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Complete Joy

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2008-08-17 (am) 1 John 1:1-4 Complete Joy

          Facebook.  MSN Messenger.  Xenga.  MySpace.  Text messaging.  Telephones.  Email, snail mail.

          What makes us do this?

          What motivates people to join a church, join a club, become a member of an online community, from Split-coast Stampers to Facebook?

          What is the appeal of Facebook?

          It’s a place where you can be yourself.  You don’t have the pressure of having to speak to someone face to face.  You can take time to think, to write to say what’s really on your mind.  And people will read it or not.  You can change your profile, change your picture, change your friends, compare your friends with others, have oodles of friends, communicating with all of them all at the same time.

          Why do we do this?  Why do we join these things?  What’s driving our passion for hanging out with other people?  What force is at work to move us into different groups, to encourage us to attend this or that particular group?

          In all of us, in all people, except perhaps those with radical psychological deficiencies, all people have a desire for community, brotherhood, sisterhood, fellowship.

          It is built in.  It is part of our nature.  It is part of our nurture.  We’re raised in relationships with other people, right from the start.  In fact, unless you literally are lost on a deserted island, everything you do involves interactions with other people; it quite simply is a way of life.

          And as I said, it is built into us.  Not simply because we are raised in families, and because we have to relate to other people.  No matter what, even if you did all your shopping online, you’d still have to have contacts with people. 

          The main reason why we hunger for relationships, communities and the like is because God created us that way.  In fact, that is very simply one of the ways in which we reflect God’s image.  God is Trinity, three persons in perfect unity, fellowshipping, communicating, loving & being loved, living together eternally.

          How we live, how we communicate, how we fellowship with others reflects, for better or for worse, the relationship within the Godhead.

          But there’s more.  Companionship, being together with other people is part of the way that God made us.  He made us to live with one another.  God created Eve to be Adam’s companion, a perfectly compatible mate for him.

          And that relationship is the most intimate relationship that humans can share.  Let me read Genesis 4:1 from the ESV.  The KJV and RSV are very similar.  “Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain.”  The NET Bible puts it this way, “Now the man had marital relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.”

          In the Old Testament, the word for sexual relations is the word meaning “to know.”  This is not merely a euphemism.  It’s not as though they were looking for a polite way to describe marriage intimacy.  There’s a purpose behind their choice of words.  By using the very “to know”, the Old Testament wants us to realise that the intimacy of a sexual relationship, experienced by a husband and a wife, is the closest means of getting to know a person.

          So, we have in marriage, and only in marriage, an intimate human activity that brings two people most closely together, so that they can know and be known by one another.  That is one reason why the church historically has been so determined to protect the sanctity of the marriage bed.  Because there is far more going on than mere pleasure, there’s deep, spiritual knowing taking place.  Don’t let the world’s teaching on sex win you over, the world has it absolutely wrong!

          Now, if we think back to the Ephesians series, we’ll remember that the apostle Paul used marriage as a metaphor for what?  For the church, the church is where the Christian experiences the relationship with Jesus.

          The intimacy that we have with Christ is closer, more powerful, more meaningful, more amazing, more fulfilling than even the husband and wife relationship.

          And that’s precisely what John is describing for us in our text. 

          Jesus Christ is the groom, the church is the bride.  Now, many of us having just witnessed a wedding, we know that on wedding days, the second best looking person is the groom, the bride being the best looking.  But with Christ and the church, the reverse is true.  Jesus Christ is the most handsome, beautiful, winsome, attractive, loving, faithful groom that has ever been known to humanity.  And his worth, honour, attractiveness is far, far greater than the bride’s.

          And that is what John wants us to know in this letter, this sermon.  He is talking about the exceeding greatness of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is that which was from the beginning.  All scriptures from beginning to end, all activities in the world, everything that has happened, has happened in order to make Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God, known to the world.

          And he is known.  We know him.  John knew him.  John, the writer of this letter, called himself the beloved disciple.  John saw Jesus, observed him, touched him, and had communication, fellowship, a relationship with Jesus. 

          That relationship, because it was with Jesus, was deeper than any marriage relationship.  For when you are in a relationship with Jesus, it is like no other relationship.  For when we have fellowship, companionship, relationships with people, that’s what they are, relationships with people very much like ourselves.  They are good, and at times not so good.  But they do give us happiness and joy and comfort.

          But our relationship with Jesus is so much better!  Jesus is the word.  Jesus is the truth.  Jesus is the word of life!  In other words, knowing Jesus is experiencing real life!  Knowing Jesus, being in fellowship with Jesus, being in a relationship with Jesus is greater than anything else which we can know, experience or feel. 

          For with Jesus it goes beyond the physical.

          Think back to when you had a very happy experience.  Do you remember the good feeling you had?  Or how about the thrill of holding hands for the first time?  It is thrilling because in the instance of touch is a willingness to share, to risk opening yourself to the unknown.  How is this person going to react?  Will they share themselves with me?  Will they take advantage of my openness?

          Consider Jesus Christ.  God sent His Son to seek and save the lost.  Some accepted Jesus.  Some opened their hearts to him and allowed him to change their lives forever.  But some did not return his openness with openness.  Instead, they turned on him.  They took advantage of him.  The mocked him, hurled insults at him, hit him, beat him, flogged him, and they crucified him.

          Jesus Christ came and humbled himself, opened himself so that we might get to know him.  John says they really knew him.  And through their testimony, through the words printed in this book, we can get to know him who is eternal!  He who is eternal life.  When we live with Him, when we live with Christ, we realise that there is nothing greater than he is!

          John is telling us that Jesus is the goal of everything.  Jesus is eternal life.  Jesus had been with the Father, but he appeared to them and through them, he’s appeared to us!

          Now, when we come to know Christ, when we see him, when we believe that He is God, that he took on real, true human flesh and a human nature, and that he still has his resurrected human flesh, still has the holes in his hands and his feet, the scars in his head, and the hole in his side, when we believe that God sent Jesus to live and to die and be raised from the dead for us, then we enter into the best relationship imaginable.

          We enter into a wonderful relationship with God!

          Make no mistake, every single person who has ever lived who is alive right now, and who will ever live in the future has a relationship with God.  The question that people need to ask, and the question we need to ask our neighbours, our friends, our families, is this, “What is your relationship with God like?  Is it a loving relationship or is it a wrathful relationship?”

          For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, who reject his atoning work on the cross, who reject his sacrifice, who reject His propitiation, his satisfaction and removal of God’s wrath—those who reject all that, remain in God’s wrath.  Therefore, they remain in a bad, awful, fearful relationship with God.

          Those who believe, though, are not in a fearful relationship with God.  God loves us.  God died for us.  God has given us a perfect relationship with him!  With Christ, we are one with the father and one with the son!

          But that’s not all!  Not only do we have a relationship that is simply out of this world, we have a relationship that is perfectly in this world.  We have fellowship with other believers!  We have communion with those who are in Christ!  We have the amazing, wonderful, incredible reality of the church!

          Church is where we meet God!  Church is where Christ’s body gathers together to worship, experience and delight in the presence of God.

          Isn’t that why you’re here?  Isn’t it to be in the fellowship of believers?  You’re here to experience Christ!

          John says that the truth was spoken; the message about Christ was passed down so that we would have fellowship!  Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son.  He writes this letter; this letter is received by us in order to make his joy complete.

          What is complete joy?

          Complete joy is being in perfect fellowship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

          True, complete joy is in fellowship with God, and fellowship with believers!  This is where it is at!  This church, you and me, all of us, working together, God has ordained all of us to do amazing things!  God’s plan has always included his church.  God has blessed us with the truth, and God has planned for us to demonstrate the truth in the world, by our fellowship.

          Facebook, MySpace, online forums and social networks, quilting clubs, boys clubs, girls clubs, all those things exist because we have a burning desire to be in fellowship with other people.  We long to be connected.  And those tools, as far as connecting ordinary people with each other go, are wonderful places.

          And all those groups are mere reflections of the grand, perfect connection that takes place when we give our lives over to Jesus Christ.  When we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and saviour, when we believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, when we know, believe and accept that Jesus’ life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension happened in order to make us forever right with God, we have true community.

          Those other things take a secondary place.  Our desire will be to have communion with God and God’s people, first and foremost.

          For when we have that, when we strive to experience and know God in Church, and in fellowship with believers, then we will know and have complete joy.

          Come on!  It’s time to start letting go, it’s time to let the façades disappear.  It’s time to let go of our hang ups, our frustrations, our pride, our desires, and look to Christ.  In Christ we have everything.

          I’ll close with this quote from C.S. Lewis, talking about the fellowship we have as believers. 

            “For the Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances.  A secret master of ceremonies has been at work.  Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another!”  The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.”

--C.S. Lewis

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