Eternal life and its precious guarantees (1 John 5)

Publié le 29 novembre 2020 dans Traductions

Sermon by Damien Jourdan

Hello everyone. First and foremost, I wanted to tell you that Sara and I are grateful for the welcome our family has received at the EBTM, despite the current circumstances. And it’s my honor to be with you this morning for this time of preaching. 

THE PROBLEM 

We all face different and conflicting testimonials about anything and everything, right?

Go on the internet and there you will find expertise on anything and everything. Do you have an opinion? There is an expert to prove you are right. There are useful aspects. In recent months, since we had to buy everything back, I’ve been using user reviews on Amazon – what do they think of this Moulinex food processor? But when it comes to more important topics, it’s a lot less funny. 

A few years ago Sara and I spent Christmas with a friend who was a fan of natural remedies. Nothing wrong with that. Except that in her case she took it a bit further, in our opinion at least. For example, she advocated opening windows and lemon juice to cure everything, including cancer. She showed us « experts » documents which relayed these opinions, and which denounced a cabal of doctors who tried to silence them to protect their interests. These experts had doctorates that were featured in their publications. They brought forward the testimonies of those who had been healed of cancer and other tumors by drinking lemon juice. Who would you believe? The testimony of these experts, or the testimony of the medical community? Was the latter motivated by a spirit of preservation, or was it these experts who were motivated by greed? A small internet search revealed that the expert’s doctorate was in English literature for one, and civil engineering for the other. Nice diplomas, yes, but nothing connected with the subject they were dealing with, unfortunately. 

Which experts do we listen to?  This morning is the last post in our “Get Tested” series on 1 John’s letter. We have seen that John writes this letter to a church in turmoil. One group in particular caused confusion. They call themselves Christians, but they don’t believe they need God’s forgiveness for their sins. They call themselves Christians, but they consider themselves to be above the commandments of God and do not keep them. They call themselves Christians but they do not show love for the brothers and sisters in the church. 

During his letter John offered us several tests to help us detect problems in our Christian life. Maybe one of these tests turned out positive for you? Maybe you missed the love test, for example, last Sunday like me? Maybe you are discouraged this morning because of it. So what should we do? Is there a cure? As a good doctor of the soul, John will, in this last chapter diagnose the cause of the disease. He will put his finger on the fundamental engine of our Christian life, on this 2 principal organ which governs the presence or the absence of these fruits. This organ is faith. Because all these problems can trace their origin to a problem of faith (F.A.I.T.H faith, no E or X!). Forgetting what you believe in, and forgetting why you believe in it, is the heart of the matter. Losing sight of the what and why of their faith has caused the church that John writes to be tossed around. And this is also a problem for us Christians of the 21st century. John will show us that faith in Jesus Christ is an objective reality, anchored in what God has accomplished, and that it brings us precious benefits.

We are going to read the last chapter, so I invite you to open your Bibles at chapter 5 of the first letter of John, or to type “1 John 5” in Google and click on the first link to follow with us. 

MAIN POINT 

This morning, here is what I would like to show you in this text. Here is the main point. It is God who gives us eternal life and keeps us, so let’s walk together confidently in the Light. Let’s read 1 John 5 together and listen to God himself speak to us. 

BIBLE READING: 1 John 5

Anyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God, and if anyone loves a father, he also loves his child. We recognize that we love God’s children by loving God and keeping his commandments. Indeed, love for God consists in keeping his commandments. Now, his commandments do not represent a burden, for all that is born of God wins victory over the world, and the victory that triumphed over the world is your faith. Who is victorious over the world? Isn’t that the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? It is he, Jesus Christ, who came through the water and the blood; not with water only, but with water and blood. And it’s the Spirit that testifies of it, because the Spirit is the truth. So there are three of them to bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, let us recognize that the testimony of God is greater because it is the testimony of God, that which he gave concerning his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in himself; whoever does not believe God makes him a liar, since he does not believe the testimony which God has given concerning his Son. Now, this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I wrote this to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 3 We have this assurance with him that if we ask anything according to his will, he will listen to us.  And if we know that he is listening to us, no matter what we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not lead to death, let him pray, and God will give life to that brother; I’m talking about those who commit a sin that does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death, and it is not for that sin that I say to pray. All injustice is a sin, but not all sins lead to death. We know that if someone is born of God, he does not sin. On the contrary, he who is born of God keeps himself and the wicked do not touch him. We know that we are of God and that the whole world is under the power of evil, but we also know that the Son of God came and gave us the intelligence to know the true God; and we are united with the true God if we are united with his Son Jesus Christ. It is he who is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols! 

PRAYER

Let us pray. Lord God, I thank you for the privilege we have of being able to unite around your Word. Thank you for being revealed, and for giving us this testimony by which we can know you. I ask you now to guide my words and refrain from teaching wrong things. Open the hearts of your people Lord, so that we may receive what you have for us this morning. We ask this of you in the name of your Son Jesus. Amen. 

ROADMAP 

Here is our roadmap for this morning. We let’s first see that the faith and eternal life that God gives us are objective realities anchored in God. And this objective reality is accompanied by benefits for us, guaranteed by God. We will see in particular that having eternal life guarantees us 3 things: 

  it guarantees us that God listens to our prayers

  it guarantees us victory over sin

  it guarantees us that God will keep us in our life in Christ. 

I. Faith and eternal life that God gives us are objective realities anchored in God 

Faith is believing that Jesus is the Son of God.  First of all, let’s see how faith and eternal life that God gives us are objective realities anchored in God. In the first 13 verses John wants to reorient his listeners towards the fundamental truths which anchor their Christian life. He will apply these truths to certain key aspects of the Christian life in the remainder of the chapter, but he is keen to start with the objective truths that make these applications true. 

He shows us the theme of these first 13 verses by the words he will repeat: believe or faith are repeated 6 times (verse 1, 4, 5, 10, and 13), and testimony 8 times (verses 6, 7, 9, 10, 11). He is going to speak of faith, and that faith will be anchored in the testimony of God. 

The What of faith (what is it), and the Why of faith (why believe one thing over another). 

Firstly, the what of faith. Faith, what is it? The first question that John tackles with force will be to define faith. What matters in faith? Is it the fact of believing in yourself, and believing in it very strongly? Are we saved by the ardor of our faith, by its intensity? Listen to John: (5: 1) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah, (5: 5) whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God, (5:10) Whoever believes in the Son of God, (5:10) he who does not believe God makes him a liar, since he does not believe the testimony which God has given concerning his Son, (5:13) you who believe in the name of the Son of God. 

Clearly, what matters is the object of our faith. This is what – or rather, in whom – we place our faith. The faith he speaks of, the faith that gives life is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The false teachers probably had great faith too, but faith in something else. And in fact it is with us, believers or not, we all place our faith in something or someone. We put our hope in the government and the medical community to get us out of the covid crisis and keep us from breathing out in a hospital bed with a tube in our mouth. We place our hope in a religious practice, in rites that, if we perform them, we believe they will be pleasing to God. We place our hope in leisure, in hobbies, in travel, to bring us happiness. 

The contemporary world wants to tell us that what matters is faith in itself, that it is the sincerity of faith that matters. As long as it works for you and you believe in it, that’s okay, that’s all that matters. 

On the contrary, John tells us here that it is the object of our faith that counts. We can be sincerely wrong. Saving faith is when you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the first thing. The second characteristic of this faith is that it is anchored in God, not in us. This is not too apparent in our French translations, but “is born” in verse 1 is in the past tense in the original Greek, placing this new birth of God ahead of faith. John tells us here that faith is a consequence of being born again. That is to say, we are not born of God because we believe, on the contrary we believe because God allowed us to be born again. This relationship between faith and being born of God is so important that John will repeat it at the beginning and at the end of this paragraph: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God” in verse 1, and “everything who is born of God wins the victory over the world, and the victory that triumphed over the world is your faith. Who is victorious over the world? Is he not the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God ”in verses 4 and 5. 

Our faith is the fruit of an act of God, an act external to us, an objective fact. This goes against the popular conception of faith, which claims to be a purely subjective experience. But faith in Christ is both, indeed, deeply personal when it is sincere, but it is also objective, caused by the action of God in us, an action which is external to us. 

The third characteristic of faith is what comes with it. Verse 1-2: Love for the father, which involves love for the father’s children, our brothers and sisters, which involves obedience to the commandments of God. These are themes that John has discussed in detail in previous chapters. It is these tests that we have spoken of, these fruits which characterize the life of the true disciple. These are themes that are dear to Jean but its purpose here is to show us the order of things. We are first born of God, then we believe in Christ, then we walk in the Light: struggle against sin, keep the commandments of God, and love brothers. 

My daughter Sophie is in middle school and she is starting to take grammar lessons. She learns that in a declarative sentence, a sentence that will state a fact, we put the subject first, then the verb, then the complement. We don’t start with the complement, otherwise, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Well, it’s the same in the Christian life. There is a grammar to the gospel. It all begins with God’s initiative: he is the one who makes us born again. He is the subject of the good news. The fruit of this new birth is the faith that we express, it is the word, the engine of our Christian life, the one that makes sanctification possible, the direct object of the gospel. To reverse this grammar is to fall into the logic of all the other religions of the world where everything begins with us, by our efforts either of religion (our sacrifices, our prayers, our charity), or our efforts of morality (our kindness, our compassion, our dedication to good causes), all in order to make us acceptable to a God or to conform to an ideal. Only the gospel offers a different grammar, where it is God who makes our life in Christ possible, and who brings about faith and the life change that follows. 

These are 3 characteristics of faith that John wants to clarify: what matters is the object of faith, in this case Jesus Christ, son of God, faith is given to us by God when he gives birth to us again, and faith is accompanied by fruits of a life in accordance with God. 

Before we finish with the what of faith, John wants to clarify two things about what believing that Jesus is the Son of God means. First in verses 6-8. Spiritual son? Son in the pulpit? These verses are certainly not easy to interpret, but most commentators agree that John here wants to refute views which would make Jesus a simple man or a simple divine spirit, come to dwell for a time as a simple man. Water refers to Jesus ‘baptism and blood to his crucifixion, the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. 

John insists here on the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, is indeed God incarnate, and that this incarnate God indeed died for our sins on the cross. This is what he means by Son of God. He thus refutes those who, like false teachers, did not accept the cross of Jesus, but taught that Jesus was a prophet, a teacher (like them, perhaps?), filled with the Spirit but certainly not God, and then he did not offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins, it is barbaric! 

Are these discordant views on the identity of Jesus, which date here from the 1st century, still in vogue today by the way? 

The humanist views of Jesus which reduce him to a revolutionary or a good moral teacher. Religious views that reduce Jesus to a man saint or prophet as with Islam, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, John reminds us that the identity of Jesus is not based on the opinions of men and women, expert as they are, but on God himself. 

It was he who testified who his son is, as we will see. John also insists on the exclusivity of the Son. (5:12) “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Here John unequivocally states that the only way to have eternal life is in Jesus. There is no other way. 

This is not a popular view in the 21st century. But you also see here that this was also not a popular view in the 1st century, just a few decades after Jesus’ ministry! Still, it remains the testimony of God himself about his Son, so we are in good company. 

It is God who testifies the truth about his Son Here is the what of faith: believing in Jesus, a faith that is both personal and objective, which is given to us by God and which therefore inevitably leads to a changed life, because it is God who works in us. And this Jesus is the Son of God, both man and God, who died to pay for our sins, the only way to enter into communion with God. 

We now turn to the theme of testimony in verses 6 to 12, where this word is repeated 8 times in 5 verses. After having defined the what of faith, John turns to his why. 

Why believe in one thing over another? Why not believe what these false teachers were teaching about Jesus? After all, they claimed to be the holders of the truth. They claimed to walk in the light (1: 6) and know God (2: 4), and it was very tempting of the members of this church to question themselves and listen to their testimony. “Maybe they are right after all?” That’s our problem too, isn’t it. Does lemon juice cure cancer? What testimony should we believe? 

John says clearly: there is the testimony of men, their opinions, their theories, their philosophies. And then there is the testimony of God. And when it comes to deciding who to believe, there is no debate. 

From the repetition of the word, it is clear that John is enamored that God has testified. He can’t get over it, and he wants us to know how much of a game-changer it is. God revealed himself at his creation. Imagine if that wasn’t the case. One would be reduced to scouring the internet in search of the truth, of who God is. How awful ! It’s as if the characters in The Lord of the Rings had to find out for themselves who wrote their story. They could surely catch some of Tolkien’s traits by contemplating his love for lyricism with Tom Bombadil, or his love of nature with Treebeard. But guessing that Tolkien is a 21st century Englishman who loved to smoke a pipe, impossible! It is impossible for the characters in this story to be able to know what is happening outside the confines of their creation, and in particular to know their Creator. This would only be possible if Tolkien had written himself in his story, which he did not. 

It’s the same for us. Our only chance to know God is if he reveals himself to us and is written in the history of our world. And the great news is, the news that blows John’s mind, is that unlike Tolkien, our creator has revealed himself to us. 

Imagine, the Creator, God of the universe, the Eternal King has revealed himself to us. And not to the groupies who adored him and begged him « God, reveal yourself, please, we want to know you! » No, he revealed himself to those who have rebelled against him since the beginning of time. Those who say “where are you God, in my sufferings?” and who at the same time don’t believe it when everything is going well. To those who refuse to worship him and who prefer to love everything except God. To those who in their pride insist on following religious rituals to earn eternal life, to earn God’s approval. 

Our own efforts are unable to do justice to our rebellion. And yet God offered to all the possibility of being reconciled with him. How? ‘Or’ What ? Look at what he tells us in verse 11:

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son.” (5:11).  How do we get this eternal life? By faith in his son: Verse 10 “he who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in himself”, verse 12 “he who has the Son has life.” 

To believe in Jesus is to have Jesus. And to have Jesus is to have eternal life. It’s as simple as that. God offers to all eternal life in Jesus, the possibility of being in communion with God. 

We acquire this eternal life by placing our trust in Jesus and his sacrifice to pay the price for our sins, by turning your unbelief to God. This is the testimony of God. 

So what about you? Do you accept this testimony? What testimony do you believe, which do you live out daily? That of men, or that of God? 

This is the question Jean is asking you this morning. Have you taken care to believe the testimony of God? He gave us a text for this testimony, the Bible, the bestseller of all time by far, with more than 5 billion copies sold, a figure that dates back 25 years. 

Have you already opened it? Or have you decided to rely on the testimony of other experts? I know what it’s like to grow up in France. If we don’t grow up in the bubble gospel, the Bible and God in general are not even on our radar. We are taught that religion is a thing of the past. It had effects, some good, some bad, but our society is now free from it and no longer needs it. 

So we do not even ask the question! While believing ourselves so wise on this subject! I know it’s me I’m talking about! But don’t get me wrong. We are all responsible for our beliefs. There is no neutral ground, no agnosticism. One cannot both ignore or reject the testimony of God and at the same time be on good terms with God. (5:12) “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 

Either one believes in the testimony of God towards his son, or one rejects him, and one makes of him a liar as it says 5:10. There is nothing morally neutral about this. We won’t be able to tell God, when we face him – and if God’s testimony is true, we will all face him someday – we will not be able to tell him, « but I was told that you didn’t exist, it’s not my fault!  » 

No my friend. God has testified, and we will all be accountable for our response to his testimony. May God give us the grace to believe it. 

So in these first 12 verses John reminded us that faith and eternal life are the work of God from A to Z. It is God who makes us born again. It is God who gives us faith in his Son. It is God who gives us eternal life. Why spend so much time on this subject? Because when we forget that faith and eternal life are the work of God, anchored in what he has accomplished and what he has revealed objectively in history, we begin, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, to be “tossed about and carried away by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men and their skill in deceitful maneuvers.” 

John wants us to profit fully of the new life that is ours, this eternal life. He says it in verse 13, the pivotal verse of this chapter: “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. ” He does not want his children to miss out on this eternal life which, notice it well, is a good which they now have. « That you have eternal life », present indicative. It is not a future good for the believer, it is a gift which he gives us at the new birth and which is accompanied by blessings. 

II. Eternal life guarantees us that God hears our prayers 

And it is precisely towards these benefits that John turns to in this second part of the chapter. 

I realize that time is ticking, we will go faster, don’t worry! 

John announces the theme by repeating “know” six times in this section. ensure that we know that eternal life is not future, or an abstract truth only good to study in Bible study but without ramifications for our life today. No! Eternal life which believers possess offers concrete assurances for every Christian today in prayer, fighting against sin and perseverance. 

The first assurance guaranteed by eternal life concerns prayer (5: 14-15). It is a disarming verse in its simplicity: we ask, God listens to us, we receive what we ask for, whatever it is. Present tense. Final point. Questions ? 

But of course we have questions, Jean!  Have you ever prayed and not received what you asked for? We have all experienced it of course, and Jean is not naive on this point either. The key is the adjective « according to his will. » In accordance with his will, that of God, not ours. Because just as eternal life is a reality anchored in the objective reality of God, prayer is also anchored in God, not in us. And that’s not bad news, it’s great news! Because what guarantees that our prayers are heard and answered is not my zeal, it is not the fact that I am convinced that I will get what I ask for, it is not in the vocabulary that I use, it is not in the fact that I did a seminar on prayer. No. We do not force the hand of God. 

Prayer, on the contrary, trains us to conform our desires and our will to those of God. 

Psalm 37: 4 says, « Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you what your heart desires. »

As John Stott writes, “Every true prayer is a variation of the theme ‘Thy will be done’.” Okay so that’s all very nice, but doesn’t that then make this promise useless, because who can guess what God wants? 

Kind of like Bill Gates telling me, “Damien, I promise to give you my fortune tomorrow, as long as you guess my bank account number. Isn’t that promise a little sadistic? It would indeed be if it was a question of guessing the secret will of God. But the Bible uses “will of God” in two ways. One in fact refers to his secret will, his decrees that only he knows. 

Proverbs 25: 2 tells us, “The glory of God is to hide things.” If God only listened to our prayers on condition that we guessed that will, we would be in big trouble!  But the Bible also speaks of the will of God in another sense, that which he clearly revealed to us in his Word. 

One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18: “Be joyful always. Pray without ceasing, expressing your gratitude in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ ».

Do you want to know what the will of God is? Always be joyful, pray without ceasing, be grateful in all circumstances. It’s clear, written in black and white for every Christian. And what John promises us here is that if this afternoon we find ourselves guilty of a lack of gratitude, either we realize that we indulge in complaining continuously, or that we would like to pray more, and very good news!  If we pray for these things God has promised to listen to us and give us what we ask for.  

Almighty God, the one who sustains the universe with his mighty word, is listening to you. So brothers and sisters I encourage you to consider the content of your prayers. Because many times we spend our time praying for things which, frankly, belong to the secret will of God, such as a change of circumstances in our favor. This is a subject which we have no assurance from God, for only God knows what He has decreed regarding our circumstances. And if our prayers boil down to that, it’s a shame, we will deprive ourselves of a lot in prayer! 

On the other hand, if we pray that in these difficult circumstances God will give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, benevolence, faith, gentleness, self-control, these things are the will of God, we know it because it is written in Galatians 5. And then we know that our prayer will be accompanied by the power of God, guaranteed. 

We see this in Paul’s prayers for example. Listen to him pray at the end of his letter to the Ephesians 6: 18-19, he who was imprisoned: “Do all kinds of prayers and supplications in the Spirit at all times. Watch this with full perseverance and pray for all the saints. Pray for me so that, when I open my mouth, the word will be given to me to confidently share the mystery of the Gospel. It’s for him that I’m the channel ambassador. Pray that I speak confidently about it as I should.” 

Paul did not know whether God wanted him in prison for the rest of his life or not, but what he did know was that wherever he was God wanted him to be an ambassador of the gospel, and that’s why he asked for prayer. 

May God give us the grace to pray according to his will, and in doing so know the assurance that he will listen to us and give us what we ask of him. 

III. Eternal life guarantees us victory over sin 

Confidence in prayer is one of the benefits guaranteed by eternal life in Christ. This is the first guarantee Jean wants us to know. In verses 16-18 John tells us about a second blessing: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not lead to death, let him pray, and God will give life to that brother” (verse 16). 

John tells us here that we all have a role of mediator and intercessor for one another. 

Some of you may have been confused by what John means when he talks about this “sin that leads or does not lead to death,” as I have been, I wanted to say a quick word about it. . 

Without going into details, John is speaking here of sins committed by “brothers”, that is, true believers born of God. Yet he has already told us in verse 1: 9, « If we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us them and to cleanse us from all evil. » A believer can be forgiven of all sin.  The“sin that leads to death” therefore likely refers to the sin of either complete disbelief or false teachings that refuse to recognize Jesus as the son of God. 

An individual who persists in these beliefs is not a brother and therefore cannot benefit from this promise of forgiveness, because he rejects the only way in which one can be forgiven. 

John therefore speaks to us here of a brother who commits a sin. He assures us that if we pray for him, God will restore him. What gives him such confidence? 

Verse 18 explains it to us: “We know that if anyone is born of God, he does not sin.” Are you following Jean’s logic? 

In verses 14-15 John assured us that when we pray according to God’s will, God listens to us and gives us what we ask for. Well, when is it God’s will when a true believer, a born brother of God, sins? 

The will of God is that he does not sin. For those who are born of God cannot by definition continue to live in sin. John is not saying here that the true Christian never sins, of course, he made it clear before in his letter. Here he is talking about living complacent and habitual in sin without repentance. 

Now he who is born of God has won the victory over the world as 5: 4 says. And since it is God who gives birth to us, since it is his work and not ours, he can confidently say that “if anyone is born of God, he does not sin.” It’s not arrogant to say that, it’s just believing what God has accomplished, objectively, in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t depend on us. And this victory accomplished by God gives us the assurance to pray for our brothers, in the certainty that those who are born of God will not continue in sin. And that is a weapon that God gives us to support each other in the fight against sin! Because no doubt, it will be a fight, it will be a fight. 

There will be tears, repentance, confession, a lot of prayers. But this fight will not be a lonely fight. John shows it to us here, it is a struggle that we are carrying out within our fraternal community. We do not go to war against sin alone, we go with our church! We’re going with an army of intercessors! So God asks all of us this question. Do we care about the soul of our sister, our brother? Is it on top of our prayer topics? 

It is for John, it is the first thing that comes to mind after approaching the subject of prayer. 

Brothers and sisters. God gives us the immense privilege of participating in mutual edification and his work of sanctifying our souls. It is holy work. 

Sara gave me an illustration on this which helped me a lot. 

The Bible repeatedly compares the Church to the bride of Christ, and it tells us of a great wedding feast that will mark the time when we will finally be fully delivered from the grip of sin, and enter into full communion with God. 

This therefore makes the Christian life a preparation for marriage. And in the months leading up to the wedding day we’re going to fix the house, we’ll try to lose that belly, we’re going to put our finances in order, we will try to eat better. 

We don’t do this because we’re afraid that our future bride will reject us if we have extra pounds on the wedding day – we know that she will say yes – we do it because we love her and we want to give her the best. 

The Christian life and sanctification are the same, it is this preparation for our union with God. However, you know, we do not prepare a wedding alone. Our family and friends help us with the kitchen fix, with the choice of music, with the invitations, with the organization of the reception and the meal. It is the same with us Christians. 

The fight against the sin that marks our Christian life in preparation for our marriage to Christ can only be done with the help of our brothers and our sisters, we do not do this alone. 

This fight therefore begins in our house meetings. So I challenge you for Tuesday. I invite you to think of a subject of prayer to share that is related to your soul. 

We all have parts of our lives where we lack faith, where we are in the grip of sin. 

Perhaps you, like me, have lost patience with your children this week. Perhaps you see yourself enslaved by the desire to please others. You may feel your love for God and for his Son cooling off, and your desires shifting to other people or to other activities. 

I invite you to examine yourself and share one of these specific topics on Tuesday with your brothers and sisters, so that they can fight alongside you in prayer. 

God has promised to give us life. 

IV. Eternal life guarantees us that God will keep us 

This brings us to the conclusion of the letter.  John concludes his letter with a rhapsody about the assurance we have in Christ. 

He says in 5:18 we know “he who is born of God keeps himself and the wicked do not touch him.” All who are born of God are beyond the reach of the evil one. They cannot know eternal death. This is impossible because they were not born of themselves, the new birth is the work of God. 

5:19 says the whole world is under the power of evil. So far, nothing very encouraging. But it is a reality that is hard to dispute, when we look at the misfortunes that unfold every day on our planet and in our lives. But there is another thing that we know, 5:20 “we also know that the Son of God came and gave us understanding to know the true God.” The Son of God has come. And what he has revealed to us is great: the Son has triumphed over evil, and “all that is born of God wins victory over the world” (5: 4). Because of our union with him, the evil one cannot touch us. 

The fight between good and evil is real, but it is not a fight on equal terms. Good triumphed. Jesus said in John 17:12 « When I was with my disciples [in the world], I kept them in your name. I protected those you gave me and none of them was lost.”

Jesus is the one who keeps the children of God in the world, the hold of evil cannot touch them.

John ends the letter in verse 21 in a rather unusual way for an epistle. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” On first reading it may seem like it came out of nowhere. But when you read the previous verse you see that the “true God” is repeated 3 times. And the opposite of the true God is called … an idol, whatever takes the place of the true God in our lives. 

An idol is any teaching, any thought, any desire, anything that turns us away from the true God, from Jesus incarnate, who died for our sins, and rose for our justification. 

John therefore ends his letter with a call to vigilance on everything that calls us not to live in the light, all those idols that would like to distance us from who we are in Jesus Christ.  You see here a precious aspect of the Christian life, and this is where I would like to end. 

When God gives us a command, in this case here to keep us from idols, he always provides everything we need to obey it.  Always.  In this chapter, John has tried to remind us of this. In verses 1-5 we saw that it is God who makes us born again, who gives us faith, and who gives us victory over the world. In verses 6-12, it is God who testifies to the reality that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life in him now. It is God who says this, not us. 

And in verses 18-20 it is God who keeps us from bad, who gives us the intelligence to know it, who unites us to Jesus Christ. 

So this makes us wonder what we have to do after all that! Does it seem like God does everything? But this is the Christian faith. It is above all the work of God. And that’s why John wrote this letter, so that we know that we have eternal life. 

May God invite us to participate in his work, having provided everything we need to do so. 

He invites us to participate in it by praying, fighting together against sin, and reminding each other that Jesus is keeping us. 

Brothers and sisters, it is God who gives us eternal life and keeps us, so let us walk together confidently in the Light. The evil one will not be able to do anything against an army like this. Let us pray as Paul did for the Colossians.

PRAYER

“Lord, we ask that you fill us with the knowledge of your will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk in a way worthy of you and to please yourself completely. Grant us  the  fruit of all kinds of good works and progress in the knowledge of God. Grant us to be fortified in every way by your glorious power so that we may always and with joy be persevering and patient. Grant us to express our gratitude to you Father who has enabled us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. It was you who delivered us from the power of darkness and carried us into the kingdom of your beloved Son, in whom we are redeemed, forgiven of our sins.  » Amen.