What Can We Be Sure Of?

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : 1 John 5-13-21

How do you feel about things right now? Are you happy? Are you content? Are you nervous about the future, perhaps even frightened? There are some things we can be sure of beyond a doubt and the apostle John tells us what they are.

I was walking through a store somewhere and noticed a song playing in the background. I never heard it before and wasn’t really paying close attention, but suddenly the words of the refrain struck me. This wasn’t the usual pop song about falling in love or enjoying good times. It was about the frailty of life. “Dust in the wind,” the song kept repeating; “that’s all we are is dust in the wind.” You know, that’s really a biblical message too. Human life is fragile and impermanent. I think of the words of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” We are all slipping away like dust in the wind.

A few weeks ago I celebrated another birthday, and the number of candles on the cake is getting harder and harder for me to believe. A birthday or anniversary is a good moment to stop and take stock of your life. How do you feel about things? Are you happy? Are you content? Are you nervous about the future? Perhaps even frightened? After all, since no one can see what the future holds, trying to look ahead can fill us with uneasiness. What can you be sure of about the coming year? Can you be sure that you will keep your job? Can you be sure that you’ll keep your health or your family? Can you even be sure that you’ll be around to see your next birthday?

There are some things we can be sure of beyond a doubt. What a relief it is to turn from fearful uncertainty about the future to the pages of the New Testament, where confidence and trust breathes out in every word. Listen, for instance, to the apostle John:

I write these things to you [he says at the conclusion of his first letter] who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have . . . we know that he hears us . . . we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him . . . We know that we are from God . . . And we know that the Son of God has come . . . and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:13-20

Did you catch the ring of certainty there? It’s hard to avoid, isn’t it? Over and over, the apostle says, “We know, we know, we know.” This deep and comforting assurance is within the reach of every Christian. John says he is writing to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God,” that is, in Jesus Christ. Does that describe you? Are you a believer? Then the very same kind of confidence John is talking about can be yours.

We Have Eternal Life

The first thing we can be sure of, he says, is that we have eternal life (v. 13). And if you’re sure of that, can anything else ultimately matter? If we believe in Christ we can know we have eternal life. John does not say we can become increasingly persuaded, or that we can hope or even that we can believe we possibly will be saved some day. He says we can possess here and now the certainty that eternal life is already ours. And this is for all believers, not just a few “super Christians.” Assurance is simply faith grown up to maturity. Faith says, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Mature faith says, “I am persuaded that nothing, not even death itself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” When a great Christian pastor named Richard Baxter lay dying more than three centuries ago, somebody asked him how he was. “Almost well,” was his reply. Now that’s assurance!

John also tells us how such assurance is possible. Eternal life comes from knowing and belonging to God through Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not something that’s handed out to Christians when they die as a sort of reward for good behavior or even for accepting Christ. Eternal life is simply living the Christ life. His life is eternal, and he shares it with us when we are united to him through faith.

For me as a Christian to say, “I hope some day I will have eternal life” would be like for me as a husband to say, “I hope that some day I will be married.” I am married. I have been married from the moment I was united to my wife, and I always will be married as long as we are together. In the same way, as a Christian believer I have eternal life. I have had it from the moment I was united to Christ, and his promise is that I will never be separated from him or lose that life that he gives me. So it isn’t arrogance or presumption for any Christian to believe that he or she possesses eternal life; it is simply accepting the truth of God’s Word. Thus we can be sure of the most important thing of all, that we are saved. And if we’re sure of that, all of the other uncertainties of life shrink to a much more manageable size, don’t they?

God Hears Our Prayers

Here’s the second fact that we can know with certainty. John puts it this way, “There is one thing we can be sure of when we come to God in prayer. If we ask anything in keeping with what he wants, he hears us [and] we know that we have it.” In other words, we can know with certainty that God hears and answers our prayers. As Christians, we are sure, not just that the sound of our words comes to God’s attention, that he hears our prayer in that sense, but that he hears us favorably and will grant what we ask when we ask according to his will.

That is, of course, the specific condition that John lays down for this assurance—we must ask according to God’s will. Prayer is not a magic wand for satisfying our personal desires. It’s not a handy tool for getting our own way. No, prayer is the means God has given us for getting our minds and desires lined up with his. When we pray, what we must be trying to do is to shape our wills to God’s will, not bend his will to ours. Jesus himself set the example when he prayed to his Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” So here’s another thing that we can know for sure: when we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives we will receive what we ask for.

“But,” maybe you say, “that doesn’t really help me very much. I don’t know what God’s will is for me, so I can’t pray for it and be sure it will happen.” If that’s your problem, look at the Bible for the plain guidelines that are there. There you will learn that God’s will is first and foremost for you to know Christ and to experience the joy of his love forever, to have eternal life. His will is that you be useful to him in his work in the world, to love him and to love other people. Pray for those things and you will most certainly receive them. What confidence, what peace that assurance brings because then, we’ll also know that whatever happens, God will keep us safe! Whatever happens, God has promised to use it for good in the lives of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

How Can I Be Sure?

So as Christians, here’s what we can be sure of, no matter what happens, we have eternal life. No matter how uncertain life may be, God is with us and always hears us when we cry to him.

That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But how can you be sure of those things for yourself? It’s all very well and good for John to say we know we have eternal life, but how can I be certain that this applies to me?

Too often I think we seek that assurance in the wrong way. I once heard a story about an elderly man with no immediate family who decided to leave his large estate to charity, so he drew up and signed his own will and then, because he wanted to confirm it in the best way he could think of, he went and had it certified by a notary. The trouble was that the law doesn’t require a will to be certified by a notary. It requires it to be witnessed with the signatures of two people. When that man died, his will was declared invalid, and the distant relatives who inherited his money were only too glad to ignore his wishes and keep it for themselves.

You see, that man was basing his assurance on what he thought would be sufficient grounds. But he was wrong. Sometimes we do the same thing with our own assurance of salvation. We may base it on our feelings: “I know I must be saved because I feel joy and peace within, and I can sense God’s nearness.” Those feelings are nice, but they may not last. And they’re not a good basis for assurance because in the final analysis, our salvation doesn’t really depend on what we do, but on what God has done for us. Our confidence, to be secure, has to be based on his Word, not on our feelings.

Notice what John said: “I am writing these things to you . . . that you may know you have eternal life” (v. 13). A healthy sense of spiritual security is based on trust in the promises of God. Faith involves simply believing that God means what he says. People may make promises they can’t keep, but that isn’t God’s way. He is “the One who is true.” The Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is a true promise. There is no catch or trick to it. If you call in faith on the name of the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.

You and I, only “dust in the wind”? Not if we belong to the One who is true, and to his Son Jesus Christ.