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Monthly Archives: March 2017

The True Christian Keeps God’s Commandments

The True Christian Keeps God’s Commandments

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” I John 2:3 NASB

The first test John gives as to whether or not one has fellowship with God is keeping His commandments. If we have come to know Him, John says we will keep His commandments. Now the question is what are the commandments of God? A few verses down in I John 2:7 John writes, “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.” John said this is a commandment you have had from the beginning. In the first verse of I John the apostle writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” Jesus is the one from the beginning. Then John writes in I John 2:8, “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” In other words, this commandment is new since it can only be kept through fellowship with the one from the beginning-Jesus.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36 what was the greatest commandment. He responded in the next two verses saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then concluded this statement in verse forty saying, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” According to Jesus, the whole of the Word of God rests upon loving God with all of who we are and loving your neighbor as yourself. According to John, the true test of whether or not we have come to know God is whether or not we are keeping His commandments; loving God and loving our neighbor.

Remember, keeping God’s commandments isn’t a means to salvation; it is the proof or evidence of salvation. Faith in Jesus is the only means. If keeping God’s commandments is then a result of salvation, it should be something that comes natural. Yes, we work and strive towards it by disciplining ourselves unto Godliness but we have been given by God the ability to live it. If one doesn’t have fellowship with God, he does not have the ability to live it. In the same way, I can strive to be the greatest quarterback the world has ever seen and work at it every day of my life. Unfortunately, I was not born with natural athletic abilities, therefore, that will never happen. Those who do have the natural abilities continue to discipline themselves to strengthen their abilities God has given.

Jesus made an interesting statement in John 14:21 when He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Jesus said, “He who has My commandments.” The one who is in fellowship with God has the commandments of God. How? God has written them on their heart. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Paul wrote in II Corinthians 3:3, “being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” If we have true fellowship with God, the Spirit of God has written His commandments on our heart. Jesus also said in John 14:21 that He will disclose, or reveal, Himself, to the one who has His commandments.

If we know God, we will keep the commandments that have been written on our hearts. We will not do it as a means of religiosity trying to appease God with lists of dos and don’ts, or rights and wrongs, but because we love Him. Apart from God’s grace, we can never appease Him. As Christians, we have freely received God’s grace. As Christians, we know that the grace God freely gave us came at a great cost to Him. Since we know, our sin was paid for at a great cost to the one who loved us first, we willingly and lovingly live in obedience to Him allowing His commandments to be the navigator of our lives empowered by the Spirit of God within us. Those who don’t love God have no problem trampling on His grace. They have absolutely no desire or will to keep His commandments. Those who truly love the Lord find trampling on His grace shameful and appalling and will therefore keep His commandments, because they love Him.

 
 

Successful Christian Living Comes Through Fellowship

Successful Christian Living Comes Through Fellowship

Clearly, faith is the means to salvation and the seven “by this we know” statements John makes in I John are the result of salvation. The non-Christian is incapable of truly living out God’s high standards. I will elaborate on each one later but we see in I John the results of true faith in Christ.

  • I John 2:3 the true Christian keeps God’s commandments
  • I John 2:5 the true Christian lives in obedience
  • I John 2:18 the true Christian is faithful to God and not the world
  • I John 3:24 the true Christian’s identity is in Christ
  • I John 4:6 the true Christian discerns truth and error
  • I John 4:13 the true Christian walks in the Spirit
  • I John 5:2 the true Christian loves the brethren

 

Does this mean that the true Christian will fulfill each one of these characteristics perfectly as a demonstration that he is a true Christian? No. Remember, John said, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And, if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” I do believe that the demonstration of true Christianity will be a life that consistently fulfills these characteristics. Keep in mind, these characteristics are not the means to salvation, faith is, they are the result of salvation. A life that consistently rejects these characteristics is a life of a non-Christian that has not placed his faith in Christ and therefore is not in true fellowship with God.

When one accepts the atoning sacrifice of Christ, he enters into a relationship with God. They now have fellowship with God. John said that he wants us to have fellowship with him because he has fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. (I John 1:3). What we see here this is that we not only have fellowship with God through our saving relationship, we have fellowship with all believers. John’s heart was for others to have fellowship with God in the way he has fellowship with God.

Apart from fellowship with God, we cannot walk in the manner He desires us to walk. Through our fellowship with Him, He gives us that ability. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” If we abide in Christ, have fellowship with Him, we will bear much fruit. If we do not abide in Christ, we can do nothing.

I John 1:5-6 says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” In other words, if we say we have fellowship with God yet we are walking in a way that is contrary to Him we are not practicing the truth. This is a demonstration that we do not have true fellowship with God. Then John said in I John 1:7,” but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” In other words, if we are walking in a way that is consistent with who He is we are demonstrating that we have fellowship with God. We walk in the Light only because God is Light and we are walking with Him. If we are not walking with Him, we cannot walk in the Light, for He is the Light.

As we examine these seven characteristics of a true Christian, we need to keep in mind that we have these characteristics only because of our salvation in Christ. They are a demonstration that we have fellowship with God and are therefore walking in the Light. Apart from our fellowship with God we cannot, and will not have these characteristics. By faith, we are saved and by faith, we walk in the Light. By faith, we know that God is at work in our lives giving to us the ability to walk in Him.

 
 

Salvation Comes Only Through Faith in Christ

Salvation Comes Only Through Faith in Christ

Before we begin looking at the seven “by this we know” statements John made to assure us of our salvation I need to make it abundantly clear that he is not stating these as a means to salvation, rather, these are results of our salvation. We cannot be saved from our sin by living in obedience to God, keeping His commandments, loving our brethren, or by loving Him. We do these things because of our salvation. By this, we know we are saved. In fact, the lost person who needs to be saved is incapable of fully living out these requirements of God. When we are saved, God empowers us to live them out, thus, by this we know.

As already stated, salvation comes only by placing your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For this reason, John’s heart is to introduce Jesus, the one in whom he has heard, seen, looked at, and touched. John said in verse two of I John, And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Jesus is the eternal life. In the Gospel of John he wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) He then said in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In I John 1:1, he declared Jesus as “The Word of Life.” In I John 1:5 he said, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” In the Gospel of John he declared that Jesus is the true light; the true light that the world has rejected. He stated that “the life was the Light of men” and “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:4-13). Clearly, Jesus is eternal life; He is the Word of Life.

John continued to make bold and profound statements about the person of Jesus. He said in I John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He told us that Jesus is our Advocate. An advocate is one who stands up for and speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. John said if we have sinned, Jesus would be an advocate for us to the Father. Clearly, we have all sinned. John himself stated in I John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Since we have all sinned, we cannot come to the Father on our own. We need an advocate. Apart from Jesus, we have no hope. Praise God He has given us an advocate-His only begotten Son. I Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

            What qualifies Jesus as our advocate? John continued in I John 2:2 saying, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” The bible tells us that the wages of sin is death and that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. While in our sins, we are totally separated from God. If we die physically in our sins, we will be eternally separated from God in Hell. This is not the will of God. God’s will is that we are all saved. For this reason, Jesus became the “propitiation” for our sins. Propitiation means “atoning sacrifice.” In other words, one the cross, through the shedding of His blood, Jesus paid the wages of our sins for the purpose of atoning for our sins and redeeming us from our sins. Because of this truth, John boldly stated in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we confess our sins, we receive the propitiation of Christ’s work on the cross, which then allows Jesus to be our advocate. Once our sins are forgiven, Jesus carries our case to the Father.

How do we receive this gift of propitiation and obtain Christ as our Advocate? John is very clear; it is by faith. In I John 5:1-12, John makes it abundantly clear that we are saved by faith in Christ and only faith in Christ. I John 5:1 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” Then he says in I John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

John clearly stated the purpose of I John when he said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” If his intent were to give us assurance of salvation, he certainly would have given to us every means of salvation. He never mentioned baptism, church attendance, keeping sacraments, or any other religious means to salvation, only faith in Christ. If anything else was necessary, surly he would have mentioned it; but, he didn’t, nor does any other scripture. For this reason, we know when John gives us the seven cases of “by this we know” he is not presenting the means to salvation, he is declaring the result of salvation. The Bible is abundantly and redundantly clear that the only means to salvation is faith in Christ.

 
 

By This We Know

By This We Know

How can you truly know whether you are saved? What does a true Christian look like and act like? What’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian? Over the years, I have been asked these questions repeatedly. These questions are simple yet complex. The only means to becoming a Christian is placing your faith in the person and works of Jesus. Salvation is believing that the person of Jesus Christ is the virgin born Son of God who lived a sinless life fulfilling all righteousness leading Him to laying down His life as the one and only atoning sacrifice for sin. Salvation is believing that Jesus death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient for washing away our sins, justifying us before God, reconciling us into a right relationship, sanctifying us, resulting in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit giving us eternal life and empowering us to live for Him. I’m not saying that we have to know all of these truths in order to be saved. I am saying that we must believe in the person and works of Jesus in order to be saved.

Although Satan knows all of these truths, he probably won’t admit them. And, he certainly isn’t saved. Simply knowing these truths is not sufficient. The Word of God is clear; we must repent of our sins, and by faith trust in Jesus as the Lord of our lives. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus said this is non-optional; He said, “You must.” Satan isn’t willing to do this nor are those who aren’t truly saved. If we are going to be a true disciple of Jesus, Jesus said, “You must.” A couple other frightening truths we find in scripture is first, Jesus said those who truly follow Him will be few and second, according to Jesus, there will be “many” who think that they are saved but are not. (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23).

This leads us to the conclusion that there are three types of “Christians” in this world. Two types are not truly Christians, for, they are deceived. The first type of deceived non-Christian is the one who never had a desire to live for Jesus or surrender his life to Him. They don’t love Him and only view Him as a get out of hell free insurance policy. The second type of deceived non-Christian is the one who thought his own righteousness and own works was sufficient to save him. Their faith is not in Jesus but in self. They may look, act, and talk righteous but it is self-righteousness. The third type of Christian is in the minority. He is the true Christian. He is the one who has placed his faith in Christ alone and has surrendered his life totally unto Him.

I am not writing this to frighten you. I am writing this so you will know. Do you know? Can you know? If so, how can you know? We can know. The Apostle John wrote in I John 5:13 saying, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” This was John’s purpose in writing I John; so you will know. In fact, the apostle uses the phrase, “by this we know” seven times through I John indicating, by this we know if we are truly a Christian. (I John 2:3, 2:5, 2:18, 3:24, 4:6, 4:13, 5:2). Seven more times he uses the phrase, “we know” by itself assuring us of the promises God has made to those who believe in His Son Jesus. (I John 3:2, 3:14, 5:15, twice, 5:18, 5:19, 5:20).