Today’s read was the three letters the apostle John wrote around 90-95 AD. The longest (1 John) is not addressed to anyone specifically but would have been circulated to the churches. John is concerned about the false teaching, anti-Christs, and worldliness which continues to creep into the church. He writes to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (5:13) In other words, there should be no doubt, whether to yourself or others, if you truly belong to the kingdom of God. God’s children should not be hard to distinguish from the world.
John gives us several “tests” which we should take to heart as people who profess to know God. To preface these tests, John makes it clear that he is not preaching a “works” salvation. He states up front that he knows there will be times when we fail to live up to the standards of righteousness God demands of His children, and if and when we sin, Jesus has provided forgiveness. (1:8-10) After making this statement, the rest of the letter describes the character and life of the true believer by which we can know we belong to God.
Here they are, scattered throughout the letter:
* The child of God believes that Jesus is the Son of God, come in the flesh.
* The child of God obeys the commands of Jesus.
* The child of God hates and avoids sin and does not continue to practice sin.
* The child of God perseveres and does not fall away from the truth.
* The child of God loves others with a sacrificial love.
* The child of God cares for the poor in practical ways.
* The child of God experiences the conviction of the Spirit and responds by repenting.
To further make things clear, John shows us the opposite side of the coin, warning us that if these things are evident in our lives, we ought to be concerned if we truly know the Lord:
* Open and willful disobedience to the clear commands of Christ in scripture.
* Love of the world (assimilating into the culture, blending in and accepting of the world’s philosophy).
* Doubting or straying away from the truth of God’s word.
* Participating willfully in sin, while knowing the truth.
* Hating others.
* Acceptance of false teaching (any philosophy or ideology that denies Jesus).
* No conviction about sin.
* Idolatry (allowing anything or anyone to usurp Christ’s place as Lord of our lives).
There you have it. How did you do on the test? Don’t skim lightly over these! Our own hearts will deceive us if we fail to ask God to reveal the truth to us.
John makes it clear that we can know who belongs to the kingdom and who does not. Are you a child of God? An imposter? A non-believer? The line in the sand is “What do you believe about Jesus?”
Oh, my friend, my prayer for us all is the same as John’s, written so long ago yet so relevant for today: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (2:28)