It’s a joy to welcome you all at St. Paul’s. I was invited to speak about friendship and fellowship. These are important topics for every person. So I chose a fragment from apostle John’s letter. John was one of Jesus disciples. He was actually the only one of the apostles who died in old age.
All the others were killed, because they kept testifying what they had seen, heard and experienced. About very special fellowship, more precious than their lives. I’ll read you this fragment from John’s letter.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…
… so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jo 1:1-10 ESV)
For many years our society has been fed with statements like ‘it’s proved that there is no God’, ‘it’s proved that the Bible is not true’. Many of us grew up hearing ideas like this. It was so true in Soviet Union where I grew up.
Let me ask you, is it easy to admit your mistakes? No, of course not. Especially if you have spoken in public and with assurance that you were right. But then you find out that you were wrong. It is very difficult to admit it. You don’t want to make yourself a fool.
When we are young and don’t know much, we think we know everything. When our son turned 4, he run into our room and declared: “Now I know everything.” When we mature we begin to realize how much we actually don’t know. It refers to us as a humanity as well. The more we know as a humanity, the more we understand what we don’t know and what we can’t even possible know.
For one, gradually even scientific community has learned that we can’t say anything about God, unless He Himself speaks to us. How could we? We are creatures, He is the Creator. We life in His world, in His Universe, we can observe His world, but not Him. Unless He reveals Himself.
And He indeed reveals Himself. We have learned that Biblical testimonies actually appear to be historically accurate. As true and as verifiable as they could be. These words… “Which we have heard… which we have seen… which we looked upon… and touched with our hands… we have seen and testify to it… that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…”
I like this John’s introduction so much. It really sums up what the Bible is about. It may be new for some of you, but the Bible contains testimonies of eyewitnesses. Testimonies of people who witnessed God acting in our history. Among us.
We just heard how John described his experience. For He walked with Jesus Christ, He saw Him on the cross and He ate with Him after Jesus resurrection. Not just Him.
More than 500 hundred people were eyewitnesses to resurrected the Son of God. Many of them were still alive when the New Testament was written. Now John tells others about this Jesus. Why does He do it? It is significant for our today’s topic. Fellowship.
“So that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete…”
John proclaims what He has seen and heard so that we too may have fellowship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. So that our joy may be complete.
It is a common knowledge that we are social beings. When Adam was created that was God’s own verdict “it is not good for man to be alone’. It refers not only to our ability for procreation, but also to our lives.
We like company. We are communal beings. At different times in our lives we have different communal needs. As children we need our parents. Then friends become more and more important.
Then one particular person takes on the role of companion till deaths do us part. And of course, through our lives we enjoy many different friendships.
Could you describe what makes relationships good? Think about it! What makes someone a good friend? Common interests? Shared values? Same goals? Acceptance? Commitment? Faithfulness? All of them and probably many other things.
The more we have in common, the deeper is our fellowship or friendship. Our best friends are those to whom we can open who we truly are. Who will not reject us finding that we are not exactly as nice as we want to show us to be.
Who will accept us and support us as with all our imperfections which sometimes are quite difficult to bear, and will help us to be the best we possible. Who lift us up, when we are down, who rejoice with us when we prosper. When we find friends like this, often our friendship last for life. It is such a precious thing.
On the other hand, what does destroy friendships and fellowships? We know it. When we do things that hurt others. When we speak words that cause pain. When our thoughts, words and actions lead to brokenness in relationships.
We all have experienced it, in one way or another. The closer someone is to you, the more pain you can cause to them, and the more pain they can cause to you. That’s one of reasons we don’t want to let others to come too close. We don’t want to be hurt.
Now, imagine, that there is someone, who knows you even better that you yourself. Who knows all hidden corners of your heart. Who knows all your thought, your desires, all your emotions.
It is scary if someone really knows all of this. Because there are many things we don’t want even our best friends to know. We know there is something in our hearts that has a potential to destroy even the best friendships.
Apostle John wrote this letter for he wanted you to have a fellowships with someone who really knows you, so John introduces Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who knows you and wants you to know Him.
This is not our choice to reveal to Christ what we have in our hearts. He knows it already. That’s Him who speaks in our conscience. Inside us. Scary? Not, if we know what He is like.
He knows us, He knows each of you, and He desires fellowship with you. Yes, He is the one who judges all your thoughts, true, but at least He has no illusions about you. You don’t need to pretend to be someone else. And if He says that He excepts you and desires to be with, it is true.
Christ is not exactly in the same category of things where we are. He is the Creator, we are His creatures. When He sees that our hearts are deprived, that we don’t live as we should, that we have messed up His good creation that we rebel against His will, that we hurt others and so often don’t do what we are supposed, He has all reasons to be angry with us. As a loving parent who is angry with his children if they hurt themselves.
But as the Creator, He has also the power to renew us. To create in us new hearts. To cleanse us from all our sins and unrighteousness, and from all injustice that has been done to us. To make us into best us possible, and to grant us something that far exceeds what we can comprehend.
You know how it works. We grow up and have good relationships with someone. We think these are the best possible. How could we live without that person! Then we meet someone else and our relationships are even better.
We enjoy our friendships and fellowships, they bring us a lot of joy, but there is only one fellowship which gives ultimate fulfillment. When we finally meet our Creator and Redeemer.
God who has revealed Himself in our history. Who came to us as a man Jesus Christ, so that only He could be with us. Who wants to be with you, who waits for you, who will never give up on you.
John also mentioned why he introduces this person to us. The same reason motivates Christians to speak about Jesus. For being in fellowship with Him completes our joy.
You know, when something amazing happens with you, what do you want to do? Yes, you want to share it, look, see, listen… I want to share it with you. Otherwise our joy is not complete.
So today we testify about what we have seen and heard, about what we have observed and experienced… we do it so that our joy may be complete and we all may have fellowships with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
This special fellowship that surpasses all our expectations and dreams and which will truly last forever. Don’t hesitate, enjoy it.