Even as we enjoy the goodness of God’s creation on Thanksgiving Day, we’re wrapping up our 1 John study at Woodland.
We began the study several months ago by thinking about assurance, and the need we have for it. Sunday, we’ll round out our time talking about, well, assurance and what it looks like in the everyday business of our lives.
First John 5.4b-18 reminds me a bit of mincemeat pie. It’s the wrap-up to the letter that includes everything and all the themes John has been expounding to this point—obedience to God, love for brothers, right belief about who Jesus is. Toward the end of his conclusion, however, John shows us what happens when we have assurance in the presence of God (thinking of 5.13-18, in particular).
Three things happen:
First, we know we have eternal life (:13). I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. There’s a sequence in this letter that involves: hearing … believing … obeying … living and, finally, knowing. When we KNOW that our life with God is eternal and real, then we have confidence before God. We’re free to act in keeping with God’s will, and it feels rich and full and wonderful.
Second, we know we’re heard by God (:13-15). When my children ask me for a horse (not really an option on our wooded property), I try not to shut them down with the truth. Instead, I try to let them know that I hear. “I hear you … Maybe someday, but not now.” They might not be perfectly happy with my answer, but it matters that I’ve heard them. John Stott says of these verses that “Asking according to God’s will is the qualification for answered prayer.” We might not get what we want, but we can be content that we’re heard. And, as we learn to depend on God, we can learn to bend our wills around His, not try to bend His will around ours.
Finally, we bring life to other believers (:16-18). Read over verses 16-18, would you? There’s two sins here that require explanation.
There’s the sin that doesn’t lead to death. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life … (:16). This is a sin committed by a real believer who believes that Jesus is the Christ. The brother who has confidence in God’s presence leads his erring brother or sister to Jesus who serves as advocate who everyone who confesses his or her sins. In this way, the confident Christian becomes a life-giver to her insecure brother or sister.
There’s also a sin that leads to death. There is a sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. This sin is a categorical denial that Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh. Like the false teachers described in John’s letter who deny that Jesus is Christ born in the flesh (1 John 2.19) , these brothers or sisters can’t simply confess a sin and be saved, because they don’t believe rightly in Jesus Christ who can save them. This is not a sin characteristic of true believers, however, since, We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on keeping, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him (:18).
Important is that assurance is not just internal, personal and subjective. It’s outward and social. Assurance in the presence of God looks like something to others. And …
Assurance in the presence of God comes by belief in Jesus the Christ.
Now, with that closing word from 1 John, I’m more excited than ever to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Advent. Truly, the Son of God has come in the flesh. Let’s prepare our hearts!
Here’s a few questions to consider with others:
Where do you most struggle with confidence before God?
What about John’s teaching in this letter gives you the most courage?
Thinking of John’s three tests (obedience to God, love for brothers, right belief about Jesus), where have you seen these proofs in somebody you know well? Do you think it might be encouraging for you to mention this to him or her?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!