The Privilege of Knowing God.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. – 1 John 5:20 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

John closes his letter with a strong note of affirmation: “We know that the Son of God has come.” John has given his own personal testimony to that fact, along with the testimonies of the three very reliable witnesses, not to mention God Himself. The evidence is more than sufficient to prove that Jesus not only came, but that He was and is the Son of God. He existed before the creation of the world with God. Not only that, He played a major part in the creation of the world. John begins his gospel with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 ESV). The deity of Jesus is essential to the plan of salvation. Without it, mankind’s sin problem remains unchanged. We are left with the ever-present reality of sin in our lives and the complete incapacity to refrain from sin or remove the guilt and sentence of death associated with it. There were those in John’s day who believed that Jesus simply came to show us a better way to live. He came to give us a more enlightened moral code by which to conduct our lives. But Jesus’ entire life led to the cross, where He sacrificed Himself for the sins of mankind. He atoned for man’s sin by offering Himself as a worthy, sinless sacrifice. And as a result, when anyone places their faith in Him as their Savior and sin substitute, they receive not only cleansing from sin, but His righteousness. In other words, Jesus didn’t just pay our debt off and bring our balance to zero. That would still have left us spiritually penniless and helpless. No, what Jesus did was give us His righteousness. He replaced our indebtedness to God with the wealth of His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Not only that, He provided a way for us to know God and experience fellowship with Him for the very first time in our lives.

We can know the one, true God. No longer are we left to try and conjure up our own version of God or find something else that might act as a stand-in for Him. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can actually, legitimately know God. We can come into His presence. And when we do, we come as His children, not groveling, fearful debtors. He looks on us as His own children. He sees us as righteous, because our sins have all been paid for in full – past, present and future. We no longer have to try and earn His favor. We don’t have to attempt to measure up and keep our sin-quotient below 50 percent. Yes, we are to live holy lives, because that is what He has called us to. But we don’t do it out of a sense of obligation or in order to earn His love and favor. We do it gladly, out of love for Him. And we do it in the strength He has provided us through His indwelling Holy Spirit. Our testimony can be that of Paul’s, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ lives in us. The Spirit of God has taken up a permanent residence within each and every believer.

But the main point John leaves us with as he closes out his letter is that “we may know him who is true.” By coming to know Jesus as Savior, we come to know God the Father. There is no other way. Any other attempt to come to know God will fall short. It will end in idolatry, a false form of God. Rather than the true God, man will always end up worshiping false gods – apart from Christ. John wants us to know that Jesus makes it possible for us to know the one true God and experience eternal life. But one of the false perceptions among many believers is that eternal life is somehow a commodity. It is some kind of future reward reserved for those who make the right choice and place their faith in Jesus. But Jesus said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Knowing God and Jesus is eternal life. It is the reward. A relationship with God and His Son is the prize. But do we value it? Do we fully appreciate the remarkable reality that we can have an intimate, experiential knowledge of God – right here, right now? Jesus has made it possible for us to know and understand the infinite, indefinable, all-powerful God of the universe. Through the living word, Jesus; and the written Word, the Scriptures; and the indwelling Spirit; we can know and understand God. We can come to comprehend His character and nature. We can grow in our knowledge of Him. We can increasingly see His incredible love for us and respond in kind. Rather than seeing Him as distant, detached and difficult to understand, we can know and love Him. And we don’t have to wait for heaven in order to start. What an incredible privilege.

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American Idols.

Little children keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:21

1 John 5:13-21

What an interesting way to end a letter. After spending all of his time defending the deity of Jesus, ensuring his readers of Jesus’ Sonship and role as Savior, encouraging them to love one another and warning them of false teaching, John closes with a warning about idols. It seems a bit abrupt and unnecessary. After all, he is writing to believers. These were people who loved Jesus and worshiped God. Why would he need to warn them about worshiping idols? Because that is the natural tendency of all men – both saved and unsaved. We are wired for worship. But John has made it clear that our worship is to be directed toward God and His Son Jesus Christ. We are to worship no one or nothing else. An idol is nothing more than a false representation for God. It is something we turn to other than God for hope, help, assurance, acceptance, joy, and ultimately, salvation. It can be whatever we give our time and attention to, including money, our career, our marriage, children, material things, recognition, power, prestige, or a host of other good and not-so-good things that we place our trust in other than God.

So John begins his letter with a personal testimony regarding the deity of Jesus. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3 ESV). Then he ends it with a warning to avoid idols. He knew that there was a constant capacity within his readers to turn their worship of God and His Son into the worship of something or someone else. They could even falsely worship God. That is what the former members of their fellowship had done. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah. They claimed to have fellowship with God, but refused to accept the idea that Jesus was the key to that relationship. Rather than worship Him as the Son of God and Savior of the world, they had manufactured their own version of Jesus, making Him into a mere man whose life was worthy of emulation. They redefined Jesus. But John exposed the fallacy of their thinking. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23 ESV). You can’t have a relationship with God without the Son. To attempt to do is to turn God into an idol. He becomes a false God. You make Him a liar, John says, because it was He who testified to the very fact that Jesus was His Son and the long-awaited Messiah or Savior.

Idol worship is a constant temptation for believers. We can make a god out of doctrine. We can worship our knowledge of the Bible. We can place our trust in a pastor or teacher, which is not necessarily wrong, unless we place them on a pedestal, making them our sole source of strength, comfort, direction, and encouragement. As believers, we are never free from the temptation to make money and materialism our gods. We still have a powerful propensity to worship self – seeking comfort in our own significance. We can seek satisfaction in a host of worldly things, from sexual pleasure to material gain. Which is why John warned, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15 ESV). He said, “the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16 NLT). When they take on more importance than God, they have become our idols. When we think about these things more than we do God and His Son, we have allowed them to become false gods.

Man is born with a God-shaped vacuum in his life. He will inevitably fill it with something or someone. No one worships nothing. But John would have us remember that we are God’s children. We belong to Him. As believers, we are not only His creation, we are His spiritual children. We are born of God, both physically and spiritually. And He has given us His Son in order that we might have a right relationship with Him. So that we might worship Him. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Man was created to glorify God. But sin separated man from God. It replaced the worship of God with the worship of self. Sin is rebellion to and rejection of God’s rightful place at the center of our affections. It is a desire for something other than God. It is a desire to make ourselves god. But Jesus was sent by God to remedy not only our sin problem, but our worship disorder. He came to provide us atonement for and forgiveness from the penalty of sin. But He also came to restore us to a right worship of God. Some of us have gladly accepted God’s gift of salvation, but have never fully recognized that we were saved to worship. God restored us so that we might recover our love for and worship of Him. We are not to worship salvation. We are to worship the one who provided it. We are not to worship heaven, but the one provided us access into His presence and with whom we will spend eternity in a loving Father-child relationship.

Knowing God.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. – 1 John 5:20 NLT

1 John 5:13-21

We can know God. That should be an amazing, mind-blowing thought, but to most of us, it carries little or no weight. It has long lost its significance, if it ever had any. We have grown so used to using God’s name and claiming to have a relationship with Him that we no longer understand the unbelievable nature of that reality. Because of Jesus and His death on the cross, we can know God. The term that John uses for a knowledge of God is ginōskō and it is the same Greek word used when talking about the sexual intimacy between a woman and a man. It is an intimate word. It is not merely describing a cerebral or cognitive kind of knowledge – head knowledge. It is a knowledge grounded on personal experience. In other words, it is heart-knowledge. We have the unique privilege of coming to know the God of the universe – intimately, closely, lovingly, and experientially. I can actually know God, not just have knowledge about God. What’s the difference? Why does it matter? It matters because Jesus gave His life so that we might be reconciled, made right with God. He died so that we might have life, but that life is intended to be focused on and lived out for the glory of God, not ourselves. We were once alienated and separated from God. Paul reminds us, we “were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (Colossians 1:21 NLT). He tells us that “while we were still his enemies,” God sent His Son to die for us. Why? Just so we could go to heaven some day? No. So that we might have a restored relationship with Him. We can have what Adam and Eve had before the fall changed everything. We can have communion with our creator God. We can have fellowship with Him. We can know Him closely – like a child and a father.

In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul told them that he never ceased to pray for them, asking that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV). It is interesting that Paul puts equal emphasis on knowing God’s will and knowing God. It is only as we grow to know Him better that we will come to know what He loves, how He thinks, what He desires, and what His will for us might be. I always find it fascinating that, when Jesus prayed in the garden on the night He was to be betrayed, He described eternal life in these terms: “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Jesus died so that we might come to know His Father in the same way that He does. It is about relationship, not religion. Christianity is not about performance or earning favor with God. It is about understanding the love of the Father and growing in our appreciation for that unmerited, undeserved love. It is about coming to know just how loving, gracious, kind, generous, forgiving, merciful, and patient our heavenly Father really is. Our quest in life is not to please God, but to grow to know Him. God is not asking us to perform for Him or prove our love for Him. He is asking us to rest in the love He has for us – a love so powerfully illustrated in the sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf. Far too many of us don’t know what it means to be a Christian because we don’t know what it means to know God. Some of us live in fear of Him. Others of us misunderstand Him. Many of us take Him for granted. There are those who see Him as distant and unknowable. He doesn’t hear their prayers. He doesn’t show up in their lives. For them, God is an impersonal, unperceivable God, who remains a mystery to them. But Jesus died so that we might know Him. He gave His life so that we might spend the rest of our lives getting to know God better and better. God desires a relationship with us. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He has placed His Spirit within us, provided His self-revealing Word to us, and proved His love for us. All He asks in return is that we seek to know Him, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV).

Divine Protection.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. – 1 John 5:18 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

The possibility of committing sin is an ever-present reality for believers, as much as it is for the lost. John made it clear earlier in his letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 ESV). It is essential to remember that John was writing to believers in Jesus Christ, those who had placed their faith in Him as their Savior and sin-substitute. Jesus had died as the propitiation for their sins, completely satisfying a just and holy God by paying in full the penalty due to God for the sins of all the world – for all time. But while our sins are paid for and there is no longer any condemnation or death sentence hanging over our heads, we still have the capability to commit sin. Which is why John went on to say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). In John’s understanding of the doctrine of salvation, there is no doubt that he believed in the complete effectiveness of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. He knew and believed that Jesus “appeared to take away sins” (1 John 3:5 ESV). In fact, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). With His death, Jesus made it possible for those who believed in Him to live their lives free from the control of sin. He set them free from slavery to sin. Jesus made a life of righteousness not only possible, but the expected norm for His followers.

John gives us the encouraging and comforting news that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (1 John 5:18 ESV). Sinfulness is no longer the normal behavior for believers. Before Christ, our entire lives were marked by sin. It was our only nature. All that we did was done in rebellion to and in defiance of God – even our best efforts and most righteous behavior. Prior to placing our faith in Christ, we followed “the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else” (Ephesians 2:3 NLT). We were driven by the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We couldn’t stop sinning. But all that has changed. We have received new natures. We have been given the Spirit of God to indwell and empower us. God has provided us with a new capacity to live in keeping with our new identity and standing. We are righteous, because of the righteousness which was imputed to us by Christ. On the cross, He exchanged our sin for His righteousness. Jesus, the one “who was born of God protects him” – the one who has faith is Jesus (1 John 5:18). Not only does Jesus save us, He protects us – preventing the evil one from touching us. On the night on which He was betrayed, Jesus spent time in the garden praying to His Father. One of the things He prayed was, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15 ESV). It was His desire then that we be protected from Satan, and it is still His desire today. While “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 ESV), we are protected by God as we continue to live in the midst of it. Praying on our behalf, Jesus asked the Father, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 171:17 ESV). Why, because we are not of this world any more than He was. We don’t belong here. We are in enemy territory. We are surrounded. But we have divine protection. From sin and Satan. We know that, because we are born of God, we are no longer children of this world. We are no longer slaves to sin. “We know that we are from God” (1 John 5:19 ESV) and “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he was been born of God” (1 John 3:9 ESV). God’s DNA has been implanted within us. We have been rewired from the inside out. As God’s children, we are loved by Him, and because He loves us, He protects us. He watches over us. He will not leave us or forsake us. And He has His best in store for us.

Practical Prayer.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. – 1 John 5:16-17 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

John has just finished encouraging his readers “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14 ESV). Now he provides a practical example of that kind of prayer. It is a scenario that each and every one of us has experienced at one time or another in our lives as believers. We have all found ourselves at one time or another in the unpleasant position of having seen a fellow brother or sister in Christ committing a sin of some kind. It could be that we caught them in a lie or we discovered a moral indiscretion. John’s seems to be referring to a sin that is visible, not hidden. And his point is that the sin that is seen is one being committed by a believer. When that happens, we are to pray. We are to take the matter to God. This does not necessarily mean that we are not to confront the one we have witnessed committing the sin. James makes it clear that we have an obligation to help turn a brother from his son. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20 ESV). We are to do all that we can to help bring back a sinner from his wandering. But John’s counsel is to begin with prayer. We are to take the matter to God. This is wise advice, because, ultimately, repentance is the work of the Spirit of God. We can confront, but God must convict. We can expose the sin, but only God can expose and expunge the sin from the heart of the sinner. So we must begin with prayer. We must pray for wisdom, so that what we say is communicated in love and in truth. We must pray for the Spirit to prepare the heart of the one who has sinned, so that they might be receptive to our words. We must ask God to bring about conviction and a heart of repentance. John indicates that our prayer will give the one for whom we pray life. Ultimately, it is God who gives life. We must always understand that our words accomplish nothing. It is God alone who can bring back a sinner from his sin. But God may use us in the process. We must remember that God has placed us in the body of Christ for a reason. We are to care for and love one another. At times that takes the form of admonishment and requires loving confrontation, but it must always be done wisely and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage John speaks of two kinds of sin. He encourages us to pray for a brother or sister in Christ who has committed a sin that does not lead to death. But he also refers to a sin that does lead to death. What is he talking about? What is this sin that leads to death? I think the key to understanding this passage is to remember the context. This entire letter began with the encouragement to remember that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. John has spent the entire letter giving proof as to the deity of Jesus and providing evidence of His claim to be the Savior of the world. For John, the rejection of Jesus as Savior is the sin that leads to death. That is why he makes it clear that our prayer is to be for a fellow believer. And our prayer is to be for any and all sins a believer in Jesus Christ might commit. But it does not include the sin of rejecting Christ as Savior, because the one for whom we are praying is a believer. For anyone who refuses to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their sin-substitute, the consequences are deadly. To deny Jesus as Savior is to remain dead in your trespasses and sins and under God’s sentence of eternal separation from Him. “The distinction between the two sins must be found in the fact that sin ‘unto death’ is the Christ-rejecting behavior evidenced by those who also deny their own sinfulness, their need for atonement, and Christ’s ability to provide that atonement. Their sin is deadly because in the context of their current fundamental attitude towards Christ they have no hope of atonement’” (Tim Ward, ‘Sin “Not unto Death” and Sin “Unto Death” in 1 John 5:16’, Churchman 109 (1995), 236). This is not to say that we should refuse to pray for the lost. That is not John’s point. His emphasis in this passage is to call believers to take sin seriously and pray for one another. He is providing a clear example of what it means to love one another. We love one another the most when we desire for one another God’s best. Sin should be unacceptable to us – whether in our own life or in the life of a fellow believer. We should love one another enough to risk offense for the sake of our brother’s spiritual condition. Love for our brother should outweigh fear of rejection. Their holiness should mean far more to us than their temporary happiness. Paul would have us remember, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT). So don’t be afraid to speak up. But before you do, make sure you lift up the matter to God.

Whatever We Ask?

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

Prayer is often a confusing and frustrating experience for the average Christian. It can also be one of the most misunderstood and misused disciplines in the life of the believer. The fact that we should pray is clear to most of us. That most of us attempt to pray is probably a safe assumption. But the experience of most believers when it comes to the subject and practice of prayer is one of inconsistency and impotency. Our prayer lives tend to be sporadic and powerless. Answers to prayer are rare and usually unexpected. So when we read a passage like the one above, we can either scratch our heads and wonder why what they promise doesn’t seem to be true in our own lives, or we can get overly excited and conclude that we have been neglecting a veritable no-limits gift card to get whatever we want.

But John would have us approach prayer excitedly, expectantly, but also wisely. So he includes some important conditions when it comes to prayer. This is not the first time that John has addressed the topic. Back in chapter three he gave us the comforting news that “we have confidence before God;  and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22 ESV). There are those intriguing words again – whatever we ask. It would seem that John is offering us some kind of carte blanche when it comes to prayer. He appears to be representing God as some kind of a cosmic genie in a bottle, ready and willing to grant our every wish. But John would have us tap the break and slow down our runaway excitement. He gives us a few caveats or conditions. We must keep His commandments and live in such a way that our lives please Him. This is not John’s attempt to offer some kind of works-righteousness as a means to get things from God. He is simply presenting a picture of what it means to live in relationship, in intimate communion with God. As we abide in Him; relying on His strength, depending upon His wisdom, and resting in His sovereign will for our lives, we will tend to have a better idea of what it is that He would desire for our lives. Which is why John adds yet another condition for prayer in verses 14-15 in chapter 5: “if we ask anything according to his will.” For many of us, prayer has become little more than an exercise in expressing our will. We come to God telling Him what we want. We bring Him our list of requests and petitions. We inform Him what it is that we need Him to do and we even give Him our preferred timetable for delivery of our request. But even Jesus knew better than to demand of His Father anything that would be outside of His will. In the garden, faced with the looming prospect of His own death, He made an impassioned plea to His Father, but added an important disclosure. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). Ultimately, Jesus wanted the will of His Father. He fully trusted His Father and placed His life in His hands. Coming to God in prayer is an incredible privilege, but it is also a right of every child of God. As John puts it, “we have confidence before God.” We can come into His presence. We can bring our requests before Him. And when we ask, we can know that He hears us. Not only that, “we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:15 ESV).

But we have all had the unpleasant experience of having our prayers go unanswered. We have asked of God and then stood back and watched as nothing remotely like what requested has come about. But these moments of seeming contradiction speak more of our lack of knowledge of God and our misunderstanding of prayer. It helps me to think of my prayers like the requests of a small child to a loving parent. Children can be inordinately self-absorbed. They can also lack discernment. As a result, they can sometimes make requests that are unwise and potentially unhealthy. A loving parent would never give in to every request made by their child. In some cases, they might answer the request, but in a slightly different manner or on what appears to be a much slower timetable. But in their wisdom, they do for their child what they believe to be best for them. That is how God deals with us. He wants us to bring our requests. But He also wants us to trust His will. He wants us to understand that He knows best what will bring us good while bringing Him glory. God’s will is not our happiness, but our holiness. He is not here to grant our every wish. He exists to redeem, restore, renew, and rescue us from the damaging influences of a sin-filled world. We have to always remember that we are always susceptible to what John called the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life. Those things can weasel their way into our prayers. We can come before God desiring and asking for things that are outside of His will for us. And He is not obligated to give us everything we desire. Paul reminds us that God’s will is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). He also encourages us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2 ESV). It is essential that we understand that effective prayer goes hand-in-hand with our ongoing spiritual transformation. The more we come to know God and understand what His will is for us, the more clearly we will pray within His will. And in those times when we still do not know His will, we will be content to leave the outcome to Him. We will want His will to be done. And we will trust Him to know what is best for us, because He loves us.

Jesus = Life.

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. – 1 John 5:13 ESV

1 John 5:13-21

Near the end of the Gospel that bears his name, John gave his purpose for having taken the time to write it – “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV). John’s intention was that those who read his account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, would come to believe that He was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, and the Savior of the world. From the opening lines of his Gospel, John had made it clear that Jesus had been more than just another man. He was not merely a prophet sent by God. He was not simply a good teacher who taught about God. He was God in human form. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2 ESV). Notice that John refers to Jesus as the Word of God. John goes from speaking of Jesus as “the Word” to referring to Him as “he.” John went on to say, “In him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4 ESV). John uses that same terminology to refer to Jesus in his letter – “the life was made manifest and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:2 ESV).

John wrote his Gospel so that those who read about Jesus might believe in Him. He wrote his letter to believers, so that they might remain confident in their belief – all the way to the end. John wanted his believing audience to remember that their faith in Jesus was based on the promise of eternal life. And eternal life was only possible if Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be and who God the Father testified Him to be. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concering his Son. And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:10-11 ESV). To a certain extent, verse 13 of chapter five is a summation of John’s entire letter. While he has covered a lot of topics in these five short chapters, the underlying theme has been all about eternal life. But we must remember that eternal life is not just a destination. It isn’t some future residence or celestial city featuring a mansion with our name on the front door. John has already made it clear that Jesus is eternal life. “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us” (1 John 1:2 NLT). Jesus isn’t just our ticket to eternal life, He is that life. Listen to what He said of Himself. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 ESV). John confirms the claims of Jesus when he writes, “He is the only true God, and he is eternal life” (1 John 5:20 NLT). When Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV), He wasn’t just referring to heaven. He was talking about an ongoing, abiding relationship with Him. Jesus is the abundant life we are looking for, not some kind of golden ticket to guarantee our entry into heaven. To have Jesus is to have life.

When Jesus walked this earth, He had a frank conversation with the religious leaders of His day. These men were experts when it came to the Scriptures. They thought knowledge of and adherence to God’s Word was the key to having a right relationship with God. But Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT). Eternal life is found in Christ. The Scriptures point to Christ. God testifies to the claims of Christ. In fact, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11 ESV). John goes on to say, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12 ESV). All the life we will ever need we get in Jesus. In Him we have life abundantly and life eternally. The life Jesus offers isn’t something reserved for us somewhere out in the future. Paul tells us, “though we were dead because of our sins, he [God] gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:5 NLT). “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13 NLT). We have life more abundantly, right now. We have eternal life, right now. And as Paul reminds us, even the lives we live in these earthly bodies, we live by trusting in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Life.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. – 1 John 5:11-12 ESV

1 John 5:6-12

Jesus came in order that we might have life. He boldly claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). On another occasion He stated, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). Paul wrote, “just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 ESV). John picks up on this theme by stressing that God gave us eternal life through His Son. It is the same message he conveyed in his gospel. It was what he had heard Jesus talk about so often during His time on this earth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). But this life is not just a future expectation. It is a present reality for the one who has believed and continues to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This life in Christ is far more than a guaranteed pass into eternity. It is our key to living abundantly, joyfully, confidently and powerfully right here, right now.

The life John speaks of is inseparable from Jesus Christ. It is directly tied to belief in Him as the Son of God and in God’s testimony regarding Him as the Savior of the world. John makes the point, that to have the Son is to have life. To possess Jesus is to have taken possession of the abundant life He offers. Life and Jesus are synonymous. To reject Jesus as Savior is to reject life, not just eternal life to come, but abundant life here and now. It is to remain in death, condemned because of the penalty of sin. The apostle Paul would have us remember, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV). But the good news is that God showed mercy, and “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6 ESV). By believing in Jesus, we receive new life. John the Baptist said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36 ESV). Those who refuse Jesus as Savior find themselves still under God’s wrath. Not only do they face a future, eternal separation from God, but they are in the unenviable position of being under His wrath and incapable of enjoying His peace and presence at this very moment. If they don’t know Jesus as Savior, they don’t know God. They are without life. In essence, they are the living dead. But God has offered life through His Son. And those who accept the gift of His Son’s substitutionary death in their place, receive that life. They move from death to life. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV). Jesus promised us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV). Believing in Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior from sin and death, brings life. Yes, eternal life, but not just at some future point in time. We receive new life immediately. No more separation. No more condemnation. No more judgment. No more fear. No more death. Jesus described eternal life this way: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Knowing Jesus as Savior provides us with an intimate knowledge of God Himself. It creates a relationship with God and His Son – that is the essence of eternal life. We have been restored to a right relationship with God. We have been reconciled. And that relationship is as true today as it will be in the future. We are His children right now as much as we will be in heaven. We are as right with God as we will ever be. We have life. What an incredible reality. So let us live life to the full. Right here. Right now.

The Blood.

This is he who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. – 1 John 5:6 ESV

1 John 5:6-12

It is fascinating to me that so many Christians today want to reject any image of God as judgmental or wrathful. They cannot stand the idea of God being somehow associated with the events found in the Old Testament. So what they do is re-imagine the Bible, seeing it not as the divine Word of God, but as the writings of men. They portray it as the self-revelation of men, not the self-revelation of God. It is nothing more than men, in their unenlightened state, attempting to portray God. Surrounded by pagan imagery of gods who were characterized by wrath and vengeance, and who rewarded good behavior and punished “sin,” they mistakenly placed these same characteristics on God. But as their relationship with Him progressed, so did their understanding. So by the time Jesus came along, He was able to give them an enlightened view of God as loving, kind, gracious and merciful.

But here’s the rub. That same God who Jesus introduced to the Jews of His day was the same God who required His own Son to die a cruel death on a Roman cross. Jesus had to sacrifice His life in order to pay for the sins of man. That had always been the way God worked. The Old Testament was a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. In fact, the author of Hebrews spends a great deal of time talking about the Old Testament sacrificial system – a bloody, primitive-like and ritualistic collection of gruesome animal butcherings – and ties them to the death of Jesus. In referring to the sacrificial system, the author writes,    “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). This was a God-ordained system of sacrifice that was intended to provide remission from or forgiveness for the sins of the people. To us it sounds barbaric and cruel. But there was a divine purpose behind God’s plan. “That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool. Then he said, ‘This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.’ And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood” (Hebrews 9:18-22 NLT). Every year, thousands of innocent animals had to be sacrificed in order for the sins of the people to be atoned for. Their sins, including sins of omission and commission, inadvertent and premeditated, known and unknown, had to be paid for, or their was no forgiveness. God had a sacrifice or offering for every imaginable sin. Why? Because He is loving and gracious. He wanted His people to have a relationship with Him. But He knew that they were incapable of living sinless lives. He knew they could not remain faithful. So He instituted a system by which they could have their sins paid for and forgiven. But this was a temporary solution. It was a type of something far greater to come. “That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals” (Hebrews 9:23 NLT). For God to restore men to a right relationship with Himself, a greater sacrifice was required. A more precious, permanent and costly offering was going to be necessary.

Again, the author of Hebrews provides us with insight into these seemingly confusing and difficult to understand things. “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4 NLT). The sacrificial system was perpetual because the sins of the people were ongoing. The whole system was designed to show them their sins and remind them of their need for God. The blood of the bulls and goats was a temporary, impermanent fix to their problem. Something greater was needed. “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:24-26 NLT).

Jesus died so that we might live. He gave His life so that we might have eternal life. His blood was shed for the permanent forgiveness of mankind’s sins. But in order for that sacrifice to be effective, it must be received. Men must acknowledge their sin and their need for a Savior. They must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, sent by His Father to pay for the sins of the world. Peter makes it quite clear: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21 NLT). What kind of God would sacrifice His own Son to pay for sins He didn’t commit? A loving, gracious, merciful, kind God. The God of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and every other Old Testament character. The God of the Bible. The God of creation. The God of the universe who is out to redeem His creation from the ravages of sin and death, and who chose to do it through the loving sacrifice of His own Son.

Present-tense Belief.

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. – 1 John 5:10 ESV

1 John 5:6-12

The problem with many of us as Christians is that we live in the past. We can recall the place, date and time when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. We can give our “testimony” as if it happened yesterday. But sadly, for more than a few believers, it makes little difference in the way they live their lives today. It is interesting that, as John attempts to assure us of the truth of Jesus’ role as the Son of God, he uses present-tense language when talking about our belief. He writes, “whoever believes” – present tense. When he speaks of “whoever does not believe God,” he also uses the present tense again, along with the active voice. John’s emphasis seems to be on a progressive, ongoing and active belief that is taking place in the present, not just the past. Having had a past belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is all well and good, but that belief should be continuous, having an impact on our lives in the here-and-now. Saving faith is present-tense faith. It doesn’t live in the past, as some distant memory, but is an ever-present, always growing reality in the life of the believer. Peter tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 ESV). Paul told the believers in Ephesus they were to move from immaturity to maturity,  “growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Neither Peter or Paul were suggesting that we can become any more saved than we already are, but we can continue to increase in our faith and grow in confidence that what we believed in at a given point in time was really true and continues to be true.

The real question we need to consider is what is the nature of our belief today? Has our faith increased? Are we still placing our trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord? I am not suggesting that you can lose your salvation. And neither was John. But our belief in Jesus Christ should be active and ongoing. The idea that I prayed a prayer, walked the aisle, gave my life to Christ or got “born again” is all well and good, but is my faith alive and well? Is my belief present tense? Is it active and growing? I have often wondered what our testimony really should be. Many of us have been trained to see our testimony as a past event. In other words, we think of it in terms of a point in time where we “accepted” Jesus. For me, that event took place nearly 53 years ago. I was seven years old and walked down the aisle of the church during what our denomination called the “invitation.” It was at that moment I “gave my life to Jesus.” That became my testimony. When someone asked me to share my testimony, it was to that point in time I would refer. But the older I get the more I realize that my testimony is a living thing. It is ongoing and alive. When a lost person wants to know what Jesus means to me, they are looking for present tense implications, not some past experience to which they can’t relate. They want to know what Jesus is doing in my life right now. My testimony should be an evolving, ever-growing thing, as I continue to live out my life in faith and trust in God and His Son.

It is faith that is active and alive that gives us assurance. John writes, “ 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” (1 John 5:13 ESV). Once again, John uses the present tense. My ongoing belief in Jesus provides me with an ongoing assurance of eternal life. I have eternal life right now. It is not just a future promise, but a present reality. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT). The apostle Paul encourages us to keep on keeping on. He wants us to have an active, ongoing, present-tense faith. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT). Keep on believing. Keep on trusting. Live in the present tense. Let your testimony be a living, vibrant, ever-changing witness to the goodness of God, the reality of your salvation, and the life-transforming power of the Spirit of God in your life.