“I write this 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
During the initial construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, no safety devices were used, and twenty-three men fell to their deaths. For the last part of the project, however, a huge net costing over $100,000 was employed. At least ten men fell into it and were saved. Yet a further interesting sidelight is the fact that work productivity went up twenty-five percent when men were assured of their safety. This lesson has its application in the Christian faith as well. I wonder if a large part of the church’s work force is not hindered by lack of assurance, a fear of falling from grace, a sort of uneasiness as to one’s own salvation.
Billy Graham says that most of the people who come forward in his crusades do so seeking assurance of salvation. The fact is, thousands of Christians just aren’t certain if they are saved— or not.
During the past year one of my friends came to me and said, “Pastor, I want to start witnessing. I’ve never won anyone to know Jesus, and I want to start. Can you help me?” I told her that first one has to be assured of his own salvation in Christ. You have to have something before you can give it away. “Are you sure of your own salvation?” I inquired. She acknowledged that she wasn’t so sure. So, I suggested that she go home and read the book of I John, and every time she came to the word “know” stop and ask, “What is it I’m supposed to know and how is it I’m supposed to know it?” The fact is, I John is the great assurance book of the Bible. The word “know” is used there about thirty-five times in three brief pages! So, if you want to know if you are really a Christian, then read 1 John. That’s what the important little epistle is all about!
Today, let’s take 1 John as our text and see what it has to say about knowing, about assurance of salvation.
1 John 4:2, 15 says, “By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he is in God.” Confession! This is one way we know if we are a Christian.
The way some are talking today one can believe anything he wants and be a Christian. But the Bible is clear— a knowledge of the claims of Christ and an intellectual agreement with them is mandatory! Romans 10:9-10 puts it this way, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Do you believe that God loves you and that He has a plan for your life? Do you confess yourself to be a sinner under the judgement of God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as God’s only provision for our salvation?
Do you accept Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior and Lord? This is the Christian confession of faith!
A few years ago a Hell’s Angel motorcycle gangster accepted Christ. The rest of the gang was outraged at this traitor’s new faith. One of the gang got the new Christian aside, pulled a 38 pistol, held it to the convert’s head, and said, “I’m gonna blow your brains out unless you denounce Christ!” The new Christian only prayed and confessed Christ. With that the gangster pulled the trigger on an empty chamber, and marveled at his old friend’s confession of faith. And you? Do you confess Christ with your lips and believe Him in your heart? Your confession may not seem so dramatic, but nonetheless it is important. Confession is the first way we may be sure we are a Christian.
“Authority of God’s Word”
A second test for assurance is found in I John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Here we are told that the Scriptures were written for our assurance, “That you may know that you have eternal life.” Remember the little song we sang as children? “Jesus loves me, this I know!” How do we know it? “For the Bible tells me so!” The Bible simply tells us what God offers, what He promises, and what He requires of us. It’s like a contract offer. Once you’ve entered into the bargain you are sure it’s legitimate because you’ve got a signed copy of the legal agreement.
For instance your company gets an order from Alabama requesting 10,000 dozen socks and you ship them right away. But how do you know you’ll be paid? You have a written contract. And it is the same with the business of salvation with Christ. The Bible is our contract.
I often ask people, “Are you a Christian?” And the answers I most often get are, “I think so,” or “I hope so, but I’m not sure.” When I get that reply, I usually ask again, “Are you married?” The individual usually shoots back, “Yes, of course I’m married!” “How do you know?” I press. And they usually point to a date or a wedding picture or marriage license and the like. In other words, they are sure they are married because they have exchanged vows and entered into a contract. Now, it is the same with God as regards salvation. He has offered His terms of salvation in the Bible. When we decide to enter into those terms with Him by faith, that makes us a Christian because God said in His Word that if I repent of my sins and have faith in Christ I will be saved.”
One doctor I know has made an official looking document out of God’s promises for salvation. He has signed his name to it as a confession of repentance and faith, and the framed document hangs alongside his other diplomas on his study wall. When he feels unsure of his salvation he simply refers back to God’s contract promises. The fact is, God can be trusted to keep His promises. He said it in His word. That settles it, so we can believe it in our hearts!
I don’t think there’s a person here who believes God is a liar. Like Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that He should lie.” We can rest assured when we live in God’s promises that what He has promised He will perform!
“The Spirit’s Witness”
How can we be sure that we are a Christian? By our confession of faith and by the authority of God’s Word! But here is another evidence: by the witness of the Spirit! 1 John 4:13 says, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own spirit.”
Once when my children were little a terrific thunderstorm blew in at night. A peel of thunder shook our house, and my little five year old Bryan awakened. I heard his feet shuffling from his room to my bed just as quick as he could run. Kathryn, my wife, sleepily went to his bed to finish her rest while my little boy snuggled beside me, sure that nothing could harm him as long as he was with Daddy. Since the lad wiggled so, I put a pillow between us after he fell back asleep. But as another peel of thunder woke him, he began to whimper, “Daddy, are you there?” “Yes, son, I’m right here.” “But I can’t feel you,” he said. So I took the pillow out and drew him close.
Isn’t that our cry, too, as we draw near to God? Don’t we all sometimes feel like we’re living in a big old lonesome world that doesn’t need us very much? Don’t we all grope for God and cry out, “Are you there? Let me feel you! Tell me I’m not an orphan!”
Here’s where the Holy Spirit comes to help. Galatians 4:6 says that, when we become a Christian, God sends “the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Does your heart have this assurance? Do you feel a kinship with God? Does the spirit in your heart bear witness to your salvation by letting you feel God?
An interesting word is used in II Corinthians 5:5, “God…has given us the spirit as a guarantee.” The Greek word for “guarantee” is “arrabon.” Now an arrabon is a down payment or earnest money. It can even be translated as an engagement ring. Just as a man assures a deal by making a down payment, so God gives us assurance by filling us with His Holy Spirit. The spirit is our engagement ring! And knowing He is there gives us a deep, abiding assurance of salvation. We feel the Father and know we are His.
“Love The Brothers”
A further test of salvation is found in 1 John 3:14. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death.”
This verse is important to test ourselves by. So many today are saying yes to Jesus and no to the church. They love Jesus, but they ignore His fellowship of believers. Oh, they read their inspirational books, gorge on tapes, adore Rex, Tex, Oral, and Billy on television, but never actually get involved on a continuing basis with a group of God’s people to give visible expression to the Kingdom of God come upon us. Let’s put you to the test! In one room let’s say there is a cocktail party full of non-Christians telling bawdy jokes. In another room is a group of Christians studying the Bible and praying. Which group attracts you the most? If you’d rather be with the Christians then “you love the brethren” and can be assured. Take it from there! Which attracts you the most, the men of the church or the Rotarian Club? The Fraternity or the prayer cell? The garden club or the Women’s Bible Circle? The fishing boat on Sunday morning or public worship?
When I was a child my father’s hobby was raising rose bushes. And I’ll never forget his showing me how to test a bush to see if it was alive. He’d scratch the bark with his fingernail, and if green showed through, we’d know it was alive. The scratch test for people to see if they are alive in Christ is love for the brethren. Do you love your brothers and sisters here in the church? Sure, there may be some here who are hard to get along with, some whom you really don’t like. But do you love them?
By these things we may know that we are a Christian: by the authority of God’s Word, by our confession, by the Holy Spirit in us, and by our love for the brethren. Now in 1 John 2:3-5 we find a final test— obedience. “And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know him,” but disobeys His commandments is a liar.” Note also I John 3:9, “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.”
Now, none of us keeps God’s commandments perfectly. In fact, even though we are in Christ we continue to sin. Does this mean that we are not a Christian? The Greek of I John 3:9 literally reads, “No one born of God habitually commits sin.” There is a difference between habitual sinner and an occasional sinner. Perhaps I can explain it to you this way. Let’s say you take a pig out of a mud hole, wash him, sprinkle on a little perfume, tie a pink bow around his neck, and let him go. What will he do? He’ll go right back and wallow in the mud. You haven’t changed his nature. You’ve only changed his appearance! Now, when we are converted in Christ, our sinful nature is changed to a godly nature. Like a new Christian here in the county said, “God took the pig out of me and I haven’t had to slop him since!” What 1 John is saying here is this: if we find ourselves wallowing continually in the mire of sin, this is evidence we have not been born again and given a new nature. But, if on the other hand, we find the old sins no longer holding over us an irresistible attraction, but instead find God’s commandments our delight, then this is evidence we are of God, and we can be assured.
“Time For A Decision!”
The authority of God’s word, confession of faith, the Holy Spirit’s inner witness, love for the brethren, and obedience— these are tests. They are checks we make to be sure we are Christians. Are you sure? If I were to ask, “Are you a Christian?” Could you say “yes” with conviction, with assurance? Or would you mull about and say, “I think so” or “I hope so, but I’m not certain?”
A secretary for a business firm nearby has a file basket on her desk. One basket is labeled, “In.” Another is labeled, “Out.” But the middle one is labeled, “Hovering.” Many of us have placed our salvation in that “hovering” category and left it there.
Today it is time to be certain. It is time to be absolutely sure. It is time to decide.
Maybe you sort of oozed into the church over the years, baptized as an infant, stumbling through a Confirmation Class into church membership without ever really making a conscious, willful, choice to become a Christian.
Today, let me encourage you to be decisive. Be sure. Settle it once and for all! Repent of your sins, confess Christ, and begin to live in His Spirit!
Are you a Christian. Are you? You can be sure! 1 John explains how.
Lord Jesus, I choose you even as you have chosen me. Amen.
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