Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fellowship with God Strengthens Assurance

1 John 1:7  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Relationship and Fellowship with God
What is the difference between your relationship with God and your fellowship with God? Relationship has to do with the eternal security of my salvation rooted in Christ's completed work.  Relationship is looking at your post-salvation-life from a vertical, God-to-you perspective.1 The idea of fellowship on the otherhand views your post-salvation-life in a horizontal perspective, that is, from a you-to-God perspective.  Fellowship is dealing with how close you are to God in your day to day walk. 

An Illustration
To illustrate this distinction, let's say my wife and I have a difference of opinion.  Our relationship is based upon the marriage vows that state: "till death do us part."  The relationship will not be in jeopardy if she and I differ over a matter.  However, our fellowship or closeness to one another can vary from day to day or moment to moment, depending upon how much we communicate, how much time we spend and whether or not we immediately resolve differences.2 

What particular ways do we find fellowship with God to be the strength of our assurance?
In the Apostle John's little ltter of 1 John, we find some 70 different statements in 105 verses about the topic of assurance of salvation.  John talks about the impotance of fellowship some four times in 1 John 1:5-2:6, the focal text of today's blog.  In the above opening verse of 1 John 1:7, I underlined two phrases: "fellowship" and "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin".  I did this because John here is reminding us that our Eternal security rests in Christ's finished work, whereas our fellowship or awareness of our assurance of salvation rests upon our proximity to Christ Himself. 

How is it that your fellowship with God is determinitive of the level of assurance you can enjoy as a Christian in your salvation?  Consider the three main thoughts below from 1 John 1:5-2:6

1. Closeness to God clarifies Assurance.  1 John 1:5-7
Relationship to God is based upon the cross, whereas fellowship is measured by how close I stay to the cross.  One of the phrases we find John repeating throughout these verses is the phrase: "if we say". (1 John 1:6, 8, 10, 2:4,6)  These statments have to do with those who are claiming to be Christians.  John's point is to exhort His readers to evaluate the nature of their claim.  Do they walk in the light as He is in the light? If not, then their practice will demonstrate what they profess.  Only when we are intentional walking close to the Lord will we then have clarity as to how healthy we are as Christians.  

2. Confession of sin restores assurance.  1 John 1:8-2:2
Notice what this second thought is not saying: namely that confession of sin will restore salvation.  In the larger doctrine of perseverance, we have two aspects; eternal security and Assurance.  Eternal security cannot be lost for a Christian, since by faith they are resting on the completed work of Jesus Christ.  Thus Eternal security fits in the relationship aspect of salvation, which we have already discussed.  Assurance on the other hand can fluctuate, and even at times be virtually non-existent in a Christian's life who is persisting in unrepentant or hidden sin.  1 John 1:9 is key, since the sin between me and my closeness to God is keeping me from enjoying the immediate awareness of His presence in my life.  Once you confess your mess, the Bible says you will be cleansed from all unrighteousness.  Much like if I apologize to my wife, our closeness is restored.  The relationship was never in jeopardy, since it is based upon an institution ordained by God - marriage. 

3. Commitment to the scriptures proves assurance.  1 John 2:3-6
Time and time again John draws the link between our level of assurance and our level of exposure the Word of God.  Not only exposure, but obedience to what we have been exposed to.  Are you and I walking out the measure of light we are given from the scriptures?  If anything, this was the main reason why John wrote this little book, as stated in 1 John 5:13 - "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."  That underlined phrase "you may know" occurs over 25 times in this little letter.  Unless you and I have our noses in the book, and in turn take the book in our hearts, we will never defeat the doubts in our minds.  I know who I am and whose I am because of the Bible. 

May you and I dear friend walk in closer fellowship with God so as to enjoy greater assurance. For as we do, we can rejoice in the fact that because of Jesus Christ, our salvation is eternally secure. (John 10:27-28; Jude 24-25) 

End Notes__________________

1.   God the Father planned salvation and set His affection upon you in eternity past. (Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) The Son agreed to come in the virgin birth as a man, live a perfect life of 33 years and purchase your salvation by way of crucifixion and affirming His accomplishment by way of His resurrection. (Ephesians 1:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5)  The Holy Spirit then agreed He would apply salvation, convicting you, calling you and convincing you of Jesus Christ, which in turn you then believed and are saved. (John 16:8-11; Ephesians 1:11-14)  The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, in it's Article V,  refers to the Father's planning as His "Purpose of Grace", with The Son's Purchase and Spirit's Application of salvation included under Article IV: "Salvation".

2. Relationship is fixed, defined by someone outside of us - namely God.  God ordained marriage and of course He is the Author of salvation.  He ordained grace as the base and faith as the means of receiving such grace.  The cross is the grounds of the relationship and God's glory is the end-goal of the relationship.  Christ alone is the Mediator between the believer and God.  Fellowship on the otherhand will vary depending upon how much I hear God in prayer, take time to study His word and live obediently to what He says.   

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