As I was driving along the highway one day, I saw a message spray-painted on the side of a bridge. It read, “Born to raise hell.” Whether the author knew it or not, he made a public confession of his reason for living. Now, I doubt that any of us would choose this as our life’s purpose, but if I gave you a can of spray paint and asked you to fill in this sentence, what would you write: “Born to …”?
The apostle John wrote his answer to this question in the introduction of his first letter to the Christians in Asia Minor (1 John 1:1-4). His life’s purpose could be summed up with these four words: “Born to proclaim Christ.”
John was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples, possibly in his late teens or early 20s. In his account of Christ’s life, John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). When he wrote his first epistle, about 60 years had passed since he was in the physical presence of the Son of God, but neither his memory nor his passion for Christ had faded.
In this letter, John offers us an eyewitness account of “what was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1). This phrase is his way of referring to the eternal Son of God, who existed before the beginning of time and creation. It’s similar to his gospel, in which he refers to Jesus as “the Word,” saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
John could never forget those three years spent with the incarnate Son of God, who lived among mankind. In verse one of 1 John 1, he describes his experience in three ways:
Sixty years had passed since John was in the physical presence of the Son of God, but his passion for Christ had not faded.
• “What we have heard.” John had listened to Jesus teach, confront and confound religious leaders, comfort Mary and Martha in the death of their brother, and raise him to life by commanding, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). He was in the upper room when Jesus gave His final instructions to the disciples, and John heard His prayer of intercession for them to the Father (chapters 13-17). All this was still ringing in his ears six decades later.
• “What we have seen with our eyes.” John watched Jesus turn water to wine, calm a stormy sea, walk on the water, heal lepers, raise a dead girl, restore sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, make lame men walk, and multiply food to feed over 5,000 people. This was more than enough evidence to convince him that Jesus truly was the Son of God.
• “What we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” John not only saw what Jesus did, but he’d also physically seen and touched Him. John was the disciple who leaned back on the Lord’s chest at the Last Supper to ask who the betrayer was (John 13:21-25). Not only did John stand at the cross while Jesus died, but he was also present in the room when the risen Christ invited the disciples to touch Him, and he stood watching as the Lord ascended into heaven.
The apostle’s greatest desire was to proclaim what he had seen and heard concerning Jesus so that others would believe in Him. That’s why he wrote his epistle, which is still a witness to us today. He concludes the introduction by saying, “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (John 13:4). To John, proclaiming Christ was more than just a privilege and responsibility—it was what gave him fullness of joy.
The Joy of Sharing Christ
Although none of us are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry the way John was, we too can know Him as Peter describes in his first epistle: “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” (1 Peter 1:8). We can have that same fullness of joy when Jesus becomes our Savior, the passion of our life, and the topic of our conversations with others.
To John, proclaiming Christ was more than just a privilege and responsibility—it was what gave him fullness of joy.
Like John, we have a testimony to share with those who don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord. To be an effective witness for Christ doesn’t require a theological degree or answers to all the questions. We can simply follow John’s pattern of telling others what we have heard, seen, and felt concerning Christ.
• What have you heard? If you are a Christian, you’ve heard and accepted the gospel, and this is the same message of salvation you are to share with others. If you’ve ever shared your faith with someone else, you know exactly what John is talking about when he mentions fullness of joy (John 15:11). There’s a thrilling sense of excitement and satisfaction in telling others how they too can be freed from sin and receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
• What have you seen? Although we can’t observe Jesus with our physical eyes, if we have known Him for any length of time, we’ve seen how He’s worked in our life. We are no longer the person we once were, because Christ not only saves us for eternity; He also transforms us in this life. And the longer we’ve walked with Him, the more we have to share with others.
• What have you felt? Those of us who have responded in repentance and faith in Christ know the freedom and joy that come when we believe the gospel and receive the forgiveness of all our sins. When we share what we’ve experienced, it may open the eyes of those who don’t know Him and help them see that conviction isn’t God’s condemnation; rather, it’s His invitation to salvation and eternal life. Once they receive Christ as Savior, they’ll discover what we have—His amazing love, acceptance, compassion, peace, contentment, and joy.
We were born to tell others about Jesus. It’s not as complicated as we sometimes make it, but being His witnesses does require boldness and courage. Thankfully, God provides that as well, and as we overcome our fear and uncertainty and start telling people what He has done in our life, we’ll be filled with joy—whether our message is received or not. The more we talk about our Savior, the easier it will become and the more joy we’ll have. And that will become a kind of witness itself, one that will draw others to the source—the Lord Jesus Christ.
Photo illustration by MLC