"O how well do I remember
How I doubted day by day,
For I did not know for certain
That my sins were washed away.
When the Spirit tried to tell me,
I would not the truth receive;
I endeavored to be happy
And to make myself believe.
But it's real, it's real!
O I know it's real
Praise God, the doubts are settled,
For I know, I know it's real!"
1 John 1:1-4: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled,
of the Word of life;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness, and shew unto you
that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship
with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
The search for something real is not new.
It has been going on since the beginning of history.
People have looked for reality and satisfaction in wealth, thrills, conquest, power, prominence,
learning, and even in religion.
There is nothing really wrong with these experiences, except that by themselves
they never really satisfy.
Wanting something real and finding something real are two different things.
Like a child eating cotton-candy at the circus, many people who expect
to bite into something real and end up with a mouth full of nothing.
They waste priceless years on empty substitutes for reality.
This is where the apostle John's first epistle will help us.
Written centuries ago, this letter deals with a theme that is forever up-to-date,
and that is the life that is real.
John had discovered that satisfying reality is not to be found in things or thrills,
but they are found in a person Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As You Read 1 John 1:1-4, you learn vital facts about the life that is real.
First, this life is revealed.
As you read John's letter, you discover that he enjoys using certain words.
And the word, "manifest," is one of them.
"And the life was manifested" (verse 2), he says.
This life was not hidden so that we have to search for it and find it.
This life was manifested -- revealed openly!
God has revealed himself in creation (Romans 1:20), but creation alone could never
tell us the story of God's love.
God has also revealed Himself much more fully in His Word, the Bible.
But God's final and most complete revelation is in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "He that hath seen Me have seen the Father." (John 14:9)
Jesus is God's revelation of Himself.
Jesus has a very special name: "The Word of Life." (1 John 1:1)
This same title opens John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
Jesus Christ has this name because Christ is to us what our words are to others.
Our words reveal to others just what we think and how we feel.
Christ reveals to us the mind and heart of God.
He is the living means of communication between God and man.
To know Jesus Christ is to know God!
John makes no mistake in his identification of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Son of the Father -- the Son of God. (1 John 1:3)
John warns us several times, in his letter, not to listen to the false teachers
who tell lies about Jesus Christ.
"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus Christ is the Christ?" (2:22)
"Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God;
and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God."
If a person is wrong about Jesus Christ, that person is wrong about God
because Jesus Christ is the final and complete revelation of God to men.
Second, this life is experienced.
Read the first four verses of John's letter again, and you will notice that the apostle had
a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
He had no second hand "religious experience" inherited from somebody else
or were discovered in a book!
John knew Jesus Christ face-to-face.
He and the other apostles heard Jesus speak.
They watched Him as He lived with them.
They studied Him carefully, and even touched Him.
They knew that Jesus was real.
He was not a phantom, not a vision, but He was God in human flesh.
But we must remember that it was not the apostle's physical nearness to Jesus Christ
that made them what they were.
It was their spiritual nearness.
They had committed themselves to Jesus as their Savior and their Lord.
Jesus Christ was real and exciting to John and the other disciples because they had trusted Him.
By trusting Jesus, they had experienced eternal life!
Six times in this letter, John uses the phrase "born of God."
This was not an idea John had invented; he had heard Jesus use these words.
"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God ...
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, 'ye must be born again." (John 3:3, 6, 7)
We can experience this "real life" only after we have believed the Gospel,
and put our trust in Jesus Christ, and have been "born of God."
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." (1 John 5:1)
Eternal life is not something we earn by good works or deserve because of good character.
Eternal life, the life that is real, is a gift from God to those who trust His Son as their Savior.
John wrote his gospel to tell people how to receive this wonderful life. (John 20:31)
he wrote his first letter to tell people how to be sure they have really been born of God.
(1 John 5:9-13)
The assurance that we are in God's family, and that we have been "born of God"
is vitally important to all of us.
Certain characteristics are true of all God's children.
A person who is born of God lives a righteous life. (2:29)
A child of God does not practice sin (which is the meaning of the KJV word, "commit." (3:9)
A believer will at times commit sin (cf. 1:8-2:2), but he will not make it a habit to sin.
God's children also love each other and their heavenly Father. (4:7; 5:1)
They have no love for the world and the things of the world. (2:15-17)
Instead of being overcome by the pressures of this world, and swept off balance,
the children of God overcomes the world. (5:4)
These are marks of true children of God.
It is vitally important that we know that we have been born of God.
There are two kinds of children in this world: the children of God and the children of the devil. (3:10)
You would think that a "child of the devil" would be a person who lives in gross sin,
but such is not always the case.
An unbeliever is a "child of the devil."
He may be moral and he may even be religious.
He may even be a "counterfeit Christian."
But because he has never been "born of God," and experienced spiritual life personally,
he is still the child of Satan.
Counterfeit Christians are very common in our world.
They are something like a counterfeit 100-dollar bill.
Suppose, you have a counterfeit bill and actually believe that it is genuine.
You use it to pay for a tank of gas.
The gas station manager uses the bill to buy supplies.
The supplier uses the bill to pay the grocer.
The grocer bundles the bill with 50 other 100-dollar bills and takes it to the bank.
And the bank teller says, "I'm sorry, but this bill is a counterfeit."
That 100-dollar bill may have done a lot of good while it was in circulation,
but when it arrived at the bank, it was exposed for what it really was,
and it was put out of circulation.
That is true of a counterfeit Christian.
He may do many good things in this life, but when he faces the final judgment, he will be rejected.
"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name?
And in Thy name done many wonderful works?'
And then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.'"
(Matthew 7:22, 23)
Each one of us must ask himself honestly,
"Am I a true child of God or am I a counterfeit Christian?
Have I truly been born of God?"
If you have not experienced eternal life, the real life, you can experience it right now.
Read 1 John 5:11-13:
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe
on the name of the Son of God."
What God says He will do!
He will give to all who would receive Jesus the gift of eternal life.
Believe His promise, and ask Him for His gift.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
So, we have discovered two important facts about the life that is real.
It is revealed in Jesus Christ.
And it is experienced when we put our trust in Him as our Savior.
But John does not stop here.
Third, this life is shared.
"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you." (1 John 1:3)
And once you have experienced this exciting live that is real, you will want to share it
with other people, just as John wanted to "declare" it to all his readers in the first century.
Many people (including some Christians) have the idea that "witnessing" means
arguing over the differences in religious beliefs, or comparing churches.
That isn't what John had in mind!
He tells us that witnessing means sharing our spiritual experiences with others
-- both by the lives that we live and by the words that we speak.
John wrote this letter to share Christ with us.
As you read it, you discover that John had in mind five purposes for sharing.
1. That we may have fellowship. (1 John 1:3)
The word, "fellowship," is an important word in the vocabulary of a Christian.
It simply means, "to have in common."
As sinners, men have nothing in common with God.
But God in His grace sent Christ to have something in common with men.
Christ took upon Himself a human body and became a man.
Then He went to the cross and took upon His body the sins of the world. (1 Peter 2:24)
Because He paid the price for our sins, the way is open for God to forgive us
and receive us into His family.
When we trust Christ, we become "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)
The term translated, "partakers," in Peter's epistle is from the same Greek root
as the term translated, "fellowship," in 1 John 3:3.
What a thrilling miracle!
Jesus took upon him Himself the nature of man that by faith we may receive
the very nature of God.
So, the life that is real helps to solve the basic problem of loneliness,
for Christians have genuine fellowship with God and with one another.
Jesus promised, "Lo, I am with you alway." (Matthew 28:20)
In his letter, John explains the secret of fellowship with God and with other Christians.
This is the first purpose that John mentions for the writing of his letter
-- the sharing of his experiences of eternal life.
2. That we may have joy. (1 John 1:4)
Fellowship is Christ's answer to the loneliness of life.
Joy is His answer to the emptiness, the hollowness of life.
John, in his epistle, uses the word, "joy," only once, but the idea of joy
runs through the entire letter.
Joy is not something that we manufacture for ourselves.
Joy is a wonderful by-product of our fellowship with God.
Basically, sin is the cause of the unhappiness that overwhelms our world today.
Sin promises joy, but it always produces sorrow.
The pleasures of sin are temporary -- they are only for a season. (Hebrews 11:25)
God's pleasures last eternally -- they are forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
John writes, "Faith in Jesus Christ gives you a joy that can never be duplicated by the world.
I have experienced that joy myself, and I want to share it with you."
3. That we may not sin. (1 John 2:1)
John faces the problem of sin squarely (3:4-9) and announces the only answer
for our sins is the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christ not only died for us and took the penalty for our sins, but rose from the dead
in order to intercede for us at the throne of God:
"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (2:1)
Christ is our Representative.
He defends us at the Father's throne.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10; Zachariah 3), but Christ is our Advocate.
He pleads on our behalf!
Continuing to give us forgiveness, in response to His prayers, is God's answer to our sinfulness.
An interested woman in becoming a Christian said to a pastor:
"I would like to become a Christian, but I'm afraid I can't hold out. I'm sure I will sin again."
Turning to 1 John 1, the pastor said, "No doubt you will sin again, because God says,
' If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' (Verse 8)
But if you do sin, God will forgive you if you will confess your sin to Him.
As we live in fellowship with God and in obedience to His Word,
He gives us ability to resist sin, and to have victory over temptation."
Then, the pastor remembered that the woman had gone through surgery some months before.
So, he asked, "When you had your surgery was there a possibility of complications
or problems afterwards?"
"Oh yes," she replied.
"But whenever I had a problem, I went to see the doctor and he took care of it."
Then, the truth dawned on her!
"I see it!" She exclaimed.
"Christ is always available to keep me out of sin and to forgive my sin."
The life that is real is a life of victory.
In this letter, John tells us how to draw on our divine resources to experience victory
over temptation and sin.
4. That we may not be deceived. (1 John 2:26)
As never before, Christians today need the ability to distinguish between right and wrong,
and between truth and error.
The idea is widespread in our generation, that there are no "absolutes"
-- that nothing is always wrong and that nothing is always right.
Therefore, false doctrines are more prevalent than in any time in history,
and most men and women seem to be willing to accept almost any teaching
except the truths of the Bible.
In John's epistle is a word that no other New Testament writer uses, and that is the word "antichrist." (2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7)
Notice the prefix, "anti," has two meanings: "against" and "instead of."
There are those in this world who are teachers of lies who are opposed to Christ,
and their method of "seducing" people is to use lies.
They offer a substitute Christ.
They offer a substitute salvation.
They offer a substitute Bible.
They want to give you something else instead of the real Word of God and the real eternal life.
Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and Satan is the liar. (8:44)
The devil leads people astray -- not always necessarily with gross sensual sins,
but with half-truths and outright lies.
He began his career of seducing in the Garden of Eden.
He asked Eve, "Yea. hath God saith?"
Even then, he did not appear to her in his true nature, but masqueraded as a beautiful creature.
(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
How can Christians today detect the lies of Satan?
How can Christians identify false teachers?
How can Christians grow in their own knowledge of the truth
so that they will not be victims of false doctrines?
John answers those questions.
The life that is real is characterized by discernment.
The Holy Spirit, referred to by John as "The Anointing ... ye have received of Him." (1 John 2:27), is the answer of Christ to our need for discernment.
The Spirit is our Teacher.
It is He who enables us to detect truth and error and to remain ("abide") in Christ.
He is our protection against ignorance, deception, and untruth.
5. That we may know we are saved. (1 John 5:13)
We have touched on this truth, but it is so important that it bears repeating.
The life that is real is not built on empty hopes -- or wishes -- or on human supposings.
It is built on assurance.
As you read John's letter, you encounter the word, "know," more than 30 times.
A Christian, if he is asked whether or not he is going to heaven, needs not say,
"I hope so," or "I think so."
Christians have no doubt whatsoever.
The life that is real is such a free and exciting life because it is based
on the knowledge of solid facts.
"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," Jesus promised in John 8:32.
Almost all of the early disciples of Jesus who died for their faith did not give their lives
for a clever hoax of their own devising.
They knew what they had seen and heard and experienced.
Years ago, a traveling entertainer billed himself as "The Human Fly."
He would climb up the sides of buildings or monuments without the aid of ropes
or the protection of nets.
Most everyone in the city would turn out to watch him.
During one performance, the Human Fly came to a place on the wall of the building
and paused as though he didn't know what to do next.
Then, he reached out with his right arm to take hold of a piece of mortar to lift himself higher,
and feel back screaming, and he was killed as he hit the pavement below.
When the police opened his right hand, it did not contain a piece of mortar.
It contained a handful of dirty cobwebs.
The Human Fly had tried to climb on cobwebs, and it just didn't work.
Jesus warned against false assurance in the passage which we have already quoted.
Many who profess to be Christians will be rejected in the day of God's judgment.
John is saying, in his letter, "I want you to be sure that you have eternal life."
As we read this fascinating letter, we discover that John frequently repeats himself.
He weaves three themes in and out of these chapters: obedience, love, and truth.
In chapters 1 and 2, John emphasizes fellowship, and he tells us that the conditions
for fellowship are: obedience (1:5 -- 2:6), love (2:7-17), and truth (2:18-29)
In the latter half of his letter, John deals primarily with sonship -- our being "born of God."
How can a person really know he is a child of God?
John says, sonship is revealed by obedience (Chapter 3, love (Chapter 4), and truth (chapter 5).
Obedience -- love -- truth.
Why did John use these particular tests of fellowship and sonship?
He did that for a very practical reason.
When God made us, He made us in His own image. (Genesis 1:26, 27)
This means that we have a personality patterned after God's.
We have a mind to think with, a heart to feel with, and a will with which to make decisions.
We sometimes refer to these aspects of our personality as intellect, emotion, and will.
The life that is real must involve all the elements of the personality.
Most people are dissatisfied today because their total personality has never been controlled
by something real and meaningful.
When a person is born of God through faith in Jesus Christ,
God's Spirit comes into his life to live there forever.
As he has fellowship with God in reading and studying the Bible and in prayer,
the Holy Spirit is able to control his mind, heart, and will.
Then, that Spirit-controlled mind knows and understands truth.
A Spirit-controlled heart feels love.
A Spirit-controlled will inclines us to obedience.
John wants to impress this fact on us, and that is why he uses a series of contrasts in his letter:
truth versus lies; love versus hatred, and obedience versus disobedience.
There is no middle ground in the life that is real.
We must be on one side or the other.
The life that is real was revealed in Christ.
It was experienced by those who trusted in Christ, and it can be shared today.
First we are born of God, then we walk (live) with God.
This means that there are two kinds of people who cannot enter into the joy
and victory about which we are talking.
It means those who have never been born of God.
It means those who, though saved, are out of fellowship with God.
It would be a wise thing for us to take a spiritual inventory (2 Corinthians 13:5)
and see whether or not we qualify to enjoy the spiritual experience of which John's letter deals.
We have already emphasized the importance of being born of God,
but if we have any doubts or questions, a review of Fact 2 would be beneficial.
If a true believer is out of fellowship with God, it is usually for one of 3 reasons:
1. He has disobeyed God's will.
2. He is not getting along with fellow believers.
3. He believes a lie and therefore is living a lie.
Even a christian can be mistaken in his understanding of truth.
That is why John warns us, "Little children, let no man deceive you." (1 John 3:7)
These three reasons parallel John's three important themes -- obedience, love, and truth.
Once a believer discovers why he is out of fellowship with God,
he should confess that sin (or those sins) to the Lord and receive God's full forgiveness.
(1 John 9-2:2)
A believer can never have joyful fellowship with the Lord if sin stands between them.
God's invitation to us today is "Come and enjoy fellowship with Me and with each other.
Come and share the life that is real!"
"When the truth came close and searching,
All my joys would disappear,
For I did not have the witness
Of the Spirit bright and clear.
If at times the coming judgment
Would appear before my mind,
O it made me so uneasy,
For God's smile I could not find.
But at last I tired of living
Such a life of fear and doubt,
For I wanted God to give me
Something I would know about,
So the truth would make me happy
And the light would clearly shine,
And the Spirit gave assurance
That I'm His and He is mine.
So I prayed to God in earnest,
And not caring what folks said.
I was hungry for the blessing;
My pour soulit must be fed.
Then at last by faith I touched Him
And, like sparks from smitten steel,
Just so quick salvation reached me.
O bless God, I know it's real!
But it's real, it's real!
O I know it's real
Praise God, the doubts are settled,
For I know, I know it's real!"
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White