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12-18-22 Faith Receives the Gift

Faith Receives the Gift (1 John 1:1-4)

David Peterson / General

Faith; Christmas; Love / 1 John 1:1–4

Introduction

1. The symbols of light

I. A Word Appeared (1 John 1:1-2)

1. Explanation

a. A life lived, a kind of life called eternal life

b. It is a word—a pattern expressed in the story of a life (the pattern is the fourth candle—LOVE)

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 JN 2:15-16 NIV)

10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 JN 2:10-11 NIV)

c. Jesus was eternal life embodied. The “natural” eternal life that was the original possibility portrayed by the tree. Death could not hold him down (Acts 2:24)

2. Application

3. Illustration

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two-hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead. He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (pp. 196–197). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

II. Receiving the Word leads to Fellowship (1 John 1:3)

1. Explanation

a. The apostles’ claim a communion with God that Jesus himself had (1 JN 1:3b)

2. Application

3. Illustration

“Fellowship is not merely a coming together. Men come together in battlefields to kill everyone; in gambling dens to rob everyone; on political platforms to oppose everyone! Fellowship is experienced by those who come together to experience a common faith, a common purpose and joy.”

SOURCE: K. Green, “Enjoying Sunday.”

Stott, J. (2018). The Preacher’s Notebook: The Collected Quotes, Illustrations, and Prayers of John Stott (M. Meynell, Ed.). Lexham Press.

III. This Word is Proclaimed (1 John 1:3)

1. Explanation

a. The Word is that God wants to give us what we don’t deserve

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 JN 2.2 ESV)

The basis for 1 JN 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

b. The result is the third candle—JOY

2. Application

3. Illustration

Cajun humorist Justin Wilson tells the story about two boys who were neighbors. They were best of friends on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but on Sunday they were enemies because one was a Catholic and the other was a Baptist.

Their parents didn’t like the fact that these religious differences were producing such uncongenial relations, so they agreed to have their sons visit each other’s church services so that a mutual understanding might foster a more tolerant attitude.

On the first Sunday, the Baptist boy visited the Catholic church. Just before they sat down, the Catholic boy genuflected. “What’s that mean?” the Baptist asked. All through the mass, the Baptist boy wanted to know what this and that meant, and the little Catholic boy explained everything very nicely.

The next Sunday it was the Catholic boy’s turn to visit the Baptist church. When they walked in the building, an usher handed them a printed bulletin. The little Catholic boy had never seen anything like that before in his whole life. “What’s that mean?” he asked. His Baptist friend carefully explained. When the preacher stepped into the pulpit, he carefully opened his Bible, and conspicuously took off his watch and laid it on the pulpit. “What’s that mean?” the Catholic boy asked.

The Baptist boy said, “Not a darn thing!”

Source:Justin Wilson and Howard Jacobs, Cajun Humor (Pelican Press, 1984)

Many pulpit stands have the words “Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21) engraved on them, as a reminder to the preacher that that is what the congregation needs to see in the sermon.

Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (p. 206). Broadman Press.

Conclusion

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, later set to music. It was written over the Christmas of either 1863 or 1864, in the middle of the bloodiest war in American history.

The carol’s first verse is familiar and peaceful:

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play;

In music sweet the tones repeat,

“There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”

But the carol is not cotton candy; it is a beating heart, laid bare. It’s a carol that still rings true today. By the third stanza we sing:

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow wrote to his friend Henry Ingersoll Bowditch in 1866, “The death of the young men in the war . . . makes my heart bleed whenever I think of it. How much I have felt for you. Particularly on that cold December night when I came back with my son, and saw you at the station and knew that yours would come back to you no more.”

This is the landscape in which Longfellow wrote “Christmas Bells.” We aren’t currently entrenched in a literal civil war, but the cracks in our country’s foundation are splitting wider. People with power abuse it; people without it suffer. Day after day, the news cycles through horrors. Many days, it feels a little bit like the end of the world—like an apocalypse.

But then Longfellow brings the gospel to bear in the final triumphant stanza:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”

Source: Adapted from Kristen O’Neal, “A Carol for the Despairing,” CT magazine (January, 2019), pp. 51-53

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