Day #337: Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 30th
Scripture Reading: I John 4 - 5 ...
There's "thinking" that you'll go to heaven some day, and there's KNOWING that you HAVE eternal life ... NOW ... TODAY!! Someone who was a very dear person to me was very near to her death when she said to me, "We're all trying to get to the same place." I felt compelled to share with her that while our efforts will never be enough to assure us of eternal life in God's presence, there IS a way to KNOW that you have eternal life and that you will spend eternity in the presence of God in a perfect new world, where there is no more sin, suffering, pain or death. That's what John is talking about in his letter to the churches. It was still the first century following the death and resurrection of Jesus and persecution had led to the death of many Christians. There was nothing of greater importance than KNOWING that you had eternal life ... but how?
John says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (4:1). This was only a few decades following Jesus' ascension into heaven, but already false teachers were infiltrating the church. It was vitally important that believers had a way to discern who was telling the truth and who was not. John makes it abundantly clear: "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (4:2), and "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (5:1). John goes to great lengths in his letter to explain that those who know Jesus Christ will love Him AND will love one another!! Being a Christian is about having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus and with other believers as His Spirit works within us.
Being "religious" does not bring assurance of eternal life. It is ALL about JESUS!! God showed HIS love by sending "His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. THIS is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (4:9-10). Our sin stands between us and God. Not everyone is a child of God ... only those who believe in Jesus, who believe He is the Christ, who are "possessed" by His Spirit and who listen to God. It truly is not enough to believe Jesus lived a long time ago and set an example for us to follow. Jesus gave Himself as the "atoning sacrifice" for our sins. Believing in Jesus means that you believe He suffered in your place on the cross, bearing God's judgment for your sins.
Many seem to believe that being a Christian simply means following Jesus' example and doing some of the things Jesus did, but without the cross ... without confessing your sin and trusting in Jesus' blood for forgiveness ... you cannot and will not be saved! Isaiah writes, "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon HIM, and by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). So John writes, "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in Him and He in God" (4:14-15). KNOWING Jesus is the mark of the believer ... not just knowing about Him, but knowing Him, believing in Him, trusting Him.
This is not mere HEAD knowledge, but a love born of being loved first. So many know nothing of such a love as God's love in Jesus. Our love is a response to His. "We love because He FIRST loved us!" (4:19). "God IS love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him" (4:16-17). God's love is a selfless love and the love of believers is the same. We don't serve God because we have to, but because we want to. We are motivated to respond to God's love in Jesus, as a bride responds to her bridegroom. This love originates in God and His Spirit is the One who initiates our response to God's love, moving us to love Him AND other believers.
There is a special bond among believers that those who are of the world cannot possibly understand. It is a love without demands, focused on giving rather than receiving. As those who are united to Christ by faith, we have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Our life is wrapped up in Jesus and by faith we overcome the world (5:4). What can the world do to us? God testified to the truth at Jesus' baptism and in His sacrifice on the cross, the perfect Passover Lamb, whose blood cleanses us from sin. GOD Himself is the only One who can determine the way of salvation, the narrow road that leads to life, the one and only way to find forgiveness for sin and life forever with Him. God has determined that only those who come to Him through this one way can KNOW that they HAVE eternal life!
Do you know the way? God makes it so clear that those who are in Christ can be SURE! He says, "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart ... and this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (5:10-12). Now follows the verse that so many do not seem to know exists. Millions remain in bondage to doubt and fear ... like my dear aunt who lay on her death bed not being sure of eternal life because her church, her "religion," would not allow her to dare have such assurance. Yet, here it is ... here is God's own testimony: "God has GIVEN us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
Now John's urgent purpose for writing his letter to the churches: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life!" (5:13). What do you want from God more than anything else? Could there be a request any greater than this: to live with the LORD God Almighty in His eternal kingdom forever!!? "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we KNOW that He hears us - whatever we ask - we KNOW that we have what we asked of Him" (5:14-15). Have you asked God to save you? Have you confessed your sin and asked for His forgiveness? Have you asked for eternal life? Have you acknowledged that Jesus is the eternal Son of God come in the flesh and that He paid your debt on the cross? Then you can KNOW that you HAVE eternal life!!
"We are in Him who is true - even in His Son Jesus Christ. He IS the true God and eternal life" (5:20). "WE" who believe, who trust, who have faith in, who know JESUS, the Son of God, the Christ, our Savior and our Lord... we HAVE eternal life and our faith "is the victory that has overcome the world!" (5:4). Praise God for His marvelous gift of life in Jesus!
"Heavenly Father, You have GIVEN me life ... at the expense of the suffering and death of Your own Son, Jesus. By the work of Your Spirit, Father, I am Your child. Your love overwhelms me as I respond to Your love ... seeking to love You as You have loved me. Give me grace to so love You and my brothers and sisters in Christ so that my life displays YOUR love to the world and draws others to my Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen"