First John, Chapter 5, we’re going to say goodbye to this Book today. I feel like it’s a great ending to our baptism services. We’ve studied the Book of John together. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about John is we’ve looked at his story and how, at the end of his life, he’s now writing to believers and saying to us, “This is what I want to continue to see in your life as you follow Jesus,” because of the way that he’s experienced his relationship with Christ in his life.
If you remember how the story that we set up for John, and who he is in light of who Christ is, John is one of the followers of Jesus, one of the early apostles. He’s the last living apostle at the time he’s writing this letter.
Jesus had 12 disciples or apostles that you’re probably familiar with or at least heard of that follow after him. All of them were martyred except for one, and that is John. John likely, in writing this letter, is in his 90s, sharing with the Church what he desires to see in their lives.
In fact, history tells us that John got so old in the City of Ephesus that the early Church would show up to his house before their gatherings and they would carry him to Church and sort of prop him up and say, “Just teach us something, John.”
Once John got older in years, the only thing that history tells us that he could utter was just, “Love one another.” They’d set John up, he walked with Jesus, saw Jesus, touched Jesus, heard from Jesus, and say, “Just tell us something.”
He was the tangible reminder of Christ on this earth and John would say, “Love one another.” As we’ve studied this book together, that should be, sort of this theme that we’ve seen, especially in Chapter 4, the identity of God, his love and his love that he extends towards us.
As I think about the perfect identity of John, the way to sort of summarize his life, you remember early in John’s ministry, Jesus gave him the nickname, “Son of Thunder.” He sort of led with his wrath, but as God transformed his life, you’ll see in the book of John, Chapter 13, that he’s no longer referred to as the “Son of Thunder” but rather, he’s referred to as, “The beloved in Christ.”
I believe John was Jesus’ best friend in life. In fact, when you read about the crucifixion of Jesus, the only disciple that is there at Jesus’ crucifixion is John. It’s John who was told by Jesus while he’s on the cross, “John, will you take care of my mother?”
Now, think of all the friendships that you have. If you were to leave this world and you knew your mother needed care for, who would you ask to do that? John, I think, is Jesus’ best friend. John, in writing this letter, not only does he recognize that he is the beloved, but you’ll see within the terms of this letter, even today, that he recognizes in his relationship with God that God calls you the same thing in him. That God desires for you to be his beloved.
John is, as he concludes the ending of this letter in Verse 13, he really gives us this summary thought that he’s going to really pepper with some explanation as it goes throughout this passage. Then he talks about the opposite of what Verse 13 is, in the very last verse of this letter. It’s a weird ending in John’s Book.
John, apparently, was not taught how to start a letter and end a letter. He sort of just goes right for it, and he just ends like a mic drop at the end of it. You’ll see this, together, as we study this. In First John, Chapter 5, Verse 13, he gives us this statement.
I want to say, as a Church, I really appreciate this thought that John shares, because of I think where we are as a Church and some of the things we’ve experienced this year. He says this, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
What John wants is for you to have confidence in your relationship with Christ. Not because of anything that you’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done for you by giving his life for you, his love for you, and forgiveness on the cross by giving his life towards you that you may know him and enjoy him for all of eternity.
I mean, life is about relationship. We’ve seen this in the commandments that John’s talked about, the greatest commandment that Jesus gave to us in John 13, that we’re to love God and love others. Those commands are all relational commands.
What John is saying to us, and reminding us that this thought is paramount to everything that you are as a Christian. The reason we’re here today is not because you go to Church to go to Church, but because God calls you to connect with him. As community, we can see the beauty of Jesus made known in our relationship, as in our love for God we love one another.
Jesus will not tangibly be here in front of you this morning, but if you really want to demonstrate your love for God, look at each other as if you’re looking at Jesus and extend that love to each other. John wants us confident in that relationship with God.
As I think about this verse and our Church, like this year for us, we’ve seen a lot of people come to know Christ. When you begin that journey and your relationship with God, sometimes it can look a little overwhelming. Like as people, we want to know everything we need to know right now, but your walk with Jesus is a journey. You’re not going to know everything you need to know, but here’s what you do need, you need Jesus.
If you get Jesus, you get Jesus right, you rest on the foundation of Jesus, everything else will come, but go to Jesus. First John, 5:13, he’s writing these things in the name of Jesus. The name has to do with his identity, that you may know that you have eternal life.
We said last week, the important thought for the Church, I think the part that we miss so often is when we talk in terms of eternal life today, we usually present Jesus this way. “Take Jesus so you don’t go to hell.” It’s like this. You embrace Jesus, and then sometime, maybe 50 years from now when you die, you’ll get to be with Jesus.
When the Bible talks about eternal life, it’s not just talking about the quantity of life that you’re going to live forever because you have Jesus, but it’s also talking about the quality of life. That when God gives you eternal life, that life starts the moment you embrace him. The Bible contrasts that with the idea of death. Meaning in our sin, we’re separated from God.
It refers to those apart from Jesus right now as dead, noting that, yes, you are physically breathing on this earth, but as long as there’s sin between you and God, there’s a separation. Man creates religion in order to bring that chasm back together between you and God, but the Bible tells us that’s impossible.
That the only way that chasm can no longer exist is because of Jesus and what he has done for you on the cross. The moment we embrace what Christ has done for us, that sin that separates is no more and now you walk in life rather than death.
Encouragement for John. Embrace life. Not just in the sense of just thinking about heaven to come. The idea of walking with Jesus today and meeting with Jesus now. From this point, John then starts to elaborate for us the significance of this life and living in this life.
In Verse 14 it says this, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request that we have asked of him.”
What John’s saying is in the quality of that eternal life is that God wants to hear from you. If he hasn’t already heard from you today, God wants to hear from you today. He’s talking about this in a way that he describes us as being confident in the conversation you have with God. Because when someone loves you, they delight to hear from you.
I think some of you this past week sent your kids to school. Because you delight in your children, you love your children, when they returned home that day, what did you want to know? “How did your first day go?” You wanted to hear all about the experience. Like not so much other kids that you don’t know, but you wanted to hear about your kids, their experience, and why? Because you love them and you care for them.
Well, John’s identifying in that life in Jesus is that God is the same way with you, and he wants you to be confident in this, and not only this, the idea of confidence. He builds on this thought. He says, “The confidence we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Meaning when you have this conversation with God, that the terms for this conversation is in the will of God. Now what does that look like? You can think in relationships that you have in your family, maybe with your children, if I elaborate further on that relationship. There are times when you have conversation where it may not be respectful. My kids know the last thing that you do is say “no” to mama. She ain’t happy, it’s about to go down.
You respect in conversation what you say to adults, and especially to your parents. If that respect is not there, conversation over. You come back when there’s respect. Well, God’s saying a similar thing here. That when we have a conversation with God, we want to pray according to his will for the sake of this conversation. The question we should ask ourselves, to have this confidence, the confidence to talk to God is, “What is God’s will?”
Jesus said it like this when he taught us to pray in Matthew, Chapter 6. Jesus said, “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your what? Will be done.” Jesus is teaching us about prayer. He’s teaching us in the realm of praying according to God’s will, and so the question for us is, “What in the world is God’s will?”
Because if we’re talking about conversation with God and coming to God because he delights in us and we want to delight in him, we want to have a conversation where we know he’s openly hearing the communication. How do we pray according to God’s will? First John, 3 has already told. First John 3 says this, “Whatever we ask, we receive from him.” See, prayer. “We ask, we receive from him because we keep his commandments, and do what pleases him.”
The question we need to ask is, “God, what are your commandments?” He answers in Verse 23, and this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of the son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.
Christianity is simplistic in its faith. Religiously, people will come to their religion and they’ll get this set list of all these performances they got to live to in the hopes that God might listen to them. Christianity, you don’t wake up today and look to perform a list. Jesus gave it to us. Love God, love others. God’s will. God’s will is relationship. How you come to know God, and then through knowing God, live that out in your life to bless others. Love God, love others.
When you think in terms of praying to God, many people pray and when they think about praying or if they do pray, it’s not so much about God’s will, but rather, oftentimes, people pray because they’re most interested in their will. Like the only time they talk to God is because there’s something that they want. The problem with that is if what you want is contrary to what God desires. What does God desire? Not our will necessarily be done, but his will.
The beauty in this is when our will aligns with his will. What is his will? That the love of God would be made known through our lives through the relationship of God that we have.
When you think in terms of God’s will, some people will get strange over the thought of God’s will. They’ll wake up in the morning and they’ll pray, and they’re obsessing about God’s will as to whether or not they should put their pants on in the morning, Like they get that specific. I’ll just tell you, “Put your pants on in the morning.”
I mean, Jesus said, in the prayer we just read, Lord’s Prayer, he said, “Our father which art in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” You know what that means? “God, whatever I need today, just take care of that.”
He’s not literally praying for bread there, “God can have some bread?” He’s just saying, “God, I know I’m going to have some things happen today. Like I need to put my pants on. Just handle that. Just supply the pants, get the food. I got a will to live out for you. Help me to live out that will.”
Now in the idea of God’s will, I think it’s important for us to know we don’t control what other people do. Our heart’s prayer could be for the salvation of people, but we can’t manipulate hearts. So rather, the prayer should be, “God, I’m going to encounter people today. Give me the strength to love them like you would love them, even when they show their rear-end to me. I will be done.”
When we think about God’s will, I don’t think God’s will is always this dot. People consider God’s will like this dot that you’ve got to just guard, and find and discover. “I don’t exactly know what he wants me to do at 3:00 today.” I don’t think God’s will is a dot. Rather, I think God’s will is more like a highway or a river.
You understand what God calls us to in this world? Loving God, loving others, coming to know him on this journey. As I’m going on this journey, letting his love be made known in my life. This is God’s will, this is the channel. I think as we go along in life, we learn to discover dots along the way that God makes us passionate about. Like particular groups of people or something specific within our society.
I think, generally, what God desire is, is just to see us move forward in the places that we are, to call us to be a light in the midst of darkness. “Whatever that looks like in our lives, God, I’m seeking you that your will be done, that you use me as a vessel for your glory in this world.”
When you think in Verse 13 about this eternal life, what John is saying is as you live out this life, connect to God for the reason for which he has called you to live out this will in this world. To love God, and to love others.
Some people even ask the question or beg the question, “Why even pray?” Like, “I don’t get the point of praying.” I think David Platt gave one of the best answers to this. This is kind of a summary of what he said, but he said, “When you’re sitting on your couch just spending your entire day watching TV, you’re going to wonder, ‘Why in the world should you pray?’ When you really lay down your life for Christ to impact others and you understand the sacrifice that you’re demonstrating through Jesus’ sacrifice, then you have no other hope other than to pray. Because only God’s strength could supply you to live out that kind of will in this world.”
You think in terms of praying, I think John then takes this idea of just raising the need in your life. When you understand eternal life, giving your heart to God and seeking God’s face, to live that will in this world, his next thoughts for us are very sobering.
Look at this. It says, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will give him life. To those who commit sin that do not lead to death, there is a sin that leads to death. I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is a sin that does not lead to death.” Well, that’s sobering. “Is that me? I’m going to walk out of here and do that one sin that leads to death.”
How important is it that you have life in Christ? If we’re even in talking in the realms of death, like there is death, the world leads to death. There is life, and Jesus brings life, and if you’re connected to Jesus, you have life. How important is it to share that life?
I think John wants to contrast the thoughts he shared with eternal life to this thought, to give us that sobering reminder of how significant your relationship with Jesus is. To not take it for granted. What does this verse mean?
I’ll tell you, theologians look at this passage of scripture with a little humility. Because truthfully, they’ll say, “We don’t honestly know for certain what this verse is saying.” Here’s one of the reasons they say this, is because they don’t completely understand the context that John is addressing in these moments in history. It’s been lost.
What exactly is happening in John’s day where they’re going to give this sort of statement? Whatever it is, it’s pretty extreme. Theologians, when they look at this passage of scripture, they’ll usually bring it down to two thoughts. They’ll say, “Well, if you have to speculate as to what this verse means, I’ll tell you, treat it with humility. If you want to study it and come to a conclusion, and correct me on any thought, please feel free.”
I don’t think that this is a huge area of theology to die on like the Bible. One of the reasons that we’re not crystal clear on this section of scripture is because there’s not a whole lot of sections of scripture like this, especially in the New Testament, to compare it to, to be confident in.
Theology that matters in scripture tends to be repeated over and over, so when you get to ones that are sort of this anomaly, you kind of base it on a thought that you see agreeable to scripture, but you don’t hold it with a tight fist.
This is one of those sections where in humility we say, “Okay, God, we’re looking at this. We want to be honoring to you. At the very least, we recognize Jesus is life. All of the things apart from Jesus lead to death. We need Jesus, and so therefore we’re going to live in light of that.”
As theologians look at this in the New Testament, they say there are parts in scripture where, like Ananias and Sapphira Acts, Chapter 5. Where Ananias and Sapphira, they came before the leaders of the Church. They lied before God, and God struck them dead.
Same thing happened in First Corinthians 11, Verse 30, when the early Church was sinfully partaking of communion. They were dishonoring what communion represented. We’re going to have that at the end of service, by the way. They were dishonoring communion, and it says that they had a sin that led to death, so there’s some that believe this could literally be just God’s final straw in life, and so leading a sin into death.
Can I just tell you one unhelpful thing? Is if you take that sort of stand and you see someone pass away, don’t give the declaration of this verse over their life. You don’t know. You’re not God.
I think the other thought to this versus is where I tend to land. The other thought is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In Mark, Chapter 3, Verse 28, Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit working in our lives. If we ignore that and deny that Spirit, it’s called blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and it leads to death.
When God works in your life for salvation, take Jesus. Don’t deny Jesus. Embrace Jesus. It’s saying to reject that leads to death. I think in the case of First John, if you remember the context of the story, what John’s doing is he’s writing a letter to an early Church that’s having Gnosticism taught in the Church. It’s undermining the importance of who Jesus is in their lives and what Jesus represents.
If you don’t embrace Jesus, the result is death, and so John’s encouraging us in this passage of scripture saying, “Yeah, there is a sin that leads to death, but here’s what we need in life. We need Jesus.”
Some people read verses like this, and I don’t know what kind of a phobia I could describe this as. Maybe like hellaphobia or damnationaphobia or something like that. You read this and you’re like, “Is this verse talking about me? How do I know that I’m not this person?”
Can I just tell you? John sort of lets the pressure off in this next section of scripture. If you’re worried about your relationship with Jesus, can I tell you? Most often I worry very little about you if you’re concerned about that, because that shows a conviction in Christ. It’s those that are concerned, that understand the gospel and are concerned with their relationship with God that I don’t worry about.
I think this passage is more worried about those that just want to live life however they want, and have no conviction, and they just ignore the Lord altogether. The Holy Spirit works in your life to draw you to Christ. John tells us in Chapter 16 that the Holy Spirit’s entire purpose is to glorify Jesus in your life.
When you’re in a Church, how do you know God’s at work? It makes much of Jesus as the centrality of everything that they hold to. If you’re worried about your relationship with Christ, I think, one, it’s important to understand that the gospel, if you don’t know what that is, that has nothing to do with what you do. It has everything to do with what Jesus has done. That God became flesh, died on the cross for your sins, and now he invites you to embrace what he’s done for you. To lay down your self-righteousness and embrace Christ’s righteousness.
If you’ve done that and you’re reading this verse and you’re worried, I would just say this, if your weight is leaning into Jesus as your hope, this verse isn’t for you. Rather, what John does is to go further. He says this, “We know that everyone who has been of God does not keep on sinning. But he who was born of God, protects him.”
This is the reason I say I don’t worry about you, is because John saying, look, Christians that walk with a conviction … I’m not saying guilt, but conviction of just wanting to align with Jesus. Like when you do things in your life, if you emulate that or when you live a sin in your life, you emulate your walk with Jesus by not wanting to continue in that.
He says in Verse 18, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning. But he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. We know 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 and his son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
In Verse 20, if you ever looking for a verse that just says, “Jesus is God,” there’s multiple in scripture, but verse 20 is one of them. At the very end, “He is the true God and eternal life.” When you think in terms of this verse, what’s John saying here? Well, first verse, he’s saying, look, Christians aren’t perfect. Like it is possible in your life and Jesus, you’re going to sin in maybe the next five minutes.
Christians aren’t perfect. John, I think, has even acknowledged this. He’s saying, hey, look. It’s not that we don’t sin, it’s that rather we just, we don’t live in those sins because we walk in our conviction, the Holy Spirit is in our lives.
First John, 1:8 says this, “We deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin.” But in Verse 9, it says this, “If we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In terms of the Christian life, we really have two kinds of rails. There is living in absolute sin. Then there’s this idea of perfection. What John’s saying is, look, Christians don’t keep on sinning. We don’t do that, because we have the conviction of the spirit of God that works in our lives. At the same time, we don’t expect ourselves to be perfect.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. The truth’s not in us.” First John 1:8. Rather, what do we have in this verse? Well, he’s telling us. “We don’t keep on sinning, but we rest in the power of God.”
He’s contrasting, in Verse 18 and 19, these two powers in this world. There’s the power of this world and Satan made known, and then there’s the power of Christ over you.
In Revelation 12, the Bible gives us an important identity to Satan. It refers to him as, “The accuser of the brother.” Meaning what Satan loves to do in your life is to make you feel powerless by bringing up the past to say, “You’re not worthy.” Reality is, we’re not. In ourselves, we’re not. The truth is, Jesus is. “Because of his death for me, he makes me worthy.”
In this section of scripture, you recognize you can rest under the accusations of Satan, or you can rest under the authority of Christ. By the way, John concludes in Verse 20, he says, “And Jesus is God.” When you think about whose power is greater, it’s Jesus. Oh, guys, if you think for just a minute in this section of scripture and you consider, “Okay. If Satan’s power is being made known in my life, what does that look like?”
Spiritual things in this world can become physical. Meaning Satan can work on the hearts of people to then come at you. Can I just encourage you in this? Don’t let what other people say and do keep you from walking with Jesus. Because if you give someone else that power over you, you’re saying the influence of that power is greater than Christ.
Look, I know things we go through in life can be difficult, even in Church community, even in Church community, but Jesus is greater. Anything and everything that has ever happened to you, God knows. God knows. Can I tell you what God will do for it and about it is far greater than anything that you could ever do in your own strength. Leaning into him, letting him have it.
I don’t think you have to focus on your own vengeance. I think we just look to accomplishing his will in this world for us. We let Jesus take care of the garbage, and he promises he will. That’s part of the reason John comes in this verse and says, “That’s why we rest in him being greater. You have this life in Christ and God, more than anything, wants you to let go of all other things and focus on this life in Christ, and live it for his glory.”
Verse 21, John gives us a conclusion. If you’re going to memorize a verse this week, can I just throw this one out? Because this one is so short and easy. “Little children …” Or in some translations say “beloved.” “Keep yourself from idols.”
That’s just so weird. His mom did not teach him manners. I just think, if you’ve got like this Hallmark ending, you’re just considered this so loving apostle of Christ, the beloved best friend of Jesus, when you get to the end, you could say things like, “I love you guys. I can’t wait to see you again. We could talk about whatever.” He’s just like, “Little children, keep yourself from idols,” and just walks off the stage. It’s just so bizarre of an ending.
What John is saying is crucial to understanding the contrast of walking in eternal life with Jesus. The thing that will rob your heart of the joy God brings to you, it’s idols, idols. When you think, “What exactly is an idol?” The traditional idea of an idol, you carve an image, you bow down to the image, and you worship the image.
Can I tell you? When people created idols, they created idols for different reasons. You had the idols of agriculture, of fertility, of power, of hunting, of weather. There are all kinds of idols people have had throughout history, and even have today.
Why did people create idols? Can I maybe make a suggestion or a thought? I think people designed idols, not because of the goodness of the God that they worship, but rather, I think they designed idols because their hope was that the idol would serve them.
It wasn’t because they really loved the idol. It was because they loved whatever they thought the idol would bring them. In reality, they didn’t love the idol. What they loved was themselves. Because they loved themselves and there was something they wanted, they bowed down to the idol in order to get that thing.
When it came to fertility, or agriculture, power, hunting, weather, whatever it was all the same thing. Mankind’s been pursuing the same thing throughout their life. It’s pleasure, sex, power, fame. When I think in terms of us today, I don’t don’t think we’re much different. Sure, you don’t carve an idol and bow down to an idol in that sense, but I think our wants drive us to idols. Not because we love the idol but, truthfully, it’s because we love ourselves.
The unfortunate part of our lives in creating idols is that they keep us longer than we want to stay, and we end up paying more than we want to pay. At first, we create idols thinking that they will serve us, and in the end, we find out that we only serve it. We become a slave.
Here’s the trick. The trick with an idol is not to simply remove the idol. It can help, but I don’t think the result that we should be seeking for is to simply remove the idol, but to understand the reason you have an idol is because of a deeper problem in your heart. Just removing an idol from your life will treat a symptom, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the cure.
John is saying, “Turn yourself from idols,” Not because he just simply wants you to live a moral life or to rid yourself idols, but rather, John is saying, “Turn yourself from idols,” because he’s already delivered the cure. The cure is Jesus.
Objects become idols only because our hearts really loved themselves, but it’s an indication that our hearts need transformation. The only thing that will keep your heart from making an idol is to make Jesus lord of your life. It’s surrendering to him.
John’s ending for us, really, just these last thoughts that he leaves us with. I love how he does this, rather than just come up with this basic ending that we would all read and then kind of forget about. This last thought, because he bids these farewells, he’s just like, “No. I want to leave this mark by just saying this last thought to keep everybody wondering.”
Why is this the last phrase? Why didn’t he say, “We love you?” Or why didn’t he give us the Hallmark card ending that we would expect? Why here? I think it’s because John wants this to resonate in our hearts, to ask ourselves, “What really is Lord?” “My heart will stray from this life when I make my wants more than what Jesus wants.”
In our culture today, I think people often think, “If I just love myself more, I would be okay,” but rather, what if I just pose this question? What if love for self is what leads you to create idols? I mean, you think of the thought of idolatry. “I want something. Fame, power, money. I create the idol that I think will satisfy me. Because what, ultimately, I worship and love is me.”
What if love for self is what leads you to create idols? Rather, if you can trust that thought, what if a love for Jesus gives you the freedom to find the very reason for which you were designed? Meaning, what if rather, waking up and deciding what pleases you, which ultimately leads to disciples, you wake up and decide what pleases Jesus, and in dying to self to come to Christ, you find the purpose for which you were created to find satisfaction?
What if it’s not in finding you? What if it’s found in losing you, and grabbing Jesus? I think that’s what John’s saying here. Idolatry brings destruction, Jesus brings life. To really get down to idolatry, we oftentimes just look at the object as if it’s causing the problem, but it’s not the object. Removing the object is just a symptom, and it’s treating a symptom but it’s not curing the heart. The only way to cure the heart is to kill the thing that lives for the idol, that creates the idol, and what is that? “It’s me. It’s me.” It’s why Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
When I think about the beauty of Baptism Sunday, that’s what it represents. A giving of your whole life to Christ, as Christ has given his whole life for you. That the idolatry is done away, and the glory of Christ is made known. When we think about this section of scripture, we should drive to one place. “Is my heart given to Jesus and the life that he gives? Is my heart given to Jesus because I want something, or is my heart given to Jesus because he alone is worthy?”
“I can embrace this life. Enjoy this life for which he has created for me, and connect to him in life through prayer, and understand the significance of this life when it’s contrasted to death, and free myself from idolatry by giving my heart wholly to him, and in that, live out his will. Not as a dot, but as a river to enjoy a journey with him.”