Sunday, June 21, 2015


How do we know that God has lovingly received us? This question threatens us. The great reformer, Martin Luther, was a afflicted because he lacked the assurance that God had received him. He almost died on several occasions trying to prove to God that he was worthy of Him. His priest and spiritual guide, Von Staupitz, assured Luther, “All you need to do is to love God.” However, unsure of his final destination, Luther stormed back, “Love Him? I hate Him!”

The Apostle John knew that this is an issue necessary for our peace and assurance and, therefore, devoted one of his letters to help the brethren know that they had been embraced eternally by God. In a theologically packed statement, he wrote:

·       We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)

Although obedience does not save us, it is the inevitable fruit that assures us that we have a living, saving faith. An apple tree bears apples and not poison ivy. The apples don’t make the apple tree. It is the tree that produces the apples. It is the appearance of apples that assure us that we are looking at an apple tree. In the same way, our obedience to God’s Word reassures us that God loves us.

However, the simple test of obedience to His commands or Word can also fill us with uncertainty and dread. We might ask, “Am I obeying enough?” However, we are all miles away from the perfect model of Jesus. Nevertheless, we “must walk as Jesus did.” Not very reassuring!

However, we can reassure ourselves in several ways. Jesus’ intention was to serve the Father before all else. The Father was #1. If we are seeking first the Lord and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), we can assure ourselves that we are walking as Jesus did. If we embrace God in this manner, we can be assured that He embraces us.

We will fall short, far short! However, if we humble ourselves before the Lord (confessing our sins), He will lift us up (James 4:10). John puts it like this:

·       If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

But we must confess our sins! These who refuse to confess do not have a living faith, for if we truly trust God, we will do as He tells us to do, confess our sins, and turn from them. If we refuse, we are “liars.” Therefore, we cannot extend a false hope to the “liar,” telling him that he is saved even though he refuses to “obey His commands.”

This also puts the kibosh on the unbiblical teaching of universalism. If someone refuses to follow Jesus, and claims that he is nevertheless saved, we must bring them to John’s words that he is a “liar” without hope. If they did have a future hope despite their unwillingness to repent, John would have argued that “all will be saved anyway, and so no tests of your faith are really necessary.”

John’s teaching also suggests that we are not free to discard any of Jesus’ teachings. Instead, the way that we love God is to keep His Word, all of it! When Jesus was tormented by the Devil while fasting in the desert, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:

·       The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:3-4)

If Jesus lived by the Father’s every word, so must we! He did not pick-and-choose. This is how we “must walk as Jesus did,” seeking to obey His every command.

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