Exploring 1 John Session 30 1 John 5:13-15

Exploring 1 John Session 30  1 John 5:13-15

 There are three more sessions left in our exploration of 1 John. John is concluding his letter.  In Session 30 we will summarize John’s teachings of assurance and explore the mystery of prayer.  The intent of this lesson is to review the assurances of salvation that John has presented and to ween us off the very troublesome habit of using prayer as a means of getting God to do what we want.  The most important thing to walk away with from this session is to know that you are walking in the light as Jesus is in the light.

 1 John 5:13-15 (MSG)

13 My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God's Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. 14 And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he's listening. 15 And if we're confident that he's listening, we know that what we've asked for is as good as ours.

 The reality of knowing God, the reality of living life eternal, the reality of being saved and then sanctified, the reality of taking up permanent residence in a life of love, the reality of walking in the light, is what John wants us to absolutely sure of.  The illusion believes that you do have this reality while producing no deeds that demonstrate you do (Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20).  We can know the truth, but if we don’t act in accordance with that truth we prove that in reality, we don’t actually know the truth at all.  If your breathing policy is about to expire you don’t want to find yourself singing “It’s love’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know love at all.”  [Joni Mitchel, Both Sides Now, 1969]  You certainly can tell when the preacher is getting older, the illustrations start coming from a time before you were born.

 John has given us indicators that remove any “shadow of a doubt” concerning your status in the Kingdom of God.

 1.  You believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human.  (Galatians 4:4).

 Jesus is God incarnate, God become like us to reveal to us what it means to be human and to reveal to us the very nature of God.  Jesus demonstrates how we are to live, how we are meant to live.  (John 1:14, Hebrews 2:5-18, Philippians 2:8)

 2.  You believe that Jesus sacrificed His life to make atonement for your sin. (1 John 2:2).

We can understand sin as estrangement from God.  The intended relationship we were created to share with God needs to be reconciled.  Jesus’ atonement makes reconciliation possible.  We further understand sin as deeds of selfishness that disregarded the needs of others.  Jesus’ atonement makes forgiveness possible. (Romans 3:23-25 (MSG)

 3.  You not only believe that Jesus is “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6),  you also obey the commands of God.  (1 John 3:23 (MSG)

The commands of God outline the lifestyle of those walking in the light.  The commands you can be sure of are written in the Bible.  (2 Timothy 2:15 & Hebrews 10:16)

 4.  You love your brothers and sisters in Christ as well as treating everyone with respect and as the opportunity arises meeting the needs of others.  (John 15:12, 17)

 5.  You possess the witness of the Holy Spirit that confirms in your being that you are a child of God, the fruit of the Spirit is growing your life and you’re living out the lifestyle of love, assure you of your standing in the Kingdom of God.  (Romans 8:16, Galatians 5:22-23, Luke 6:43-35).

 Are you assured of your salvation?  Give yourself the test.  Can you confidently check off all five of John’s assurances?  Better yet can someone else look at your life and check them off for you?

 2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.

 If you fail the test and you don’t know what to do, seek me out.  Together, we can figure out how to help you pass together.  I don’t want you to have the illusion of living life eternal, I want you in the light, having taken up permanent residence in a life of love, walking in the light, shining in the light.

 One thing that has always caused me to question my standing with God has been unanswered prayer.  Of course, someone will tell you God always answers prayers, you’ll either get a yes, no, or wait.  But when we ask God to intervene, saving us from some catastrophe, delivering us from some great suffering, sorrow, grief, to bring a miracle that heals, restores, rescues, and the time for what you so desperately pleaded for comes, passes, and you’re left with nothing you ever wanted or imagined it can cause you to question the love of God.

This is caused because we have been taught false things about prayer.  We’ve been taught that prayer is what you do when you need God to do something for you.  We’ve been taught that we need to fast, or give more, or do more so that God will see the earnestness of our hearts and give us what we want.  We quote our paraphrases of scripture: “the prayers of the righteous will make the sick healthy,” “ask anything and it will be given,” “don’t doubt when you ask.”  When what you literally have begged God for doesn’t come to pass that well-meaning brother or sister might say, “you just need more faith” or as I now interpret their meaning, “there’s something wrong with you.”  But I don’t think so.

I have prayed for those I deeply love to be healed.  Good people, saints of God, whose lives made a difference for the kingdom, whose lives made the world a better place, and they were not healed.  They died.

 I have prayed for what I was sure was the will of God.  The righteousness would win the day, that evil would be vanquished, that the wicked would be caught up in their own traps.  That the Mission would be successful, that the ministry would meet the needs of people and thrive.  I have prayed for the lost to be saved, the saved to be sanctified, and the believer to mature.  I have interceded, not asking for myself, but for others.  Only to see the time in which I needed a prayer answered come and go without the intervention from God I so greatly desired.

 At one point in my spiritual journey, I was so frustrated that I refused to practice  the second spiritual habit of a disciple, that would be prayer, for 18 months.  For a year and a half, I did not pray during my time in devotions.  I read scripture, I enjoyed fellowship,  I spoke those per-functionary prayers the one’s people expect, I used the spiritual gifts God had given to continue to serve, I worshiped by living my life to the full, and I obeyed what I have come to know as the commands of God. But I did not pray.  What was the use?  It seemed to me whatever will be, will be, and when it is, it is what it is, and my prayers didn’t make a difference in the outcome.

 If you happen to be wondering when this prayer-less time was, it occurred long before the tragedies my family experienced in 2011.  The results of this stupid experiment was that things continued as they always had, ministry happened, people’s needs were met, the church grew,  I just refused to tell God how I wanted things to be.  The negative thing that happened was I felt a distancing

from God.  That was what I should have expected.  In an intimate relationship if you don’t spend time with the person you are close to, you tend to drift apart.  It took a year and a half for me to realize that I had moved a long way away from the safety, security, and comfort of knowing you have a solid relationship with God.  I was living in a false spirituality, in which I knew plenty of stuff about God, in which I knew all the things to conduct ministry, but I was forgetting my first love.

Revelation 2:3-5 (MSG)

I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out.

4 "But you walked away from your first love—why? What's going on with you, anyway? 5 Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall!

"Turn back!

 This was warning enough to give up my experiment in not praying.  I look back now and say what foolishness.  The experience did teach me something that I did not know about the purpose of prayer.

Prayer is not how one gets what they want from God.  Prayer is for drawing close to God.  Prayer is for aligning yourself with the will of God. From 1 John we know that God’s will is for people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), I further suggest sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and that in that love lavished upon His children we, in turn, to love God and to love others.  That’s His will.  It is God’s will that you be saved, sanctified and a lover, it is not God’s will that you be healthy, happy, prosperous, or healed.  We quote Isaiah 55:8-9, God’s ways aren’t our ways.  Could it be that God knows what things will be like for those that are saved, sanctified, and lovers that what happens in this broken world apart from being saved, sanctifies and a lover doesn’t really matter in the scheme of eternity?

 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"

 Could it be that the purpose of praying in Jesus name, the purpose of praying in accordance to the will of God, is exclusively asking for salvation, sanctification, and empowerment to love God and love others and for drawing closer, becoming more intimate, with God Himself?

I am sure there are those who will disagree with my conclusion.  That’s perfectly fine.  I certainly don’t have God all figured out.  I concede that I still pray for the way I want things to be while becoming increasingly convinced that the only things that matter to God for us in this life is our relationship with Him and our relationship with others, everything else is inconsequential.

I am convinced that God does intervene in our daily lives.  I believe God protects, provides, and sustains us; miracles happen, things work out, and we get through the storms.  I’m just not sure that the reason He brings these interventions is that we have asked for such blessings in prayer.

 We know that good things and bad things happen to those who are Christ-followers and those who are not (Matthew 5:45).  The Apostle Paul thought “…that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater…” (1 Corinthians 4:9 (MSG).  Could it be our bearing up under that crushing burden, our “keep on keeping on” in the face of loss and suffering, is a sign to those who do not believe that there is a God?  Could it be that the way we live our lives out in the most difficult of times is a witness to the Jesus denying world of the power of God?

 The Apostle James wrote

James 4:2 (NIV)

You do not have, because you do not ask God.

So we ask in prayer, we ask with pure motives, we ask in faith believing that God will grant our requests.  This I believe is what God’s children are to do.  There is nothing wrong with doing so.  I suspect that the purpose of prayer though is not to get what we want, but rather to align ourselves with the will of God.  That alignment brings peace to our soul.  

 That’s a lot to wrestle with.  My thoughts on prayer may be totally wrong.  What I suggest to you is this: the outcomes of your prayers, when answers correspond with the desires of your heart or when they don’t, are not assurances of right your right standing with God.  Rather assurance comes when 1.  You believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human.  2.  You believe that Jesus sacrificed His life to make atonement for your sin.  3.  You obey the commands of God.  4.  You love your brothers and sisters in Christ as well as treating everyone with respect and as the opportunity arises meeting the needs of others.  5.  You possess the witness of the Holy Spirit.

 Are you assured of your salvation?  Can you testify to knowing God?  Are you walking in the light, are you shinning in the light?  Give yourself the test, if you can’t check off all five, let’s get together and see if we can change things. 

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