Even though last Sunday was my last 'official' Sunday at PBF I am speaking there this Sunday which gives me a chance to finish up my series on 1 John and Matthew. I am looking forward to teaching the Gospel of Matthew at TBS this fall as it is an important part of the New Testament Scriptures. However, sometimes it is easy to overlook smaller parts of the NT like the letter of 1 John. This is something we must not do because all that God has revealed and perserved for us in the Bible is necessary for our growth and development as Christians.
1 John 5:18-21 bring the letter, or what some believe was a sermon, to a close. When you read the verses you see that John goes out with a bang! From the beginning John has been writing so that we might have fellowship with God and with one another and so that our joy might be full. Here at the end he anchors these desires in three things that he knows about for sure about God and his salvation in Jesus Christ. There are people around today who tell us that we should avoid dogmatic statements about anything. They tell us that people will not trust us if we claim to know anything with absolute certainty. This is understandable under normal circumstances. We are very limited in our perspective and we are shaped by our assumptions more than we realize. But we must always remember that when it comes to the Bible we have certainty not because of who we are and what we know but because of what God has revealed to us. To 'hum and haw' when God has clearly spoken is not an act of humilty but of unbelief and cowardice. With this is mind let me mention the three things that all Christians can know for sure.
1. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One born of God keeps them safe and the evil one cannot harm them. This is not sinless perfection but another indication of the kind of personal transformation that is experienced by the person who has known the salvation of God. Salvation is not just talk but power. It is not merely intellectual notions but liberation that sets a person free to serve the Lord.
2. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. Not only is there liberation from the enslavement of sin but there is freedom from the evil one. He controls those who are outside of Christ in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways but he cannot harm the Christian. John's prose also reminds us that there is to be a difference between the children of God and the world. This difference is not superficial but profound. It's a matter of what hold our hearts? Where do our loyalties lie? Are we driven by a desire for God's glory? Are we really servants, or more literally, slaves of Christ?
3. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. We do not need to be tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine. We can know the truth. He has given us understanding. There is the possibility of a chastened certainty! We are not left in the dark. We need not cling to types and shadows. The reality has come and we know what we need to know to escape this world which is scheduled for destruction as we learn from God's Son, Jesus Christ.
Then finally John closes with the words Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. This says it all. If the truth is found in Jesus Christ, everything outside of him is an idol. He is the standard. The beginning and end of wisdom. Idolatry is more pervasive and deep-rooted than many realize. Our hearts are naturally drawn to idols. Only God is able to break their spell and set our sights on himself. John's exhortation is as necessary today as it was when he first wrote it down. This is the challenge of living in the world without becoming sinfully entangled in it. May our remembrance of all that God has done for us by making us his dear children drive us to run from idols and into the arms of the Savior who loves us and gave himself for us.