First John 1:1-4
May Your Joy Be Full To Overflowing

Authored By Rev. Shigeru Matsubara, Assistant Pastor, Osaka Nozomi Church, Osaka, Japan

1.  Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "O Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands."  Having said this, he took his last breath and died.  A centurion had been watching all the particulars from beginning to end of when Jesus was crucified.  He was deeply impressed at the attitude and manner of Jesus and said, "Truly, this was a righteous man (the son of God)" and gave God praise, (Luke 23:46, 47).

2.  John 1:1-18 expresses Jesus, who had fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament scriptures on the cross, as the Word (o logoV; the logos).  "In the beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God.  The Word was God," (verse one).  "All creation came to be by the Word," (verse three).  "In the Word there is life," (verse four).  "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  We see his glory," (verse fourteen).  "No one has ever seen God yet.  God the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, even this person (Jesus Christ) has shown the Father," (verse eighteen).

3.  The Bible certainly [has it] and John's Gospel demonstrates it that the very Jesus of Nazareth who gave his last breath on the cross is "the one who was with God as the Word in the beginning."

4.  In the preamble of First John in chapter one and verses one through four which is where we are studying today it says, "That which has been from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have seen clearly and touched with our hands we tell you of.  That is, [we tell you] of the Word of life," (verse one).  [Scholars] think the [phrases] "that which," and "that which has been from the beginning" as that which points to the very message of the gospel itself.  It speaks of Christ's pre-existence and shows forth the deity of [Jesus].  Christ was hidden in eternity from the beginning but, through the miracle of the incarnation, that is, through the work of God's salvation the event in which he appeared in human history is told to us.  The Gnostics, (don't pronounce the "G"), specifically transmitted [something of this message] in the succinct phrase "the Word of life."

5.  In verse two it repeatedly says that "eternal life" was with God from the beginning and that "eternal life" has already appeared and come into history.

6.  From the very beginning of John's epistle is a challenge to the different teachings advocated by antichrist types.  These teachings are believed to be gnosticism and docetism (i.e. the view that the fleshly, bodily side of Jesus is mere "appearance").  These are teachings which deny both the incarnation and suffering of Christ and that Jesus is the messiah.

7.  In verse three the immediate purpose of this epistle is given, which is that the reason you are passing on the events of the gospel, which we (the disciples) have seen both in fact, intimately and under careful scrutiny and also have heard personally and was not a teaching based on human wisdom or wit, is so you would have a relationship with us (h koinwnia; koinonia).  "Our fellowship is a fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."

8.  Well, [this word for fellowship], (h koinwnia; koinonia), means "to possess something together in common, to share, to take part in together."  "To have fellowship with both you and us" (verse three) means to have joint ownership of the life which is in Christ.  It means that true "joy" is given from "a fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."

9.  Well, today I would like us to study on "joy" through "a fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ" which is written about in the opening words to The First Epistle Of John.

10.  In verse four it says, "The reason we are writing these things is so that our joy may be full to overflowing."  This message from God is for us Christian believers and is a message which will make us re-think about the manner of our faith.  In First John the word "joy" (verse four) is written only in one place.  The words "to rejoice," "thanksgiving," and "praise" are not used.  They say that the sentences in First John are written simply and plainly, but [the book] is truly swollen over with harsh words directed against the teachings of "the antichrists."  When we read First John, there is not unintentionally at the end no giving of thanks and praise to the Lord, saying "Hallelujah, Amen."  Therein [we do have] the victorious faith which overcomes the evil world, (I John 5:4), given like a  victory song.  It says in First John 5:14 that if we ask for anything that is accordance with the will of God, then God would grant us that prayer.  In First John the word "joy" is only in one place, but it is "a joy" with a truly wide presence. Chapter one and verse four [says], "so that our joy may be full to overflowing."  For, this is the ultimate purpose of this epistle.

11. The reason we rejoice is because no matter whether our situations are currently either good or bad they are based in the faith that we are already "entered into fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."

12.  In Nehemiah 8:10 it says, "To rejoice in the Lord is your strength."  First of all, rejoicing in the Lord is more important  than every thing else.  Facing his disciples, Christ spoke the following as he prayed for their cup of joy to be full to overflowing.  He said, "I clearly say to you.  If you ask my Father anything according to my name, my Father will give it to you," (John 16:24).

13.  Before Jesus was arrested he prayed for us, "... the reason I am saying these things while I am in the world is so that my joy will be filled in them," (John 17:13).  There are times when both new Christians and those who have been Christians for a while seem to get crushed by the real powers of this world and forget to look up to Christ.  But, Jesus said the following about the joy of "the fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."  "As my Father has loved me, I also have loved you.  Please remain in my love.  As I have kept my Father's laws and remained in his love, if you also keep my laws it will result in your remaining in my love.  The reason I told you these things is so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be filled," (John 15:11).  The source of joy is in the keeping of Jesus' words and in remaining in Jesus' love.

14.  Jeremiah might have been a man of grief, but he has written the following [words].  "When your word was discovered, I devoured them up.  Your words became my own and my heart danced for joy," (Jeremiah 15:16).  We may have been told that Jeremiah was smitten by the sorrowful events right before him, but he did seek for the word spoken by the Lord.  No matter what the actual circumstances under any situation the word indeed of the Almighty was his source of joy.  Jeremiah wrote that we do not find joy in our feelings, but that we find it in God (in fellowship with the Father and his Son).

15.  In Psalm 33:1 it says, "O person who obeys the Lord, rejoice and sing in the Lord.  It is fitting for a righteous person to praise the Lord."  Joy, thanksgiving, and praise are connected to each other and mysteriously hold a power to break down the sorrowful realities of this word so full of misery.  "Always rejoice.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks no matter what.  This indeed is what God is wanting for you in Christ Jesus," (First Thessalonians 5:16-18).  It says, "no matter what."  It teaches that it is important to give thanks for every thing no matter what.

16.  Mr. Merlin Carothers has written an article in Power In Praise that goes like this.  It was about an elderly woman filled with the Spirit who had served [the Lord] for a long time.  She was disabled by arthritis.  Because of her illness which had lasted for a number of years, she had lost sight of her joy to live.  Small chores around the home were agony for her.  She got more and more depressed.  She frequently attended healing services, yet she did not get better at all, but was getting worse and worse.  One day she heard a speech  that one could be given great power from God by giving thanks in any situation.  So, she resolved to put this into practice.  But, it was no easy task for a woman suffering from arthritis because her pain persisted every day, day and night.  However, she made every effort to give thanks to God from her heart in every situation of her daily life including this pain.

17.  There was one time when she had stacked an assortment of things on a tray and was slowly walking in the kitchen.  All of a sudden she dropped the tray and everything on the tray scattered all over the floor.  As her pain was spiking down her back and her fingers were bone stiff she bent over but could not pick any thing back up.  So far to this point in time whenever she dropped something, she would shed tears over her pitiable little self, but this time around, that didn't happen.  She remembered her promise to give thanks and praise to God.  She prayed, "O Lord, thank you.  Every thing has fallen to the floor, but I humbly thank you, Lord.  I believe that you will make some good out of this for me."   At that instant she had a strange experience.  She noticed there was someone else beside herself in the kitchen.  She had been alone.  But now, she felt someone there.  Surprisingly, she was surrounded by angels.  The angels were laughing with joy.  She knew they were happy about her.  Suddenly she was enlightened. [She understood] how Jesus said, "If one sinner repents, there is joy among God's angels," (Luke 15:10).

18.  She certainly was miraculously changed in her heart and was a sinner who got saved.  For many years she had soaked in her self pity and had complained to God, "Was he keeping quiet with his eyes closed to her suffering?"  She had looked for healing, but she [always] felt in her heart that God had made her miserable like this.  At last she was made to realize that her murmuring had come from her lack of faith.  And when she gave thanks and praise to God that she had turned over her tray and she relied on the Lord, she was filled to overflowing among angels.

19.  She was standing there smack dab in the middle of the kitchen and in the midst of the room she was soaking with a joy filled to overflowing.  She, who had realized that she was able to enter into a relationship with the Father and his Son, could give thanks with joy from the heart that God had quietly permitted her suffering so far to this point.  Soon after that, she attended a prayer meeting for ill persons.  And she began to step forward before being given any assurance of being healed.  Her faith was not swayed by some "feeling."  [But] that night she was healed on the spot.  Her pain disappeared; her bent joints straightened out.

20.  How wonderful is God's healing!  But, it is still more wonderful when healing is no longer the vital issue.  The really important issue is this matter of our having taken in "the fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ."  It is that we trust in the love of God as he is concerned with every slightest detail in our lives.

21.  During the Taisho Era [1912-1926] there was a great business establishment in Osaka by the name of the Toyama's.  The owner died from a sudden illness.  [Unfortunately,] enormous debts were left behind.  His family was kicked out of their home and moved into a small rented house.  His three children were sent to work in physical labor.  After some time the eldest son came down with tuberculosis and left his place of employment for home.  One after another the entire family became infected with it.

22.  Then the family moved to an institution, and worse they slept in a room with no sunshine with their pillows lined in a row.  Mrs. Toyama was a Christian.  At the close of one particular year, a pastor found out and came to this family for a visit.  She rose up on her futon bed roll, adjusted the top of her nightgown, and properly greeted the pastor.

23.  "This year as well God has preserved our family.  Next year he will surely do his best for us yet."

24.  Amid her misfortune where it truly looked like God had abandoned her, how could this woman have said such a thing?

25.  When trials and sorrows come to visit, our first reaction is to moan, "Ooh God, why have you abandoned me?"

26.  However, Jesus said, "You [all], please be in the peace that I give.  You will have hardships in this world.  But have courage.  I have already overcome the world," (John 16:33).

27.  This woman [of the Toyama family] was always trusting in the words of the Lord Jesus, offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father, and had received deeply within a fellowship with God and Jesus Christ.  No matter how tough the times she continued to have peace and joy, hope and love through [her] faith.

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