Joy Made Complete (1 John 1:1-4)

Joy Made Complete (1 John 1:1-4)

I.) Joy Overflowing

As we begin our study of this epistle, I believe one of the greatest truths we must acknowledge is that it is not for the unbeliever, but the Christian.

1.) This letter was written “so that our joy may be made complete.”[1]        

2.) This letter was written “in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”[2]

A genuine believer will read through this letter and be assured of their salvation in Jesus Christ. Such assurance will bring about a joy in our lives that is filled to the brim, because as John concludes:

“We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”[3]

II.) No Such Thing as a Saint Not Sanctified

This brings up a critical question:

Q.) How do you know that you truly know Him and are in Him?

Q.) Better yet, how do you know that He truly knows you and is in you?

Paul told Titus that there are people who “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.”[4] What he is saying is that the way in which they live reveals they do not know Him at all.

Recall the teaching of Christ in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons and in your name perform miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”[5]The astounding truth in this portion is that one cannot find assurance of their salvation merely in their profession of Christ as Lord. Those who profess to know Him as Lord, but do not do the will of the Father, reveal He does not know them. A genuine believer is not only marked by profession of faith, but by evidence of faith. The evidence of faith is that they do the will of the Father who is in heaven:

“If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”[6]

We must remember that Jesus does not only concern Himself with saving sinners; He concerns Himself with sanctifying every sinner He saves.

J.C. Ryle said:

“He who thinks that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people has much yet to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require – not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but also to deliver them from the dominion of their sins by placing the Holy Spirit in their hearts, not only to justify them, but to sanctify them as well. He is, thus, not only their righteousness, but their sanctification.”[7]

He directs his readers to the following portions of Scripture to prove his case:

“For their (Believers) sakes I (Jesus) sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”[8]

“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”[9]

“(Christ Jesus) gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own  possession, zealous for good deeds.”[10]

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”[11]

Consider God’s work with the nation of Israel. After God saved His people by taking them out of Egypt, He further saved His people by taking Egypt out of them in the wilderness. He saved His people from the bondage of the Egyptians; He then went on to save them from its influence. Comparatively, Christ not only saves us from the penalty and bondage of sin, but the power and influence of sin in our lives:

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin…and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness…present your members as slaves of righteousness, resulting in sanctification…having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”[12]

Where there is no sanctification, there is no life, for it is the proof that the Spirit has made His abode with you.

III.) New Creatures in Christ

Understand, it is impossible for a person to have an encounter with Christ and yet remain unchanged. To entertain the possibility of a Christian living a life unchanged is foolish at best, and heretical at worst. If I may quote Ryle again who pointedly touches upon this topic:

“The very idea of a person being sanctified while no holiness can be seen in his life is flat nonsense and is a misuse of words. Light may be very dim, but if there is only a spark in a dark room, it will be seen, Life may be very feeble, but if the pulse only beats a little, it will be felt. It is just the same with a sanctified person: his sanctification will be something felt and seen, though he himself may not understand it. A “saint” in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin is a kind of beast not recognized in the Bible!”[13]

When Christ saves a person He makes a new one:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away, behold new things have come.”[14]

When someone is made alive together with Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit their heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh:[15]

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”[16]

This heart of flesh is not hardened to the things of God, but sensitive to Him because the affections of the person are changed. The God they once hated they are now growing to love. The sin they once loved they are now beginning to hate.

A believer who is progressively being sanctified by Christ will undoubtedly be flawed in their love for God, and imperfect in their pursuit of holiness. Every genuine believer in Jesus Christ is incapable of faultlessly loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength throughout their life on earth. Every believer will struggle with sin, and experience a war in their members between the flesh that once reined in death, and the Spirit which now reigns in life. All true Christians can relate to the Apostle Paul when he says:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish…I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”[17]

Though a true Christian will have a flawed love for God, and be imperfect in their pursuit of righteousness, they will not glory in these things. They will experience grief when God reveals they have not loved Him as they should. They will be greatly distressed when they take pleasure in that which God hates. They will conclude:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”[18]

A person who has truly encountered Jesus Christ and been regenerated by the Holy Spirit has had their affections altered, and is a new person. They will begin to love what God loves, and hate what God hates, because they are a new creature being transformed into the image of Christ. God purged Egypt out of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, so too will He work to purge the world out of us before we enter:

“The city which has a foundation, whose architect and builder is God.”[19]

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I AM holy.’”[20]

In his book The Gospel Call and True Conversion, Paul Washer gives a wonderful illustration every genuine believer in Christ can relate to:

“He is not sure what has happened to him or how to explain it. He just knows that something is very different – that he is different. He begins to see his former life in a new light. The things in which he once delighted – and even boasted – seem wrong and shameful to him. He begins to take interest in Christ and wants to know more about Him and His will. He seems estranged from his old friends and finds better company among the saints. As he continues on, he experiences progress in his growth to maturity, but he also faces challenges and all-too-frequent failures. He delights in the will of God but finds that he is not immune to temptation. He battles against the world on the outside and the flesh within. He rejoices in the grace of God that enables him to overcome and laments the times he fails. He finds in himself a great contradiction. He listens to sermons and reads books that cause him to delight in Christ as the end of all desire, and then a few moments later he must struggle with a lukewarm heart. When he reads the Word, he receives great consolation, but it also pierces him like a two-edged sword and exposes sin that was before unknown. As he progresses further in his pilgrimage, he becomes acutely aware of God’s paternal control in his life. Sometimes the discipline is slight, but at other times, it seems as if he is being scourged without relief. A few times, he even thinks of walking away, but he cannot. He cannot bear just the thought of being separated from Christ, and so he returns, ‘weak and wounded, sick and sore.’ It seems to him that the Christian life is three steps forward and two steps back. He sins, but he cannot continue in his sin; he falls, but he cannot remain fallen. He seems to climb one hill just to go down the other side. However, little by little, he is ascending, progressing, and growing. In all this, the good and bad, is inescapable evidence of conversion. All true believers are able to identify with this scenario.”[21]

IV.) The Litmus Test of True Conversion

A promise is given in the book of Philippians to us who believe upon Jesus Christ for salvation:

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[22]

Christ’s saving work goes well beyond just justifying a person before God; He sanctifies them throughout the entirety of their life on this earth. A Christian is therefore commanded to:

“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”[23]

Q.) How do you know that God has begun a work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure?

Q.) How can you be assured of your salvation which you are to work out with fear and trembling?

Q.) Where do you look for assurance of salvation?

Q.) Do you look to a past prayer uttered?

Q.) Do you look to an aisle walked down in the where a supposed decision for Christ was made?

Q.) Do you look to some past profession of faith?

Q.) Do you look to the words of a man declaring you to be part of the family of God?

Q.) Where do you look for assurance of salvation?

B.) Remember that the gravest question before us as professing Christians is not whether or not we know Jesus, but whether or not Jesus knows us.

Assurance of salvation is not found in a profession or a past experience, but a present and future progression in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is found in holy affections, and a desire to live a life practically pursing righteousness. John MacArthur logically points out:

“True salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.”[24]

It was Jonathan Edwards who stated:

“Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit…(in) giving assurance.”[25]

The observable sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers is what provides one with a confidence of His indwelling:

“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”[26]

“If you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”[27]

All whom Jesus knows He saves, and all whom Jesus saves He sanctifies. Peter; therefore, says to believers:

“Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…”[28]

Paul says to believers:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”[29]

John’s letter provides you with a standard to make certain about Jesus’ calling and choosing you. John gives you a biblical basis to test yourselves to see whether or not you are in the faith, and to examine whether or not Jesus is at work in you. 1 John exposes where our affections lay. It reveals whether we have a heart of flesh, or whether we have a heart of stone. It discloses whether or not God has begun a good work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure until the day of Christ Jesus. It tells whether or not we have genuine fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Q.) Do you walk in the light of Christ?[30]

Q.) Do you have a sensitivity to sin in your life?[31]

Q.) Do you obey Christ’s commandments?[32]

Q.) Do you strive to imitate Christ?[33]

Q.) Do you genuinely love other Christians?[34]

Q.) Do you reject the things of the world?[35]

Q.) Do you continue in sound doctrine and practices of the faith and regularly assemble with other believers that continue in the same things?[36]

Q.) Do you confess Christ as the Lord and hold Him in the highest regard as the Son of God?[37]

Q.) Do you lead a life marked by a practical pursuit of personal holiness anticipating Christ’s return?[38]

Q.) Do you seek to conform to God’s standard and live a righteous life?[39]

Q.) Do you overcome the world?[40]

Q.) Do you believe what God has revealed concerning His Son, Jesus the Christ?[41]

V.) Holy Affections, The Evidence of Salvation

This is not legalism, this is Christianity:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit…”[42]

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”[43]

“Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself…show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”[44]

Works do not earn salvation, they evidence it:[45]

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[46]

God the Spirit said through the Apostle John:

“These things we write so that our joy may be made complete…These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”[47]

One of two things will occur with all of us during our study through this great epistle when we compare our lives to the biblical marks of a genuine believer:

Some will see a dark room with a small spark while others a blazing fire; both will be assured that Christ is at work in them. Some will feel a little pulse while others a vibrant beat; both will be confident that the Spirit of Christ lives in them. True converts will be assured of their salvation for they will see the evidence of Jesus’ sanctifying work in them.

Some may see neither a spark, nor feel even the faintest a pulse, and will have every reason to doubt the genuineness of their salvation. False converts will be given the evidence that they do not know Christ, because He is not sanctifying them. The only solution to those who find themselves in such a predicament is to repent of their sins and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer is not to start doing works, because an absence of holy affection is the reason righteous living is not present. To lack both holy affection and a longing to pursuit righteousness means Christ is not working in a person. The only One who provides a heart for God is God Himself through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

VI.) The Joy of Certainty

Make certain about His calling and choosing you by testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith, and examining if Christ is truly at work in you. May our joy be made complete in so doing. It will not be mere happiness, or enjoyable feelings brought on by pleasing circumstances. It will not be something conjured up within ourselves, but rather produced from an entity outside of ourselves.

The fact that this joy is overflowing means it is one which satisfies everything that makes up our person: Heart, Mind, Emotions and Desires. There is only one thing that can produce such a joy that satisfies every faculty of our being, and that is to know Jesus Christ. Better yet, it is to be known by Him.

The Good Doctor, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, said:

“There is only one thing that can give true joy and that is the contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies my every desire. He and His great salvation include the whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete. Joy, in other words, is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[48]

As we study 1 John, may our joy be filled to the brim knowing that we are His and He is ours and there is nothing that can separate us from His love.

[1] 1 John 1:4

[2] 1 John 5:13

[3] 1 John 5:20

[4] Titus 1:16

[5] Matthew 7:21-23

[6] John 14:5

[7] Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 44-45

[8] John 17:19

[9] Ephesians 5:25-26

[10] Titus 2:14

[11] 1 Peter 2:14

[12] Romans 6:5-7,18,19b,22

[13] Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 48

[14] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[15] Ephesians 2:1-8

[16] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[17] Romans 7:18-19,21-23

[18] Romans 7:24

[19] Hebrews 11:10

[20] 1 Peter 1:14-16

[21] The Gospel Call and True Conversion, Paul Washer; Page 112

[22] Philippians 1:6

[23] Philippians 2:12b-13

[24] John MacArthur, Sermon Titled Is It Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

[25] lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], Page 265. Quoted in the sermon titled Is It Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation, John MacArthur.

[26] Romans 8:9b

[27] Hebrews 12:8

[28] 2 Peter 1:10

[29] 2 Corinthians 13:5

[30] 1 John 1:4-7

[31] 1 John 1:8-10

[32] 1 John 2:3-4

[33] 1 John 2:5-6

[34] 1 John 2:7-11

[35] 1 John 2:15-17

[36] 1 John 2:18-19

[37] 1 John 2:22-24; 4:1-3, 13-15

[38] 1 John 3:1-3

[39] 1 John 4:4-10

[40] 1 John 5:4-5

[41] 1 John 5:9-12

[42] John 15:5

[43] Matthew 7:16-20

[44] James 2:17-18

[45] Acts 26:20

[46] Ephesians 2:10

[47] 1 John 1:4; 5:13

[48] Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, Martin Lloyd Jones; Page 30

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