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Sunday, March 17, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "We Know"

“We Know”
Essential Christianity: 1 John
March 17, 2013 :: 1 John 5:14-21

Our series has been called “Essential Christianity” because we have been learning together what is essential to be and to believe to be assured that we are, in fact, real Christians.

And, hopefully, we’ve learned a lot over the last 17 messages as we’ve tried to follow the winding path of the apostle John’s thoughts and think them after him.

Last week, we ended with verse 13 of chapter 5 which summarizes the whole point of the letter: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

“So that you [believers] may know that you have eternal life.”

Do you know that you have eternal life?  I hope so.  

That word “know” becomes very important for John as he brings this epistle to a close.

In fact, he keeps repeating it for emphasis again and again. He says, “We know.” “We know.” “We know.”

He emphasizes what believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, truly know. 

What we can know for certain and bank our lives upon.

We know.

The thing about this passage that was the most difficult for me as I studied to prepare this message was that some of the things that John says we know are not things that I always feel like I know.

There are a couple of these that after I read John say, “We know...” this, I thought, “Oh, do we?”

You might have felt the same was as I just read it to you.

So, it’s important to try to understand what John is saying and what he isn’t saying so that we truly know what it is that we are supposed to know.

And I’d like to summarize this passage with 3 points.

#1. WE KNOW THAT HE HEARS US.

We know that he hears us when we pray. V.14 again.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

That word “confidence” could even be translated “boldness.”  We, Christians, actually have the audacity, the boldness, the confidence to approach God and ask Him for things.

And you know what?  We know that he hears us.

And I think that when John says, “He hears us” that he means that He answers our prayers.

Not just that He can pick up the auditory signals from our prayers.

“What’s that? I think they’re praying.” God says from heaven.

No, God says, “I hear you.”

And John says, “We know it.”  V.15

“And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Isn’t that a wonderful promise?

We know that God hears us and answers our prayers–whatever we ask!

I think it’s important that John emphasizes that word “whatever.” Verse 14 says, “anything.” V. 15 says “whatever.”

I think that means that God invites us to pray about whatever is on our heart and mind–no subject, no theme, no problem is off limits as a possible topic of our prayers.

Our God cares. Even about the little stuff in life. Maybe especially about the little stuff in life!

And John says that we should have the confidence to know that when we pray, God hears us.

The ears of our Good Shepherd are attuned to the cries of His sheep.

Now, I also think that it’s important that John says that our prayers are heard when we pray (v.14) in accordance to his will.

I think that means, at least, that when we pray, we need to pray for the things we think God wants. We need to want what God wants and ask for that.

And therefore it is helpful to use our Bibles when we pray because here is where we have an infallible guide to the kinds of things that God wants.

I don’t think that we should take this promise as a blank check that we are called to fill in with our selfish desires.

“And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.”

And I just asked for a new Ford Mustang!

And I know that I’m going to get it because He said, “Whatever we ask–we know that we have it!”

Some people think that this verse means that God looks a lot like this:

But we know that God is not a genie in a bottle. He is the all-wise Ruler of the universe.

And we don’t always get what we WISH.

Even our Lord Jesus Christ was told “No” to His request in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup would be taken away from Him.

Does that mean that God did not hear him?

No, the book of Hebrews in chapter 5 says, “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

We know that He hears us.

And so, we should pray.

How are you doing at being a praying Christian?

I know that I tend to pray at set times and set places and when things go badly wrong.

But I’m tempted every day to not pray.

Praying can be hard work.

Praying takes time.
My minds wanders.
I don’t always know what to pray.

I feel like I could be accomplishing something instead of just praying.

So, I need this reminder.

God hears us.
God hears us.
God hears us when we pray.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.”

We know that He hears us.

#2. WE KNOW THAT HE KEEPS US.

In verse 16, John says something more about prayer. And that is that we should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see them wandering from the path. V.16

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

Now, this section can be pretty confusing, and not all biblical scholars agree about what it means.

The difficult thing is to identify what are the sins that lead to death and what are the sins that don’t lead to death.

John is clear in verse 17 that “all wrongdoing is sin.” All sin is sin.

But some sins are different than others sins in that some sins are sins that don’t necessarily lead to death and some are sins that do inevitably lead to death.

Which are which?

Unfortunately, John doesn’t tell us.

My guess is that it was obvious to the original readers, perhaps because John had already taught them about this using this same terminology.

So, we have to guess and use the context of John and the rest of the New Testament to guide us.

What did Jesus say was the sin that could not be forgiven?


And by that, it seems that Jesus meant attributing the work of the Spirit in pointing to the Son of God to Satan himself.

Irrevocably saying that Jesus is not God’s Son, as the Spirit says, but that He is of the devil.

My guess is that this sin is that same sin (since it leads to death).  Perhaps it shows up here in those people who professed to be believers but then walked away from the truth, stopped pretending to love the brothers, stopped obeying the commands of Jesus, and started to deny that Jesus was the Son of God.  Remember that we said (in chapter 2 and chapter 4) that they became antichrists (small a).

My guess is that the sin that leads to death is walking the path of antichrist.

John says that if someone is doing that (v.16), “I am not saying that he should pray about that.”

Now, he doesn’t say that you can’t pray for someone in that situation. He doesn’t forbid prayers for those people. Do what the Spirit tells you to do in those cases.

But what John IS saying is that for most sins that we see our brothers and sisters in Christ stray into, we should be praying for them.

Pray for their repentance. 

Pray for them to see the consequences of their sin.

Pray for them to confess their sins because God is faithful and just and will forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. V.16

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.”

Because (v.18)... “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”

Now that first part was one of those things that I said, “O we know that do we?” when I read it this week.

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin...”

King James says, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.”

But we just saw in verse 16 that brothers do sin.

John has been very clear all along that Christians are still people who struggle with sin.

But he’s also been very clear all along that Christians are also people who have victory over sin.

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”

“[T]he one who was born of God keeps him safe.”

Who is that?

Well, it’s possible that it refers to the believer himself. Because we are born of God, we now have a new heart, and that leads us to say no to temptation. 

But I doubt that’s what he was saying.

I think the “one who born of God” is Jesus, the Son of God.

And He keeps us safe.

Jesus keeps us from continuing in sin.

If we belong to Him, He, through His Holy Spirit, will give us no rest until we rest in Him.

V.18 says that He keeps us safe, “and the evil one cannot harm him.”

Literally, the evil one cannot “touch” us. We are safe from Him.

Of course that doesn’t mean that Satan has no effect on us, that’s why the NIV says, “cannot harm him.”

God keeps us safe.

When Satan Tempts Me to Despair and Tells Me Of the Guilt Within
Upward I Look And See Him There Who Made An End to All My Sin
Because the Sinless Savior Died, My Sinful Soul Is Counted Free
For God the Just Is Satisfied To Look on Him and Pardon Me

Satan can’t touch me, because God keeps me safe. Isn’t that reassuring?!

But it is not safe to be outside of Christ. We know that! V.19

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

We know it. We know that we are literally “of God” and we are surrounded by a world that is under control of the evil one.

But we also know that God has invaded this world under siege and is performing a  colossal rescue mission. V.20

“We know also 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–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

#3. WE KNOW THAT HE GIVES US HIMSELF.

This is the verse that I shared with the church on Christmas Eve.

“We know also that the Son of God has come [that’s Christmas!] and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.”

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

So, when He came, He gave us Himself! V.20

“And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

Which sounds a lot like the first verse of chapter 1.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

And it sounds like verse 13 of this chapter.

“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.”

That you have Jesus! Because knowing Him is what eternal life is all about.

In John 17, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”

In the gospel, God has given us Himself by giving us Jesus.

Do you have Jesus?

If you have Jesus, you have everything.

He who has the Son has LIFE!

But He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I so much want life for you. That you would know that you have eternal life.

That life is in God’s Son.

I invite you to put your faith in Him.

Because God has given us Himself in giving us Jesus.

He is the true God and eternal life.

So we should accept no substitutes!

I think that’s why John ends his letter what that enigmatic sentence. It’s one of the strangest endings for any of the New Testament letters.

He doesn’t say goodbye. 

He just signs off (v.21), “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

If Jesus is the true God and eternal life, why would we let ourselves worship anybody or anything else?

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

If God has given us HIMSELF, why would we settle for anything less?

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Don’t pray to them.

The Bible makes it clear that idols can’t hear us.

But God hears us!

Don’t trust in them.

The Bible says that idols are empty hope.

But God keeps us!

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

That, of course, means physical idols set up in your home.

But it also means spirituals idols that we can set up in our hearts.

Money, Fame, Popularity, Pleasure, Security, Comfort.

Anything that promises to take God’s place if you will just bow down can be an idol.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Because you have something better. God has given you Himself.

We know it.

***

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