by pastor Aeron Morgan
1Jn 1:4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. - NKJV
Expounding the wonder of our fellowship "with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ", and now addressing the goal of such fellowship, John must have recalled the farewell discourses and prayer of the Master, recorded in His Gospel - "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (16:24). Then in prayer on the eve of His passion and death - and who can tell the unutterable anguish He was entering into, a cry soon to escape His pure lips as of one forsaken by the Eternal: "These things I speak in the world that they, whom you have given me, might have My joy fulfilled in themselves" (17:13). This gives us some indication of the nature of His joy, not something superficial, simulated, and fluctuating, but deep and enduring in the darkest experience, a fathomless, infinite ocean not ruffled by surface agitations: "MY JOY".
This is directly related to "fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ", a fellowship that has its roots in the true knowledge of the Lord. We must ever keep this before us that a true knowledge of the Lord is necessary to joyous Christian living, since the goal of our fellowship is joy in God, entering into 'the joy of the Lord' - the perfect enjoyment of God. This is what man forfeited in his tragic rebellion against God in Eden. What Adam and Eve did was NOT a simple mistake, but a wilful violation of a known command. And, as it has been foolishly repeated a myriad of times since, the self-indulgence and gratification of a fleeting moment jeopardised the eternal pleasures of union and communion with a Holy God.
What needs to be understood is that the goal of our fellowship with God is NOT some subjective experience of happiness, where we 'feel' good, but the objective enjoyment of God Himself, in which we are made good! The Westminster Confession has stated well and correctly: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever". AND THIS JOY, which John reveals as being part of a believer's fulfilled life, is known in the deepest traumas of human suffering, as well as in the present triumphs of grace. It will remain with us to gratify us in the consummated glory of the eternity to come - with the Father and the Son.
Well let us see the deepest implications of Christian JOY:
Observe the conjunction here - "AND..." The joy of the believer is linked to and springs from his/her relationship with God. "It is the echo of God's life within". (Ralph Earle) Does this life depend on circumstances or on what we do, as is evident in the world? NO! THIS life animates us on the basis of our FAITH. Whatever be the situations of life, God's life in me is sure and my life in Him is secure. Likewise is my JOY fulfilled! John 15:11 - in the context you will note that this joy is related to our union with God in Christ. The source of our JOY is GOD HIMSELF. Psalm 16:11 ("Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy Presence is fulness of joy and at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore": this is Messianic in its primal interpretation - of Christ raised, ascended at the Father's right hand, His human nature flooded with the fulness of joy.) - even when there is none other around, or even when others manifestly forsake us and even persecute us for His name's sake. (Heb 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher if our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.": JOY of Resurrection life and glory with the Father.) As with our Divine Head so with us - in God's awesome presence He PUTS MORE JOY and GLADNESS INTO US than ANYTHING ELSE CAN DO. JOY NOW - and "everlasting JOY shall be upon our heads". Matthew 5:10-11. See Psalm 43:4 - and please keep in mind the context (42:1-2). Augustine said, and prayerfully:
IT'S SOURCE IS IN GOD!
"And these things WRITE we unto you..." There is a wondrous revelation of the Eternal, All-glorious, Compassionate One in this letter by which we gain an increasing understanding of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ. This is most vital, for perverted notions of God will produce three things:
(i) a wrong fear (opposed to that right, good and proper 'fear' or 'adoring reverence' of God.)
(ii) an unscriptural morbidity, differing from that proper 'sobriety' that should characterise us as believers; and
(iii) a spiritual bondage, i.e. an unhealthy legalism. Life then becomes laborious and joyless, so far removed from what our God wants us to experience when in union and fellowship with Him.
In any consideration of the Christian's JOY we must turn to Galatians 5:22, for Paul teaches: "the fruit of the Spirit is JOY". This 'fruit' is nothing other that the moral character of God. GOD IS A GOD OF JOY! That is the revelation of Himself in His Word to us: Zephaniah 3:17 - note the two references to "joy", in the KJV - but in the Hebrew language there are TWO distinct words. The first (simchah) means glee, gladness, mirth; exceeding great joy that can't be conceived of or expressed. It beggars definition or description. The second word (guwl) means 'to spin around, under the influence of any violent emotion! What an eye-opener! What a sight it must be in heaven when such emotions are stirred! And how enviably happy is the person who sees God for who He really is, and who enjoys HIS companionship, and walks in holiness before Him. Dr. Tozer said, "From that day (the day when Eve's confidence in the kindness of God was the target of Satan's lie), men have had a false conception of God... nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God...How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with! (A.W. Tozer, The Root of Righteousness [ Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, reprint 1985], 13, 16.) WE NEED TO KNOW GOD ACCORDING TO HIS SELF REVELATION.
Of course, IF we are not living in accord with His Word and Will, do not think that He is soft and tolerant of our evil. For I am led to another consideration:
"THESE THINGS we write..." John deems it necessary ti reveal not only the things that make for joy, but what will affect that joy. Thus, there is a clear emphasis throughout the letter on three things: Sin; the World; and Error. And I need to comment on these matters, for how can we expect fellowship with a holy God if and when we knowingly live in wrong relationship? Psalm 66:18.
(a) SIN. ALL sin is against God - the transgression of His holy law (3:4). It is utterly contrary to His revealed will, thus totally inconsistent in the life of one professing to be walking "in the light". Cf. v.5-7. John unmistakably, uncompromisingly states that sin is entirely inadmissible in the experience of the Christian! 2:1. 3:6. These are days of compromise, and laxity, and excuses fir low-level living. Biblical standards of holiness are being eroded. Too many if us are learning to live with unholiness as though it were a natural and expected thing. BUT, let it be understood - sin is ABNORMAL; it is NOT good but BAD. Indeed, it is the very contradiction of nature, in opposition to the spirit and working of God's righteous government. It's a rejection of God! Cf. Psalm 24. My friends, if we would know His joyous fellowship, we must be CLEAN!
(b) THE WORLD. Cf. 2:15-17. John 12:31 "Now is the judgment of this world; Now is the Prince of this world cast out." Galatians 1:4 "(Christ) gave Himself for our sins, in order that He might deliver us form this present evil world" - the present, corrupt age and generation filled as it is with calamity and sorrow in consequence of men's sins - its eases, temptations and sensual pleasures and cravings. The new birth not only puts me into right relationship with GOD - but with the WORLD! That is, I now appreciate it for what it truly is - its true nature in opposition to God as it is governed by it evil prince. With the renewed mind of a born again person I have a totally new insight into its inner character, and so know my place in this world. I'M A PILGRIM - in this world but not of it! I am not part of its system, nor ruled by the ruler of its darkness. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
(c) ERROR. Note this: while sin is opposed to the way if truth; and the world is opposed to the God of truth; error is opposed to the Word of truth. The context of this letter particularly relates to that truth which is at the very heart of the saving Gospel - and has to do with the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ. John is severe in addressing those in error in respect if the Person of Christ, and says, "They were not of us" (2:19). They were not in true fellowship. BUT I must broaden the application here, for any way of living set in opposition to or in contradiction of the Word of God is A LIFE OF ERROR, and will ever be a hindrance to joyous fellowship with God.
Each of these, then - sin, the world, and error - if we entertain them, they will rob us of our joy. These things can never yield to true joy. And it is most interesting to observe that in the concluding statement of John in his letter, as A FINAL APPEAL to believers, he gathers up these very things: 5:18-21. John says - (i) Keep yourself from SIN; (ii) Keep yourself from the World that lies in the lap of the wicked one; and (iii) Keep yourself from idols, i.e. from that which is false. The fulness of Christian joy is know in conscious union and fellowship with God, holiness of life, and obedience to His commands.
Verse 4 - "That your joy may be FULL". That is, fulfilled or complete. In other words - we could not be happier; and it is a state of blessedness never to end! As previously said, it is the perfect enjoyment of God, so must include the gladness that issues from that holy fellowship. Note two things: it is complete
a) BECAUSE IT IS FOUND IN GOD HIMSELF
Romans 5:11. Here the word 'joy' means 'to vaunt, or to make one's boast'. GOD Himself is seen as the believer's chiefest delight. Note verse 2, where the 'boasting' or 'rejoicing' is in what we will share. But here it is rejoicing in GOD Himself, Who He is and what He has become to us in grace. When we have but HIM ALONE, then our joy is supremely complete. It does not need supplementing with the World! And please note this: OUR fellowship as Christian believers is ONLY joyous when HE IS THE OBJECT OF OUR GATHERING. If our fellowship time in the House of God is LESS than the mutual enjoyment of God, then we have missed the whole point of our gathering together. God must be viewed as essential and central to the fellowship of the saints. In this alone is "full joy".
b) BECAUSE IT IS UNAFFECTED BY TIME'S EVENTS
John is saying, in effect, "I am writing about Him, in order that your joy may be FULL". As i've already stated, this joy is not governed by life's situations; it's not dependent on outward circumstances. The events of time do NOT effect it. Rather, life's situations are transformed by our joy! Since our roots are in God, the Eternal life, there is stability in the season of trouble. So our lives do not irradiate gloom but gladness, not cheerless despair but joyous hope, an exuberance and a holy optimism springing from inward peace through faith in God. Ah, I have seen this in many a person's life, and not the least in Christians in countries where there is open antagonism to the Christian Gospel and an oppression of those who dare ti confess Christ as their Lord. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 - "and in much assurance", the word signifying 'cheerfulness, calm delight'.
Turn to 1 Peter 1:6-8. The Greek text says, "greatly rejoice". It means to exult; to be jubilant. Maybe too much of our Christianity is marked by certain reservation - a conservatism about our expressions of JOY, as though God would be offended. REJOICE! - that's the call of God to us. Psalm 5:11. See Nehemiah 8:10 - the reading of the Law. That is proper, and essential. But upon that being achieved, Nehemiah and Ezra exhort God's people NOT to weep any more, but accept the gracious gift of God's forgiveness AND REJOICE - "FOR the joy of the Lord is our strength". They then celebrated 'the Feast of Tabernacles', recalling God's gracious provisions for them in their wilderness wanderings, and rejoicing in God for their miraculous deliverance from Egypt's bondage. They were never to forget the goodness of God, and express their joyous gratitude. And note this: with this 'Feast' the sacred Jewish calendar was complete. May I suggest that our service to God is complete ONLY in joyous thanksgiving to Him. Note verse 17 - "...there was very great gladness". My friends: heaviness is weakening. Joy is health and strength - the Hebrew word signifying a 'fortified place; a defence'.
Peter says we rejoice "with joy unspeakable". Interesting - for that means 'not spoken out'. It is a joy that defies description of definition. You cannot put into words; it is deeply rooted and profoundly real. But more: for it is "full of glory", a word implying dignity; and with it - honour. Note that, for with all the indefinable and unutterable exuberance of our joy, there remains a dignity as we exult in God. In 1 Peter 4:13 the apostle speaks of "rejoicing...as partakers of Christ's sufferings" so that "when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy", the word meaning 'to jump for joy; to exult. It is being exceedingly glad or joyous.
And a final Scripture: Romans 14:17 - three things characterise the kingly rule of God in our lives:
These are co-related blessings. When we know righteous standing with God, peace exists between Him and us; and flowing out from such relationship and fellowship is TRUE and FULL JOY. And these blessings are not confined to some future age or kingdom. If, as Jesus affirmed, "the kingdom of God is within you", then we enter His blessings in a measure NOW, which includes the "joy in the Holy Ghost".
O, hallelujah - I tell you, I'm attending all the rehearsals. Christian life in fellowship with the Father and Son, through the Holy Spirit, is not something to be endured but enjoyed - and enjoyed to the full. That is the Divine intention. And just as all the other "fruit of the Spirit" are to be practically expressed, so is this JOY.