There is a tendency to get caught up with the complexities of church responsibilities: Bible-reading programs, cataloging spiritual gifts, and reading books that offer seven easy steps to this or ten quick steps to achieving that. However, paying too much attention to even good things prevents us from focusing on what really matters: Jesus Christ. We forget to keep it simple.
In 1 John, John says: Let me keep it simple for you; walk with Jesus. Cling to your faith. Stay in the light. When you sin, confess it and move on. Show your love for Jesus by loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is not a modern phenomenon. It was the same when the Apostle John walked the earth. It is why he wrote this book. I have previously written about 1 John as the Quick Start Card for the Bible; the best place for new Christians to start reading the Bible, or for established Christians who have finally decided to start learning their Bible. 1 John 1:4 – 2:2 says: Don’t let go of the joy!
4 And these things we write to you that your[a] joy may be full.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
John wrote this as an old man. The Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, the church was being persecuted by Emperor Domitian and infiltrated by false teachers. Among these were those promoting the heresy of gnosticism — the belief that Christ did not really come in the flesh and that only those with superior esoteric knowledge (Greek word “gnosis”) could be saved. Moreover, there were those crying, “Where is this promise of salvation” because Christ had not returned as they expected to relieve them from Roman oppression.
John countered the gnostics by reminding the people that he himself had laid his head against the chest of Jesus and listened to His every word. He was the last living apostle, but he had been there to witness it all.
To counter the doctrine of despair, this Son of Thunder wrote powerfully to remind Christians they could have abundant joy in their walk with Christ: just keep it simple. In this passage he reminds about three things that will draw Christians (then and now) away from the full benefit of their birthright in Jesus Christ. We forfeit our joy when we:
- Deny the power of sin (1:5-7). When we claim with our words to be living as a Christian, but our lives tell another story we condemn ourselves and confirm those who claim all Christians are hypocrites. When we recognize the power of sin, we do not say, “It’s a little thing” or “it’s just for entertainment”. when we walk in true fellowship with Christ, the sins we do inadvertently commit are forgiven. When we live in our sins, we do not walk with Christ.
- Deny the presence of sin (1:8,9). “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” When we insist that sin cannot touch us, we are ripe for attack by the enemy. We must be vigilant and introspective. Just as we might check for ticks after a walk in the woods, we must examine ourselves for sins that may have attached themselves to us. Sin is not always a deliberate act.
- Deny the practice of sin (1:10 – 2:2). If we label our sinful practices as something other than sin, we will lose the joy of walking with Christ and the forgiveness that comes with it. Living in ongoing sin is rebellion against God. The longer we let that go, the harder it is to admit to (because our conscience becomes calloused) so we can turn away and be restored to the Father.
If you find you’ve lost your joy in the Christian life, examine the above statements. Chances are you will find in them the reason the joyfulness you experienced at salvation has been short-circuited. Once you’ve identified the problem, just reconnect to the source of all joy and your spirit will be empowered again. Then just keep it simple; don’t let the tidal forces of the world draw you from the central truth again.