Obey Christ, and know you belong to him

There’s nothing more important than to know that we belong to Christ. While we can trust ourselves, that’s what we tend to do. While we can trust—or demand—that governments keep us ‘safe’, that’s what we tend to do.

But in the real world—the one God makes and rules, we need an Advocate. And we need to know that we know him.

John tells us how. We keep his commandments (2:3-6), particularly the command to love one another.

God never thinks obedience to him is hard (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). And Christ says it is easy to learn from and to follow him (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s not an accomplishment. It’s the way to live.

Here’s how it works.

Loving one another is what we learn to do when we first become Christians. Jesus teaches this and says it’s the way we relate to him and to the Father (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10).

These verses are amazing. We already know of the Father’s love for us as sinners, but now Jesus is telling us of the love he and his Father will have for us when we love him. It’s the certainty of this love relationship that we need if we are going to walk securely.

This command is new—or fresh. It’s not just something to remember and do. Christ is alive, shining on us, bringing us to life. As we enjoy him and love one another, the hateful darkness of sin and hate is being pushed back. His command is always coming to us, and being effective!

All of this is happening because Jesus reveals God’s love to us. This love is powerful, and costly. So, we love him! We like what he says. And we respond to his love by doing what he asks.

All this has a profound effect on us. Christ may have seemed distant, but now he is near. Christ’s loving is real. And so is ours! We are living in the same way Jesus did—loving our neighbour.

John’s doesn’t say we are doing this perfectly but that God’s love has done its work in us. After what we’ve been told about confessing our sin, John would hardly be telling us we’re already perfect! But our loving is real!

When we love like this, we’re in the light and don’t fall over hidden obstacles. Hatred, or self-interest, blinds us to what is happening around us, and in us. It leads to confusion. But love—coming from Christ and being passed on by us—helps us to see clearly.

On the other hand, if we pretend to know Christ and don’t like what he says, we’re not being real. We’re believing a lie, and we’re living it as well. Falsehood has invaded our inner life. How we need this love of Christ—in us! The world becomes confused by trying to make its own truth and its own love. But through obedience to Christ, we find certainty, purpose and hope. And all this, not because we are perfect. It works because the true light is shining, changing us, and because it reaches out to our broken world.

Don’t be fooled. Stay in the light!

Everyone knows that stumbling around in the dark can be dangerous. Things seem to be different from what they are. There are no reference points. And we don’t like being confused.

The same is true about being ‘in the dark’ about God. It is impossible to know where we are unless God himself is the light.

We not only need this light, we need to be walking in it. But there are false stories around that may keep us walking in the dark. So, John tells us what the light is, and explains how certain lies keep us in the dark (1 John 1:5—2:2).

What’s happening here is like a child who’s done something wrong and is lying to his or her parents about it. There’s no relationship happening! But then, the whole matter comes out into the light, and is dealt with. True fellowship is restored—often to the delight of the child as well as the parents.

So, here is what Jesus came to tell us.

God is light, with no darkness anywhere.  In other words, God is always true, and wholly good. There is nothing in him that isn’t. Jesus is telling us about God as only he can.

And Jesus doesn’t just teach this. He demonstrates it. He is this light for everyone (John 9:5), showing that God is true and good. And he also reveals what is not true and good.

Many avoid what Jesus reveals, or they oppose it, because they live in their own bubble of being religiously correct and don’t like this exposure.

Here’s where the false claims begin. We may say that how we live doesn’t matter. We only need to have an ‘experience’ of God, or feel that he is near. If this is what we think, we are in the dark.

Or, we may say we are basically good—a few failures perhaps, but nothing that should be added up against us. Again, we fool ourselves.

Again, we may say we don’t do anything wrong. In this case, we’re saying God is wrong, not us. There won’t be any fellowship here.

These claims, or something like them, can keep us from seeking a Saviour. Or, they can keep us from seeing anything special about having fellowship with God.

John gives us a very different way to walk—in the light of God revealed by Jesus. God himself walks in his own light. He has total integrity. And he calls us to join him. Here’s how it works.

First, if we let Jesus show us who God is, and walk in that, and admit the mess it shows we are in, we have fellowship with each other. Self-deception keeps us from God and also from being real with other people. But confession brings us to God (Revelation 3:20).

Second, we are forgiven. Our sins are washed clean—all of them. It’s not our blood that is spilled to make up for what we’ve done wrong. The blood of Jesus washes them away.

Think of Peter getting his feet washed (John 14:3-10). He wanted to be in charge but Jesus must wash his feet. Only Jesus can make Peter clean. This is what we all need to hear.

When God brings us into his light, he’s not wanting to make us squirm but to gain our company. We think exposure will damage our self-respect and confidence—that we’ll be condemned.

The opposite is true. Jesus says that whoever does what is true comes to the light, and is not condemned. What we do of ourselves is false. What we do in God—including confessing our sins—is real (John 3:19-21).

Third, we are forgiven so we won’t sin again (John 8:11). But then, we do. And the faithful and just God has this covered. This walking in the light is not something we do alone.

Jesus is our Advocate—and he is utterly righteous in who he is and in what he does.

He has deflected the wrath that was falling on us by becoming our sin, and then receiving in his body all that should have happened to us. That’s what propitiation means. It was not comfortable for Jesus to walk in the light of God’s righteousness. But he’s made it a welcome place for us.

So, this is the message we have heard from Jesus. God is light—the most wonderful light we could ever know. Here, confusion about God, about ourselves, and where we fit, are all resolved.

This is the Father who wants our company. And he has created a family in which we have fellowship with one another.

If it’s not God, you can’t be sure

John writes a letter to Christians—people who trust in Jesus as God’s Son. He wants them to know they have eternal life (5:13). He wants us, not just to believe, but to be sure.

He needs to do this because other mischievous ideas are being promoted that will not have the power to sustain their faith, hope and love. The gospel is a ‘word of life’—a message that creates what it says. It’s not just information or advice. We need to hear God’s Son speak, and live (John 5:25).

John gets straight to the point in this first section (1 John 1:1-4). He’s knows what he is talking about. He’s seen and heard it for himself. And he’s been appointed to tell us.

We need to hear this word because it’s impossible to work up a Christian confidence from where we are. John starts by giving us four basic certainties.

First, if something is true, it must always have been true. This message comes ‘from the beginning’. It’s always been this way and it’s eternal.

The similarity of this statement with the beginning of John’s Gospel shows he is referring to when the world is made. Jesus is God’s Word, bringing the world into existence. He is with God and is God. We are alive because we’ve been created. So now, if we are going to be sure of eternal life, it will have to be because God makes it happen.

Second, this ‘word of life’ has come among us. It’s actually Jesus—the person. John remembers the sound of his voice. He remembers seeing and touching him. He may be remembering the day when Jesus asks his disciples to touch him and give him some food. He has been raised from the dead and wants to assure them he is not a ghost. Our faith is based on physical evidence.

John has written a whole Gospel to make this point (John 20:21). Here, he is just saying that it is so. So, we can be sure God is speaking to us through Jesus—God the Son—as a human being. We don’t ‘hear’ like the apostles did. We were not present to see Jesus raised from the dead. But we are blessed by hearing what the apostles pass on to us (John 20:29).

Third, God is calling us to share life with him. He exists and lives as a fellowship of persons—Father and Son, and what happens between them is important for us. (Later, John will talk about the Spirit as well.). By speaking to us, he is bringing us into that relationship.

We actually know God the Father, and we know his Son (John 14:21-23). We know the love between them. We know we are included in this fellowship of the Father with the Son—if you like, in the same way that children know they are secure when their father and mother love each other.

We are created to be ready for this relationship. Any ideology or doctrine that doesn’t do this can’t be true. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son (John 17:3). We don’t just need reliable facts or ideas. We need to come home!

Fourth, sharing this word with others brings a lot of joy. And why not. God himself is our confidence. We’re not asking others to think the same as us but to share what we’re in. Our confidence is an overspill of this joy. And it brings joy to others. Uncertainty may have been the great spoiler of life, but now we’ve got something to offer.

In this way, we become part of God’s family where the relationships are real because we all hear the same Father speaking to us through his Son. We have discovered true community—something eternal and authentic.

We need this message deeply. The alternative is trying to suck life out of what has been made. And this is where confusions arise. God’s gifts in this world are good, but he hasn’t put everything we need there. We need him.

There’s much more John wants to share with us about being sure of God. The next section tells us how to be sure we are walking with God.