolor and stereophonic passion. Thus, this is easily the most talked-about subject in all humanity. Yet it is easy to see that, though the world continues to talk about love, it actually grows increasingly more loveless. The less we know of love, the more are inclined to talk about it.

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God is Greater (1 John 4:4-6)

Some months ago I received a letter from a friend of mine, a man with whom I once shared wonderfully deep and precious moments of fellowship together. In my opinion he had evidenced in his life a keen insight into the understanding of Scripture. We enjoyed talking with each other about the things of God. He was trained in the same seminary that I attended. Yet this letter brought deep sorrow to my heart because in it he renounced his Christian faith and declared that he was forsaking both the Christian ministry and the Christian church, no longer having any confidence in its message or in its power but was himself abandoning all pretense to Christian testimony.

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The Mystery of Righteousness (1 John 3:6-7)

It is my great hope that there is coming to all, as we study together in First John, a growing awareness that every Christian must be a revolutionary because Christ is a revolutionary. God does not like the status quo. He is grieved and hurt by racial hatred, by war, by poverty, by unhappy homes, by human strife. God is a revolutionist: he is determined to protest these conditions, whenever and wherever they occur. But more than that, he is determined to correct them, to deliver men from them. Speaking generally, it would not be wrong to say that God is in full sympathy with most of the goals of the radical groups that exist today. He sees clearly the same things against which they are protesting. But there are two things that mark the difference between God's revolutionary methods and those of the radicals:

11 Sep 2018

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Visible Christianity (1 John 2:7-11)

One often hears today the saying that Christianity has been rejected by the world on the basis of a caricature which has been mistaken for the real thing. We 20th century Christians tend to say that as though it had never happened before. But we need to realize this is something that has been true ever since the 1st century and is not new at all. We have seen it in a new form, perhaps, in our own generation, but the phenomenon is a common one and has been true in every century. The work of the devil is always to distort and to twist truth, and to make it appear something which it is not. This, of course, is what we are experiencing today.

24 Sep 2018

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