Prayer: Oh God, I’m excited for a new journey through Your Word. Open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to understand eternal mysteries that only You can reveal on this exciting adventure through the book of Your “beloved,” John. Carve out time for me each day to spend with You. Give me the discipline to do my work, the perseverance to continue when I want to give up, and the mind to practically apply all that I learn. Reveal marvelous new truths and promises from Your Word. Draw me close. Speak into my life and transform my heart and mind in fresh new ways. I ask all this in Jesus’s name, Amen.
This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. — 1 John 1:5
Do you remember the first time your parents left you alone? I do. I don’t have many vivid childhood memories, but this night I remember. Our neighbors had invited my parents to a dinner party. They gave me fair warning and encouraged me to “be a big girl” and stay home by myself. The very thought terrified me. I wanted to jump up and down, stomp my feet and scream, “No!” But I didn’t.
The dreaded night finally arrived. Orange and purple hues adorned the sky as the sun began to slip behind the horizon. Heart pounding, I watched my parents walk out the door, down the sidewalk, and into the fading light.
This won’t be so bad.
I shut and locked the door. I was alone. All alone.
My stomach twisted and turned as darkness consumed the sky. I remembered my Dad’s last words, delivered through kind eyes, “Don’t forget. We’re just a phone call away.”
But I wouldn’t call. I couldn’t call. I needed to do this.
In the quietness, I walked over to the television and turned it on. Yes, in those days you had to actually walk over to the television to turn it on! I’m giving away my age here. I then hopped onto the couch, grabbed a pillow, and curled up with my favorite blanket. My selection for the night, The Carol Burnett Show. What better way to take my mind off my fears?
But my stomach continued to churn.
Familiar furniture, plants, and bushes took on strange shapes and sizes. I imagined bad guys lurking inside and out. Crouching… watching… waiting for me to go to bed.
Why did they have to leave me tonight? I’m not old enough. I don’t want to be alone.
Bedtime arrived and that meant walking through the scary shadows.
Why didn’t I close the blinds? Why didn’t I turn those lights on before it got dark?
Tears spilled down my cheeks. I hate this. Clutching my blanket, I tip- toed through the dining room. If I could just reach the light switch. It seemed miles away. What if someone’s watching? Again, I envisioned the scary man waiting… watching me outside the window.
The imagined terrified me. I wanted my parents. Finally, I reached the light switch, flipped it up, and light flooded every dark space. Everything looked familiar again. I felt safe. The real replaced my imagined. The imagined fears that held the little girl in my story captive dissipated the moment light flooded the room. It’s a simple fact, my friend. Light dispels darkness. With light, there are no more illusions… no more imagined fears. Light brings clarity, safety, and security. My little-girl fears perfectly illustrate a scriptural nugget tucked in the first chapter of John’s letter. But, before going any further, let’s get to know the author of 1 John, the man with whom we will become intimately acquainted over the next five weeks. His name is John. He often called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).
We first meet John in Matthew 4:21. Not long after Jesus called His first two disciples, Peter and Andrew, He encountered two brothers named James and John (also called the sons of Zebedee). Like Peter and Andrew, they were fishermen. Simple, hardworking men going about their business. Jesus called them by name while they were with their father getting ready to cast out their nets for the day. Upon hearing Jesus’s call, they did not ask questions or give excuses. Scripture says,
Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him. — Matthew 4:22
Wow! Immediate obedience. Wish I could say I always react that way when Jesus calls out to me. All too often, I don’t.
James and John left family and all that was familiar to follow this man they barely knew. For the next three years, John and eleven other disciples walked alongside Jesus, watching Him turn water into wine, heal the sick, feed thousands with nothing but a few loaves and fish, and — most amazingly — bring the dead back to life.
Read and record what the following passages reveal about John.
♥ Luke 9:51–56
♥ Mark 9:33–37
♥ Matthew 20:20–28 (What do these verses communicate about John’s relationship with his mother?)
♥ What was Jesus’s response to her request?
I can so relate to John because I am quick to take offense. Quick to lose my temper. What about you? And don’t we all at one time or another long to hold that place of honor in someone’s heart or at their table?
Those were John’s younger days. An amazing transformation occurred between the time Jesus found him fishing and the time he wrote this letter. In 1 John, we see a different man. A gentler man. A kinder man. A man motivated by deep love for God and for God’s people.
John matured over the years as he walked alongside Jesus, observed His ways, experienced His love, listened to His teachings, and obeyed the call to full-time ministry.
My favorite image of John comes near the end of Jesus’s life as He gathered His disciples around a table to share a message and meal. Scripture describes John as leaning into Jesus (John 13:23–25), resting his head upon Jesus’s chest, so near he could sense the rhythm of our Lord’s heartbeat. John loved Jesus with all his heart and knew Jesus loved him just the same.
In that moment, John had no idea it would be his last meal with Jesus. No idea he would witness his beloved teacher’s arrest, unjust trials, beatings, and crucifixion. No idea he would look upon his teacher’s beaten and bloody body, hanging limp and lifeless from a criminal’s cross.
But, the tide turned three days later. John walked into an empty tomb to discover Jesus had defeated death and risen from the grave (John 20: 1–10)! And a few weeks after that beautiful resurrection moment, John’s last glimpse of Jesus would be his beloved Savior, arms lifted toward the heavens, toes dangling from beneath his white robe, speaking words of blessing over His friends, ascending into the clouds (Luke 24:50).
Then [Jesus] leads them out to Bethany. He lifts His hands and blesses them, and at that moment, with His hands raised in blessing, He leaves them and is carried up into Heaven. They worship Him, then they return to Jerusalem, filled with intense joy, and they return again and again to the temple to celebrate God. — Luke 24:50–53 The Voice, emphasis added).
Don’t miss Luke’s words. John and the disciples returned to Jerusalem “filled with intense joy.” I believe it’s this unspeakable joy that fueled John’s ministry for the remainder of his days. Despite decades of persecution and struggle, hard work and loneliness, John persevered. His love for Jesus and for the call God placed on his life never waned. His heart never wavered.
Over time, John’s hair grayed. His skin bore the deep creases of his decades of serving and suffering for the One who had called him by name. John spent years recording the rich and treasured memories tucked deep in his heart and mind. Church tradition holds that he authored the gospel of John, the three epistles of John, and Revelation.
As we begin our journey with John, we sense his deep and abiding joy in his opening words in 1 John chapter one.
Watch the Session One Video:
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