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Confident Joyful Obedience

1 John 5

Jim Davis

An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel-prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr's desk was a horseshoe, securely mailed to the wall, with the open end up in the approved manner (so it would catch the good luck and not let it spill out). The American said with a nervous laugh, "Surely you don't believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist -- " Bohr chuckled, "I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not." (Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, Page 6)

Is it possible to have faith without real confidence in what is believe? John leaves no illusion as to how to define faith. He defines faith by how it affects the way we live. John reveals that true faith struggles with sin and those who oppose God. John confirms the sin in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10) John confirms our struggle with sin. (1 John 2:1-2) John confirms that true faith is a struggle to overcome sin through Jesus Christ. However, John is confident that we can overcome the difficulties ahead through joyful obedience.

1 John 5:1-4
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

Everything God created--except man--obeys the will of God. The Psalmist portrays the creation obeying God's will. "Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding . . ." (Psalms 148:8 NIV) (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Real, 1 John, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, Page, 163)

"In the book of Jonah, you see the winds and waves, and even the fish, obeying God's commands; but the prophet persisted in disobeying. Even a plant and a little worm did what God commanded. But the prophet stubbornly wanted his own way." (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Real, 1 John, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, Page, 163)

John writes to us about the necessity of walking in the light Christ provides. Obedience is the means of walking in the light.

Obedience Begins with Christ

Obedience begins and ends with what we believe about Jesus Christ. John continually impresses upon us that we must believe Jesus is real. In chapter one, John testifies to the reality of Christ. He had seen him with his eyes and looked at him, he had heard him teach and he had touched him. Believing that Christ was born of God is the basis for our rebirth.

Jesus is really God's Son. He was conceived and born of God through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Today, as in John's day we are challenged to believe differently. We are challenged to deny that Christ was born of God. The world recognizes Jesus as a great teacher and as a good man, but they deny the virgin birth of Christ. They deny that he is God's only begotten Son. John makes it clear that there is no way to believe in God without believing Christ is born of God.

Three things testify that Christ is born of God: the water, the blood and the Spirit.

1 John 5:7-8
For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. (NIV)

"Believing things 'on authority' only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there is such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority--because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority. A person who balked at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all in this life." --C.S. Lewis

God gave his testimony about Christ. The Law of Moses required two or three witnesses to establish testimony as true. God lived by his own law as He gave the witness of the water, blood and Spirit. It was at Christ's baptism in the waters of Jordan when God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17) At the same time the Spirit descended upon his Son like a dove as a testimony of God's approval. God's witness was given when Jesus shed his blood on the cross as the darkness descended upon the earth at midday and the earth shook at his death. (Matthew 27:45, 50-53) The Spirit of God continued to teach that Christ was approved of God by the signs and miracles He wrought through the apostles. God's Spirit continues to teach us the truth about Christ.

God's testimony continues to reside in hearts that believe.

1 John 5:10
Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (NIV)

Romans 8:15-17
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (NIV)

It is no accident that Jesus portrays his disciples receiving eternal life because they hear his voice and follow him. This is the life of a true believer.

John 10:27-29
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (NIV)

Confidence Comes Through Obedience

Confidence is a double-sided coin; confidence cannot be had until it is expressed. Assurance and confidence comes as we express our confidence in Christ commands through obedience.

"Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand." --Augustine

John gives us several birthmarks so that we can be confident that we have been born of God.

1 John 2:29
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (NIV)

1 John 3:9
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (NIV)

1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (NIV)

1 John 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (NIV)

1 John 5:3-4
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

The only evidence that Christ and his Spirit reside in our hearts is that we obey him. If you don't seek to obey God's commands, you don't believe. God gave proof that Jesus is his Son through the water, blood and the Spirit. Our faithful obedience is proof of our faith in Christ. Those who call themselves Christians reveal their belief that Christ is born of God through their willingness to obey him. The real test of our belief and desire to be reborn lies in our willingness to carry out God's commands. John makes it simple, if we don't seek to obey and carry out God's will on earth, we do not truly believe Christ is born of God.

1 John 5:11-15
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. 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. 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. (NIV)

When we recognize our sin, confess our sins and pray to overcome sin we know we have eternal life. Prayerfully striving to do God's will is proof of saving faith. It is not the level or perfection of obedience that counts, but it is the depth of our desire to do God's will that counts. If you are prayerfully striving to obey Christ, you know you have eternal life.

John makes it clear that it is through our desire to obey that we can know we have eternal life. John does not say that perfect obedience saves, but rather our desire to completely obey God is evidence of our salvation. He has made it clear from the outset of his book that we are all sinners. This certainly proclaims our inability to save ourselves through perfect obedience.

John assures us that God hears our prayers as we struggle with the evil in our lives. John says he will give us whatever we ask for. Paul prayed for God to remove his thorn in the flesh. God did something beyond what Paul anticipated. He was given strength to bear it so he could become a stronger person. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

John sees obedience as a matter of life and death. You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)

1 John 5:16-19
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (NIV)

All wrongdoing is sin, but not all wrongdoing leads to spiritual death. There are sins, which bring spiritual death and some sins, which do not bring spiritual death.

This has nothing to do with gravity of the sin committed. We all know the consequences of some sins are greater than others, but John is not speaking of the consequences of certain sins as opposed to the consequences of other sins. It is our desire to continue in sin that brings death. Denying Jesus is born of God manifest this desire to continue in sin. Denying the teaching of the Holy Spirit given to us through the word of God is also another sign of our desire to continue in sin.

Mark 3:28-30
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." (NIV)

The sin unto death sin is an antichrist attitude, which reveals an unwillingness to believe and obey Christ. A desire to continue in sin reveals that Satan is in control of our lives.

C. H. Spurgeon claimed that 98 percent of the people he met-- including the criminals he visited in England's prisons--told him that they believed the Bible to be true. But the vast majority had never made a personal, life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ. For them, "believe" was not an active verb.

Confidence Comes Through Joyful Obedience

John is not speaking of the kind of burdensome obedience that fills us with grief and robs us of joy.

1 John 5:3-4
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

Jesus didn't come to bring condemnation. (John 3:17) Jesus came to lighten our burdens. Sin had already condemned the world to misery.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)

Psalms 119:41-45
May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. (NIV)

The Psalmist recognizes God's law brings delight when we are troubled and distressed.

Psalms 119:140-144
Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them. Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts. Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live. (NIV)

The joy of salvation is realized when we understand that it is Christ who keeps us safe in the midst of our troubles. John says, " . . . the one born of God keeps him safe." When we prayerfully seek to obey Christ keeps us safe from the clutches of Satan.

After reflecting on his propensity to sin, Paul rejoiced because of the salvation that only Christ could provide.

Romans 7:22-25
For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV)

Jesus keeps us safe as he continues to keep us cleansed from sin moment by moment.

1 John 1:7-10
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (NIV)

Victory is always a joyous event, no matter how fierce the battles.

1 John 5:3-5
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (NIV)

"These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph." (Thomas Paine, The Crisis -- December 1776.)

2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (NIV)

John says, "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." He leaves no doubt; a victorious faith is a faith that seeks to walk in the light through obedience to Christ commands.

1 John 5:19-21
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also 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-- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (NIV)

Conclusion:

Jesus tenderly called those who denied him and he calls us.

Matthew 23:34-39
Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (NIV)

In the book of John we are called to demonstrate love for God and our brothers through obedience to Christ’s commands.

 

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