Monday, 30 May 2016

Believing for life (1 John 5:1-12)

If you have been here over the last few weeks you should be getting familiar with John’s three tests for the genuine Christian—the behaviour test, the love test and the belief test.  A changed life, a love for our fellow-believers and a correct understanding of the person of Jesus are indispensable marks for those who are born again.  John wants us to be able to look at these things and know assurance that we really have eternal life.  He wants us to have the joy of Christian assurance!
But I fear that some of you may misunderstand the nature of these tests.   You may think that these are three things that you have to do in order to get saved—that someone is a Christian because of their good behaviour, their pleasant attitude towards those in the church and their orthodox beliefs about Jesus.  That would be to misunderstand the nature of salvation.  John is not saying that we are born again because we behave, love and believe. but that we behave, love and believe because we are born again.  These are the fruit (or evidences) that testify to God’s grace at work within us!
1. God calls you to pleasure (1-5)
My guess is that many of your friends pity you because you are a Christian.  They think that you have given up in the search for pleasure.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God saved us that we may experience life in all its fullness.  He has called us to joy.  His ways are designed to satisfy.  'This is love for God: to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome' (3).  As John Piper writes, 'God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.' ‘God’s love in his people gives them a desire to love and please him... Rightly understood and followed, God’s commandments bring believers great joy and freedom, not a sense of oppression’ (ESVSB).
Jesus asked his disciples, 'who do people say that I am?'  That's a massive question.  We believe 'Jesus is the Christ.'  Only those who believe this are born of God.  Who do your friends say he is?  If they think that he is a great leader like Gandhi, a religious leader like Mohammad, or just a myth of history then they are still lost.  We need our eyes opened to see the real Jesus!
'Everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well' (1b).  The English Standard version translates this, 'Everyone who loves the Father loves whoever is born of him.'  We love because he first loved us.  When his love pours into our lives it must flow out of us.  Love is a good and pleasurable thing.  We were made for the special love of Christ's people.
In John's writings 'the world' refers to humanity in rebellion against God.  But we have 'overcome the world.'  We are not defeated by the world's hostility.  We are not fooled by the world's lies.  We see the emptiness of its selfish pleasures.  As a friends said to me, 'this living for self thing just doesn't work.' The psalmist wrote, ‘many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him’ (Ps. 32:10).

2. You are called to reasonable faith (6-12)

The world pities us because it, mistakenly, thinks God is against our pleasure.  The world also looks down on us because it thinks that we have lost our reason.
In a letter to the Irish Times a Mr. Michael McGuire from Donegal wrote: ‘Science is based on reason, logic, intellect and proof.  Religion is not.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Religion is not based on proof.’  Similarly the Collins English Dictionary defines faith as ‘strong or unshakable belief in something, especially without proof.’
However, John opened this letter talking about what he seen and touched (1:1).  In the gospel he wrote he said, he knows he tells the truth and is to be believed (19:35).  he is not calling for a leap in the dark.
He talks about the one who came by water and blood--probably a reference to his baptism and crucifixion.  There was an early heresy that said that Jesus was only a man before his baptism but then the divine Son of God came upon him.  This false-teaching also said that the divine Son of God left Jesus before he was crucified.  John is counteracting this false-belief.  It is important that we have the facts of history right when it comes to the person of Jesus!
We take the facts of history seriously.  Christianity is no myth.  We look to reliable testimony.  But there is another witness too.  There is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (10a).  One preacher puts it like this:  “[Faith] isn’t a conclusion reached at the end of chain of deductive reasoning or scientific evidence. It’s not that I struggle to convince myself to things that are highly dubious.  Rather I surrender to things which by divine illumination I now inwardly perceive to be glaringly self-evident … Faith isn’t like wrestling with a geometric theory until we arrive at the end and say ‘there I have worked it, there’s the proof!’  Faith is more like having cataracts removed from your eyes.  When we joyfully declare, ‘I can see things now that I couldn’t see before.’  Faith is an experience of divine revelation. It is hearing God’s testimony in your heart and surrendering to it.”

While faith may be a gift of God, people are still responsible for not believing.  ‘Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar because he has not believed the testimony God has given about the Son (10b)’  One commentator says, ‘There is ample evidence for faith, but mankind’s problem is not ignorance, so much as rebellion; not that we cannot believe but rather that we will not’ (Jackman).

Think of the implications of all this.  You long for someone to come to faith.  Then I suggest you present them with a reasoned case for Christianity.  Don’t simply ask them to take a leap in the dark.  Listen to their questions and talk through their issues.  But don’t imagine that it is your reasoning and wisdom that will make them a Christian.  They need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and show them the truth of these things.  Therefore prayer is an essential ingredient in our evangelism because we are dependent upon God to work! 

Conclusion (12)
Of the ten references in this letter to believing seven are in this chapter.  The ESV Study Bible explains that this belief 'is not a vague religious commitment but a wholehearted trust in the saving work of Christ.'  We have seen that this belief brings us life in its fullness and is a gift from God.  Finally, remember what depends on this belief and see the urgency of presenting the eye-opening truths of the gospel. 'He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life' (12).

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