That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:1-4
Yesterday we focused on the blood and skin nature of the opening lines of John’s first letter to the churches, and today we want to look at why. Why did Jesus Christ come in blood and skin? Why did He make us in the first place? Why the pain, the martyrs, the suffering, the death?
One word: joy. Does that surprise you? It does me.
How about this? “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Jesus was in it for the joy. John wants us all to have fellowship in Christ for the joy of it — “to make our joy complete.” Is that a big enough deal? If it doesn’t seem like it, maybe we don’t really know what he’s talking about.
Ever stare into the night sky and wonder what all this is for? God went to a lot of trouble to make all this. And why all the pain and the struggle — even death? Is there anything that makes sense of it all? The answer might surprise you: joy.
The joy of fellowship is the motivating factor behind the universe. God was alone and wanted to share Himself with someone like Him who could think and feel the things He feels and converse with Him about it, so He made us in His image. That’s the point of being in His image. So we could communicate. So we could have fellowship. So He could share joy with us and we could bring Him joy in return. That you bring God pleasure may come as a surprise, but it’s a big factor in why you are here.
The Presbyterians have it right: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Trivial? That’s it —to enjoy God? Can you think of anything better?
Here’s what I think. I think that when we get to heaven and all of the work God set out to do in the world, including what He will have done in and through us, comes to its ultimate consummation, there will be so much joy that heaven will be barely able to contain it.
And yet, John is not even talking about that. He’s talking about joy now. He’s talking about a level of joy that salvation brings when life in the Spirit is shared among believers. The only way we wouldn’t know this is if we are living in isolation. You can’t have this joy all by yourself. This joy is made complete in others. That’s why John says that their salvation will make his joy complete; they will be able to share in the same joy, and their experience of that joy will be compounded each by the other.
All the more reason to get out of ourselves. If you’ve got joy trapped inside yourself, find somebody else and let it out!
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9