And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. – 1 John 1:4 ESV
In the book of First John, the apostle John is writing to believers. He is reminding them of the tlmeless significance of Jesus Christ. Which is why he opens his letter with a reminder of the non-negotiable reality of Jesus’ divinity – “that which was from the beginning” – and his humanity – “which we have heard, which we have seen … and have touched with our hands.” He is unapologetically proclaiming his belief in the incarnation of Christ. He had been a first-hand witness of Jesus’ humanity, having spent three years of his life in close proximity to Him. But John had also seen Jesus put to death and buried in a borrowed tomb. But then three days later, he had personally witnessed Jesus’ miraculous resurrection. He had talked with Him, ate with Him, and then watched as Jesus ascended back into heaven, having just promised to return some day.
John tells his readers, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4 ESV). In other words, his purpose for writing the letter was to instill in his readers the same joy he knew and had experienced. God had come in human flesh. Jesus had ended up being far more than John initially perceived or expected. He was more than just a human Messiah or earthly king. He was the Son of God, the Word “that became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 ESV). But it didn’t stop there. Jesus took on “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8 ESV). He had died a sinner’s death on behalf of men. And His death made it possible for men to have a restored relationship with God the Father. John says that truth, that reality should produce in us a joy that is full and complete.
But many believers today lack joy. They have Christ, but their joy seems to be less than full. In John’s estimation, joylessness is nothing less than Christ-lessness. We can have Christ, but not take full advantage of all He has to offer. Instead, we can easily make Christ a means to something else … our happiness, the hope of a better life or even eternal life. But John would have us realize that Jesus is not a means to finding joy, He is our joy. Many today are suffering from spiritual starvation because they are surrounded by information regarding Christ, but fail to ingest it and feed themselves from it. Starvation doesn’t take a complete absence of food, just an inadequate amount of it for survival. I can starve to death standing the aisle of a well-stocked grocery store. The presence of food does me no good if I don’t take advantage of it. I can also starve by eating a steady diet of the wrong things. A diet of Twinkies and Moon Pies will not end well. I may feel full, but I will starve my body of the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Many of us as Christians do the same thing with Christ. We seek satisfaction and joy in the wrong places. We turn to something or someone other than Christ for what we need and end up starving to death spiritually.
Perhaps you lack joy because you don’t get enough of Christ. John said that what he was writing would lead to complete joy – full, abounding, full-to-the-brim joy. Jesus Himself made a similar promise when He told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). He had just finished teaching the about what it means to abide in Him. He had told them that fruitfulness would be a direct by-product of abiding or remaining in Him. Because apart from Him, we can do nothing. It would seem that John believed fulness of joy was directly tied to our fulfillment in Christ. Is Christ enough? Or do we require more? Is it not enough that the God of the universe sent His own Son to take on human flesh and die a sinner’s death in our place? Is it not enough the a holy God would provide a means by which sinful men could be made right with Him and enjoy intimate fellowship with Him now and for eternity? Many of us lack joy, because we are not fully satisfied with Christ. We believe He is enough to save us, but not enough to fulfill us and bring us joy – even in the midst of uncertainty, sorrow, pain and suffering. The apostle Paul would have us understand that it is Jesus Christ – God in the flesh – who alone can provide salvation and satisfaction. He prayed, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV). Fulness of God brings fulness of joy. Christ is enough. Christ is sufficient. And when we finally realize that truth, we will find true joy.