The Test of a Christian's Assurance
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:21–24 NIV)
Last week, we saw the first part of this passage on assurance from 1 John that God is greater than our self-condemning hearts.
A confident relationship with your Heavenly Father manifests itself in our prayers. This confidence or boldness redefines the “blank check” we have for prayer. Instead of it being about us; it’s about him. Instead of cashing in as we typically would take this language, we ask, as James Boice says, with “an attitude in which the will of the one praying is subjected to the will of the Father.” Prayer is much more freeing when we are confident of what God thinks about us (v20) and when we are consciously living for God’s pleasure (v22). The possibility of assurance is further sealed because commandment keeping is a pleasure for us. Pleasing God is pleasing to us. It is also a sign that God’s Spirit resides in you and you in God (24). How can you tell that you are keeping God’s commands? Well, let’s see those two simple commands that God makes which together contribute to the believer’s assurance (v23): believe in Jesus and love others. Familiar aren’t they? It’s because these same commands are the very words of Jesus found in John’s Gospel (see John 6:29). John the apostle is consistent with his Lord’s ethic.
Isn’t it ironic how quickly we affirm love for someone we can’t see while not loving people we can actually see (1 John 2:9-11; 4:20-21). This is John’s point in the whole letter. Love for the invisible God becomes plainly visible in how seriously we take his Word and how seriously we take others. The kind of love required of Christians is far beyond the natural capacities that God has commonly blessed the people of this world with. Because, on one end, it is internally and spiritually rooted: “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him and he in them.” Yet, on the other end, it is externally manifested: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (3:16). Earlier in that passage it tell us how we can be assured of our salvation— “We know we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death”(3:14).
Go ahead— throw some paint on your love for God. Love others; die to yourself and love pleasing God according to his commands more than anything. You’ll find in the loving and the losing that you’ll be strangely—no, spiritually— strengthened and assured of Christ.