Monday, April 21, 2014

That You May Know

Do you know, really know, you have eternal life? If you were to die this minute, would you stand before Jesus with absolute certainty that He will welcome you into His presence for all of eternity?

Personally, I think our assurance it comes down to properly understanding three words. And properly understanding two concepts. And one decision we must make.

The apostle John wrote that we can know. For starters, read 1 John 5.11-13.

The three words are below (with standard definitions):

  • Believe – to have confidence or assurance; to have conviction; but also to suppose or assume
  • Know – to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to be aware of; to understand from experience
  • Faith – confidence or trust in a person or thing; belief that is not based on proof
Here is how the 3 words might work together

Ephesians 2.5-6 – Paul wrote that we (who are in Christ) are seated (past tense) with Christ in heaven
  • Believe – I can choose to believe that statement or not based upon the evidence before me
  • Know – I do not know this truth, because I can't say I have a consciousness about it
  • Faith – I must trust that my knowledge is incomplete, but because everything I have experienced regarding the Bible is true, I have faith that it is true.
Two Concepts: Saved vs Eternal Life

Salvation – to rescue from danger or harm (in our case from the wrath of God)
  • for Christians, salvation requires repentance (change one's mind – about sin)

Eternal Life – life that doesn't end
  • Eternal life begins now, why do people want to wait until heaven?

One Decision: Follow Me
  • Follow – to accept as a guide or leader; to give allegiance to; to imitate or copy
  • Me – Jesus
John tells his readers that they can know (understand as truth or fact). What can they know? Not that they can go to heaven, but that they have eternal life.

Let me quickly put this letter in context...

In 1 John 1.1, John wrote certain phrases like - we have heard, seen with our eyes, looked upon and touched with our hands.

This letter was written to believers who were being challenged by the Gnostics. The word gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “knowledge”. This group of people were puffed up because of their knowledge. They also believed that any physical matter (including flesh, etc) was evil. But gnosis is a general word for knowledge. In 1 John 5.13, John uses the Greek word eido to note that we may know. This word can mean – to perceive, to pay attention to, to observe, to experience, to know (much like the English word).

The issue here is that we use the word believe, but do we know? How many of you have heard someone (perhaps even yourself) say, “I hope I go to heaven. I believe in Jesus, but ________” That is contradictory. If you truly believe, you have eternal life. If you have eternal life, you will be w/ Jesus. If you are with Jesus, it shouldn't matter where you are.

The bigger problem for us is our use of the word Belief – we often use that word as hope. I believe such and such could happen → I hope it will happen. Words matter. We use hope as a wish, but the Bible uses hope as something certain.

John ties the words believe and know together in verse 13:

He writes these things – What things?
  • That He was with Jesus (1.1).
  • That God forgives us when we ask (1.9). 
  • That sin is in the world (2.16).
  • That trials will come (2.18).
  • That people will abandon God (2.19).
  • That God loves His children (3.1).
  • That Jesus was in the flesh (4.3).
  • That people who say they love God but hate people are liars (4.20), etc.
To you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Notice that this does not say believe in God. Nor does it say believe in Jesus. It says believe in the Name of Jesus. What's the difference? The meaning of names was very important in culture years ago. What does the name Jesus (original language – Yeshua) mean? His names means God is salvation or God saves.

At Pentecost, Peter says to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Christ means Messiah (king)).

Paul wrote to the Philippians that at the NAME of Jesus every knee would bow and confess His Lordship.

It is the importance of a is our trust not just in the man, but in the NAME. I am not saying that we are to worship the NAME alone. I am saying that the man whose NAME was Jesus is worthy to be praised because He characterized what His name means – GOD IS SALVATION. Do we believe (trust) that? If so, John continues...

That you may KNOW you have eternal life.

You say you believe in the NAME – meaning you believe in the one named Jesus not just because He existed...not just because of His name, but because of what He did AND who He is. Great, then don't worry about what others – like the gnostics say – you can KNOW your destiny.

The other word is the word "faith". This word faith is currently used almost exclusively as a noun, but through much of history it has been a verb. The Greek word here is pisteo. The word believe in 1 John 5.13 is the same word (pisteo) that is used in John 3.16 - oriiginally it would have read "whosever faiths shall not perish."

It is that faith in Jesus that provides our assurance.

So, do you believe? More importantly, do you know? And if so, how do you know?

Some might say, “Well, I asked Jesus into my heart.” Do you know that idea is not in the Bible? We are to be in Christ. And He is to be in us. Yes, Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph 3.17), but nowhere does it say to invite Jesus into our heart.

It is about faith and repentance. Faith that what God said Jesus did...He really did. And changing my mind (& heart) from following my path to following His. The idea of faith and repentance is almost interchangable. In John 3.36, John wrote that those who believe (faith) have eternal life, but those that don't obey don't have eternal life. It is more than mere belief, it is how we live our lives.

So, how can we know? John MacArthur, in his book Saved Without A Doubt, provides 11 tests to help us know. Each of these are based on 1 John. If you can answer these questions yes, or answer yes in increasing fashion, then you may find yourself moving from doubt to knowing. The tests are:
  1. Do you experience fellowship with Christ and the Father? (1 John 1.3)
  2. Are you sensitive to sin? (1 John 1.6 – John indicates many are not)
  3. Do you obey God's Word? (1 John 2.3)
  4. Do you reject this evil world? (1 John 2.15) – not the evil in this world – this world!
  5. Do you eagerly await Christ's return? (1 John 3.2-3, hope = certainty in the Bible)
  6. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? (1 John 3.4-10)
  7. Do you love other Christians? (1 John 3.10)
  8. Do you experience answered prayer? (1 John 3.22)
  9. Do you experience the ministry of His Holy Spirit? (1 John 4.13)
  10. Can you discern between spiritual truth and error? (1 John 4.1-3)
  11. Have you suffered rejection because of your faith? (1 John 3.13)
Ultimately, the question is: Do you trust in yourself or Jesus?

Do you trust that you have the power to make your own way, and stand before a holy God one day and make your case as to why He should let you live with Him?

Or would you rather have someone represent you knowing He has already defeated death and therefore holds the keys to life?

Jesus has already chosen you...but will you choose Jesus? He does indeed live. The question is will you?

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