Vital Signs: A Sure Thing

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Text: 1 John 5:13-21 — 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. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know 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, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Introduction: Did you know that some people actually doubt events or facts that most of us take for granted as true? Take, for example, those who are a part of the flat earth society. They believe that the earth is not in the shape of a sphere. In fact, many flat earthers believe this planet is actually in the shape of a disc (like a frisbee) with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica running along the rim. That one may seem funny to the rest of us, but there are others who doubt events that are no laughing matter. Today, many people around the world express doubt that the Jewish Holocaust ever happened. They claim that Hitler did not order the murder of millions of Jews prior to and during WWII, but that he merely had them deported to other countries. They believe that the very notion of the Holocaust is either a hoax or a gross exaggeration arising from a deliberate conspiracy by the Jews to further their interests at the expense of others. And how about those who doubt that man actually walked on the moon. They argue that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were part of elaborate conspiracy to fool the rest of the world into thinking that the United States was the first nation to put a man there. Despite the fact that a significant amount of moon rocks were brought back to the earth and that enough equipment remains on the surface of the man that NASA can bounce laser beams off of what was left behind, there continue to be doubters. Because of the overwhelming evidence to support the shape of the earth as a sphere, to confirm the murder of 5-6 million Jews by Germany and that man really did walk on the moon, most of us don’t agree with these doubters. We have weighed the facts and found them to be very believable.

This morning, as we wind up our series from 1 John called Vital Signs, the Apostle John wants us to know that there are spiritual truths regarding the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ that should never be doubted. They stand as absolutes upon which the Christian is invited and encouraged to stake his eternal destiny.

I invite you to join me as we look at four absolute truths that false teachers regularly attack but cannot refute because they come to us based on the sure and certain promises of God. Here’s the first.   

The Sure and Certain Promise of Eternal Life (1 John 5:13 — 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). John’s gospel, we’re told, was written for unbelieversJohn 20:31 — But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. This letter, on the other hand, was written for believers. John wrote it so that all Christians, having already believed in Jesus, can know with certainty that we have eternal life.  You can string the purpose of this letter together in four stages: (1) that God wants us to hear the gospel; (2) then in our hearing, we believe the gospel; (3) in our believing, we live the gospel; and (4) and in our living we know we have eternal life through the gospel.   Some people today argue that it is impossible to know with certainty that you have eternal life, but John doesn’t agree. We arrive at this assurance, however, by first hearing, then believing, then living the gospel. My heart hurts for true believers who still doubt that they are rightful residents of the kingdom of God. Illustration: It’s like this story from Anderson Cooper (“360 Degrees on the Boarder” – CNN). Wilfredo Garza lived the life of an illegal immigrant for more than 35 years. Year after year, he eked out a living crossing the border from Mexico into the United States—some days finding work, some days not. Regardless, he was constantly looking over his shoulder. He was caught by the Border Patrol four times during that period and bused back to Mexico every time. Undeterred by each apprehension, he swam back across the Rio Grande to try again. The cycle would likely have continued for several more years if not for an amazing discovery. One day, Wilfredo worked up the courage to walk into an immigration lawyer’s office. There, incredibly, he found out that his father was born in Texas and spent time working there, which meant that Wilfredo was actually a U.S. citizen! All these years he possessed the very papers—his father’s birth certificate and work records—that proved his citizenship, and yet he lived in guilt and fear. Now he has a certificate of citizenship. Now he doesn’t have to sneak across the border; he can walk through the main gate. Listen: God wants us to know that we are not illegal aliens who have someone managed to sneak into heaven and continually hope that no one will notice. No, we are citizens of heaven who have eternal life in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the bloodline to prove it.

The Sure and Certain Promise of Answered Prayer (1 John 5:14-17 –14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death). Here John is talking about our freedom of speech … that is, that we can talk to God anytime we want. Notice what he says.

  • We can approach God in prayer – This is what it means to pray with confidence…to come before Him freely and boldly.
  • We can believe God for answered prayer. It says He hears us when we pray according to His will. I like how John Stott explains this: “Prayer is not some sort of device for imposing our will upon God, … but the prescribed way of subordinating (i.e. bending) our will to His” – The Letters of John, p. 185. It is what Jesus prayed in the garden before His crucifixion … “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Prayer is how we seek God’s will and get in line with it. When we ask for that which He already desires to give us, we can be certain that we will receive it.
  • We can lift up others in need of prayer. In verse 16, John brings up a specific situation where a believer intercedes before God on behalf of another believer who is committing sin that does not lead to death (we’ll talk about this in a moment). By the way, this is the best way to come to the aid of a brother or sister in sin. It is to pray for them. John says that when we do, God will give him life. It’s another way of saying that the Christian committing sin will not lose his life.
  • However, there are some people for whom we should not pray. They are described as those who committing specific sins that lead to death. John is not commanding that we don’t pray for them, but arguing that it will do no good. What is he talking about? John doesn’t say so the best we can do is speculate. With this in mind, it may be that he’s talking about people, like the false teachers, who profess to be Christians, but who sin by denying that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Since they have rejected the gospel message and there is no other means by which they can be saved, it is fruitless to pray for them.

The Sure and Certain Promise of Victory Over Sin and the Devil (1 John 5:18-19 — We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one). God has called us to a holy life in submission to His will. By giving us His Spirit, we now have the ability to overcome sin and do what is right. NEW BIRTH, IT TURNS OUT, BRINGS NEW BEHAVIORS! John writes that God protects the believer from evil one who would destroy him if he could. But he can’t because the only power the devil has is that which the believer gives Satan when he walks in disobedience. Paul warns that the Christian  in sin, gives the enemy a place (Ephesians 4:27 – Do not give the devil a foothold). But if we do not keep on sinning, we live under the protection of God – Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world! Illustration: It was Augustine who said, “The devil is like a mad dog that is chained up. He is powerless to harm us when we are outside his reach, but once we enter his circle we expose ourselves again to injury or harm.” In a classic “Twilight Zone” episode from 1960, an American on a walking trip through central Europe gets caught in a raging storm. Staggering through the blinding rain, he chances upon an imposing medieval castle. It is a hermitage for a brotherhood of monks. The reclusive monks reluctantly take him in. Later that night, the American discovers a cell with a man locked inside. An ancient wooden staff bolts the door. The prisoner claims he’s being held captive by the “insane” head monk, Brother Jerome. He pleads for the American to release him. The prisoner’s kindly face and gentle voice win him over. The American confronts Brother Jerome, who declares that the prisoner is actually none other than Satan, “the father of lies,” held captive by the Staff of Truth, the one barrier he cannot pass. This incredible claim convinces the American that Jerome is indeed mad. As soon as he gets the chance, he releases the prisoner—who immediately transforms into a hideous, horned demon and vanishes in a puff of smoke! The stunned American is horrified at the realization of what he has done. Jerome responds sympathetically. “I’m sorry for you, my son. All your life you will remember this night and whom you have turned loose upon the world.” “I didn’t believe you,” the American replies. “I saw him and didn’t recognize him“—to which Jerome solemnly observes, “That is man’s weakness and Satan’s strength.” The Bible says that Satan is on the prowl seeking those he may devour. God protects his children who do not continue in sin and walk in obedience to the Word. Those who do not listen to the Lord are in for a devil of a time.

The Sure and Certain Promise of a New Reality (1 John 5:20-21 — And we know 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, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols). The new reality is this: We believe in the One true God and His Son Jesus Christ. He alone is the truth. To know Jesus Christ is to know God, for Christ has come to reveal God to us. In fact, He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” – John 14:9. Unlike the false teachers that claimed to hold a monopoly on some kind of secret knowledge about God, Jesus wanted everyone to know what the Father is like, so He showed them. And by virtue of His coming into the world, Jesus has given us a clear understanding of where life can be found … in a personal relationship with the Father through the Son. We know Him and abide in Him and have eternal life in His name. This is the reason why we should keep ourselves from idols. They deceive people into worshipping something other than God. In fact, a good definition on an idol is this: Anything that replaces God in your life. Idols are sinful because rob God of the glory that is intended for Him alone. They are not a part of the new reality that every believer experiences in Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.

Applications: This whole letter has been about Jesus, the Son of God, and the tests that demonstrate we are in His fold … the love test … the obedience test … the belief test. These were necessary because the church was under attack and in danger of being led astray. I don’t think it will surprise you to learn that the church is always in the sites of the enemy and that he would like nothing more than to destroy us. If we’re going to present a mature church, strong in its faith to Christ, that stands of the gospel and avoids falling prey to the devil and his schemes, here’s some things we must do.

  • Christians … Get to know your Bible very well!
  • Christians … Protect the purity of the gospel message.
  • Christians … Be on guard for false teachers.

Conclusion: Did you know that it took nearly thirty-fours years for the city of Chicago to grow into one of the greatest cities in America with 324,000 residents? But it only took two days (October 8th –10th, 1971) for much of it to be destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. The city of Pompei was established in the 8th century B.C. Over the next eight hundred years it grew into a flourishing resort for Rome’s most distinguished citizens. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A. D. and the city was wiped off the face of the earth so that it was not rediscovered until the 20th century. The World Trade Centers in New York City took a total of 19 years to erect. Much of them were destroyed in a in an hour on 9-11. Why do I share these catastrophes with you? Because God has been impressing me with the idea that it takes a long time to build certain things, but those same things can be destroyed in a very short time. And I know that what’s true of buildings is also true of local churches. It takes a lot of manpower, faith, sacrifice and hard work to build a local church, but it only takes one or two careless or sinful pursuits to take it down. The Apostle Paul planted the churches in and around Ephesus in 52 A. D. Forty years later, John wrote to them because he was very concerned that false teachers of an early form of gnosticism had the potential to destroy these congregations in a only a short while. Today, we should be aware that the same thing can happen to us. That’s why we have to know the truth … the truth as its revealed God’s Word. We have to protect the purity of the gospel message for there is no other name under heaven by which a person can be saved and we have to be on guard for any who would seek to lead us astray.