George Bernard Shaw was a famous Irish playwright and winner of the Nobel prize for literature. On his radio show he explained that the sound ‘shhh’ in the English language is always represented by S H, except for 2 words. Though he never mentioned the exceptions. A listener wrote in to argue that there’s only one word in the English language with the sound ‘shh’ at the beginning that doesn’t have the letters S H. And that word is sugar. George wrote a one line card back. ‘ma’am, are you sure?’
The Apostle John asks his readers, ‘are you sure?’
Some guys had spread wrong teaching and as a result, followers of Jesus, those to whom John writes, were unsettled and uncertain of their salvation.
John writes to reassure them they’re God’s children. That they’d have assurance of their salvation.
And that’s got to do with faith.
Now, everyone has faith. Without exception. In something or someone.
And yes. Faith saves. But not all faith. It depends what your faith is in. It’s not the size of your faith. It’s the object of your faith.
Take this chair for example. You may confident the chair will hold you. Or perhaps you’re somewhat unsure. Yet you don’t have faith in the chair until you sit down. Until you exercise that faith in the object.
Well, let’s raise the stakes from the comfort of a chair, to the comfort of your eternal destiny. From faith in a chair to keep you from hitting the floor. To faith in someone to keep you upright on the day of judgement.
The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Bill Shankly was a legendary manager of Liverpool Football Club in England. He once famously said, ‘some people think football [that’s soccer] is a matter of life and death. I can assure you. It’s much more important than that.’
It’s humorous and obviously not true.
Though John writes about that which truly is a matter of life and death. This is a high stakes game.
John wrote his gospel, with the express purpose that we may have life. Listen to what John chapter 20 and verse 30 says,
John 20:30-31 “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
And John wrote his first letter that we may know we have life. Drop your eye to verse 13 of chapter 5.
1 John 5:13 “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.”
For John, it really is a matter of life and death.
Which is crystal clear from the climax of our passage today.
Verse 11-12 “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
John makes it clear that people of this world fall into one of two groups. The life group. And the death group.
Verse 11 spells out why.
Note three things.
a. God given
This life is God given.
Verse 11 “God has given us “
It’s not something we achieve, or earn, with lots of effort.
It’s something God gives.
b. Eternal Life
Verse 11 “God has given us eternal life “
Which isn’t merely quantity, but essentially quality. Yes, eternal life is never ending. But more critically it’s quality. It’s life from God. Eternal life is given by the eternal God.
So it’s not simply life forever more. It’s a life of knowing and enjoying God. here and now.
c. In His Son
God gives eternal life. And third?
What makes the difference between life and death?
Verse 11 “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son.”
Life in Jesus, the Son of God.
So, if you have Jesus, you have life. know Jesus and you know life. But if there’s no Jesus, there’s no life.
Verse 11 and 12 nails the key issue. A matter of life. Which is a matter of faith. Or belief.
Verse 1 “Everyone who believes “
Verse 5 “the one who believes “
Faith and belief come from the same root word. Faith is believing. Belief is faith. And the word in these verses is the present participle. Not a once off. But ongoing. The one who ‘believes and continues to believe’.
Faith itself doesn’t save. It’s the object of our faith. It’s what our faith is in that saves. What saves is the content or focus of our faith.
And the object of Christian faith is Jesus.
But not just any Jesus. Not a Jesus we’ve constructed in our minds to our own liking. But the historical Jesus, as recorded in the Bible.
Of which John highlights 2 key truths around His identity.
At a conference you may wear a lanyard with a tag. Which has your name on it. Along with your company and your position in it. Perhaps ‘marketing Director, Telstra’ Or ‘CEO, Westpac’.
If Jesus had a lanyard, there’d be two things on it.
a. Jesus is the Christ
First, verse 1.
Verse 1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God .”
Christ. That word comes from the Greek language in the first century. And means exactly the same as the ancient Hebrew word used in the Old Testament, Messiah.
Christ, Messiah. Means the same thing. anointed one. And in the Old Testament it was kings who were anointed with oil. Showing they were set apart, separated out, by God’s choice for a special job. That is to rule Israel, God’s people, and to deliver or save them from their enemies.
Israel’s kings we’re a mixed bag, and all failures. But some we’re pictures pointing us to the true messiah. God promised One who’d come that’d truly rule. And rescue. Once and for all. Forever and forever. And that’s Jesus.
Now, believing Jesus is the Christ is to believe and submit to Jesus as God’s appointed King. Ruler over you, the world, the universe.
b. Jesus is the Son of God
Some teachers had spread around that Jesus was simply a man. The son of Mary and Joseph. That Jesus was a sort of super-hero. A miracle worker, good teacher, great example. But He isn’t God.
Yet what defines Christian faith?
Verse 5 “the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God.”
Divine. The second person of the Trinity. In eternal relationship with the Father.
Jesus is not only God’s anointed and appointed King. Jesus is God’s one and only begotten Son.
And that’s Christian faith. Believing Jesus is both fully God and fully human. And believing that the One who died for sin is King. Jesus. Our Ruler. And rescuer.
And that’s the lanyard. Jesus. God’s King. God’s Son.
Though, John also points that the Christian faith is both inclusive and exclusive.
Verse 1 “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God “
Everyone who believes in Jesus is saved. Regardless of age, gender, culture, country or race. Whoever believes in Jesus. They’re part of God’s family. No exceptions. Verse 1.
Born again by God’s Spirit into God’s family.
d. Only the one
And yet Christian faith is also exclusive. Not everyone is saved. Not everyone is a child of God.
Verse 5 “[It’s] only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
There’s a reserved sign on Heaven. Access restricted.
It’s only for those who believe in Jesus.
Know Jesus, know life. No Jesus, no life.
Which then leaves us with a couple of big questions One. How do we know that we truly believe? Two. How do we know what we believe is actually true?
In a law court a lawyer will lay out the evidence so as to prove her case.
In these verses John lays out the evidence. For our faith. and for the object of our faith.
So, let’s take the first question. What’s the evidence for our faith? How do we know we truly believe?
Remember John’s punted 3 ‘tests’ or evidences through this letter. The love test. The moral test. The Jesus test.
And he repeats them here.
a. Love God’s Family
Evidence, exhibit ‘a’. love for God’s family.
Verse 1 “everyone who loves the father loves his child [His Son Jesus] as well. [Verse 2] we love the children of God “
Sharing the same father makes us brothers and sisters. ‘We are family’.
Our love for each other is evidence of God’s work.
‘cos love doesn’t come easy. Especially not when others are different to you. If they don’t look like you, or talk your language, or share your interests, or have a similar personality, or are similar in age, or have different political views – they support Biden or you support Trump, they’re LNP and you’re Labor or Green. All these are barriers to getting along, never mind putting their interests before your own.
And here’s the miracle. God’s family is incredibly diverse. From different cultures, generations, languages, race groups, nationalities. And yet we love each other. The barriers are down. There’s a bond that goes deeper than blood. ‘cos we’ve been born again by the Spirit of God who empowers us to love. To love brothers we’ve never met who are doing it tough in India or the DRC or PNG. To pray, give, and practically care.
Love for one another is evidence. Of our faith. And of God’s work in us.
b. Obey God’s Commands
Exhibit ‘b’. Obey God’s commands.
Verse 2-3 “This is how we know that we love the children of God: [verse 2] by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, [verse 3] this is love for God: to keep his commands.”
Faith in Christ and love for God are seen in that we live in the light. We seek to please him. We want to be righteous, to be more like Jesus. Carrying out or keeping His commands.
Now this isn’t legalistic. Like ticking off the commands you’ve kept. 4 out of 10 this week. Not too shabby. This isn’t about performance. It’s not keeping score. It’s about the heart. About loving God.
In the Bible, love and obedience are synonyms. To love God is to obey God. It’s ‘cos we love God that we want to live life as He instructs.
And His commands aren’t a heavy load that suck the joy out of life. God’s not a spoil-sport. His commands don’t weigh us down. They’re not a strait-jacket. They’re a delight. Verse 3.
Verse 3 “His commands are not burdensome”
An eagle or bird in flight is something to behold. There’s some majestic there. Swooping, soaring, diving. I marvel at how God has made birds to fly.
God’s commands are no more burdensome than wings are to A bird. Wings aren’t unnecessary and unwelcome. Wings are the way birds get to enjoy their freedom. To enjoy being what God made them to be. What He made them for.
God’s commands are how we get to enjoy our freedom. Seeking to live God’s way, according to God’s will.
Obedience is evidence of faith. ‘cos it’s a sign of God’s work. Left to our devices our default is to disobey.
Though once we’ve been born again we’re indwelt by the Spirit. And empowered to keep His commands.
c. Overcome the World
Evidence – ‘a’, ‘b’ and exhibit ‘c’. Christian faith is seen in that we are victorious.
Verse 4 “everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, [that is] our faith.
The words ‘victory’ and ‘overcome’ are from the same root word. The Greek word ‘nike’. Which we know as sportswear. But actually means ‘conquest’.
And here it means to conquer the world. Contrary to the slide on the screen, it doesn’t mean to summit a mountain. It means to conquer a world of sin. The world being two places. The sinful worldly attitudes of our age and society. And the sinful worldly desires of our hearts.
And how are we victorious? By faith. Yes. But not by faith itself. But by what our faith is in. Jesus.
Verse 5 “who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes [in] Jesus”
Jesus, through His death, conquered sin the ‘world’, the ‘flesh’ and the ‘devil’. And His victory becomes our victory when we put our faith in him.
And it’s a once-off and ongoing victory. As God by His Spirit continues to work in us to put to death our sin.
Faith alone saves. It’s not our good works or performance.
Faith alone saves. but the faith that saves is never alone. It’s expressed in the fruit of love and obedience. It’s evidenced in loving God’s family, keeping God’s commands, and overcoming the world.
All evidence of God’s work in us. Evidence of our faith in Him.
That’s the first question. Now for question 2. What’s the evidence that backs up what we believe about Jesus? How do we know Jesus really saves?
Some argue faith is unplugging your brain to take a giant leap into the dark. Faith for them is, by definition, blind.
Others say it’s all about the amount of faith. If you have enough faith you’ll be healed, or wealthy, or successful in relationships. Which only breeds insecurity and navel gazing, always wondering if one has enough faith.
Others say what matters is sincere faith. But one can be sincerely wrong. Sincerity doesn’t save.
What saves is actually the object of our faith. And that’s Jesus.
So we gotta ask, what evidence backs that up?
In first century law courts, testimonies from at least two witnesses had to agree. John calls three witnesses.
Verse 7-8 “There are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood.”
Verse 6 “[Jesus] came by water and blood not by water only, but by water and blood.”
Some argue ‘water’ refers to birth. As it does in other parts of John’s writings. And at His birth there’s plenty of testimony. An angel declares him Son of the Most High. He is ‘Immanuel’, God with us. Angels praise Him as Saviour, Christ and King. Magi worship Him.
All true. But I think it’s more likely water refers here to baptism.
Matthew 3:16-17 “as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove And a voice from heaven said, ‘this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ “
At His baptism the Spirit descends and the Father testifies. Jesus is God’s beloved son.
And baptism itself symbolises death, cleansing and new life. All pointing to Jesus’ future ministry, His death and resurrection.
Which brings us to the blood. Which is a clear reference to the cross, and Jesus’ atoning death.
Where a terrorist crucified alongside Him acknowledged Jesus as Christ the King. And a Roman centurion at the foot of the cross declares.
Mark 15:39 “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
Water, blood and the spirit.
Verse 6 “the Spirit testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
This is the Spirit of God. The third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit. Who testifies the truth.
Three witnesses called, but there’s one testimony.
Verse 8 “the three are in agreement.”
And ultimately this is God’s testimony. Which trumps human testimony, verse 9.
Verse 9 “it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His son.”
So, if you don’t receive Jesus, if you don’t believe, verse 10.
Verse 10 “[you make God] out to be a liar “
Switzerland is famous for not taking sides. Being neutral.
Though when it comes to Jesus, you can’t do a Switzerland. You can’t stay neutral. You either accept or you continue to reject. No fence sitting allowed. You got to choose. For or against. Believe or reject. Faith in Jesus, or faith in something else.
The testimony is clear. The stakes couldn’t be higher. know Jesus, know life. no Jesus, no life.
Now I hope this is a real comfort for those who know Jesus. ‘cos John wants us to be sure. To be reassured. Assured.
It really is a matter of life and death. And eternal life is ours. through faith. in Jesus. The object of our faith.
For those whose faith lies elsewhere. Whatever your faith is in. John says your faith has no grounds. You have no reason to be confident. ‘cos all other faith, outside of Jesus, is wishful thinking. It’s hoping for the best. Against all odds.
The good news is that you need no longer strive. Stop trying. Give up on your own efforts. And start trusting King Jesus, the one who died for sin.
You want to be sure the chair will hold you? You look at the evidence. Is it solid wood? What are the joints like? Is it screwed together? What glue was used?
To become a Christian you look to Jesus. And you plug your brain in. You weigh the evidence. Investigate the claims. Consider the testimony.
Which is all overwhelming. Well beyond a reasonable doubt. Jesus is the Christ, God’s King, God’s Son. Who lived. Died for sin. Rose again.
And through faith in Him we too are victorious. And can be sure and certain. As evidenced by love and obedience. Evidence of our faith. Evidence of God’s work.