The second paragraph of America's Declaration of Independence begins with the famous words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
What this means is that the representatives to the Continental Congress back there in 1776 unanimously agreed that these ideas—such as "men are created equal, that God has endowed them with certain rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"—were true, and that they would base their subsequent actions, then, on the validity of these truths for all men for all time.
They told King George III that they were breaking away, because these certain unalienable rights that had been given to them by God had been abrogated by the king, and therefore they felt justified in declaring their independence.
It is interesting to me that Thomas Jefferson used the words "we hold" to express the founding fathers allegiance to their political beliefs. This expression brings to mind not just belief in a thing, in a truth, in a principle, in a fact, but of possessing it, of holding it like you would hold something in your hands. They owned these truths. They held them because they were theirs, because they had thoroughly digested them and made them part of themselves.
Holding something to be true expresses a nuance of defiance in the face of opposition of someone who is trying to take that away from you. We hold this to be true, and you are not going to take it away from us is the nuance that comes through by using this choice of words. No matter what the opposing or contrary opinion was, they would hold to them.
Let us say we had to write, not a Declaration of Independence, but a Declaration of Belief to be published in all the world so that everybody in this world would know what we believe. In it we would write for all time what we would hold to be fundamentally true, and we would also tell what these truths have led us to do, or what they will lead us to do. What would we write? What truths do we hold to be self-evident? What truths do we feel, believe, hold, are good for all men for all time, and that will lead us to act?
I mentioned in one of my Feast sermons that the apostle John, in his first epistle, uses the phrase we know several times, and that this would make a very interesting study. Well, at the time I had not studied it, but I decided that it would make a pretty good sermon, so I have decided to do that today. I have decided to go through the "we knows" of the first epistle of John and ask you, and ask myself as well, "Do we really know and believe and live what John says we know? Do we really know what John says we know?
Before I get into what it is that we should know, let us take a quick look at the phrase itself—we know—as John uses it. It is important to put that phrase as John uses it, because the idea behind this phrase develops somewhat during the course of the New Testament in the Greek. It is not always used the same way.
The verb here is ginosko. It is Strong's No. 1097, and it emphasizes understanding rather than mere knowledge or sensory perception. We know Cathy Benedetto is here today. That would be sensory perception. Now we could say, "We know Cathy Benedetto is here today," if we had actually experienced something with her today, and that would take on a little bit more of the idea of ginosko as John used it. It was an experiential type of knowledge, where you had gone through either an experience or you had a relationship of some sort that gave you this knowledge. So it is not just having seen something, but actually knowing, because you have experienced something. Ginosko is a deeper, almost visceral understanding of a thing, not just being aware of a fact.
By John's gospel, and by his epistles—all written toward the end of the first century—the New Testament meaning of this word had become quite specialized when it was used in theological context. That is an interesting distinction. It went beyond deep knowledge and understanding. It went even beyond this visceral knowledge, to mean knowledge and understanding that comes as part of a relationship. It took on this idea of a relationship in a theological sense because it had so much to do with how we live our Christian lives, because we do live our Christian lives in relationship to our relationship with God.
Our Christian lives are based upon the relationship that we have with God. So to know, by the time John was writing late in the first century, took on this theological meaning of having this deep and abiding relationship with God, and having experienced life with God.
Now we say, "You don't know what it's like till you've gone through it yourself," or "As much as you read or heard about someone, you can't really know him until you've met him." That is the thrust of ginosko in John's writing. There is the old Indian thing—You do not know a person until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. That is kind of the idea of to know in John's gospel, and in John's writings.
We have a deep and thorough knowledge of God, because not only have we read and heard about Him, but because we have a relationship with Him. We have met Him. We have shared experiences with Him. We have talked with Him, and He has talked to us. We know Him, because we have been through these things.
The Cherrys went to South Africa this year, and they got to meet the people in South Africa. They know those people in South Africa better than I do because they have met them. They have talked with them. They have experienced at least eight days or more with those people. They know them quite a bit more, because they have experienced life with them. Even just the eight or nine, or whatever days it was they have spent with them puts them a quantum leap ahead of any of us who just know them by name.
That is the idea of what it is with God, that God is not just a name we read in a book called the Bible. We know God, because not only have we read and heard about Him, but we know Him because we have lived with Him over a period of time.
You will remember that just a few minutes ago I said I thought it was interesting that Thomas Jefferson used the words "We hold." "We hold these truths," and that makes it more personal, like we own it. It is not just a belief. It is not just head knowledge.
Remember I used the word visceral. It is in our gut. We feel something down to our bones. It is fully ours, and thoroughly ours, so that like the founding fathers, we would give our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defend and promote what we know to be true. That is the force of "We know" in John's first epistle. We know it, we hold it. We will not give it up, and we would give everything we have to make sure that never changes in our lives.
Let us go to Luke 16 because I want you to see a side of ginosko that comes into play in I John. This is the parable of The Unjust Steward as Jesus gives it.
Luke 16:1 And He also said to His disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
This steward was embezzling or being a spendthrift, and it was not his money to spend.
Luke 16:2-4 So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' Then the steward said within himself, 'What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig: I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.'
Did you figure out where ginosko is? It is in the phrase—I have resolved.
Have you ever seen what is written down, let us say, like after a meeting of the city council or some body politic? They say "resolved." "We will do this and this," or that "Because of this and this and this, it is resolved," or that "Because of this and this and this, we will then do this" Well that is in a way how John uses ginosko in the book of I John. It is something that we have resolved.
Resolved is an interesting word. When we resolve to do something, we make a deliberate choice—a determination based upon what we know and understand. And then because a resolution is such a strong, weighty thing to do, it then becomes a part of our character. It is not like a New Year's resolution, which most people break. In a way we use that word wrongly in that context. A resolution is not necessarily a promise. It is something far stronger than just a promise. It is something that we want to do deep down. "We have resolved that this is the best course of action." That is what the steward did here in this parable. It was the best thing to do. And Jesus commends him.
If you go down a few verses, you will see that he had dealt shrewdly with the situation, and Jesus says, "Oh, I wish My people were more shrewd." So this is how ginosko is used in I John. I know it, that this is the best thing for me to do. I have resolved that I will go this way. It is to know something all the way down to your toes. It is being thoroughly convinced of something, and resolved to do it.
So John is saying—we know—is not something that we should just read over quickly. It is not a light matter. He means that we hold deep resolute unshakable convictions about these truths, and that these truths form the bedrock of our lives, and every action that we take springs from them. It means that we hold deep, resolute, unshakable convictions about these truths, and they form the bedrock of our lives, and every action springs from them. That is the gist of we know.
I am going to give you a list of these. In all there are 15 we knows in 1 John—fifteen verses in which we know appears. It is interesting that the whole of I John only has 105 verses. So that is a little bit over 14% of the verses are we know verses. I want to go through all 15 today. Each one could be an entire sermon in itself. I will not go into them in any depth, but at least we will be able to see what they mean. I will take several of them together, because certain of them express similar ideas. Some of them will be in groups of we knows—two or three together.
Now by my count, John lists nine separate truths that we know to be absolute and incontrovertible. Here is the list of nine. I will give you the truth and the verse that it is found in. These will be in the order in which they appear in the book. It is very interesting to see the order of these.
TRUTHS OF GOD
1. Keeping God's commandments is vital to our relationship with Him. I John 2:3, 5
2. These are the last days, or This is the last hour.
I John 2:18
3. Our potential is to be just like God.
I John 3:2
6. God hears our prayers and responds because we are attuned to His will.
I John 5:15
7. We must overcome sin.
I John 5:18
8. We are different. We are of God, not of Satan nor this world. I John 5:19
9. Christ's coming has opened our understanding, enabling us to have a relationship with the Father and the Son.
I John 5:20
There are the nine truths that I find in I John, all begun by we know.
My first thought after seeing this list was one of absolute amazement. The amazement came because I noticed how many of these basic convictions of God's church are bones of contention in the ongoing apostasy. My wife and I were discussing these yesterday. You can go right down the list. Many of them are ones that we had great discussion about over the past dozen years or so.
Just look at the first one—keeping the commandments. What is the thing that chased most of us out of the Worldwide Church of God? They said we didn't have to keep the commandments anymore, that it wasn't vital to our salvation—and that's the first one that the Apostle John lists.
Also the one on "these are the last days." It's also one of those things that drove some of us out of the Worldwide Church of God because they said these aren't the last days. And we said, "Yes they are!"
You'll see as we go through that many of them are—call it a wake-up call—a way to evaluate just where we stand before God. How many of these convictions do we know to our bones? Many of our former brethren no longer know these things, or have fallen into error just like it happened with brethren of the Apostle John in the first century. Apostasy seems to follow a certain pattern, and the same ideas and the same errors crop up—and people fall away.
You can see that these are very large subjects, and they could be examined at length. My dad did a 29-sermon series on the covenants, which included why we should keep the commandments. We could go into great depth into these things, but I don't have time for that, so I'm going to have to be fairly brief. What I'm going to be giving you now are just summaries of each truth. I'll guess I'll give you an assignment for you to please look at these in more depth on your own time. Look into them and be convicted, or re-convicted of them, because John says these are things we know, or we should know.
SUMMARIES OF THE TRUTHS OF GOD
1. Keeping God's commandments is vital to our relationship with Him.
I John 2:3-5 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says , I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
If there is any one of these we know verses or ideas that is part of others' ideas, it is this, that we are in Him. We know that we are in Him. Kind of keep that in the back of your mind. They are proofs that we have this relationship with God.
I can paraphrase what John means. He says, "We know that by keeping God's commandments we come to know Him, and become more mature in the love of God. We know this is how we become one with Him."
It is easy to see how John came to this conclusion. God's commands express His nature and the way He lives. And the way He lives is based solely on love. If we are going to have one virtue that we label God with, the best we could come up with is love, in our human grasp of things.
God will have a relationship only with those who are trying to conform to His image—to be just like Him. So the way to have a relationship with Him is to live as He does, because that shows that we are trying to conform to His image. There is a saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." In a way that is what we are doing with God—not in a negative way, but in a positive way. We are imitating His form of life to please Him. It works to bring us into His image, and His image is the most mature example of love in the whole universe.
As we learn God's way, we become more and more mature in the love of God. Doing this means we have to keep His commandments, because His commandments show His love. God's nature, or His character, will be built in us through keeping His law. It becomes part of our character when we begin to do these things that He does. As we grow in His nature, we then become more united with Him until we are one with Him, and He with us.
Go back to John 14. We will be going to John 14 a lot for this sermon that Christ gave during The Last Supper. I believe John was thinking about this as he was writing his epistle. As a matter of fact we could probably trace every one of these nine truths back to John 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, because they are all fundamental, and that is what Jesus was teaching His disciples the night before He died—the fundamentals of Christianity.
John 14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments."
There is love and commandments again.
John 14:21-24 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me."
This sounds very very similar to what we just read in I John 2:3-5. John even gave the positive and the negative just like Jesus did in this section. "If you love Me, you'll keep My commandments. And if you don't have My word, you can't love Me, and you won't keep My commandments."
John must have had this on his mind, and it really must have made an impression on him.
John 15:9-10 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love."
I did it this way, and it worked for Me, and it will work for you.
John 15:14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."
We will have a relationship if you keep My word.
This is a primary teaching of Christ. We know that keeping God's commandments will build love in us and allow us to have a relationship with the Father and the Son, (which is repeated in the 9th truth). A lot of these are intertwined of course. One would think that there is little dispute over this point, but it is exactly here that most professing Christians go astray, and where most apostasy takes place. They do not want to keep God's law. But we know that we must keep God's law so we can have a relationship with Him. It is God's law where truth is first abandoned, despite all that is said about it in both Testaments.
2. These are the last days. This is the last hour.
I John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
Do we know that these are the last days? John says we should know it deep to our bones. We should be able to see it, and prove it. Some might argue, "This can't be any fundamental truth. Didn't John write this nineteen hundred years ago, and Christ still hasn't come?"
Well, if that is the approach you take, you misunderstand what he meant. He does not mean that Christ will return soon by "this is the last hour." At least that is not his primary understanding of it. To use modern parlance, what he is saying is "this is the hour of decision." Notice he does not say "these are the last days" necessarily. He says "this is the last hour."
What about Antichrist in all this—and many antichrists? You notice by the way he writes this that he acknowledges that there will be an Antichrist. It is probably capitalized in most of your Bibles. That has to happen, because Christ said that there would be someone like that at the end. I do not know if John had gotten the revelation yet, or the apocalypse that we know as the book of Revelation, but he knew enough from what Jesus Himself had prophesied that there would be an Antichrist to come. Paul had prophesied of it as well.
John's contention is that many like this Antichrist are already at work. They may not be the final fulfillment—the specific one that we might call "the Beast" but there are many antichrists in the world, and in the church unfortunately. As proof, if you go to the next verse, he cites all the heretics that have shown their cards in the church, and they showed their cards by their apostasy, and their lies, and their disobedience. He says, "They weren't of us even though they were among us."
Let us go to Luke 21 to see what John was drawing upon. This is Luke's version of the Olivet Prophecy.
Luke 21:7 And they [the disciples] asked Him [Jesus] saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"
Now you can understand why John was saying that this is the last hour, because these are signs of the end times.
Luke 21:8 And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name [in the name of Christ] saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them."
The first sign that He gave—as we find in Revelation 6, the first seal—is religious deception. This is what John was hearkening back to. The first seal had been opened. Religious deception is happening in the church, and this is when you have to decide which side you are on. It is the hour of decision. Fish, or cut bait. Believe, or apostatize. Believe Christ, or antichrist—meaning simply against Christ, or in place of Christ.
Whenever there is heresy going on, there is the spirit of antichrist. And so we have to believe, we have to know that this is the hour to decide whether we are going to be with Christ, or with antichrist. We know that this is the last hour, because antichrist is abroad. You could die tomorrow. This would definitely be your last hour. So we have to keep on making that decision over and over and over every time we are faced with antichrist—meaning anything that is against Christ.
As long as we are under judgment, this is our last hour, and we have to live it like it is our last hour. Do you know what this means? This means Herbert Armstrong was right. "Ah! He kept us on the gun lap for fifty years!" He was right! You have to be on the gun lap all the time. This life is urgent, because you could die tomorrow, and your judgment would be over.
Where would you stand before the judgment seat of Christ if you died now? Christ could come a thousand years from now, but if you died right now—it is the last hour. Do you know that? Do you live your life according to that? Do you say, "I can sin during the week, and then be pious and humble on the Sabbath?" What if you died on Wednesday? Think about it. John says, "We know this is the last hour," and do not let anybody ever tell you any different.
We will now go to a third truth that was spat upon by recent heretics that were among us.
3. Our potential is to be just like God.
I John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
You have to be like Him to be able to see Him in His glory. John admits that we do not know the details. It has not been revealed completely what we are going to be like, but we know this, that we are going to be just like Him—the risen Christ, the glorified Christ, and not some angel. I do not say that to put the angels down, but we are fully sons of God at that point, and the heir grows up to be just like the Father. David knew this. Let us go to Psalm 17. This is not something new in the New Testament.
Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
What an interesting choice of words. He did not say "image." He said that actually in the first sentence when he said, "I will see Your face in righteousness." That is the image of God—holy righteous character—but the word he used in the second sentence was likeness. That is the word the Hebrews used for form and shape and substance. Is it not interesting that John chose very similar words to David's, that when we finally see God, we are going to be like Him. David said "I will see Your face in righteousness when I awake in Your likeness." That is nothing new. We will be just like God.
Paul shows in I Corinthians 15 we will have a body of spirit just like God's. First comes the natural body, and then comes the spiritual, and it happens at the resurrection. It is very simple.
Why is this such a necessary conviction that we know? Well, look at the next verse in I John 3. Why do we have to know what we will be like?
I John 3:3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
That is the other half of what David wrote. David said "I'm going to see Your face in righteousness when I awake in your likeness." John says that we will be just like You, and because we have this hope in us, we are going to be doing everything we can between now and then to be holy and pure just like God is—the image half.
If we do not have this goal in front of us, we will not work for it. That is why we have to know that we will be just like God in the resurrection. So we live lives of constant effort to improve our character, to please Him by growing in His image.
4. Love for God shows itself in service to the brethren.
I John 3:14-19 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
I John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
I threw these four we knows together, because they all revolve around loving the brethren, and that loving the brethren is proof of our standing with God. Again, this is John simply repeating a basic teaching of Christ.
Let us go to John 13, back to this Last Supper sermon, right after the foot-washing.
John 13:12-17 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."
John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
This truth contains nothing complicated. There is nothing deeply theological in this, yet it takes a beating during times of apostasy. Apostasy is a very selfish act, if you think about. Apostasy places what one believes above God's truth. In a way it is a form of self-righteousness, and with it invariably comes un-Christian acts toward the brethren.
It is almost impossible to apostatize without hurting one of the brethren. This is often exhibited as a lack of forbearance. "Oh! You don't understand. Why am I even dealing with you? You'll never understand. This is more than you have smarts for." They may not say that, but they will not give you the time of day, because they are so erudite and intellectual, and you are so dumb for not understanding.
Or it comes out as bitterness. How many of our former brethren were bitter to the core at Mr. Armstrong—one of their brethren? Or it comes out as spite. Often it comes out as debate. They just want to get you in a corner and nail you to the wall on this theological point that does not make a hill of beans difference. Or they offend, and burn their bridges behind them. Or they cause contention and strife within the church. Those are not acts of love toward the brethren.
We can know where we stand before God if, after we honestly evaluate our lives, we see that we are following Christ's example, and genuinely serving one another. It has got to be an honest, genuine, evaluation of how we treat our brethren.
5. We are united with God by His Spirit in us.
I John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.
Because we have the spirit in us, we know that God lives in us.
I John 4:6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us [meaning the ministry, God's true apostles, God's true ministers]; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
We are able to discern what is true and what is false because of the Spirit of God that dwells in us.
I John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
This one is similar to the last one in that it gives us proof of our standing with God. We know that we are united with God when we see the fruit of His Spirit being produced in our lives. And because we have God's Spirit in us, we hear Him. We obey His Word. We conform to His teaching. We grow in understanding. And like he says there in verse 6, we are able to discern truth from error. If we see these things happening in us, we know we have God's Spirit, and if we have God's Spirit, then we are in Him, and He is in us. Is that not comforting?
I John 3:24 And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us."
I John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His spirit.
It goes both ways. He in us, and we in Him. Is that not an answer to Christ's prayer in John 17, "Father, help them become one in Us, and Us in them"? What did He say? "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. Guard them by this."
We just heard how many sermons on the Spirit of God, and how it is combined with the heart and the mind, and the Word of God in us. And by that we know that we are in God and that God is in us. Is that not comforting?
Let us look now at Psalm 51. David had sinned grievously, and he knew that he was this close to losing God's Spirit. What did he say to God?
Psalm 51:10-13 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.
David cries out to God—"Don't take it away. That's how I know that You're in me, and I'm in You. I don't want the link broken."
David knew that it was by God's Spirit that he came into God's presence. "Don't cast me from Your presence, O God." He needed to be close, because it was proof of God working with Him, and it would straighten him out when he went astray. It would help him in every area of his life. "Don't cut me off, God."
David knew that without God's Spirit, he could do nothing of eternal value. He said, "At least if I have Your Spirit, Father, I can teach sinners Your ways, and maybe some of them will be converted to You."
Those are things of eternal value. So without God's Spirit, he could do nothing like that. David recognized the importance of knowing that he was united with God—abiding in God, and God in him—by the Holy Spirit. It is important to know, and to know deep down.
6. God hears our prayers and responds because we are attuned to His will.
This next scripture does not have a we know in it, but it is the same thought.
I John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
I John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
This of course also links back to the Last Supper teaching. Let us go to John 14 and read what John was probably thinking of when he wrote this. Many of these are exactly the same type of language that he uses in 1 John.
John 14:13-14 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."
John 16:23-27 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God."
We can ask the Father directly, in Christ's name—according to His will, and we know that the petitions that we ask of Him are ours.
Just how important is it to you that you know that your prayers are not bouncing off the ceiling? How important is it to you to know that God not only hears your prayers, but answers them? How important is it to you to know that because you follow God's way, He responds to you? Does that not give you great faith, great boldness, great confidence before God's throne? Of course it does.
Remember when you were a kid and wanted something really bad, and you were afraid to go to your mom or your dad to ask them for it? What if you knew that whatever you asked of your parents, you knew that they would give it to you—or not give it to you—in your best interest? As kids, we do not think about that. We just want it. But as adults, and as Christians, we may still want it, but we have to understand that it has got to be according to God's will, and that He does everything for our best interest.
Would it not have made it so much less stressful if we had known that is how our parents treated us? We would not have had to worry. "Dad, I'd like a bicycle." "Okay. Let me think about it." We could go off and play because we knew that if it was good for us to have a bicycle, we would get one. Well now our desires are so much greater, but we can have the same attitude toward them.
"Father, we need so-and-so to be healed. Thank You that You are our Healer, and that You have sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty, and that His stripes will then cover any sins that he may have committed that brought this suffering about." Then we can go away. And we know that God heard our prayers, and that person will get better or not, depending on God's will. We know that it will be good. [Romans 8.28 ]
Did you know that Romans 8:28 is in the middle of a section on prayer? Let us read verses 26 through 28.
Romans 8:26-28 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know [Paul says. This is a Pauline we know] that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called, according to His purpose.
Does that not give you great confidence before God? Of course it does. We should be the people on this earth with the least amount of stress in our lives because we place everything before God's throne, and we can then go play (turning back to my child analogy). We know it is all in the hands of the Father, and it is going to work out for our good, and everybody else's good, according to His purpose.
7. We must overcome sin.
I John 5:18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
We might say, "well, overcoming sin is a no-brainer." But there is a whole Protestant world out there that believes exactly the opposite. "Just as I am, Lord. Just as I am." This is a point of truth that creates a very wide gulf between God's people and any others. A Christian is one who is constantly weeding his spiritual garden. That spiritual garden hopefully is filled with the fruit of the Spirit. But sometimes there is sin, or offense, or something there that does not please God, and he has to go and root it out and get rid of it. A Christian's life is one of eternal vigilance against error of any kind, no matter what it is, and it is always in a state of growth. If you are not growing, you are going backwards.
Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in the lifestyle that people practice. You can profess and profess until you are blue in the face that you are a Christian, but if your life does not fit the mold of Jesus Christ and the way He lived—you are not a Christian.
A Christian is one who follows Christ. It is as simple as that. And Christ never did an iniquity in His life. Those of us who have done plenty of iniquities, to be a Christian you have to get rid of them all. A Christian is one who overcomes sin. We know that we have to be doing it. "We know that whoever is born of God does not sin." I will not go into the translation difficulties here, or the theological difficulty, but it basically says that anyone who has been begotten by God's Spirit does not practice a life of sin. The other part of that verse says such a person keeps, guards himself from sin, and the wicked one does not touch him. He does not give Satan an entry into his life.
John 17:15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
I Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
8. We are different. We are of God—not of Satan nor this world.
I John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
As Christians, we are called out of this world by God the Father [John 6.44] and made citizens of heaven [Ephesians 2.15; Philippians 3:20]. We are distinctly different from the world around us. Satan has no claim on us as he has on the other people who are following him. And because we know this, it changes our entire approach to life.
If you knew that you were heir to the throne of England, what would that change in your life? Would that change the way you lived? I bet it would. Well, we are heirs to a much grander throne than the throne of England, and it should equally, proportionally change the way we live. We know that we are of God, and not of this world and Satan.
John 14:27-31 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here."
Notice what this knowledge of being different, of having this calling drove our Savior to do. He gave His life, because He had a calling from God. Notice His reasons: (1) to give witness before the world of His love for the Father, "that the world may know that I love the Father," and (2) to show His obedience to the Father, "and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do."
He did it to prove His love, and He did it to prove His obedience, and make a witness before the world that this is the way of a Christian's life. When we know this deep down in our gut, that we are of God and not of this world, and not of Satan, it should drive us to the same kind of sacrifice and obedience as Christ did.
9. Christ's coming has opened our understanding, enabling us to have a relationship with the Father and the Son.
I John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
Basically what this verse is saying is that we know that since Christ has revealed the Father by His own life, we understand how to have a relationship with the Father, and that relationship is eternal life.
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Once you know this—boy, does that make a difference! The life you live every day should be eternal life, [Wow!] because you are living it in the Father and the Son. Because you have a relationship with those two great Beings, you are living the life that is of the same quality that God Himself lives. What confidence this should give us, that we are at least on the track to do this.
We know the way, the truth, and the life in Jesus Christ. We can live in the Father, and He in us, because the way has been opened by the sacrifice of Christ. The way has been opened by the life of Christ. If He had not lived His life as He did, we would not know how to act. But since He did, and we can see it, we can live it with the strength that we have by His Spirit. How much is that worth to us? How much will that drive us, because we know it?
I John 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
You know the basics. You know how to live this life.
I John 2:21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
I John 2:24-25 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
Jude says, "Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." We should never let anyone shake us from what we know in our heart of hearts is the truth of God that leads to eternal life. These things WE KNOW.
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