When I was younger (13-15 years old) I was in church because my parents were in church. I had decided that religion was unimportant and that there was no real benefit to the Christian faith. Here are a couple observations I made.
People in church were just as unhappy as people who did not go to church. I was happy and I did not know Christ, so seeing unhappy Christians made me question the Christian faith altogether. Furthermore, people who said they believed in a loving God were the same people who gossiped about others and refused to help when people were in need.
Starting with this article, I want to move passed the way that people who claim to be Christians are sometimes. We cannot look at people who claim to know God and say something about who God actually is. We have to go to the source. I also want to go deeper than misconception and deeper than what people think Christianity ought to be. Faith in God cannot be about human opinion, else we are guilty of creating a god in our own image.
I want to discover the truth as we look at 1,2, and 3 John together, and here are the questions I wish to ask presently:
- Is Christianity a religion that requires us to live a certain way to have eternal life?
- Is Christianity a burden that brings us down and takes our joy?
- Is Christianity a sham or a deception?
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life — that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Here we see this old man named John pouring his heart out to others. He tells them that the entire reason he pours out his heart about what he saw is because he wants his audience to have fellowship along with him. It is obvious that the faith John has is a faith in Jesus Christ. Through that faith, we get to have fellowship with God the Father and the Son. Our faith is not primarily in what we do and it is not primarily in other people.
The first thing we learn is that the Christian faith, in its true form can only be experienced if we have faith in Jesus Christ. Before I had any faith in Christ, I was in church all the time. I spent time with my Christian friends. We had family worship time at home. I was in a band and we made it a point not to cuss or write inappropriate lyrics. I was part of the church youth group. I went to summer camp. I was nice to everyone around me. I didn’t bully anybody or make fun of anybody. None of these things made me a Christian. Real Christianity is not primarily about the things that we do; it is about placing our faith and our trust in Jesus Christ.
Christianity, faith in Christ, here is also pronounced as a faith built on acceptance. Christ died for a sinful humanity so that people could be true children of God. This is the greatest example of acceptance in the world today and throughout all of history.
For those who have faith in Christ: If we if we trust Him, then we are willing to follow His example and accept those around us. Even when we do not agree with others and even when other people are rebelling against God, we are to love them and care for them anyway. This means we don’t gossip or spread rumors. When we must talk to someone about his or her sin, we go to him in love; not to condemn but to lift up.
The second reason John states that he is pouring out his heart is so his joy may be complete. If his audience is to have fellowship with him, then it is also that his readers’ joy may be complete. Here I learn that the Christian faith is not only a faith of acceptance, but a faith of celebration. No matter what we’ve done, and no matter what kind of person we are, we can have faith in Christ and be one of God’s children. To unpack this just a little more, because we are accepted into God’s family, we have a major reason to celebrate. In fact, people who have faith in Christ have more of a reason to celebrate than any other group on the planet. The Christian faith is a faith of acceptance and joy, not of condemnation and heavy heartedness.
This means that when we condemn others, we fail to trust God who is the just judge.
When we do not experience joy (when we are stressed out, worried, sad or heavyhearted) it may be that we are not trusting God. Sadness and stress can be evidence that we do not trust our heavenly Father. When we trust God, we don’t have to worry, stress, be sad about our circumstances or burden our heart with things of this world. We have placed those things in God’s hands and trust that He will work out everything for our good. The Christian faith is a faith of unparalleled joy.
John also mentions here in the first chapter that God is light and that there is no darkness in Him. If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. This reinforces the fact that the Christian faith is a faith built on the idea of acceptance and joy. When we walk with God, we walk with others who walk with God and we are able to celebrate with them: with each other. When we walk with God, we are also forgiven of all our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is therefore a faith that offers freedom, not bondage; and a faith that always seeks the truth.
Because of this, we can be honest about ourselves. We can be honest with each other. We should not have to fear being condemned because everyone has sinned. If we are honest about our own sin, God is always faithful to forgive. If we say that we do not have sin, John tells us that God’s word is not in us.
As people who have faith in Christ, here is what we learn from the very beginning:
- We should accept others no matter what they’ve done and no matter how bad they seem to be.
- We can disagree with people and still accept them.
- We can hate sin and still love sinful people. Let us not forget that we also sin and Christ forgives us.
- We live life celebrating what God has done for us. After all, this is what it means for us to worship!
- We pursue truth and we strive to be honest.
If God is light, then everything begins with Him. It is God who first accepts us. It is God who finds joy in us and gives us joy. It is God who is honest and who wants us to know the truth. This is where John begins, and this is where Christianity must begin. Real Christianity, put simply, is the pursuit of God as He is; not as who we want Him to be.
If you are a Christian, if you have faith in Christ: You have to know that it is God who first accepts us He does not accept us because of what we have done, but because we have accepted His free gift of eternal life by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. If you are having trouble accepting someone, it’s time to take all of your bad feelings toward that person (or group of people) and let them go. Either they are really sinful, mean, arrogant, stupid or just do things the wrong way. Faith in Christ is about first being accepted, then accepting others. It doesn’t mean we agree with them, but that we always love and care for them.
If you are unhappy or find it difficult to experience joy, remember that we can trust Christ with whatever burdens we have. Faith in Christ is a faith of celebration. We don’t have to worry because God is in control!
Finally we do not have to be afraid of truth. We can be honest. We can learn. We can admit when we are wrong; and we can allow others to be honest with us without hating them or thinking less of them.
If you are not a Christian, if your faith is not in Christ: I want to invite you to continue this study with me and put the misconceptions and the misrepresentations you might have about the Christian faith to the side. Read with an open mind.
 1 John 1:1-10 (HCSB)