1 John 1:4 – And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (NKJV)
The Apostle writes “these things” in 1st John that “your joy may be full” (v.1.4). What things is he writing?
- Full joy comes from fellowship with God, walking in the light. (1.5-7)
- Full joy comes from confessing our sin (1.9)
- Full joy comes from having Jesus as our Defender (2.1)
- Full joy comes with knowing God; evidenced by our obedience and love(2.3-11)
Full joy… for who? Who can attain it? Pastors? Super Christians? Older Christians? Who is John writing to? Starting in 2.12 the Apostle identifies three stages of the Christian walk to which he writes “these things” (1.4):
- Little Children – new or immature believers
These are new or immature believers who do not yet have a depth or the experience of faith. However, there is no doubt the authenticity of their salvation – “because your sins are forgiven” (2.12); “because you have known the Father” (2.13).
The danger for “children” in the faith is that they are easily persuaded to follow the latest Christian fads or questionable doctrines. They are a particularly easy target for Satan because of their inexperience and immaturity which is one reason why mature Christians should be actively engaged in mentoring and discipleship.
Ephesians 4:14 – that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (NKJV)
It is my opinion that the longer a Christian remains a “child” the more danger they are in of being “tossed to and fro”. It is obviously natural for a recently saved person to be immature in their faith and of course our merciful Father in Heaven understands that. It is however quite a different situation for that same person to still be immature and childish in the faith many years later. A lack of growth because of personal neglect can make someone an easy target for the enemy.
- Young Men – Sound and growing but inexperienced Christians
“Young men” are those who are grounded in sound doctrine and demonstrate growing spiritual discipline but just lack time and experience in the faith. John speaks of the obvious progress of these young men stating that they have “overcome the wicked one” (1.13) and that the “word of God abides in you” (1.14).
Why are these young men strong? Because the Word of God abides in them. On the surface that may sound a little simplistic but Psalms 119 should quickly dispel that notion:
- Psalm 119:9-16 – How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. (NKJV, emphasis mine)
The entire 119th chapter of Psalms reverberates the effects that God’s Word has on your life. If you are easily bored or dispassionate with the study of the Holy Scripture, read Psalm 119. The Apostle John echoes the power of the Word to make one strong and give power to overcome the “wicked one” (2.13-14).
- Fathers – mature, disciplined Christians
The last type of Christian John is writing “these things” to are called “fathers”. These are Christians who have matured in the faith through discipline and prayer. They have achieved a fuller understanding of God’s nature, His eternality (1.12) and have demonstrated consistent faith and wisdom.
John repeats the phrase “who is from the beginning” twice emphasizing the nature of the mature believers understanding. Any comprehension of the eternal nature of God’s plan and His sovereignty, from eternity past to eternity future, is not an easy thing. Understanding God’s entire redemptive plan for humanity takes diligent study, prayer and meditation (not to be confused with understanding the plain and simple Gospel message of salvation).
Ephesians 3:14-19 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (NKJV, emphasis mine)
John writes “these things” to every believer no matter what stage of their Christian walk they are in. Full joy is attainable for all believers, not just some class of “super christian”. So if you are waiting around for a period of time to pass or a magical level of spirituality to manifest itself before you can hope for a fully joyful life in Christ, you’re missing out by your choice. Either willfully or in ignorance.
Merciful God, help me to recognize what stage of my walk I am in. Teach me to know Your Word and to mature through the meditation and application of it. Grant me “full joy” through knowing You, loving You and obeying You. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: What stage are you in? If you’re a “child” in the faith is it because you are recently saved or long term lazy? If you’re a “young man” are you growing and staying grounded in the Word? If you are a “father” have you become complacent with your level of maturity? “Fathers”, are you discipling any “young men” or “children”? “Young men”, are you encouraging and discipling any “children”?
Application: Full joy is not a blessing for any special class of Christians. It is attainable for you no matter what stage of your Christian walk you are in. John tells us what brings full joy, it’s up to us to avail ourselves of it.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?