How can believers be assured of their standing before God? How can they know for sure that they have truly trusted in Christ for eternal life? In this week's sermon, Kyle talked us through a major way Christians can know that they have believed in the Truth: they will act on that truth through obedience. In other words, true belief leads to righteous living. Here are a few key points:
Joy over anxiety
God doesn't want believers to live in constant doubt or anxiety. He wants us to feel confident in Christ so that we can experience complete joy. Having assurance in our salvation isn't about reliving one special salvation experience from our past; instead, our assurance comes from our lives in the present moment. The test, according to John, is simple: "We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands."
Love over fear
So, if we know we are saved if we keep God's commands, how is that different from a salvation based on our own good works? Three distinctions are helpful here. First, the word that is translated "keep," or sometimes "obey" isn't just about blindly accepting marching orders. It connotes guarding, caring for, and protecting something. To keep God's commands is to recognize how precious they are hold them close to our hearts. Secondly, we don't obey so that God will love us; we obey because He loves us and we love Him. We obey because we take delight in pleasing the one we love. That's why John says "if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them." Obedience is the natural outpouring of our affection. Thirdly, the commands we must keep are not a list of rules, but the guiding principles to live and love as Jesus did. In John's second letter, he spells it out for us:
...I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
To summarize, a works-based salvation would be motivated by strict rule-following, not loving guardianship; it would be done as a condition of salvation rather than as a consequence of it; and it would require legalistic conformity rather than the liberating love of Christ.
Light over darkness
After all this talk of obedience and love, John returns to his favorite theme about living in the light instead of living in the darkness. And, wouldn't you know it? The two are connected: "Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining." That "new commandment" whose "truth is seen in him" and us is the command Jesus gave for us to love one another. When we love one another, we light up a darkened world. Christ's love is the light, and when we love one another as He has loved us, we can illuminate the world! By contrast, when we do nothing -- when we hold hate and apathy in our hearts and our lives, we cannot challenge the darkness. Love means putting the truth into action.
Questions to Consider:
- Is God's Word and His Way precious to me? Do I guard and cherish it in my heart?
- Am I experiencing anxiety or joy about my salvation? Where can I find evidence of God's love being worked out in my life?
- In what areas of life do I need to take action in order to shine light in the darkness?