I really like the book of 1 John. Specifically chapter 4. It’s just really good stuff. I mean the whole bible is really good stuff, but today I want to highlight 1 John, because it was first highlighted to me. As you will see, I am following a trend.
Even though I am technically a part of the team that is coming to work in Bologna this next week, I still feel like I am on the other side of it. Perhaps it is ok to say that I am half and half. I am half on this side because I lived here, I know here, I speak here, etc. I am half on their side because I am a part of their team. I am leading them in worship as a part of them, not as the resident on this side. I say all of that to say, I enjoy being on this side. I enjoy watching people experience their first mission trip, or their first time out of the country. I remember what my first mission trip did for me. It opened my eyes. It open my eyes to the world and to the God who is the God of the world. I knew God, but only in the sphere of my small world. This is a big world.
My job with this team is to lead worship. My job is always to share the gospel, but here I am speaking specifically. I get to lead them in music, which I love and have recently learned much more about. Including the fact that my song leading is also a time of encouragement, empowerment, and instruction. Thus, I have spent much time these last few weeks contemplating how I will go about encouraging, empowering, and instructing these students. I came across this passage today, more like got stuck on this passage today, as I began reading through 1 John:
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life – 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us – 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write so that our joy may be made complete.”
1 John 1:1-4
I thought it very fitting to use as a source of encouragement and instruction with the students. Then it occurred to me that I had a lot of thoughts to share. I often have a lot of thoughts to share, and many of them need never to be shared, but these do.
I am going to classify you into three very general groups.
- You are a follower of Jesus and often share that with others.
- You are a follower of Jesus and do not often share that with others.
- You are not a follower of Jesus.
I said general. I will let you place yourself into a classification.
Jesus came into this world to be the Savior of this world. He saved this world by dying, and then for centuries has used people, His followers, to spread that message. I just want to highlight some things for you here about spreading that message. Some of you may be doing so already. Some of you may not be doing so and need to be. Some of you just need to hear (read) this.
To reiterate the message…. People are sinful, separated from God, and doomed to an eternal death. All unjust things require payment, so Jesus died in our place as payment for our sin; and by accepting His death on the cross and resurrection into Heaven, we are saved from our sins and given eternal life through Him.
1) You must experience this.
John says what we have heard, what we have seen, what we have touched we proclaim to you. Believer do you hear God’s word? In church, at home, alone, through friends? Are you hearing God’s word? You should be. Then proclaim it. Believer do you see God at work in your life? Have you seen God at work in your life? Do you look for God at work in your life? You should be. Then proclaim it. In 2014 we have not and can not touch the person of Jesus. We can have tangible blessings and stories of what Jesus has done in our lives. Believer have you touched Jesus? Are you aware of where Jesus is in your life? Do you see the strings He has woven throughout your experiences? You should be. Then proclaim it.
Jesus is not real because people build church buildings, sing songs in them, and pay someone to talk about Him. Jesus is real because His people experience His realness. Are you experiencing Jesus? BECAUSE YOU SHOULD BE. That’s not being mean. I am saying please, please believer do not NOT be experiencing Jesus. You are missing so much.
2) You must share what you experience.
Followers of Jesus in 2014 have much to learn from the first followers of Jesus. There are believers all around the world who lose their lives daily for the sake of the name of Jesus. Amen. 77.4% of the almost 319 million people that live in America identify themselves as Christians, and I am inclined to believe that many of them are not, in fact, spreading the gospel, unfortunately. Earlier I presented 3 classifications. If you are not a follower of Jesus, I hope that someone else reading this shares the gospel with you. If you are a follower of Jesus and not spreading the gospel, I already mentioned it…. PROCLAIM WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE. To both, those not spreading the gospel and those that are, be encouraged by your early brothers and sisters in Christ.
“for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Believer, don’t tell one person about Jesus. Don’t bring your neighbors cookies and say to yourself “job well done.” Don’t work one week of VBS and feel satisfied that you have reached the community. Don’t buy the person behind you at Starbucks a coffee and think your good deed for the day is done. (You can bring me Starbucks daily at school when it begins again though) Don’t live across the world as a missionary and say “there, I’ve done my time.” (<—– speaking to self)
Believer, don’t ever stop talking about what you have experienced.
I just got all bold face font on you. I’m sorry, but it is important. Next week I will encourage these students to spread the gospel around the city of Bologna. I will encourage them to spread how great Jesus is, because they know from experience. I will encourage them to experience and to keep experiencing. I am also encouraging you to experience and to keep experiencing and then to keep talking.
Now, I talk a lot. Obviously, you are still reading. Is my speech filled with Jesus though? Together, let’s walk through this.
On Sunday we go to church and hear sermons. Then we go to lunch. What do we talk about?
At some point in our day we meet with Jesus individually. Then we interact with people. What do we talk about?
Sometimes we can spend hours talking about movies, people, sports, food, drama, gossip, clothes, hair, annoying people, work, John Green, etc., etc., etc. Are we spending time talking about experiencing Jesus? We should be.
3) Usher your new brothers and sisters into the fellowship of believers.
When I first became a believer I can remember thinking about how awful I thought my life was and how massive of an ordeal it was for God to save me from that. That was something that needed to be shared. People needed to know that what God has is for everyone. Salvation is for you. There is no sin that He cannot forgive and wash clean.
Ten years after first thinking that thought, I think again…. Gosh people need to know how great this God is. They need to know how much He loves and how much He forgives. They need this Father and this family as much as I do. Why would I want to exclude them? Honestly, there are people that I allow myself to stumble over. That does not mean I do not want to welcome them into the fellowship of believers and rejoice with them over their salvation. You should to. Which leads me to my final point.
4) There is joy for us in new salvations.
I vividly remember an experience back in my first summer at Summer Beach Project 2004. The project had been at church for our nightly worship/rally time and had all piled into cars to head back to the hotel. I was in the backseat of some guy’s burnt orange, two door Ford explorer with a bunch of guys who were overly excited. They were talking about a friend of theirs that had recently become a believer. They were so excited for him, as they laughed and smiled and rejoiced over something that I didn’t even really understand. I probably acted like I did though. Only I believe we had just finished doing a testimony workshop, and I had no testimony. So there I sat, in the back of that Ford Explorer wondering why exactly they were so excited. A week later, people were that excited over me.
John says “these things we write so that our joy may be made complete.” The heavens rejoice when one more is saved. We too, can and should rejoice when one more is saved.
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.”
The joy is ours to share in. As you rejoice in many things with friends and family, rejoice with your heavenly family when it grows. Eternity is no small matter. Celebrate it.
Believer, experience Jesus; don’t stop talking about what you experience; rejoice when they believe. They will believe when they see Jesus.