This week I begin a new sermon series on “The letters of John.” I will spend the next 5+ months preaching through 1, 2, & 3 John. I suppose a good question to answer is “Why?” “Why this book?” “Why now?” As an NFL referee might answer, “Upon further review,” my answer is one which has multiple parts.
Prior to becoming the Senior Pastor at United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle, I spent 18 years serving as an associate pastor in two churches. In both of those churches, you could leave your Old Testament at home and seemingly never miss it. The pastors in those churches spent almost all their time in the New Testament.
If I ever became a senior pastor, I told myself, I was going to preach the whole counsel of God. Rather than allowing that sentiment to be empty rhetoric, I’ve tried to follow that approach. My goal is that over time, I will find a balance between Old Testament book studies, New Testament book studies, and topical series. Over the past year and a half, I preached a topical series on “Growing a great church” a character study on “The life of Moses,” and an exposition of “The Sermon on the Mount.” Whether I preach a book study or a topical series, I preach expositionally–explaining the meaning of the Scripture passage and how it relates to daily life.
In one sense, preaching through 1, 2, & 3 John is a choice influenced by my philosophy of ministry. It comes from a different part of the Scriptures. It exposes the congregation to a different author and a different type of literature. It also stretches me because didactic material is preached differently than narrative.
Choosing this series is also a practical choice as well. I see people who chronologically are old in the faith. They have followed Jesus for many years. But from a growth and maturity standpoint, they appear to be young in the faith. They appear more like an infant or adolescent than a seasoned saint. 1 John provides a barometer to measure the depth of one’s fellowship with God. It gives indicators as to what promotes greater growth as well as what hinders growth.
If I want to a deeper, richer, more meaningful and fruitful relationship with Christ, this is a book that I need to learn from. From a practical viewpoint, this series will not only benefit the congregation individually and corporately, it will benefit me personally.