The Mark of a True Believer

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 10:41 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Jn. 1:1-2:17 (Quoting select vv. ESV).

The Gospel Message (1:5-10)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

There are many people today who are teaching a false grace gospel, or what I call a “Do Nothing” gospel. They are leading people to believe that they can simply pray a prayer to receive Christ and that they are saved, and that heaven is now guaranteed to them no matter how they live their lives from that moment forward. They say their sins are forgiven, so they are no longer under the judgment of God, so they can live how they want, and even reject Christ later on, if they choose, but that their salvation can never be taken away. On top of that they teach them that God requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience, and no submission to the cross. They tell their followers that God, in fact, is pleased with them no matter what they do.

Yet, this is NOT what God’s word teaches us with regard to our salvation. We are taught, with regard to our former way of life, to put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of our minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24 NIV84). When we truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, since anyone who has died has been freed from sin (See: Ro. 6:1-23; 1 Pet. 2:24).

We can’t be in the light and still walk (conduct our lives) in the darkness (in unrighteousness). If we claim to be in Christ, and we say that we are in fellowship with him, but yet we continue to live sinful lifestyles without regard for God and his Word and his commandments, then we are liars, and the truth is not in us. In other words, a prayer prayed at an altar does not save us. A mere confession of belief in Jesus Christ also does not save us. As well, we are not saved based on past belief. Whoever is believing (present tense) in Christ has eternal life with God (See: Jn. 3:16). Whoever is walking (conducting their lifestyles) in the light (in truth, in Christ, in righteousness) has fellowship with God, and with others who also believe in him, and the blood of Christ purifies us from all sin (See also Ro. 8:1-14).

How We Know Him (2:1-6)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Now, this is not saying that we will never sin, but that we should not walk in sin, i.e. it should no longer be what is in charge of our lives or the pattern by which we live our lives. This is also not teaching that if we do sin once that we have somehow lost our salvation. But, what it is saying is that if we practice living in sin, but we claim to know God, that we don’t really know him. This, as well, teaches us that if we don’t obey Christ’s commandments, but we say we know God, that we are also liars. Again, this is not speaking of sinless perfection, for if that could have been gained through the keeping of the law, Christ would not have had to die for our sins. This all has to do with whether or not Christ is truly in us, and whether or not we are walking according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, for if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, we will live eternally with God (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

In The Light? (2:7-11)

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

So, we have learned so far that if we say we have fellowship with God, i.e. that we are saved from our sins via faith in Jesus Christ, but we continue living in sin, that we are liars. We have also learned that if we say we know God but that we are not in the practice of doing what his Word teaches us we must do, that we are also liars, for we don’t really know God. Again, this is not speaking of sinless perfection but rather of lifestyle, consistency and pattern or practice of daily living (walking). And, here we learn that if we say we are in the light, i.e. that we are in Christ by faith in him, and that we are living and walking in that light (in his righteousness), but we hate our fellow humans, we are once again liars, for we are still in the darkness.

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him that he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) that we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives for Christ (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. Our eternal life does not begin just when we reach heaven. It begins when we truly trust in Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of our lives. He gives us new lives in him to be lived to his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). We are saved to give glory to God with our lives, not to continue living for sin and self.

Do Not Love Worldliness (2:15-17)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

We know that in John 3:16 we read that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son… In this context, it is speaking of him loving the people of the world in order that they might be set free from slavery to sin and that they might have eternal life with God. Yet, in our passage today “the world” is not a figure of the people of the world, but rather of worldly practices, philosophies, attitudes, behaviors and things.

We are not to love worldly living, thinking and stuff, i.e. we are not to adopt the ways of this sinful world or to lay up treasures here on earth, but rather in heaven. Jesus called us out of the world that we might be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being conformed into his image (his likeness). So, we need to come out from worldliness and we need to put on Christ and his righteousness and holiness and walk in His ways.

Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary's mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o'er me.

Near the cross I'll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.