Jesus, Community, and Joy | Harrison Conley

Jesus, Community, and Joy | Harrison Conley


There are many questions you are faced with
every day. We are all searching for answers that will
make a real difference in our lives. It’s hard to imagine that these answers
might be right in front of us. Get ready to discover answers in the Bible
with Bayless Conley. Hello, and welcome to the broadcast today. We have something really special for you. Our son, Harrison, is actually bringing the
word today. And listen, he is a fine preacher. He’s going to be talking about the real
kind of joy, a lasting joy. How do you have a joy that comes from deep
within and that is not fleeting? Well, he addresses those things in a very,
very practical way. Listen, I’m telling you, you are going to
love this. I want to take a few minutes, and I want to
talk about what I feel is the most important topic in all the world. I want to talk about Jesus. Some people go, “Why is this guy always
so excited about Jesus?” I’m excited about Jesus because I don’t
believe He’s just a guy. I don’t believe He’s just a man. I believe He’s the God-man, and I believe
that one encounter with Him can literally change the course and the trajectory of our
lives. And so I want to talk about Jesus, I want
to talk about community, and I want to talk about joy. If you’ve got your Bibles, go ahead and
find 1 John 1. As you’re turning there, let me give you
a little bit of context and then as well let me tie us into the story. Let me give you some continuity as well. Let’s start with context. So at the time of his writing, John, by the
way, this is 1 John, no surprise it’s written by John, John the beloved, John, one of the
disciples. At the time of his writing, he’s up in age. He’s near the end of his life. He’s writing this some 60 years after the
life, the death, the burial, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus. John is writing from a place of unique firsthand
personal experience of having spent the majority of his adult life processing and unpacking
his friendship and his relationship with Jesus. Many scholars believe John to have been the
best friend of Jesus. One of the byproducts of being up in age and
having this personal firsthand experience is that John, he uses a very unique writing
style. You will find that John is very direct in
his writing. He doesn’t pull any punches. He gets to the point very quickly. John is a straight shooter. He writes in black and white. He is not very diplomatic in his writing. His writing style at times feels like you’re
having a conversation with a grandparent. I remember, at one point, I had a conversation
with my grandpa. I was having this relational trouble with
a certain someone, and I came to him asking for some advice. You ever have that conversation with a grandparent? They don’t pull any punches. I remember my grandpa saying, “Look, don’t
be stupid. Just cut that relationship off. End of story.” There was no sympathy. There was no compassion. There was like, “Listen. I’ve lived a lot of life, and I’m not
going to paint life to be something that it’s not. Let me just tell you how it is.” That’s how John writes. He refers to himself as the elder, translated
old man. He refers to himself as old man John, and
that’s in the most affirmative and affectionate, reverent way of doing that. It’s not a derogatory term. But old man John in these letters, he doesn’t
waste any time getting to the point. He uses a very limited vocabulary. At times, his words are very repetitive. In the first four sentences or the first four
verses that we’ll cover tonight, in the original language, they’re one long, unbroken,
repetitive sentence. It’s almost like John is saying, “Look. I’m going to tell you what’s up. I’m going to give you the truth of the matter. I’m going to talk to you about Jesus, about
life, about spirituality, and I’m going to be direct, but know that I’m saying it
in honestly, and I’m saying it in love.” At the time of John’s writing, scholars
believe that he was living in a city called Ephesus and that he is writing to a multiplicity
of Christ communities, a multiplicity of churches that are spread out across Asia Minor. The reason for John’s writing, the reason
he’s going to be very direct and very straightforward in his word choice is because reports and
rumors had come back to him that these churches across Asia Minor had begun to complain and
argue saying that the message of Jesus, it’s just not enough anymore. It’s just not cutting it anymore. They would say, “We need more. The message of Jesus is sort of old, and boring,
and old hat, and outdated, and we’ve heard it enough. We’re ready for the more. We need more spiritual realities. We need more truth. We need more light. We need more knowledge. So, John, give us the deeper things of the
Scripture. Give us the meat and the potatoes of the Scripture. Jesus just isn’t enough. We need, we want, we desire more.” And John writes these three letters, 1st,
2nd, and 3rd John. They are little sermonettes. He writes in response to this. The intent of these letters, it’s for them
to be read aloud in front of the congregation, broken down, made simple, and then to be applied
in their lives; this is this part of continuity where we actually come in contact with the
Scriptures. I want you to see John’s original intent
for writing these letters. John would write this letter. It’d be sent to the pastor of that church. The pastor would get up in front of the congregation,
read the letter, or read a portion of the letter, do his best to simplify it, make it
understandable, make it apply-able. He would teach it. Then it would end in a time of prayer, then
a time of singing, and then they would dismiss the service. I love that because that’s exactly what
we’re going to do this morning. That same letter that John wrote to all these
churches across Asia Minor we have in our hands, and I as the pastor this morning will
stand up and read a portion of it and endeavor to simplify it and then endeavor to make it
practical and understandable where we can apply it in our lives. Then we’re going to have a time of prayer,
and then we’re going to have a time of singing, and then we’re going to dismiss. We’re doing the exact same thing that they
were doing 2,000 years ago. We’re fulfilling, and we are participating
in the original intent of this writing. I love that we’re a part of what God is
still doing in His Church. Please understand, these letters and the words
that we are going to read this morning, they’re just as relevant today as they were when they
were first written. They still apply. They are still living, and breathing, and
active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s exciting to think that we play a part
in what God is doing in the earth. So, now understanding the context of a letter,
understanding the continuity that we’re connected to, let’s read 1 John 1:1. I’m reading out of the New Living Translation. If you don’t have that, you can just follow
along on the screen. 1 John 1:1–4 NLT, John says, We proclaim to you the one who existed from
the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him
with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to
us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that
he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed
to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have
actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and
with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may
fully share our joy. 1 John 1:4 NKJV says it like this, And these things we write to you that your
joy may be full. The English Standard Version says, “That
your joy may be complete.” There’s such a richness in these first four
verses, this one long, unbroken, repetitive sentence in the original language. I’m grateful for the early church fathers. They added punctuation. I almost said punctuality. I said that the last service. They didn’t add punctuality. They added punctuation to this text, so it’s
easy for us to read, and it’s easy for us to understand and to break down. There’s so much richness to what we’ve
just read, so much that it’s impossible to pack it all into one sermon. You could write a whole small library of books
on this one passage of Scripture. Let me do my best to just simplify and break
it down for us this morning. John writes about three main themes; Jesus,
community, and joy. It’s almost as if he sets a pattern or a
progression out in front of us; they are not separated from each other. They’re not divorced from each other. They need each other. They’re intertwined. It’s almost this mathematical equation,
Jesus + community=joy. What I’d like to do is take the next few
minutes and dive into each of these themes and then end by asking us a question. But John starts with Jesus. Old man John, he wastes no time in addressing
the most important topic of all, Jesus. I know we touched on this a moment ago, but
we have to understand at the time of John’s writing there was a pervading and a pervasive,
perverting thought, a heresy of the day that had made its way into the church. It was this idea called Gnosticism. It’s still around today. The idea is that salvation does not come through
Jesus. It acknowledges that Jesus was a man and that
Jesus was a good man, but that’s all that He was. He was not divine; that He was not God. His teachings, yeah, they’re on par, and
they can be emulated, but true salvation, it was only for a select few, and those select
few got salvation by attaining a deeper level and a higher level of esoteric spiritual knowledge. Now, these Gnostics, they began to infiltrate
these churches, these Christ-centered communities around Asia Minor, and they had begun to poison
the well as it were. They began to be that rotten apple that spoils
the bunch. They began to come in and proclaim that the
message of Jesus, it just wasn’t enough anymore. They would come into these communities, and
they’d begin to whisper that you need more. You need a higher knowledge. You need a deeper, more spiritual reality. You need to chase after supernatural happenings. Jesus just isn’t enough. His lessons, yeah, they’re fine, they’re
great, but they’re too simple. You need the deeper things of the Word. You need to deeper knowledge and understanding
of the universe and spiritual realms. Like I said, Gnosticism wasn’t just an issue
2,000 years ago. It finds its way into the Church even today. Old man John in his opening line, he tackles
this thing head-on, this idea about Jesus being divine. Look at 1 John 1:1 NLT. He says, We proclaim to you the one who existed from
the beginning. What’s John doing? He’s declaring from the outset that Jesus
and the eternal God, the one that existed from the beginning, they’re one and they’re
the same, that Jesus is God, that Jesus is divine. He leaves no room for misinterpretation. John is saying Jesus is the highest power;
He is the highest reality. He is the highest knowledge in all of the
universe. He says, “Whom we’ve seen and whom we’ve
heard.” He said, “We saw Him with our own eyes. We touched Him with our own hands. He is the Word of Life.” I love this. John is not describing a ‘what.’ He’s describing a ‘Who.’ He’s describing a person. He’s declaring a person, not a doctrine,
not a philosophy, not a school of thought that leads to knowledge. He declares a person, a person named Jesus. If I were to try and encapsulate into a phrase
all that John is trying to sum up in these first few verses, all that he’s trying to
communicate about Jesus, I would say it like this; John is trying to say to us Jesus is
always more. Now, I know that’s a phrase you’ve heard
me say before. Do you know where I got that from? From reading 1 John. Jesus is always more. When you think you’ve seen it all, when
you think you know it all, when you think you’ve experienced it all, John would say,
“You’re just getting started. Jesus is always more. You think you need more knowledge. You think you need more spiritual reality. You think you need more truth. No. You need Jesus. Jesus is always more.” John is clearly letting us know. He’s letting his readers know that there
is no other message; there is no other truth, that Jesus all by Himself is more than enough. You can study Him, and you can stare at Him,
and you can know Him, and you can experience Him, and the longer you do those things, the
more you then begin to realize you can spend your whole life and then spend all of eternity
and still never see all that Jesus is, because Jesus is still always more. John is saying, “Look, I’m not making
this up.” John is going, “Look, this is not hyperbole;
this is not preacher talk here. I know this from experience because I saw
Him. I walked with Him. I touched Him. I heard Him teach the multitudes. I heard Him pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. I watched Him take a kid’s lunch and feed
5,000 people. I watched Him raise Lazarus from the dead. I was there in the boat when Jesus spoke to
the elements, He spoke to the wind and the waves, and they obeyed Him. I was there at His transfiguration. I was there at His crucifixion. I walked into His tomb, and I saw with my
own eyes that He wasn’t there and that He was raised to life. As a matter of fact, I saw Him post-resurrection. I had breakfast on the beach with Him. I touched the holes in His hands and His feet
and His side. I was there on the Mount of Olives when He
ascended into heaven. I was there on Pentecost when He poured out
His Holy Spirit.” John goes, “Look. Don’t tell me you need more. Don’t tell me you need to experience more,
because I’ve seen it, and I’ve touched it, and I’ve heard it, and I know it to
be true. I’ve spent my whole life focused on this,
and at the end of the day, I’m communicating to you that Jesus is more. He’s more all by Himself that there is nothing
you can add onto Him.’ As a matter of fact, in the first three verses,
John uses five different descriptive terms to describe the different aspects, different
nuances if you will, of the more of who Jesus is. Verse 1, he calls Him the one who existed
from the beginning. Then he calls Him the Word of Life. Then he calls Him the Word made flesh, the
Word manifested, all talking about Jesus. Verse 2, he calls Him eternal life. Verse 3, he calls Him the Son of God. It’s as if John is saying, “Look. I’ve spent the last 60 years of my life
reflecting on my relationship, reflecting on my encounters and my friendship with Jesus,
and there are just some things that I’ve discovered about Him.” I mean, you keep reading throughout 1 John. He doesn’t stop. The list continues to grow. He can’t stop talking about the more of
who Jesus is. He calls Jesus the Christ 37 times in 1 John. He calls Him the Son of God 28 more times
in 1 John. He calls Him our abiding place 16 times. He calls Him Savior 13 times. He calls Him light or true light seven times. He calls Him eternal life six more times. He calls Him God in the flesh four more times,
and that’s just to name a few because the list goes on and on. He calls Him, advocate, and propitiation,
the destroyer of the works of the darkness. He calls Him the soon and coming One. There’s always more. There’s always another dimension and another
facet of His grace and His beauty. And when you think you’ve discovered it
all, you find another compartment. You go, “I didn’t realize it. Wow, Jesus. You’re even better.” Jesus is like that diamond. You’ve heard me pray this. You’ve heard me talk about this. Jesus is like that diamond. You hold it up to the light, and no matter
what angle you look at it from, you get a different perspective and a new vantage point
of His brilliance. He continues to shine. Why is that? Because Jesus is always more. We could spend the rest of our lives, and
we will spend all of eternity discovering the more of who Jesus is. Then we jump into verse 3, and John goes back
to work adding an additional layer to this initial theme. He now shifts the focus to the idea of community. Now remember, these themes, they’re progressive. They’re intertwined. They build upon each other. When he starts talking about community, he’s
not talking about it as an isolated thing. He’s talking about it in the term of a Christ-centered
community, that we discover the more about Jesus together. John would say we’re better together. Look at 1 John 1:3 NLT. He says, We proclaim to you what we ourselves have
actually seen and heard. He’s talking about Jesus. “We proclaim to you what we’ve seen and
what we’ve heard so that.” Those two words are important. There’s a reason. The reason I’m telling you about Jesus is,
“So that you may have fellowship,” friendship or community, with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and
with his Son, Jesus Christ. I love this because you get the picture. John’s going like, “Look, hey. We’re in diverse places. We’re diverse people. I’m here in Ephesus. You’re over there somewhere in the province
of Asia Minor. I’m old in the faith. You’re young in the faith. I may not know you personally, I may not know
you by name, I may have never even seen your face, but yet if you believe in Jesus to be
Savior, we have this common bond and that common bond; it unites us. Because of that, because of Jesus, we can
partake in it. We can participate in it. We can share in sweet fellowship together.” And that’s one of the things that I absolutely
love about our Savior, Jesus, is that Jesus brings diverse groups of people together,
people that are racially diverse, people that are politically diverse, people that are geographically
separated, people that come from different places, different backgrounds, different worldviews,
different ideologies, people that are of different ages, different generations, different personalities,
different giftings, different interests, different hobbies. All these diverse groups of people can come
together and be one because of Jesus. If you don’t believe that to be true, look
around this room today; this is the antithesis of a homogenous group. We’re equal parts black, white, Asian, and
Hispanic. I love this; this is a picture of heaven. It’s not just people that come from Southern
California. We’ve got different cities represented here,
but people come from all over the States. Watching online right now, we have all these
different states and all these different countries around the world. How is that possible, this diverse group of
people with different giftings, different personalities, different backgrounds? They come from different places. They look different. They sound different. How can they all come together and have fellowship? Because they share a common bond, Jesus. John says, “That’s why I write to you. I’m declaring to you what I know about Jesus
because if you believe in Jesus, we can have fellowship together too.” That word fellowship in the Greek is the word
koinonia. Many of you would be familiar with that. It literally means the sharing of a common
bond. It’s Jesus. I love the language that John uses. He’s getting the picture across. He says, “We are declaring to you what we
have seen and what we have heard.” John could have said, “I’m declaring to
you what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard,” but he says we. Who’s we, John? Well, he’s referring to the other disciples. He’s referring to the community of believers
that are there with him at Ephesus. He’s basically saying, “Look. We as a Christ-centered community, we’re
declaring the thing that we’ve seen, that we’ve heard, that we’ve experienced. We’re declaring it to you so that you can
be in community with us, too, so that we can share fellowship with you because we want
to grow in our understanding. We want to grow in our comprehension of the
more of who Jesus is together with you.” John goes, “Look. We’re writing about what we know, but we
need to hear what you know because we realize not one group or one person sees the full
picture. And that when we get together in community,
that’s when growth happens. That’s when maturity takes place. We see more of Jesus together than we do alone.” Then John ends this thought about community
by saying something that should take our breath away, something that would have taken the
breath away of his readers. He says, “Truly our fellowship is with the
Father and with His Son, Jesus. Our fellowship is with the Father and the
Son.” Not was, but it is. Now, remember, at the time of John’s writing,
this is 60 years after Jesus has ascended into heaven, and John’s readers know that
it is no longer physically possible for him to touch, to hear, and to see Jesus. Yet, John writes with this authority. John writes with this understanding like he’s
not lost his fellowship. Think about that. John is letting us know that we can have a
personal relationship with a living God. That our understanding and our relating with
Jesus doesn’t have to just be us seeing Him as Savior, but that Jesus actually wants
to be our friend; that He wants to be present with us now; that we’ve been invited into
this amazing relationship of having shared life with the Father and with His Son, Jesus. It’s as if John is saying, “Look. The Father and the Son; They got together,
and They said, ‘Hey, by the power of the Holy Spirit, We’re going to allow these
different groups of people to come together and be in relationship with Us. We’re going to let them in on Our relationship
of love.’” John’s letting us know that the way we discover
and the way we grow in our understanding of all of who Jesus is, is by being plugged into
fellowship or being plugged into community with other believers. That’s why I’m such a huge proponent of
being in church. Listen. I know we live in the day and the age where
you can pull up on your phone any church service that you want at any day during the week,
but listen, I’m a huge proponent. I will always be a huge proponent of being
in church; butt in seat, on a Sunday morning. You know why? Because the Bible says not to forsake the
gathering of ourselves together. Listen. Something happens when we get in a room. This morning, we prayed for different people
in the congregation. What happens? People’s faith gets engaged. We touch heart with each other. Things begin to happen. When you get into a church, and say what you
will about big church, sometimes big church gets knocked, but purely from a mathematical
standpoint when you are a part of a local church and a big church, there are more options
of people for you to get connected to, people that are in your same season of life or people
that are similar enough to you where they’ve walked in your steps, they’ve walked in
your journey, and they can go, “Hey, look. Keep your head up. You’re going to be okay, and I’m going
to be with you, and I’m going to link arms with you. I’m not going to let you fall off the pace. We’re going to pursue Jesus together.” The thing is this; you will not be who God’s
called you to be; you will not be as effective as God has called you to be unless you’re
in community. You need me. I need you. As we bring our gifts to the table, growth
comes to the body. That’s what the Bible says. We need each other. Then John ends this opening statement by expressing
what results when you put knowing Jesus together with being in community. It’s our biblical, mathematical, algebraic
equation. A + B=C. John would say, “Jesus + Christ-centered
community=joy.” But not just any kind of joy. John would say it results in complete joy
or full joy. First John 1:4 NKJV, And these things we write to you that your
joy may be full. John is talking about a joy that goes beyond
an emotion; that goes beyond a feeling. When he says joy, he’s not speaking of happiness. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is a byproduct of joy, but John’s
speaking about something greater. He’s speaking about something deeper; this
is a joy that’s not based in circumstance; this is a joy that’s not based in a good
season or a bad season, but rather something that is founded and constantly fortified in
knowing and experiencing Jesus. If I were to read into it, John is saying
this; this is what full joy is; this is what complete joy is, being able to recognize God’s
hand of love upon your life no matter the season. That when the doctor’s report comes back
in a negative fashion, we’re able to go, “Hey, I don’t understand it. I don’t get it, but yet I recognize God’s
hand is on my life. And that whatever’s going on in this season,
I know His plans, and His purposes for me are for good. And God’s using this season to set me up
for the next season, and that God’s plan is always to take me from grace to grace,
and from strength to strength, and from glory to glory.” That’s what joy is. It’s an inexhaustible hope on the inside
that God is in control, that God’s hand of love is upon us, that He looks at us through
eyes of love, and that His plans and His purposes for us are always and forever good. John says that’s what results when you add
Jesus and Christ-centered community. You have a joy, a joy that’s a product of
abiding in the love and in the presence of Jesus, having a personal relationship with
Him, and having a personal relationship with other believers like Him that are filled with
the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said it like this in John 15:9
and 11. Verse 9 Jesus said,” “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved
you”; Then he gives a command. He says, Abide in My love. Abide; live here, dwell here. Operate from this place; My love. “Well, Jesus, why should I do that?” Verse 11. “These things I have spoken to you, that
My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. That My joy, not earthly joy, not human joy,
not a joy that’s based in circumstance, not a joy that only comes when you’re on
the mountaintop moments of life, not a joy that comes when the bank account’s full. My joy, a joy that persists when you’re
in the Valley of the Shadow of Death moments, that joy that exists when you’re one step
away from being homeless, that joy, “That My joy, an unworldly joy; that My joy may
remain in you and that your joy as a byproduct then will be full.” So, here’s the question I want to leave
us with. How is your joy? Is it full? Is it complete? Is the greatest pursuit of your life to know
Jesus and to discover the more of who He is? I hope so. I hope so because nothing else in this world
will satisfy. Nothing else in this world will result in
your joy being full. Well, I know that you were blessed by the
message that you just heard. And you know there is another way that I like
to put joy, J-O-Y; Jesus-Others-You. We can’t really have a deep abiding joy
unless we have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. And the good news is that it is not about
regulations. It’s not about rules. It’s not about religion. It is about relationship. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why He died on the cross to bring
us into a relationship with God after having paid for our sins. And now the way into a relationship with God
is open. If you’ll open your heart to the Savior
and say yes to Jesus, the Bible says believe in your heart that God raised Him from the
dead, confess Him with your mouth as Lord, and you will be saved. That is, God brings you into this relationship,
brings you into His family. Call on the name of Jesus today. Just pray from your heart, Jesus come into
my life. I believe in You. When your strength is failing, God will carry you through. Do you need to be lifted up? Go online today and find Bayless’ “Taking Hold of God’s Strength” study guide; it is our free gift to you. In it, Bayless will guide you through four steps that are crucial to understanding God’s strength for you and how to overcome your weakness—with God on your side. Request your free PDF download of this encouraging study guide at BaylessConley.tv/strength God has strength and an answer for you! For more information and inspiration, visit
BaylessConley.tv.

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