Good morning, everyone! It’s a tremendous privilege for me to be here with you over these couple of days, and it’s been a great privilege to get to know Hope International a little bit over the last couple of years as we’ve interacted with your leaders and your people. I respect this ministry very greatly and the work that God has called you to do.
Let’s have a look, please, at the letter of First John. John was an incredible man of God. As a young man, he knew the Lord Jesus. He was one of the Twelve, and he had a close relationship with Jesus. He was so close to Him that he laid his head upon Jesus’ chest, and was known as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Of course, the Lord Jesus loves us all with an infinite love. So obviously there was something special about the relationship that John had with Him. And in fact, it was so special that at the end of Jesus’ time on the earth, as He hung on the cross, He even gave John responsibility for the care of His own mother.
So John had this incredible walk with the Lord Jesus. Then, after Jesus’ ascension, John continued to walk with the Lord Jesus for decades. By the spirit, he knew God. He loved the Lord Jesus. He served Him. He knew His love. He suffered for Him. He passionately gave everything in his life for the Lord Jesus over many decades.
Then as a really old man, perhaps in his 90s, John begins to write. At the end of this incredible, long, intense, passionate, deep life of union with Christ, he writes these words right at the start. And he shows us what it was that drove him for his life of ministry and service and sacrifice. He begins in eternity. That which was from the beginning – God. God Himself; infinite, uncreated, unknown. God, who lives in light unapproachable, whom no one has seen, whom no one can see. Yet still, John goes on, we’ve heard Him – this infinite, unseen, invisible, eternal God . We’ve seen Him with our eyes. We’ve looked at Him.
The idea is that we’ve just gazed at Him; our hands have touched Him. This is what we proclaim to you – the Word of Life – out of the reality of our experience with God. Out of the reality of our deep union with the Lord Jesus – both when He was upon the earth and we saw Him physically, our hands touched Him, John laid his head on Jesus’ chest – and then for decades after that, by the Spirit; deep union with Christ. John says, “This is what we proclaim to you. And the reason why we proclaim it to you,” he says in verse three, “is so that you also may have fellowship with us.”
John describes this real, deep union with Christ. We looked at Him, we heard Him, we gazed upon Him, our hands touched Him, and now we share this gospel with you, so that you also may have this same fellowship – the same degree of fellowship, the same reality, the same depth of fellowship that we had when we looked at Him, when we heard Him, when our hands touched Him. And this is the nature of the Christian life. It’s this. It’s Him. It’s deep union with Christ, the deep experience of the living God.
Look at Him. See Him. Hear Him. Touch Him. Not physically, of course, but inwardly by the presence of His Spirit. The Spirit speaks not of Himself, but He only speaks of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord Jesus reveals the Father perfectly. So John says that you have been invited to know the infinite, unknowable, living, triune God.
This is the basis of everything in our lives and ministries. As Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life: that they would know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” And this is the prime reality of the Christian life. It’s this. It’s Him. It’s His life in you; walking in union and inward fellowship with Him. This is the prime reality. Nothing less.
It’s Him. He’s given Himself to you, and He’s called you to know Him. And in a manner of speaking, this is all He’s called you to do. To look at Him, to hear Him, to touch Him, to know Him. Everything else, every part of the Christian life and holiness and compassion for the world and vision and ministry work, everything else comes out of this. Everything else comes from Him. This is the reality, prime reality, the core reality of Christian life and ministry.
And this is the meaning of staff development. It’s not just a pragmatic desire that we need to grow our staff because we need to protect them from burnout, and we need to build capacity and have effective ministry and so forth. All of that’s cool and all of that’s in there, but this is the prime reality – that we would know Him, everyone in the ministry, the ministry as a whole, where the centrality of Christ is not just a cool motto but where there is a daily, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour reality of deep union with Him, of deep dependency on Him, of loving Him and receiving His love for us.
This is the prime reality of Christian ministry. And we don’t lose a thing here. In fact, we gain everything. Who has more hope for the world, you or Him? In Him, as we are united individually and corporately with Him, there is massive hope for the world. There is deep compassion for the poor. There is all kinds of strategy and great wisdom. There are unlimited resources in Him. It’s His work. He has called us first, second, third, and the rest, to know Him, individually and corporately, to love Him, to surrender to Him, to look at Him, to receive His love, to receive His presence, to walk in union with Him, by His Spirit. This is the core reality. From this everything else will come.
He’s not only the beginning, He’s the end as well. And everything in between. John says, “The infinite, eternal God, that which was from the beginning, uncreated; we’ve known Him and now we’ve given Him to you.” This is the meaning of staff development – that by His grace we, out of the reality of our lives in Him, would share Him with one another, building lives together, as His corporate dwelling place, His temple. And that we together would be His great, beautiful bride, revealing His life and His love and His grace and His compassion and His hope for the nations. He is the beginning. He is the end. He is everything in the middle.