Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, Your Easter victory was and still is a day of great joy—for all us humans who benefit so greatly from it, and for the hosts of heaven who rejoiced together over Your restoring us to Your eternal family by faith. May all of us, as Your dear children, embrace that joy and seek to live it and share it with each other so as to enlarge the company of joyous saints who sing Your praises daily. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE GIVER OF ETERNAL JOY, JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: I John 1: 1—2:2
Fellow Redeemed In The Victorious Savior!
Unbridled happiness. Inner contentment which cannot be negated by the pains of life. A deep-seated emotional response of wellness within your soul. All those are definitions of joy. Do you possess such joy? I hope so. For without it life is not really worth living. Yes, I’ll admit that at times our inner joy is threatened by political intrigue, economic hardship, and just plain old pain. At times, our joy seems to recede and we just struggle on because we have to in order to survive. But then, something happens, some little event occurs which re-ignites joy within. An unasked for kindness, a beautiful day after horribly dreary weather, or perhaps a vacation which totally captivates us—such things fan the flames of joy within. Isn’t God wonderful to provide us with such avenues of joy?
As Christians we are not immune from a world that often tries to tear our joy down instead of building it up. The roadblocks erected against our joy are well-known to all of you, so I won’t enumerate them here. And yet, our victorious Savior has overcome all those roadblocks with His perfect life and death for us. And Easter is the proof that He has overcome them. “For He (God the Father) has placed all things under His (Christ’s) feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Hence, the world may momentarily freeze our joy, but we have the comfort of knowing that such a freeze will thaw under the warm sunshine of Christ’s love. And that, my friends, is what differentiates our joy from the world’s fake imposter. Ours is eternal. Theirs is momentary. Ours is deep. Theirs is shallow.
The Apostle John is about 90 years old when he writes the words of our text. He is living, most probably, in Ephesus. Out of all the disciples, only he is still alive. Only he remains on this earth to share as he says: “that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—namely the Word of life, Jesus Christ.” And so, John writes this letter to his fellow believers across the ages to as he says: “make our joy complete.” Talking about Christ and proclaiming His ageless truths makes St. John’s inner joy complete. It fulfills him because it fulfills his purpose for existence. Did you catch the “our”? That’s a plural pronoun. John isn’t merely talking about his own joy, he’s talking about yours and mine, too. We’re all included. And that brings us to the point of today’s lesson, which is:
MAKE OUR JOY COMPLETE!
This entire lesson could well be called St. John’s inspired prescription for joy. If you break down the component parts of this prescription, you soon see that Godly joy is: given, it is shared, and it is lived. So, let’s start at the beginning and analyze the “given” aspect.
John’s opening words are an echo of the first words of his famous gospel. There he talks about the eternal Word of God Who was born into this world to bring life and light to God’s people, to us. Now he goes on: “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
All life comes from God. He is the Creator. Likewise, oneness with God, fellowship, walking together with Him and basking in the eternal joy that surrounds Him—that was the kind of life that God gave to humans when He made them. But then, Adam and Eve sinned. They broke that bond of oneness with God. They rebelled. They thought they could be more fulfilled by going off on their own. The source of eternal joy was severed from human beings. And sadness resulted. Death resulted. But God’s joy is boundless, and so is His love. So He sent Christ, His Son, to re-establish that link. He sent Christ to remake and remold us into new creations through His blood, through His self-sacrifice on the cross. And on Easter God proclaimed to all creation that His Son’s work was successful! Moreover, by believing in Jesus we now have oneness with God once again and thus we can tap into true joy once again and experience its peace and sense of well-being. This is God’s gift to us in Christ. This gift comes to us, is given to us via the eternal Word of life, or the Gospel, the Good news of salvation in Christ. This is the gift John seeks to share and I seek to share with you this very day! And thereby God makes our joy complete!
The act of proclaiming Christ’s victory over sin and death, of bringing life, real life, back to us—this act of sharing eternal joy—just as John is doing, adds to our own joy. For joy and love are intertwined. Thus sharing God’s love with others brings joy to all involved. How can it not? For both find their ultimate meaning in Christ. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
The light/darkness image is really a contrast between the darkness of sin and the lightness of God. Living in unrepentant sin is living a lie. It divorces us from God’s joy. It is disruptive to the very order of the original creation. And when a person lives this way he or she has no oneness, no fellowship with God or with the other saints. So, what should be our response? How do we recapture such oneness and the joy that comes with it?—By reminding others and ourselves that: “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin.” It is by sharing the gospel with others and applying it to our own lives. Jesus’ blood obliterates sin and dispels darkness. Easter proved it, too!
And so, ultimately we have completed joy when we live that way. We have completed joy when we live each day as the restored, redeemed, forgiven children of God that Christ has made us into. John addresses all this as well when he writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
John knew his own heart. He knew he was a sinner, just like the rest of us. He knew what it was like to struggle with inner turmoil over his failings and imperfections. Yet, note how gently he speaks of hurting hearts who struggle with life just as he did. Note how John always points us back toward living in and with and through Christ, under His cross. Note how he even reminds everyone how Jesus will always speak up for us—and how could the Father ignore His Son’s pleadings?
So, today we pray: Make Our Joy Complete! And God is and has in Jesus Christ. Moreover, such God-given joy enables us to recognize and appreciate all His blessings, even the tiniest ones, and that wellspring of joy then dispels the dark clouds around us. Joy! Joy! And more Joy! What a God! What a Savior! Amen