1 John

True Fellowship with God

(What it means to experience Eternal Life with God)

Life and this world are filled with various ways of thinking and living. Thinking effects the way we live and is what makes us human. How we think and what we believe impacts our quality of life. There are various ways of thinking. And there are various degrees of the quality of life. There is a greater way and a lesser way. There is a right way and a wrong way. There is truth and there is falsehood. There is light and there is darkness.

Some view their existence as revolving individually around themselves (e.g. Narcissism). Others view existence as human centered in a more general way (e.g. Humanism). Some look no further than this life for answers (e.g. Evolution). They deny the existence of “God” (e.g. Atheists). Some of these take such thinking to its logical lawless conclusion (e.g. Anarchy). And others shrink to think life has no answers at all; to them life is meaningless (e.g. Nihilism). Some are just confused. They look beyond to see a little bit more but don’t really believe we can know what is needed to be known (e.g. Agnosticism). It all leads to depression and despair.

There are people who claim to have found “light” or to have experienced “God.” They claim to have found the key to the meaning of “life.” They think they have found the true purpose to human existence. They look to religion in its various forms to explain things. They find meaning in ritual, cult, ceremony, tradition, or experience (e.g. Religionists). They see such things as important to living a fulfilling and meaningful life. But if all you depend on to define and discover your “truth” for life is a blindly accepted religious practice or personal experience, then you are really living a kind of hit or miss shell game. Religions need proving. Experiences need validating. Experiences are as different and varied as every individual that has ever existed. Truth and meaning, to be reliable, must have some factual basis and some consistency, reality, a reliable basis for believing what you believe. This leads to lasting peace, assurance and it enables others to follow the same path of blessing.

Others though, don’t really care about such things. They are satisfied to go with the flow. They let life live them rather than seek to live life themselves. Their god may be pleasure (e.g. Hedonism). Their mantra may be “if it feels good do it.” They focus on the things of this world (e.g. Materialism). And if along the way others benefit, that’s icing on the cake (e.g. Utilitarianism). Maybe they live their lives to promote and perpetuate a civil system of government (e.g. Political: Socialism; Communism; Democracy; et.al.). Maybe they worship an earthly king. The only problem with such thinking and living is that it doesn’t answer the big questions of life such as “Why are we here?” or “Is there an afterlife?” and if so,” What happens after this life?” It is all about the present and not too much about the future. That’s dangerous because there is a future, an eternity for all humankind. Every person has an eternal destiny. The Bible tells us eternity can be good, but it can also be bad. It’s important to consider such things.

A life that has settled for “work, eat, sleep, then repeat” in its various forms is missing out on so much more. Life should not be reduced to simple drudgery or routine. Life should be invigorating. Some flee the working routine by going into the wilderness. They worship the rustic. They live at the mercy of weather and wild animals. Some choose a more artificial strategy. They seek such vigor in various activities. Skydiving, walking on ledges, living on edges; they live for the thrill. Roller coasters and wrestling crocodiles; anything to make the heart pound faster. They all put their lives at risk and all is well, until they take a spill. Thrill seekers in life too often are defeated and destroyed by the danger of such living. They crash and burn and that’s no way to live.

Then there are those who live for “me, myself and I.” The world and everything in it revolves around them. There’s more to life than “me.” A self-centered life is a lonely life. Such a life is lived at the expense of others. This ends up leaving a wake of personal defeat and sorrow. A person with friends must themselves be friendly. Some people don’t really care about friends or meaningful relationships until they get to the end of their lives and then it’s too late. Loneliness is one of the great hardships of life. God didn’t design us to be alone.

You’re on the right course if you try to fill your life with relationships. Relationships with others enrich and invigorate our life. Marriage, family, friendships are one of the greatest blessings in life. But relationships can let you down too, unless you find the right relationship. A key to life is finding the right relationships. And the key to experiencing life to its fullest is finding the supreme relationship with one’s Creator. Truly, it’s not merely what you know but Who you know that makes life and our existence all it should be.

There are many who speak in esoteric, mystical, spiritualized lingo. Maybe they meditate on their belly buttons. Maybe they use hallucinogenic substances to alter their state of mind. Maybe they seek out of body experiences, the occult, or eastern mysticism. Or maybe they’re a bit more conventional and simply concoct a “god” in their own image. They basically live in their own created fantasy world that allows for a “god” who approves whatever they want and desire in life. The “truth” or reality they live by is the one which suits them best. That may work awhile, until you come up against a person whose view of reality intrudes on your view of reality. This world is filled with pain and suffering caused by people doing their own thing but who are way off course and crashing into others along their way. There is a better way. Humanity is not built to be like Doctor Doolittle’s Push-me-pull-you. There is an up and a down. Green means go and red means stop, not the other way around (unless you want an accident). There is light and there is darkness. There is a right course in life, one that is better for everyone.

It all boils down to answering the question “Why are we here?” We should want to answer that question because there is something built into our being that yearns to answer that question. One historical figure put it well when they said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” [1] That was written centuries after the first epistle (letter) of the Apostle John. His epistle addresses this gigantic life question, “Why are we here?” with the inspired answer of we are here to experience True Fellowship with God.

The world has trended toward a very relative definition of truth so that it’s no big deal for people to hold contrasting even contradictory and differing doctrines about the world and beyond. To them it doesn’t much matter if people believe in many gods (Polytheism: e.g. Hinduism) or one “God” (Monotheism: e.g. Judaism, Islam; Christianity), a personal knowable Creator God or an impersonal life force defined as the universe itself (Pantheism: e.g. Buddhism; Naturalism). Most people today are hooked on the addicting drug of “peace and safety.” They just want to “live and let live.” They ask, “Can’t we all just live together?” They are all about “tolerance.” The only real thing that rankles them is when someone rocks their boat by pointing out that their conglomeration of world views is contradictory and create an illogical and irrational view of the world.  If you really want to stir the pot, just tell them about a Personal God name Jesus Who has a very different view of right and wrong then them. Whenever they are confronted with a “truth” other than their own, they leave their “tolerance” and intolerantly and vociferously shout down their opposition with accusations of “hater,” or “bigot,” or some other unflattering epithet. There is only One Who is entitled to say “My way or the highway.” That is God our Creator. And yes, He does exist. And thankfully He is Loving as well as Holy and Almighty.

A world view based on relativity and trends of the day makes life like an unanchored boat floating away with the tide or being carried away by a current. And inevitably, those with such vacillating relative views of reality drift into stormy rapids filled with treacherous rocks and broken tree limbs of unreliable teaching and broken human limbs of those who have drowned in deceptions. Devastation hits when people find that what they have been building their life on just doesn’t hold up or protect them when life’s storms hit. A stable and safe life is one that is anchored in a world view that accepts certain absolute truth.  First John tells us True Fellowship with God is our shelter from such storms.

God inspired the Apostle John to write this first epistle. He also was inspired by God to write 2 and 3 John, the Gospel of John, and the book of Revelation. John was the last of the original twelve apostles to die. He was part of the 70 sent out with authority by Jesus. He was among the 120 in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. He was one of Jesus’ core innermost three (Peter, James and John). Jesus took these three for special times with Him to the Transfiguration, Gethsemane, to see Jesus raise the dead. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20).

The Apostle John was a powerful orator. He spoke powerfully in the Spirit and he literally had a booming powerful voice. He was nicknamed bronto phonos because of his thundering voice. He, not Paul, was considered by some early church fathers to be the lead theologian of the apostles. Into his old age he was transported from town to town on a stretcher to minister to people. When people would ask him what the most important thing in life was he would tell them with tears in his eyes, “Little children, love one another.” I’m glad God gave John a megaphone voice to trumpet His message of Ture Fellowship with God and God’s love.

John is known as “the Apostle of love.” The word “love” (Greek agape) occurs 57 times in the gospel of John. “Love” occurs 53 times in 1, 2 and 3 John (cf. e.g. 1 John 2:8-10; 3:14; 4:1-12), and another 7 times in Revelation. But John wasn’t always known for his love. There was a time when he and his brother James were known as “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was prejudiced against those outside his group (Luke 9:49-50). When Jesus passed through Samaria and the Samaritans did not receive Him John was quick to ask Jesus, “Are you going to call down fire on them like Elijah?” John was ready to toast the adversaries. He didn’t yet have an appreciation for the eternal souls of people. John didn’t at that point know how to properly represent God. Jesus taught him otherwise. Jesus taught John about love.

One day John’s mother brought her boys James and John to Jesus asking for a special place of prominence in Jesus’ kingdom (Mat. 20:17-21). She wanted James and John to have a place on either side of Jesus’ throne in the Kingdom. (At least she believed in the Kingdom of Jesus!) It isn’t clear, but it could be that James and John put their mother up to this. Prejudiced, power hungry and now proud are not qualities of a disciple of Jesus. Jesus rebuked John for these attitudes. John had to be humbled.

It was at the cross where Jesus entrusted the care of His mother Mary to John. It was at the cross where Jesus poured out His love for John and the entire world. John later wrote that when we see Jesus we are made like Him (1 John 3:2). The Apostle John became who he was by gazing on Jesus. The cross of Christ has a way of humbling a person.

When was John changed and transformed into the apostle of love? It was likely at the cross. John was the only disciple to stay close to Jesus at the cross. And when John records his presence at the cross he refers to himself with the words, “the disciple Whom He loved” (John 19:26). It was at the cross where John really saw and knew in a life changing way just how much Jesus loved him. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). John came to understand that those words included him. They include you and me! John was born again spiritually. He experienced the second birth unto eternal life. We can’t say exactly when that happened. It may have been as late as after Jesus resurrection when Jesus said to the group of disciples that included John, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Then John is inspired to add the comment, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). When Jesus breathes on you and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” well, you can bet that was a command they obeyed in faith. John was born again.

John wrote his gospel testimony to Jesus around 90 A.D. His three epistles were written a little later around 96 A.D. The Book of Revelation is believed to have been written around the turn of the first century (100 A.D.). His inspired writings close out the 66 books of the canon of scripture.

John is believed to have been the pastor of the church at Ephesus. God started this church through the ministry of Paul but He continued it through the ministry of the Apostle John. Ephesus was a busy church, but toward the end of the first century Jesus, through John, delivered a rebuke to the church for having left their first love (Revelation 2:4). That’s hard to fathom when you take into account that John so emphasized the love of God in His inspired writings. Could his life and ministry have emphasized the love of God any less? Not likely. But somehow the church at Ephesus had drifted away from the love of God. They allowed themselves to be distracted from the most excellent way of God’s love (1 Cor. 13). John’s First Epistle is a reminder of just how important the love of God is to the Christian. And it is a portion of Holy Scripture we should take to heart in these busy times of ours.

The Gospel of John was written with a vocabulary of only around 600 words. John was inspired to write in a way that was understandable and clear. He uses a lot of contrasting words to clarify his points, e.g. light versus darkness; truth versus falsehood; love versus hate. This was probably in response to those who were infiltrating the church with false teachings. Gnosticism, a belief system that worshipped knowledge was sweeping through the church at the time. John’s use of simple but profound wording in his letters was a way of defending against the wordiness and confusing teachings of the Gnostics and those who made secret privileged knowledge, not Jesus, the key to eternal life.

The Gnostics held to a dualistic view of the world. They believed all matter was evil and only the unseen spiritual was good. This led them to deny Jesus physical bodily incarnation. John defies such false teaching by very clearly stating in his opening words that he heard Jesus with his own ears, saw Him with his own eyes, and even handled Him with his own hands (1 John 1:1). Jesus is alive. Jesus is real. Praise the Lord!

John writes his first epistle with clearly stated purposes.  The first stated purpose and the prime purpose of John’s epistle is to facilitate fellowship with “the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). The second purpose flows out of the first and that is “that your joy may be full” (1:4). Fellowship with God leads to fullness of joy. The third purpose of the epistle is to offer readers hope that it is possible to win the battle against sin (2:1). The closer we come to Jesus the more clearly we will see our sin. But the closer we come to Jesus the more power to resist sin we will also have. Fourthly, John wrote, “that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13). John wanted his readers to be able to know they had eternal life. He wanted them to have a confident assurance regarding their eternal destiny.

Fellowship with God. Fullness of joy. Freedom from sin. Confidence in your eternal destiny. Those inspired purposes of John sound a lot better than the lonely nights of Narcissism, the emptiness of evolution, the nil of Nihilism, the angst of Atheism, the unknowns of Agnosticism, the weight of guilt of the Religionist, and the lostness of all the other world views that don’t revolve around True Fellowship with God.

When Federal agents are trained to identify counterfeit currency they aren’t taught to memorize all of the various imperfections of the myriad fake currencies. No, they are trained to identify the false by knowing the genuine. They master the parts of the genuine dollar bills. In our study we aren’t going to go into detail about all the various world views mentioned in this introduction. Our strategy will be to focus on the genuine True Fellowship with God that we can have through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you focus on fellowshipping with the Father and His only Son Jesus, all alternatives will pale in comparison. When you come to experience and know true fellowship with God, you won’t want any alternatives.

So if you are looking for some direction and seeking an answer to the question, “Why are we here?” this is the study for you. Our study in First John entitled True Fellowship with God is outlined as follows:

  1. The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Fullness of Joy – 1 John 1
  2. The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Freedom from Sin – 1 John 2
  3. The True Fellowship with God that Leads to True Love – 1 John 3-4
  4. The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Confidence – 1 John 5

[1] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 1 found on goodreads.com.  



 

 

The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Confident Assurance of Eternal Life