John opens this letter remembering Christmas, and so this is a fitting message for our consideration as we finish up Christmas festivities and look forward to the new year.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, our hands have handled, of the word of life…” (1 Jn. 1:1-10).
Summary of the Text
John echoes his gospel describing the “Word of life” from the beginning as something that has become flesh, something heard, seen, looked upon, and handled (1 Jn. 1:1, cf. Jn. 1:1). This Word is the life manifested from the Father (1:2), and the apostles have seen it and heard it and declared it as witnesses so that all who hear their testimony may have fellowship with them and with the Father and the Son (1:3). This fellowship is fullness of joy (1:4). The message they proclaim is that God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all (1:5). Therefore, fellowship with God in His light means that we must not walk in darkness, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1:6-7). If we deny that we have sin, we are liars and we make God out to be a liar, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all sin (1:8-10).
Christmas & Confession
What have you heard and seen and looked at and handled over the last few weeks? As you have sought to celebrate Christmas as Christians, you have heard and seen and looked at and handled the Word of Life. The whole point of the presents, the tree, the meals, the songs, the cookies, the eggnog – the whole point of all of it was Jesus, the Word of Life. We gave because He gave. We celebrated because He came. We rejoiced because we have fellowship with Him and with one another. But this fellowship is only possible because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14). God became man in order to reconcile all things in His flesh. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:21-22). “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity” (Eph. 2:15-16). So the Word became flesh in order to reconcile us to God and one another. The Word became flesh in order to abolish the enmity between us and God and one another, making true peace and fellowship. This is the only basis for Christian joy (1 Jn. 1:3-4). This fellowship is through the cleansing of the blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:6-7). And the blood of Christ cleanses us as we confess our sins to God and one another (1 Jn. 1:9).
Fellowship & Lies
Christian joy is real joy because it built on the truth of Christ. But as descendants of Adam and Eve, we have not only inherited their guilt and tendency to sin, we have also inherited their tendency to try to hide their sin. They tried to hide their nakedness with fig leaves, and they tried to hide from God in the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:7-8). In the presence of God, all darkness is shade. Sin is turning away from God’s light, and that darkness includes trying to hide our guilt, trying to cover our shame. Even true Christians are still tempted to do this. This is why the Bible teaches us that dealing with our sin right away is enormously important. Jesus says that if you bring a gift to worship and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift and go be reconciled to him first (Mt. 5:23-24). It’s better to be 10 minutes late for church and worship in Spirit and in truththan to stand before God as a liar. Paul says that when there are divisions in the Church, especially at the Lord’s Supper – an act of fellowship, we are not actually celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and we are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, causing sickness and weakness and even death (1 Cor. 11:18-30). If you have anything against anyone go make it right as soon as possible. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:26). The devil is the father of lies, and he is happy for Christians to pretend to be in fellowship when they are not. So do not give an inch to the devil here. When fellowship is broken, go make it right.
Fellowship & Joy
John clearly says that the heart of Christian fellowship is fullness of joy (1 Jn. 1:3-4). And this is echoed in other places, specifically related to confession and forgiveness of sin. In Psalm 32, David sings, “Happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven… When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long… I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin… Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart” (Ps. 32:1, 3, 5, 10-11). Likewise, in Psalm 51, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make to me hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice… restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Ps. 51:7-8, 12). So lying about our sin (that it isn’t a big deal or that it isn’t there) and lying about God (that He can’t see it, that Jesus didn’t need to die for it) is the central cause of sadness and sickness and depression in this world. You cannot enjoy fellowship with God or other Christians while guilt and shame weigh upon you. Non-Christians experience this agony as well, but Christians have the added grief of grieving the Spirit who lives in them (Eph. 4:30). When we grieve the Spirit by sinning and refusing to confess our sins, the Spirit grieves us. Because God loves His children, His hand is heavy upon them in their sin. The greatest horror in all the world is God giving us up to our sin (Rom. 1:24).
Conclusion: Comfort & Joy
Christ was born in order that we might know God, that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son by the Spirit. And this fellowship is the fullness of peace and joy. But this peace and joy is maintainedand enjoyedby the application of the blood of Jesus to every bump and bruise by confession of sin and forgiveness. Confession of sin agrees with God by naming the sin biblically and asks Him and any offended parties for forgiveness. God forgives us by promising not to hold our sin against us for the sake of Christ, and so we must forgive one another like that (Eph. 4:32). Forgiveness is not based on our feelings. Forgiveness is based on the fact of the Cross. When we are faithful to forgive as we have been forgiven, the Holy Spirit works true comfort and joy into our hearts and homes.