Tag Archives: 1 John 1

Something to Say

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
1 John 1:1 (NIV)

My local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been doing something rather novel and exciting over the past couple of years. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

God’s Message teaches that every follower of Jesus receives spiritual “gifts” from Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” These “manifestations” or “gifts” are specific yet diverse bents and abilities that are intended to help build up and encourage all the other believers. One of those gifts is teaching.

For the past several hundred years the prevailing paradigm in the institutional church has been that the pulpit and the Sunday morning message at my local neighborhood church is reserved for a person (typically a man) who has received a Masters Degree at a seminary approved by whatever denomination my church belongs to. This person has received a stamp of approval from the denominational board, administration, or tribunal authorizing them to teach from the pulpit on Sunday morning.

Along my journey, here’s what I’ve observed: any individual can attend seminary and get certified whether they have a teaching gift or not. And, I’ve heard some educated and approved teachers who definitely did not have the gift of teaching. By the same token, Holy Spirit can bestow the gift of teaching on any person of any age or gender despite that person never having jumped through the educational and ecclesiastical hoops dictated by  a given denominational institution.

So, our local gather of Jesus’ followers has been identifying fellow believers within our midst who may have a Holy Spirit given gift of teaching. We’re allowing them the opportunity to try out that gift on a Sunday morning in our church’s auditorium. We’re working with them to train them up and develop that gift. I’ve been asked to lead and mentor these individuals. There is, of course, a lot more to it than I have time to explain here. It’s a work in progress, but an exciting one.

As mentor of these inexperienced preachers, one of the common fears and anxieties that I hear from individuals when tasked with teaching a large group is “Who am I to teach these people?” This nagging doubt can be paralyzing during the preparation and presentation of a message.

Just last week while I was driving to Minneapolis I started listening to a series of talks called Something to Say by Rob Bell (available for download; name your own price). One of the things that Rob brings out is the fact that everyone has the authority to speak about what he or she has witnessed and experienced in their own lives. If you’ve lost a child, then you have the authority to speak about that experience. If you swam the English Channel then you’re an authority on that subject. If you’ve been a diesel mechanic your entire life then you have the authority to speak about diagnosing and fixing a diesel engine. If you were on upper Manhattan on 9/11 then you can authoritatively speak to what happened that day from your own experience.

This morning we begin a letter written by John, one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, who was writing what scholars believe was a “circular letter” intended to be copied and passed around to all believers. John begins his letter the same way he begins his biography of Jesus,  by stating clearly that he is speaking to what he heard with his own ears, saw with his own eyes, touched with his own hands. “I was there,” John says. “I was with Jesus. I saw the miracles. I heard the teaching. I witness Him die on the cross. I saw Him risen from the dead. I am a primary source witness to it all.”

As I lead and mentor our fledgling group of teachers, I try to instill within them the power of our stories. In my almost 40 years of teaching, preaching, training, and presentations I have rarely had a person tell me that they remember the arcane theological point I made in a message ten years ago. I continue to have, however, a steady stream of people who tell me that they have never forgotten the story that I told even when I’ve long forgotten what it was.

I’m reminded by John this morning that I may not have all the knowledge, education, or professional training this world offers me. Neither did he. I do, however, have my stories. I have seen things, heard things, touched things, and experienced things to which I can bear witness. That means that, like John, I have something to say.

The Story of a Changed Life

source: adrianclarkmbbs via Flickr
source: adrianclarkmbbs via Flickr

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9 (NLT)

Those who are sincere followers of Jesus have a story to tell. Though each story is unique, there are common themes you hear in all of them. The author of 1 John is one of those with a story to tell. John was among Jesus’ inner circle. During the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, John was there to witness it. He heard Jesus’ teaching. He saw Jesus’ miracles. John traveled with Jesus and camped out under the stars with Him. John alone, of all Jesus’ twelve disciples, stood at the foot of the cross and witnessed Jesus’ death. He was there at the empty tomb and was with Jesus after the resurrection.

It is interesting to contrast what we read in John’s letters and what we learn of John in the four biographies of Jesus presented in God’s Message: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Jesus called John and his brother James “Sons of Thunder” for their fiery temper. The two were in the thick of arguments among the twelve disciples about who was greatest. When a Samaritan village wanted nothing to do with the controversial Jesus, it was John and his brother who wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven and burn the town to the ground. The initial accounts of John describe a loud, angry, and self-seeking young man.

Fast forward to the aged man who writes today’s chapter as the beginning of a letter. Along John’s journey of following Jesus, temper and selfishness gave way to love and selflessness. John took Jesus’ mother, Mary, in and took care of her. John wrote about love, he spoke about love, and above all he encouraged fellow followers of Jesus to act out love. Tradition states that in his final years when he was old and frail, all that John would say is “Love one another” over and over again.

With this in mind I find it interesting that at the beginning of this letter, John begins by claiming that this is his personal testimony. He saw Jesus’ with his own eyes and heard Him with this own ears. He touched Jesus with his own hands. Just a few sentences later John gives testimony to the changed life he himself has experienced. By confessing his sin, he has experienced spiritual cleansing and life change. The “Son of Thunder” is transformed by God’s unmerited favor and forgiveness into the “Disciple of Love.”

Being a follower of Jesus is not about going to church or being a particular political persuasion. It’s far more than being labeled whatever popular culture and current media portray it to be. Being a follower of Jesus is a life story like John’s. It is entering into a relationship with and following Jesus for one’s self. It is about listening and hearing; it is about looking and seeing. It is a journey of transformation as we confess our spiritual need and experience God’s life-giving provision.