What does it mean to know Christ?
I'm not talking about simply knowing about Jesus and having your facts straight. Rather, what does it mean to really know Jesus Christ on a personal level? That I may come to a personal understanding by personally interacting with the Passion of Christ and the power of Christ and the perseverance of Christ. I just don't want to have more information about Him.
I want to have personal interaction with Him. Those of us who are in Christ find the hope and rest that their souls long for. Jesus brings us forgiveness of sin and the freedom and joy to walk personally with Him through life. And when that happens, God doesn't want us to live in fear. He wants us to rest confidently in Him. He wants us to have assurance that we are truly His sons and His daughters. Do you ever wonder if you're really saved? The Apostle John addressed the topic of assurance in his epistle, and today, Stephen Davy is addressing that passage in this message. Stay with us for a message Stephen is calling, simply, Assurance. Listen long in the early church before questions begin arising, what makes a genuine Christian?
How do you measure that? Who defines the nature and quality of the gospel? What is true spirituality? And the founding fathers of the church, the apostles, put down on paper under the inspiring influence of God Himself in the Holy Spirit, the standards and measurements of Christianity. John, the last living apostle, is about to deliver the answer to a question that has persisted and it comes up in every life and every generation. How do you determine who is a real Christian? And with that, the question which is then answered, how can a Christian have assurance that they really are in the family? Now throughout John's first letter, he clearly wants the Christian to know, to have assurance. If you take your Bibles and turn to first John, he needed to let us know, didn't he? Surely, we can't leave it up to each other. We would have a standard of Baptist measurements and Presbyterian measurements and Episcopalian measurements and across the Reformation line, Roman Catholic measurements.
All kinds of man-made standards have been created. There are those, of course, that would say you can't be sure you're a Christian until you meet our external standards, whatever they may be. You can't be sure you're a real Christian unless you join our church or our movement. You can't be sure you're a Christian unless you've experienced what we've experienced. Somebody sent me a poem some time ago, a little humor, it illustrates the very problem.
Here he goes. I dreamed death came the other night, and heaven's gates swung wide, and angel with the halo bright ushered me inside. And there to my astonishment stood folks I judged and labeled as quite unfit, of little worth and spiritually disabled.
But words rose to my lips, but never were set free, for every face showed stunned surprise no one expected me. Well put. The Apostle John is pretty passionate about assurance. In fact, several times in his letter, he's going to effectively say, this is how you know. This is how you know.
Here's the standard. Now in chapter two of first John, if you'll turn there to that chapter, he delivers at least three principles that support our assurance of salvation. Here's how you can know that you belong to God.
The first principle that supports our assurance is the principle of obeying. He begins in chapter two of verse three. By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.
And you're probably thinking, well if that's the case that I'm toast, I'm never going to get into the family, and if I'm in I'm probably going to get kicked out. Well, first of all understand that John's letter is actually intended to encourage the Christian, not terrify the Christian. I've read commentators on this epistle who are convinced that John is trying to terrify people forever daring to think they were genuine Christians to begin with.
It's not his purpose. It's not the heart of his letter. In fact, he's writing to my little, what, children, my little children. He says over and over again, John's children in the faith.
So let's take a closer look here at chapter two and verse three and a few verses afterward and figure out what he's saying. By this we know that we have come to know. He's going to use that verb to know 25 times in this letter.
He wants us to know. He's all about knowing, all about assurance. And it's interesting and rather instructive with the verb that he uses because the Greeks had verbs that could give a lot of different nuances to this idea of knowing. He chooses the verb ginosko, which refers to knowledge gained through personal experience. Another Greek verb for know, oida, means knowledge that is gained through information. So the Greeks would use different verbs to talk about knowing. Knowledge gained through personal interaction, personal experience.
Knowledge gained by simply hearing, getting an education. There is a difference. There's a big difference how we apply this text and understand it.
Let me illustrate it this way. Suppose that you told your little boy not to bite his little sister because, why? You're trying to take a nap. No, that's not the reason because it hurts her, doesn't it? He doesn't get it. And you tell him, you define what it means to hurt. You define the nature of teeth.
You talk about the engineering principles of clamping and how that relates. And you're giving him a great education. What he needs is a little experience. Like it reminds me of a little boy who began to yell and cry. His mother rushed into the room and his little sister had a handful of his hair in her little hand and she wouldn't let go and he's just screaming away and she unwrapped the toddler's fingers and then hugged her son and explained, you know, honey, she doesn't know.
It hurts. She left the room and seconds later the little girl started screaming and she ran back as he walked out and he looked up at her and he said, now she knows. By the way, that's the verb the Apostle Paul uses when he says, that I may know him. Is Paul not a Christian? He's a Christian.
He uses Genosco. That I may come to a personal understanding by personally interacting with the passion of Christ and the power of Christ, even the persecution of Christ and the perseverance of Christ. I just don't want to have, you know, more information about him.
I want to have personal interaction with him. One Greek scholar wrote that this verb not only implies a personal relationship between the knower and the object known, but that the knower is under the influence of the object known. What John is writing here is this. This is how you know that you are personally interacting with and under the influence of Jesus Christ.
Are you obeying him? You can measure that. You can see that. That's practical.
That's visual. Now the word commandment here needs to be understood. It's not the word namos as a reference to the Mosaic law. This is a word that refers to the injunctions of Christ, the ordinances of Christ, the commandments of Christ.
We read it earlier. The commission is to go, and as you're going, make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all I, Jesus Christ, have commanded you. The New Testament then is filled with injunctions and commands for the New Testament believer, and the believer has a desire to keep them.
John writes here, by this we know that we are personally interacting. And under the influence of him, if we are keeping his commandments, the word translated keep, has the idea of observance, watchful, obedience, while the Christian will never perfectly or consistently keep all the commandments of Christ, which is why John began his letter by telling us how to confess when we don't. The believer wants to. That's a desire to guard the commandments and keep them. And the believer is grieved by his disobedience. The idea here of keeping his commandments has the idea of determination and desire. The believer wants his walk to match his talk. I like the way one author summed it up when he commented on this verse. He wrote, the believer cannot keep Christ's commandments perfectly, but he can keep them purposefully. It's our purpose, our desire.
Why? If we're really truly interacting with him and under the influence of Christ, guess what? We're going to want to obey him. It's as simple as that. I think it's fascinating here that John ties assurance of salvation, not then to our emotions, but to our actions, emotions ebb and flow.
They come and they go. Now you might wish that your assurance wasn't tied to actions, but think about it. Would you really want to have it tied to emotions? John isn't asking us, do you feel like you belong to Christ? Do you feel like you know Christ?
He's asking us, do we live like we know Christ? See there's the standard of measurement. Emotions are ethereal.
They're up and down. You can't measure them, but you can't actions. You can't fruit. It's objective, observable, practical, and visual, and every day the believer can know if he is personally interacting with the influence of Jesus Christ by what I just said or what I just thought or what I just did. In fact, notice the contrast he makes. Verse 4, the one who says, I have come to know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. In other words, the standard of our assurance is not tied to our lips, it's tied to our lives. Notice again, the one who says, they're saying with their lips that they personally interact with or under the influence of the person of Jesus Christ, but they don't have any desire to keep his commandments.
They're lying. John says, this person is a liar. You need to know that John isn't writing about someone who's been tricked or confused, someone who fails or sins.
He's talking about somebody who lies as a pattern of living. In other words, they say they know Christ, but when you burrow into that, what they really mean is they prayed a little prayer when they were a kid and our lives have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. John would say that person's lying to themselves, they're lying doctrinally, they're actually promoting a heresy. The Gnostics were promoting when John wrote this letter that a person who can sin unrepentantly, perpetually, who claims to be interacting with the person of Christ, they're lying doctrinally, they're lying practically, they talk like they know the truth, but their lives show that they are willing strangers to the truth. They really don't care about Jesus Christ at all.
They fit the description of the person in this caricature written by someone to describe a false believer who talks every so often about God but really doesn't want anything to do with him. This person says, as the author wrote, I would like to buy three dollars worth of God. Not enough to change my life or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a nap in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love somebody I don't like or help somebody I don't know. I want happiness, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a carry out bag and I can take it where I want. I would like only three dollars worth of God. That person's assurance doesn't meet the divine standard of measurement. It isn't built upon the direction, the flow, the desire of obeying. That's the first principle.
The second principle that supports assurance is the principle of treasuring. Look at verse 5. Whoever keeps his word in him the love of God has truly been perfected. Now that word perfected makes you think, okay, I've got to be perfect.
Now that word means accomplished. You might write that in the margin of your Bible. In other words, John is encouraging us that when we keep his word, the love of God is accomplishing its purpose in our lives. The more we treasure the word of God, the more we open the door for the love of Christ to accomplish its purpose in our lives.
I love this verb to keep. To keep his word. It opens up a little bit of the meaning than what John is conveying here. The word was used in John's day of a century on duty. He's walking his post.
He's guarding whatever he's supposed to be guarding. It was used in the generation of John the Apostle for that person who was guarding a treasure, guarding it, watching it carefully to treasure. How do we guard our treasure? Just this past Sunday during the chapel hour on Sunday evening while I was preaching on the subject of the leper who returned to give thanks, a couple of burglars broke into our home.
I was the first person home before our girls and my wife, and I think I sent them scampering away. Footprints of mud were still fresh, but they had just enough time to steal all of Marsha's jewelry. Every last bit of it. Parts of it was inexpensive, but all of it's meaningful, as I'm sure you know, including some special pieces from her mother and her father. Every bit of it was taken. The irony of it all was finally this past Christmas, I'd finally gotten her that little standing jewelry omelet, and I suppose I made it really convenient for them. Here it is. It's all in this box. It was all right there.
They just emptied it out. Her response has been wonderful, by the way, submissive to the will of Christ, and I'm proud of her. I told her I can't imagine coming home and seeing 31 years of collecting books and all those books gone.
I would only hope they'd read them, get saved, and return them. But boy, are we ever guarding the treasure of our home. We're locking doors, turning on alarms, being careful. We traded our little dog Pixie in for two genetically altered German Shepherds.
If you're listening and you were one of them, I bought two killer cats. They're in the house now, and okay, I made that part up. It's just strange to have your stuff taken, isn't it?
I'm sure many of you can resonate with that. In fact, two days ago, our son was rooming with a couple of guys in the house. Their home was broken into, and a number of things stole them. I don't know, maybe John had the experience of a break-in. Because the word he used, already twice in this paragraph, is a word that challenges the believer to carefully treasure, and notice what we're treasuring, his word. We're treasuring his word.
So assurance of salvation is directly connected to my view of Christ's word. So the question is, is it a treasure to me? Is it a treasure to you?
Does it stay under the front seat of the car? You know, or out in the garage, on the shelf, or in the closet, or somewhere? You're not really sure where. I mean, can you imagine your wife saying to you, honey, I really don't know where I put my jewelry.
I think it may be in the garage, or maybe under the front seat of the car. Do we really treasure the word of God? See, you can measure that in your own heart in life, can't you? John writes in verse 5 here at the end, this is how we know, now he changes the expression a little bit, this is how we know that we are in him.
How? Again, by treasuring his word. Did you notice that key phrase, we'll say more about it a little later on in our series of studies. But this is how we know that we are in him, you ought to underline that, in him, in Christ.
He's just going to hammer away at that, it's one of his favorite expressions. What does he mean? Well, he doesn't mean that we have been absorbed into deity. You know, we have no personality, we're simply absorbed at some point as pantheism teaches. As Eastern religions, you are absorbed into some kind of eternal consciousness. Now this is referring to a special unity by virtue of relationship.
That's what he's talking about. You can understand that he's saying we are in the sphere of Christ. Our lives, everything about us is just encircled by Jesus Christ.
We are in Christ. Think of it this way. You are in North Carolina. You live in North Carolina. Now that doesn't mean that you're some strange appendage to the state, and you've lost your personality or distinctive, no, that's not what he's saying. You live within the sphere of North Carolina's borders.
You actually have a new identity. You're a North Carolinian. You might have used to be a Texan or a Floridian, but now you're a North Carolinian. Now you have the privilege of paying your taxes to North Carolina instead of Texas or Florida. And over time, perhaps, if you've been here for a while, you've come to love the culture and the beauty of this state. You love the mountains to the west and the ocean to the east. You begin to feel at home here. You learn to get accustomed to the allergies that are unique in North Carolina. We actually have all of them, so you learn to deal with weather.
One day it's 31, the next day it's 71, and you come to think that's actually normal. And you finally break down and you begin drinking sweet tea. Any of you holding out, you are not drinking sweet tea. Only four of you. It's a new members class, we work on that in there.
Well, let me get to the analogy. We are in Christ. What does that mean? That means we have a new sphere of residency. That means we have new obligations and responsibilities. That means we are adapting to a new culture and way of living. That means we're cheering for everyone related to us.
That means our appetites change over time. Means we have a new name, Christian, because we live within the borders of his ownership. And we have found that we treasure his word. Our assurance is based on the principle of obeying. It's based upon the principle of treasuring.
Furthermore, our assurance is based upon the principle of imitating. Verse 6, the one who says he abides in him ought himself to walk in the same manner as Jesus, he, Jesus walked. Now this is that classic text, again, make sure your walk measure is up to your talk. The one who says better walk the way he walked.
In other words, if that's what he's saying, this is what he ought to be doing. If he's talking that way, he ought to be walking that way. The one who says he abides, another favorite word of John, abides, he'll use it 24 times.
Abiding has to do simply with an ongoing communion, intimate fellowship, and a love for Jesus Christ. As you walk about, you're walking about is consistent with the person that you say you're walking with, Jesus Christ. Your walk resembles his walk, how? You're walking in the same direction, you're making the same decisions, you're walking with the same sense of determination, you're walking toward the same destiny. You can't walk with someone unless you're heading in the same direction, at the same pace. John implies this greater truth than about the Christian's walk. We not only walk with him, we walk like him. This is a reference then to our imitation of his character and his spirit and his wisdom and his patience and his joy and his love and his perseverance and his obedience.
And it develops over time just as you learn to walk as a human being. This is not hypocrisy. This is imitation. We are not pretending to be him, we just want to be like him. And a believer has that desire in his life. The principle of imitation gives credibility to assurance. Do you want to build your assurance of salvation?
John wants us to. Here's how you can know, that you know when that knowing grows, imitating, treasuring, obeying. There's a pastor in our church who's recently retired in this area who knows Warren Wiersby personally and it was interesting to hear some comments from him not too long ago. Warren Wiersby, a pastor of decades and an author now in his 90s, unable to hear, still writing. In his autobiography, Warren Wiersby writes about his first church building project as a young pastor and I found it fascinating. In Indiana, where he pastored, he and the church's building committee were discussing building they needed, the costs associated with those architectural desires and at one point in the meeting, Wiersby said that he learned a principle of practical theology. In the meeting, he asked the church architect who was working on the project, he said, look, why do we need to have such a high ceiling in the auditorium? You know, why not save money and have a lower ceiling and just build a tall facade out front out? The architect responded in a quiet voice and he said, pastor, Wiersby, the building you construct will reflect what you believe about the church. You don't use facades on churches to fool people.
That's for carnivals. The outside and the inside must agree. That's good, isn't it? While our salvation is secure by grace through faith in Christ alone, our assurance rises and falls in direct proportion to these measurements in our lives and you can just boil it all down to this. How much of our lives on the outside agrees with what's on the inside. We measure it as we obey the will of Christ, as we treasure the word of Christ and as we imitate the walk of Christ.
We can have assurance of our salvation and God's word tells us how. I'm so glad you joined us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey is working through a series entitled After Darkness, Light. Today's lesson from that series is called Assurance. Whenever we add one of Stephen's lessons to our website, we include the audio that you can listen to and we also include Stephen's manuscript for those who prefer reading or reading along. That content is available free and on demand at wisdomonline.org. Visit there often for access to these biblically faithful messages. Then join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
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