|Volume 19 Number 5 May 2017||
Have you ever noticed the various words used to describe or give value to the idea of faith in the Bible? Some folks had “little” faith, while others had “great” faith. Others had a faith that “had not been seen in all Israel,” while others had “no” faith. Some had a faith that “made them well” or “saved,” while others’ faith was bound by “doubt.” No matter what the designation is, one’s perspective about faith and the process that it is will be the determinate factor in the various designations of faith. In other words, what you bring to the process of faith will often determine the ability of your faith to grow and produce great fruit.
Recently, my children and I went to Joshua Tree National Park in California. Inside the park is a place called Hidden Valley, which promises great views, unique wildlife and beautiful vegetation. It was also one of the few places in the park where one had to park his car and hike in, which makes sense. It wouldn’t rightly be “Hidden Valley” if you could drive through it.
We definitely wanted to see it, but that meant we had to hike, which would not have been a problem had we not hiked four other national parts in the three previous days. As we got out of the car and looked at the trailhead and at the trail that led up, up and up through rugged and rocky terrain, the kids let out a sigh and verbally wondered whether or not the journey would be worth it. As we started up, they groaned. About half way up, they became agitated. However, when we reached the crest and rounded the last of the boulders to survey the landscape, which was more amazing than promised, those grumblings were wiped away by the inexpressible wonder at the awesomeness of the scene before us, created by the cataclysmic collision of two tectonic plates on the San Andreas Fault.
Once at the top and viewing those moments of awe and silence, I asked the kids, “If you knew that it was going to be this good, do you think you would have complained as much about the journey?” Of course, their answer was a resounding, “No.” When their view was limited and all they saw was the difficulty of the trail and the accompanying dust, sweat and even a little blood, they tended toward negativity, complaining and a desire to turn back. When they could see the end, however, it all changed.
Part of faith is the perspective we bring. If our faith has a vision and a desire to see the end with God in eternity, then our current situations, no matter how rocky or rough, can be overcome. If we can peer over that earthly horizon to that heavenly bliss, then the current unrest, distress and distractions will be diminished, if not disappear.
So, let your quality and journey of the day be established by the view of spiritual things and that skyline of eternity, rather than your world-bound situation, either good or bad. You will find that your week will be far better, produce less stress, and you will have peace. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV). For prayer power, pray through these verses and ask God to give you clarity of spiritual sight and to strengthen you in your spiritual journey.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 John 1:1 ESV).
It is not uncommon for people to want to see and touch things. “Seeing is believing” we are told. Even if someone plans on purchasing something online he might go to a store and see if he can handle the product. One wants to make sure that it looks and feels right. He wants to make sure it is the right size.
The same is often true for other areas of life. If you hear about some strange story, the first thing you want is either to see it yourself or to have some eyewitness whom you trust tell you what he saw.
In our justice system, an eyewitness is always preferable to hearsay. In fact, hearsay is not even admitted as evidence. “I heard so and so say that he saw Bob take the cookie.” That’s different than someone saying, “I saw Bob take the cookie.” Eyewitness accounts are important and are, for the most part, seen as reliable.
What we have in the opening verses of John’s letter is a clear declaration by John, the beloved disciple, that what he preached and taught came from firsthand experience; he was an eyewitness. The reason that John made this point was because there were some false teachers going around who were saying that John’s teachings were inaccurate or that they had better information about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. These people were preaching a counterfeit Gospel. Therefore, John wrote this letter to combat those false teachers.
The first thing to notice is how John labored the point that what he preached can be relied upon because he said that he heard with his own ears, saw with his own eyes and touched with his own hands. This was real, first-hand experience. This was not second hand knowledge or hearsay. John knew what he was talking about because he was there in the beginning. He had an intimate relationship with the Word of life. At this point, one might ask, “Who or what is this Word of life?” The Gospel of John gives us some insight into this question. In fact, if you want to really understand John’s three letters, it’s best to become familiar with his Gospel. Three passages help us understand who the Word of life is—John 1:1–5, 1:14 and 14:6. What John was discussing in the opening verses of 1 John is Jesus, and if you want to know who the Word of life is, who Jesus is, John is the perfect person with whom to talk.
If you want to know what someone is really like, you talk with those closest to him. If you want to know what Jesus was like, John is the perfect person to whom to listen. John was with Jesus throughout His ministry and was one of His inner circle disciples. John was privileged to see and hear things that others were not. In Matthew 17, we’re told that Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain, and they witnessed His glory (transfiguration).
When Jesus entered the house of the synagogue ruler to raise his little girl from the dead, it was only Peter, James, and John who were allowed to go with Him. John saw things that others did not. Can we trust John to give us an accurate account of the life of Christ and what Jesus was all about? Absolutely! That is the point of these opening verses from 1 John 1. It is clear that the false teachers were not eyewitnesses. The things that they taught were not from Christ, but what John taught was from Jesus.
What was the message that John had heard and had preached? It is simple; the message was one word—Jesus. John said that he saw, heard and touched the Word of life, and that life was manifest or made known to him. Then, he said that Word of life is the Eternal life that was with the Father. John was saying what he said in his Gospel, but it is just a bit condensed in this letter. What was the message John preached? It was Jesus Christ, the one who is eternal life. If you asked John where eternal life was found, where would he point you? He would point you to Jesus. That is what John was all about; John was constantly talking about Jesus.
If you want to know what’s important to someone, listen to what he talks about. If someone is really into needlework, golf or basketball, he is going to talk about those things. What we talk about is a reflection of what we care about and think is important. You can tell if someone is really into politics because he knows all of the candidates, and he knows the issues.
The false teachers who John was fighting talked about special or secret knowledge. What did John think was important? Jesus. John had a message, and that message was Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of life—the one that was with the Father and took on flesh. How did John fight against false teachers? He talked about Jesus.
Everybody has a message that he wants to get out. The politicians have a message. Your coworkers have a message. Everyone has some kind of a message that he wants to get out. What is the message of the church? Our message is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Why is Jesus our message? Why is that more important than who is the best politician or something about some organization? Because it’s what people need; it’s what we need. You and I need Jesus and so does the rest of the human family.
People do not need great philosophies. People do not need self-help books and self-help teachers. What they need and what we need is eternal life, and John wrote, “Let me tell you about the Word of life, who is himself Eternal life. Let me tell you about Jesus.”
This world is broken and falling apart. We need a cure for the fallen, sin-sick world. Do you know what the cure for the world is? It is not better medicine, although that is a great blessing. It is not greater education, again not a bad thing. It is not politics; it’s Jesus.
I am not saying don’t go to the doctor. I am not telling you do not go to school. I am not telling you do not vote. What I am saying is that none of those things will save you; none of those things will give you eternal life. None of those things are the cure for sin; Jesus is. John knew that his readers needed to hear about Jesus, and we today have that same need. John’s message and ours are the same—Jesus. “Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”