The book of First John, in the Bible, is something of a litmus test to see if you are a Christian. As he is preparing to end his letter, John writes:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)I am starting with the end, instead of the beginning of the book to establish that what I write below, bit and pieces of I John, will either establish you as a Christian who is "saved" (that is, safe from eternal damnation) or whether you are not a Christian. Entire volumes could be written about First John, today I undertake a mere survey.
Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, God's Son.
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 1 John 5:1We also see that:
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 1 John 5:12This entails more than a mere belief in Jesus' deity, it involves all of the other things mentioned in I John as indicators of salvation.
First of all, do you think you are a sinner? A sinner is a person who sins. And, sin is transgression against God's laws, that is - someone who disobeys God's rules. First John 3:4 is a definition of sin:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the lawFirst John 1:8 says
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."If you have never admitted that you are a sinner, then you are not a Christian. To be a Christian, you first have to admit that you are indeed a sinner.
Have you confessed your sins to God? Once you realize that you are a sinner, that you have disobeyed God, then you need to admit that to God. Of course, He already knows you are a sinner, but He wants to hear you say it. He wants you to tell Him that you are sorry.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)This needs to be more than a mere apology. This is an apology that has with it determination to really change and be different. The word that Christians use to describe this change is "repent" or "repentance." The Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans,
if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)Have you been baptized? We are commanded to be baptized as a sign to ourselves, God, and everyone else that we are saved. These verses are from the book of Acts,
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:38-41)Do you read the Bible and keep its commandments? First John 2:3-5 says,
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. John also says that, For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:3)These verses show that we need to keep God's commandments. And, to know what His commandments are we need to be reading His Word - that is, the Bible. God's Holy Spirit, which He gives to believers, will help us to obey His rules.
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us. (1 John 3:24)I read this to mean that if we have the Holy Spirit we are saved, and we know we have the Holy Spirit when we keep God's commandments - because we cannot do it without His help!
Do you love people? Throughout First John we see a description of being in the light verses being in darkness. A Christian is a person who lives in the light. A person in darkness is a person who does not love God, a person who will go to Hell when they die. So, what does it look like for a person to live in the light? How do I know if I am one of those in the light? Read this -
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. (1 John 2:9)In a later verse we read that
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14)As I said in a previous post, we cannot fake love. And, love is a huge indicator of a changed life!
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.You can have assurance of your salvation if you love people!
(1 John 3:18-19)
Here are some verses that get to the heart of the matter (pardon the pun):
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)There you have it - if you do not love people, then you do not love or even know God (because to know God is to love God!)
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)You cannot love sinful things. Here is a description of what worldliness means to God. (I need to define one word before you read these verses. John uses the word "world" to mean the evil things in this world - as the verses will themselves explain).
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)God calls us to be different from everyone else in the world. We are not to live by our lusts and by our pride. We should not make our life decisions because of how it would appease our lusts and our pride. We need to live and find our purpose in living for the things of God. In fact, John says that we may seem completely unrecognizable the the world.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)The word "know" in that verse can mean "to understand." People will not understand Christians, we are different! We are holy, because God is Holy (Read I Peter 1:13-16).
If we know that the world will not understand us, if we know that we cannot be like the world - then, why do we try so hard to fit in and be just like everyone else? Everything about Christians should stand out as different: our speech, dress, activities, hobbies, homes, kids. This is NOT just a negative thing. It is not just about "you can't do this" or "don't do that." Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to bring us life and freedom, not just a list of dos and don'ts! A Christian ought to have more peace and joy than anyone else he knows! (And, if you don't have more joy than someone who is clearly unsaved, then there is something wrong! Keep reading). So, it is not merely through denial of earthly things that others will know (and we can know) that we are saved! It is very much about acquiring good things about you (love, joy, peace, patience - to name a few! Read Galatians chapter 5 where it compares a life lived for God through the power of His Holy Spirit, verses a life lived for your own pleasure).
A Christian has hope!
A Christian can have hope in life and in death! If you are a professing Christian that fears death and the possibility of going to hell - there is something wrong. I am not talking about your concerns of leaving your family - none of us wants to abandon our loved ones. I am saying that if you fear that right now dying means a possible separation from God and hope - you need to question whether you are really saved.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.This next verse could have been put in the hope or the love category -
(1 John 3:2-3)
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:17-18)You do not need to fear death, you should not fear death. If you do fear death/judgement then John said that person is "not made perfect in love." And, as John points out, GOD IS LOVE (5:8). Therefore, if you are made perfect in God you do not fear death. (This is one of the examples in Scripture where the word "perfect" means "complete" or "finished.") I am saying that your salvation may not yet be complete if you fear death and judgement for yourself.
We all need to read all of the Bible to truly understand God and the salvation He offers us. And, this has been a brief overview of First John. But, remember what John says about the letter he has written... he wrote it that we may KNOW we are saved (I John 5:13).
You can know and you can have peace in your salvation. If you can read the book of First John and know that you are (by God's grace) trying to be more like the word picture he has painted, then you can have assurance. If your life is marked by love and following God's commands, then you can have assurance. But, if you fear all the more from reading I John, then you are likely not yet saved. And, if you are so scared that you will not read the book at all, then you are not likely saved. I do not like saying those words! I know that I am hurting some of my readers. Yet, I would inflict this pain on you if it brings you closer to salvation! My goal is not to judge anyone. I do not sit in the judgment seat! I am just trying to draw some lines in the sand to help you see things more clearly.
Let me pray for you,
Lord Jesus, I ask that, in your mercy, you would show my readers if they truly be saved. So many people are unsure and it breaks my heart! Oh, God, that You would make things clear to each one who reads my blog. I ask that you would bring to repentance and salvation the ones who do not yet know you. And, if there be any who think they are saved, yet they cannot pass this "litmus test" in I John, then I beg you to convict them all the more and bring them to true repentance, true change, true forgiveness, true love, true knowledge of you. I ask that you would cause my readers who are believers to proclaim the Good News of their salvation from every rooftop. I beg that you would make me and my Christian readers more vocal about our faith. Cause us not to worry about offending others, what is offense compared to someone's eternity in hell? Give us the boldness that your Holy Spirit brings, the boldness that we see in the book of Acts each time the Holy Spirit comes in power. Use me, Lord, and use my Christian readers to draw others to Yourself.
Read a great poem on this topic by John Newton here.