Friday, August 5, 2011
Assurances of Salvation in 1 John
In today's blog, and over the next few days, we aim to explore specific statements from the New Testament book of 1 John that will answer this one question: "How can I know, that I know, that I'm still a Christian?" Doubt is a form of unbelief about what God has done for us in the past. Many Christians walk around with troubling doubts about their salvation. Thankfully, scripture gives us clear guidance on this matter.
The book of 1 John has 105 verses with over 70 statements about assurance of salvation. In fact 1 John 5:13 is the ket verses describing the purpose of the book: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." This little word "know" refers to certainty gained by observation and experience, and is found some 25 times in John's short book. Thus assurance of salvation can be defined as: "I know, that I know I'm a Christian." Understand dear reader, Christianity is not a " hope-so salvation" or "maybe salvation", rather the Bible's testimony for the true Christian is that they can have a "know-so salvation".
Assurance is demonstrated by what a Christian loves and hates
1 John aims to help you know, have confidence, have certainty about your relationship with Jesus Christ. How does John reinforce that? By setting forth specific instances of things the true child of God loves, and those things that a true child of God hates. Below we will begin exploring these assurances of salvation by noting first what a true believer will hate. Look for these attitudes, expressions in your own life, and by faith and God's word test to see if you know, that you know that you're a Christian.
1. A True Christian Hates Sin 1 John 2:15-17
1 John 2:15-17 states: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."
What in the world is "the world"?
The world in this verse is not in reference to the planet earth, rather it is describe the system of unbelief that non-Christians operate by. When a person is worldy, it simply describes the common held convictions they share with the unbelieving world in rebellion against God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Its one thing to be tempted and even at times go through seasons where we want to slip back to the former way of life before salvation. But the "love of the world" described here is a continual, on-going perisistence in a system of unbelief hostile to Christ.
Three components of "the world"
Note the three components of the world: lust of the flesh, the eyes and pride of life. If I persistently love what is seen above Christ whom I can't see, then I need to re-evaluate my profession of salvation. In terms of the flesh, the flesh is a particular attitude that strives to embrace the world. Am I continually embracing that which is outside the known will of God? If so, I need to check whether or not I received Christ by faith in the first place. What about the boastful pride of life? Am I more concerned with possessions than possessing Christ? Questions such as these help us test where we are at in our walk. Either I have come to possess Christ by faith, and thus will exhibit fruit that matches with what I profess; or I am only professing Christ with my lips, and need to possess Him by faith.
Ultimately the true Christian cannot persist in worldliness
That is the whole point of the passage: persisting, on-going, non-regret over choosing the things of the world over Christ. If I find myself caught up in the world, does that mean that I am not Christian? It all depends where I run to after I discover worldliness. If I keep running into the arms of the world, with no regrets, then I need to evaluate whether I'm merely a "professor" rather than a "possessor" of Christ. However, If come running to Christ, asking for forgiveness, acknowledging that I not merely did a bad thing, but offended God's very character in me, then I have just demonstrated evidence of true salvation.
Is there hope for Christians who dabble in worldliness?
1 John 1:9 states: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Notice the promise: forgiveness and cleansing. Let me state this a plainly as possible: A true Christian cannot lose there salvation nor will a true Christian ultimately ever want to lose salvation. There will be those seasons in a Christian's life when they might very well fall for the enticements of this world. Ask the great apostle Peter, who doubt Christ three times. He clearly was worldly. But what does the scripture tell us in John 21? When Jesus came to Him, He in repentance told Jesus "yes Lord, you know that I love you" three times. Jesus restored Him, cleansed him from the affects of his denials, and that man became the premier leader in the early church.
These ways of evaluating our heart are crucial to our Christian growth. Thankfully the scriptures, not our feelings, are the chief way we know whether or not we are Christians. Right after the passages describing the world, John states in 1 John 2:21 "I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth." As we draw assurance from the scriptures, our emotions and our thoughts will line up behind the scriptures, like little children behind a parent. For it is in the scriptures I meet and commune with the very Jesus I not only profess to know, but know that I know that I know.