Knowing that you have eternal life, and why you have it, can give you peace, joy, love and hope that is different than the atheist who doesn’t believe in God, heaven, or hell. And is different than the misguided experience of the person who assumes everyone goes to heaven, but has no meaningful reason why. But can you know that you have eternal life. Today, we will discover how to be sure of your salvation…
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” [1Jn. 5:13]. John wrote this letter to encourage and offer assurance of salvation. All “these things” were written, leading up to the final chapter, to provide a means for professing believers to examine and know whether they were truly saved.
What are these things [i.e. 1 Jn. 1:1-5:12]?
1. Jesus’ followers walk in the light as Christ does, confess their sin, repent and receive His forgiveness and righteousness. They yield to God’s authority [1:1-10]. I love the experience of feeling God’s conviction (not shame or mere guilt) when I’m proud, self-righteous, selfish, judgmental. I love that when I have lied, I feel the weight that it is wrong before God, and I’m compelled to repent, and confess. And I know that I’m forgiven because of what Jesus has done, and my earnest desire to yield my life to Him.
2. They obey His commands and love one another [2:1-11]. First, I need to desire to know God’s word, because His Word reveals Him, and what He desires and requires from me. Then, I need to obey. There are certain commands that seem to come easier and others that are more challenging to each of us. When I recently read in 1Sam 15:22 that “God desires obedience more than sacrifice,” I was convicted that it wasn’t until relatively recently that I really sought to live the Great Commandment to love my neighbors like myself. Loving others requires me to sacrifice my time, affections, and put others ahead of myself – especially people that I’m not naturally drawn to, or that might even be irritating to me. And I want to do it, not because I’m a pastor and it’s the right thing for a pastor to do, but because I’m a follower of Jesus and it is necessary for me to know I’m truly Christ’s.
3. They stop loving the world [2:12-17]. This is a challenge generally for people like us who live in a place like this. Even in a developing country, with abject poverty, you can long for possessions and material pleasure to be your hope and deliverer. For most of us, we love this world far more than we should. Our access to material comforts can be a blessing from God, and a temptation to drift from Him. Most of us have plenty to eat, comfortable (maybe even luxurious) shelter, and can engage in plenty of recreation and partake of plenty of entertainment. For me, the test is always, “How does this material experience impact my relationship with Christ?” I don’t want this world to impinge on Christ, and when it does, I need to say “no” to this world to know that I’ve said “yes” to Christ. When there is no time to read the Bible, pray, worship together and scatter together in groups, serve and give, the root problem is likely love for this world.
4. They know and discern truth (about God) [2:18-29]. True believers discern truth so that they are not deceived by false religions or philosophies that are contrary to Christ and His gospel. Christ’s disciples want to learn and understand the Bible, and theology. And their familiarity with Christ, His Word and Spirit help them to discern spiritual truth. How would you describe your appetite for the Word of God?
5. True believers seek to live a holy life (repent of sin) [3:1-9]. True believers experience a lifelong process of growing in practical sanctification, and thus they deal with their sin. On the other hand, the self-righteous can discern other people’s sins, while neglecting to repent of their own. When was the last time you repented?
6. Christ’s followers love one another in community and sacrificially care for the needs of the vulnerable. Their love is characterized by actions more than merely words [3:10-23]. In our culture, we regard “righteousness” as not breaking the rules, and “justice” as punishing those who break the rules. In the Bible, those concepts are very different. A righteous person is one who is in a right loving relationship with God, their neighbors, a community of faith, and God’s creation. A just person, puts the needs of others before their own, and cares for others especially the vulnerable (e.g. the poor, widow, orphan, and stranger). The just sacrifice for the sake of others, and Jesus is the example. The reason to be just is to follow Jesus. Thus, injustice lives for self and personal comfort and convenience.
I recently invited a homeless person to join me for lunch (more than simply offering to buy lunch), and I’m confessing that this was the first time I’ve ever done this. I recently noticed that I had not seen my older neighbor Phyllis for a few days, and I was concerned and checked-in, and it felt great because I knew it was God, because it is not my fleshly nature. How are you living in authentic community with others (e.g. Neighborhood Group), and sacrificially caring for the vulnerable?
7. They discern false teachers and messengers [4:1-6], and continue to love one another [7-20]. The enduring pursuit of Christ, and rejection of legalism and liberalism joined with genuine love and community with others, especially those you would not naturally be drawn to, helps to ensure your salvation.
8. They love God, obey His commands, and put their faith in Christ and His gospel [5:1-12].
Today, you can know that you have eternal life with Christ. You are saved by grace through faith in what Christ has done at the cross. You respond to God’s love through faith in Christ characterized by love for God. You know that you have received salvation by a vibrant spiritual life, where you learn from, yield to, live for Jesus, and experience ongoing transformation and progress. It is important to understand that God is seeking meaningful progress not perfection. And there is nothing in this world that can compare to the love, peace, hope, and joy of eternal life in Christ today and always.