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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

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Well, the text that we're studying together is in 1 John, and specifically, it's about having assurance of your salvation, that is, knowing that you truly belong to Jesus Christ. But before we get to our text this morning, I want to first lay a foundation for understanding the issue of assurance. Because behind any discussion of assurance, there are several key presuppositions that you really have to know and understand. Let me give them to you. First of all, number one, “It is possible to think you're a Christian, and not be.” In Matthew 7, verse 21, Jesus says that many will show up before Him on the day of judgment and claim to know Him, and He will say, “…I never knew you.”

Secondly, “It is possible to be a Christian, truly, and yet to doubt that you are, in fact, a Christian.” We're seeing that even in this text that from time to time, our hearts condemn us, and we struggle with our assurance.

Number three, “It is possible to know with certainty that you are a Christian.” We've seen that again and again in this letter; but let me just give you a couple of examples. Chapter 2, verse 3, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Chapter 3, verse 14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.”

Number four, a fourth presupposition behind this issue of assurance is that, “God wants us to know that we're truly believers.” Turn to the theme of this great little letter, 1 John, chapter 5, verse 13. Look at chapter 5, verse 13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” God wants His people to enjoy the reality that they have truly been saved from their sins, they will be preserved by His grace, they are eternally secure. That is the reason for 1 John. God wants every true believer to know that they are, in fact, His. In fact, I'll go a step further and say God commands us to pursue assurance. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 5, “Test yourselves to see if you're in the faith; examine yourselves!” In 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 10, Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you;” God wants us to know. So, where do we find this?

Well, presupposition number five is this, “We must seek that assurance in Scripture alone.” Look, again, if you're still there, in chapter 5, verse 13. Notice what John writes, “These things I have written…so that you may know.” Our assurance is found, not in our feelings, not in our emotions, not in some point of past history, but rather, our assurance comes through the Word of God. Assurance doesn't just happen to us. We must intentionally pursue it by using the biblical means. Both the Westminster Confession and the Baptist Confession of Faith make this point. They say this, “A true believer may without extraordinary revelation (In other words, God's not going to whisper in your ear, He's not going to tell you you're a Christian. A true believer may without extraordinary revelation,) in the right use of ordinary means attain to assurance.”

What are those ordinary means? Well, they're found in Scripture. In the Word of God, God provides valid ways to gain real and lasting confidence that we truly belong to Christ and that our sins have been forgiven forever. However, sadly, there are a number of common wrong ways that Christians try to find assurance for their souls outside the Scripture. Let me just list them for you, just in case you've fallen into any of these traps.

First of all, brothers and sisters, don't find assurance by “Trusting in a one-time past profession of faith.” One of the most popular and, frankly, one of the most dangerous places people find their assurance is that at some point, they made a profession of faith in Christ. Many times, it happened when they were young, sometimes accompanied by an emotional experience. Now, don't misunderstand me. People who are young can come to genuine faith in Christ–that's not my point. My point is that there are those who made some profession in the past, and even though they've never followed Jesus as Lord, they've never lived in obedience to His Word, they cling to that past profession as the assurance that they are right with God. But in Matthew 13, in the parable of the soils, Jesus identifies two temporary emotional responses to the gospel that He says are not true saving faith. So, some profession in the past is not assurance of salvation.

Secondly, don't “Trust in the sinner’s prayer.” This is related to the first; but in this case, the misplaced assurance is in the fact that this person prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Now, let me just say conversion, that is, the expression of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, includes, always includes calling on the name of the Lord. That's what Romans 10:13 says, right? “Those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, true salvation always includes that calling on God's name. However, the fact that you prayed the sinner’s prayer should never be the basis of your assurance. I prayed the sinner’s prayer or some version thereof many times before I came to genuine faith. And there are biblical examples of people who prayed even with some kind of confession but were never truly changed. Don't put your hope of assurance there.

Thirdly, “Don't trust in an experience.” Maybe you believe that you had some sort of mystical experience, you had a vision of Jesus, or a vision of heaven, perhaps something accompanied by a near death experience. Listen, don't put your confidence there. That may not have been Jesus you saw; that may have been the creation of your own mind; and even if it was, there's no assurance that means you’re His. Perhaps your experience was physically responding to a gospel invitation, either by raising your hand or bowing your head or walking down an aisle or are signing a card, whatever it might have been. Don't trust an experience.

Number four, “Don't trust in your baptism.” Now, I'm not talking here about those who base their salvation on baptism; that's clearly contrary to Scripture. I'm talking about those who base their assurance on the fact that they were baptized. Listen, the fact that you were baptized does not prove that you are a true and genuine Christian. That doesn't mean your heart was changed. In Acts, chapter 8, Simon Magus was baptized by the Apostles, and later in that same chapter in verse 21, Peter says to him:

You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God…you are in…the bondage of iniquity.

Again, baptized by the Apostles, don't put your trust there.

Fifthly, don't put your “Trust in your own confidence.” Now, here's what I mean by that. This approach to assurance expresses itself in two different ways. Some people think this way, “Because I'm confident I'm a Christian, I must be a Christian, I'm sure; and surely if I weren't a Christian, I wouldn't be sure.” Not so fast. Deuteronomy 29:19 says, “It shall be when he hears the words of this curse (That is the curse of God's Law.), that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’” You can be confidently wrong. There are people in Matthew 7 who will be at the judgment.

Another way this idea expresses itself is like this. You say to yourself, “Because someone I trust spiritually told me I was a Christian, I'm confident I'm a Christian.” It usually happens like this, a parent or a pastor or a friend shared the gospel with you; you prayed to receive Christ, when you finished your prayer, that parent or that friend with the best of intentions, said this to you, “Unequivocally, you are now a Christian; write it in the front of your Bible and anytime you doubt, go look at that date you wrote in the front of your Bible.” Listen, in that case, your confidence, your assurance is really in what that person you trusted told you. All of those are wrong foundations for assurance. But having assurance is absolutely critically important; it's vital to our spiritual growth. I love the way John Bunyan portrays Christian in Pilgrims Progress as sleeping when he lost his roll, his scroll of assurance, and then he writes this:

But who can tell how joyful this man was when he had gotten his roll again, for this roll was the assurance of his life and acceptance at the desired Haven. Oh, how nimbly did he go up the rest of the hill.

What Bunyan is saying is, when we really understand and have assurance of our salvation, it propels us up the hill of Christian endeavor and growth; assurance is vital for effective ministry. Hugh Latimer, one of the great English reformers who was burned at the stake, a courageous man, he said this, “When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, then I am bold as a lion.” Assurance is also vital for our joy. I love the way Spurgeon puts it; he says, “It is one thing to hope that God is with us, and another thing to know that He is so. Faith saves us, but assurance satisfies us.”

We considered the wrong means to seek assurance, but what are “The Primary Biblical Means of Assurance,” what are the primary biblical means? If you look in any systematic theology, any reputable resource, where Christian scholars have tried to gather what the Scriptures teach together, you'll find two primary biblical means of assurance. Here they are, number one, “Believe and rest in the promises of the gospel,” believe and rest in the promises of the gospel. And number two, “Examine the evidence of regeneration in your life.” That's exactly what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5, when he said, “…examine yourself.” Those are the two, biblical means for assurance; fall off on either side, and you'll be out of balance; you have to bring assurance to bear in both ways.

Now, what is the evidence of regeneration that we look for in our lives? Well, John's making that very clear here in this letter and throughout the Scripture; we're looking for “Love for God and for His People,” and “Obedience to Christ and His Word.” Love and obedience, those are the evidences that we look for of regeneration in our lives.

Now, look at that list. It turns out that the biblical means of assurance are actually the three tests of eternal life in 1 John; do you see them there? The first is “Faith in the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel.” The second is “Love for God and His people.” And the third is “Obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word.” Turns out those are, at the same time, the tests of eternal life and the root of our assurance that we have been saved.

Today, John examines those biblical means by which we can legitimately gain assurance of our salvation. Just to remind you, we're here in chapter 3 in the second movement of this letter, studying the second test of eternal life. The passage we're looking at begins in chapter 3, verse 11, runs down through verse 24, and this section explains that true Christians are no longer filled with hate, but instead are marked by genuine love for one another. In these verses, John presents several crucial conclusions about how love for other believers or the absence of love for other believers confirms our true identity even if we profess Christ, whether we really or really are not in Christ.

Now, here are the conclusions we've looked at so far. First of all, this love for other believers is “Required by the Lord's Command.” Secondly, it is “Absent from an Unbelievers Heart.” Thirdly, it is “Crucial for a Believer’s Self-examination.” And we're looking at verses 19 to 24, where we've discovered that loving other believers is “Essential to the Believers Assurance.” We just read these verses together a moment ago, and so far in this part of this larger section, we've discovered a couple of key points. The first point is that “Loving Others Produces Assurance of Salvation,” that's the message of verses 19 and 20, loving other believers produces assurance. In verses 21 and 22, last week, we learned that that “Assurance then Produces Confidence before God in Prayer.”

Today, we come to verses 23 and 24, where John explains the basis of our assurance. His third point in these verses is that “Assurance is Based on Three Tests,” assurance is based on three tests. And in the first part of these verses, he shows these three tests to be the source of our assurance.

Now, let me again remind you, and for those who haven't been with us, let me just say that in each of the three movements of this letter, John repeats the same three tests of eternal life. The three tests are these: number one, “Faith in the biblical Jesus and His gospel;” number two, “Love for God and His people;” and number three, “Obedience to Christ and His Word.” Those are the three tests of eternal life in this letter. But John reiterates those same three tests here in just two verses. Look at verse 23, “This is His commandment, that (Here's number one.) we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. Here's number two, “…and love one another, just as He commanded us.” And here's number three, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.”

Now, John includes all three tests here in a passage that's about confidence, that's about assurance, because he wants us to get a key point. And that is, these three tests of eternal life are the biblical means to gain assurance of salvation. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. I mean, if these are the three tests through which we can know that we have eternal life, then passing these tests brings (What?) assurance. So, you can see how they work together, and we can use this to assure ourselves. Go back to verse 19, “We will know by this that we are of the truth (That we're truly Christians by our love for other believers.), and (we) will assure our heart before (God) in whatever our heart condemns us.” So, we can take the test of loving other believers, and if we pass that test, if we love them, we can assure our hearts when it condemns us that we are in fact truly Christians.

Now, as John summarizes this paragraph in verses 23 and 24, he comes back to this idea of “assuring our hearts,” but rather than just reiterating the one test of love that he develops in this section, he reminds us that all three tests together provide us with assurance. It's not enough to pass one or two of the tests.

In fact, think of these three tests of eternal life like a three-legged stool. Take one away and your profession of faith in Christ, your claim to know God, collapses into rubble. But, if you pass all three tests, then you can have assurance of your salvation; you can legitimately assure your heart when it condemns you. And this isn't you making it up, this isn't you coming up with some prop, some faulty crutch, to prop up your faith. This is God's own method, His own plan, His own revelation. So, let's see then how John develops this idea of using these tests as the source of our assurance.

Verse 23, “This is His (And in context as you'll see in a moment, that's God the Father, this is the Father's.) commandment.” Now, notice that the commandment is singular even though in the previous verse and in the next verse, it's plural, commandments. Why does he say this is the commandment and then give a couple of commands? Well, don't undersell John; he's not ignorant, he understands what he's doing. The reason he puts it this way is he reduces all that God has commanded us to one unifying command, His commandment, and that one unifying command expresses itself in three parts. Verse 23, believe in Jesus; verse 23, love one another, and verse 24, it's connected although thematically, although it's another sentence, keep His commandments.

So, the first part of His commandment is found there in verse 23, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” So, the first part of the commandment is “Believe in Jesus Christ and His gospel.” Now, this full title for Jesus occurs here and back in chapter 1, verse 3, and in chapter 5, verse 20. But this is the first time that John uses the verb ‘believe’ in this letter. And the tense of the verb in Greek points not to ongoing faith, although that's true in the life of a genuine Christian, but rather to a decisive act, probably the person's initial response of faith to the Gospel. And John says this faith that saves is a personal commitment to “the name.” What does he mean by “the name?” He means a commitment to the Person and all that He is. That's what he means by “the name,” to the Person and all that He is. John says that true Christians believe “…in the name of His Son Jesus (Messiah.)”

Now, those words, as you can even hear as I read them, have the sound of an early creed and may very well have been. One author calls it a “miniature confession of faith.” John Calvin writes, “The only right faith is that which embraces Christ as He is set forth in the gospel.” You see, the only faith that saves must be in the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, the human being who was born in Bethlehem. And you must believe that that human Person is, at the same time, God's unique, eternal Son, perfect man, the divine Messiah promised in the Hebrew scripture, and the Savior, and the propitiation for sin.

Why does John give us this little expression the way he does? Remember, he's writing this letter to true believers, those he ministered to in the churches in Asia Minor, and he's writing to protect them from false teachers. We're going to meet the false teaching at the beginning part of chapter 4, where their error is defined more precisely. Let me just summarize it for you; the false teachers that he was addressing, denied that the human person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the divine Messiah come in the flesh. Instead, what they taught what the false teachers taught, as later Gnostics taught, was that Jesus was born and died only a man. He was merely a man, who for the three years of His ministry, was given divine powers, or perhaps even, for those three years, adopted into the Godhead. The divine Spirit of Messiah, they said, descended on Him at His baptism, and left Him before the cross.

By the way, that's why you know, those strange couple of verses in chapter 5, in fact, look over at chapter 5, verse 6, “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ.” What does that mean? Well, we'll unpack it together, but he's alluding to this heresy. He's saying, “Listen, don't you believe the heretics, Jesus is the Son of God and the one baptized at the beginning of His ministry was the same person who died by crucifixion. He was contradicting the false teachers; they denied that Jesus of Nazareth was the divine Messiah, the eternal Son of God. It was really a rejection of the heart of the Christian message that God had revealed Himself in Jesus, the incarnate Son of God had come to die for sins. John says, “Don't you believe that stuff from those who went out from us because they were not of us.”

Instead, he says, “To be a Christian, you must, number one, “Believe that Jesus is fully God,” you must believe that Jesus is fully God. Verse 23, “…believe in the name of His Son.” Jesus of Nazareth is God's unique one-of-a-kind Son. That means that He's God. John 1:1, it means that He is deity. Look at 1 John, chapter 4, and verse 14:

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (Notice the wording.) The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (Look at chapter 5, verse 5.) Who is the one who overcomes the world, (That is, who's a true believer?), but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

(Verse 9.) If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

You see, if you deny that God has an eternal Son, which is what Islam does, which is what Mormonism does, others, if you deny that God has an eternal Son, you have redefined the nature of the true God. Therefore, you're rejecting the true God and you cannot know Him, you cannot be a Christian. And if you deny that Jesus is God's Son, you've denied the Father who sent Him. To be a Christian, you must believe that Jesus is fully God.

Secondly, you must “Believe that Jesus is fully Man.” Verse 23, “…believe in the name of His Son Jesus.” Jesus is the name of His humanity; it was the name that God commanded through the angel Gabriel be given to this Child who would be born to Mary. And the angel commanded this both to Joseph, in Matthew, chapter 1, and to Marry, in Luke, chapter 1, “…call him Jesus.” So, the Greek form of the Hebrew name ‘Joshua,’ or ‘Yeshua.’ And the reason it was to be given to Him is because of what it means. The name ‘Yeshua,’ ‘Joshua,’ ‘Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh.’ That's God's personal name, “Yahweh Saves.” So, you must believe that God The Son has become flesh in the historical, fully human person, Jesus of Nazareth; that those two natures coalesce in Him, that He possesses both of them and that He is the Savior of the world. Look at chapter 4, verse 2:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ (Messiah) has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

(Look at 2 John, his second letter, verse 7.) For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ (Messiah) as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist.

So, to be a Christian, you must believe that Jesus is truly God. and you must believe that He is truly and fully man, and that He is perfect man, fully without sin. Chapter 2, verse 1 says that He is “Jesus Christ the righteous.” Chapter 3, verse 3, “…He is pure.” Chapter 3, verse 5, “…in Him there is no sin.” Chapter 3, verse 7, “…He is righteous.” So, you must believe that He is fully human but fully perfect humanity.

Number three, you must “Believe that Jesus is the Christ,” you must believe that He is the Christ. Again, notice in our text, chapter 3, verse 23, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for ‘Messiah,’ the Anointed One, the One promised throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. So, to be a Christian, you have to believe in the Messianic identity of Jesus of Nazareth, that He is the One promised from Genesis, chapter 3, verse 15, the One who would come to deal with sin, the One who is written of in the prophets, the One who is the Suffering Servant, who would die in the place of His people to satisfy the justice of God. You must believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

Look at chapter two, verse 22, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the (christos) Christ (The Messiah.) This (He) is the Antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” You cannot deny Jesus as Messiah without denying the true God. Look at chapter 5 verse 1, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God.”

Fourthly, to be a Christian, you must “Believe that Jesus is the only Savior.” John's expression here in chapter 3, verse 23, “…believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ” also includes not only the truth about Jesus’ person, but the truth about His work, what He came to accomplish and what He actually finished. And what was that work? That work was “…to save His people from their sins.” That's exactly how Gabriel explained Jesus’ name in Matthew 1:21, when he said to Joseph, “…call Him Jesus.” Why call him ‘Yahweh Saves? because “…He (This child.) will save His people from their sins.” This was His work and mission.

Look at 1 John, chapter 2, verse 2; verse 1 says, “…Jesus Christ (Messiah) the righteous” One. Verse 2, “…He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” The word ‘propitiation’ is a $5 word that just means He is the satisfaction of God's just wrath against our sin. “He…is the propitiation for our sins,” and He's not a provincial deity, just for Palestine, not for ours only, but also for people around the entire world as you and I can give testimony; He is the only Savior. Look at chapter 4, verse 9:

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son (Begotten has the idea of His unique one-of-a-kind Son.) into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son (Here it is again.) to be the propitiation (the satisfaction of God's wrath) for our sins. (Verse 14, look at it again.) We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

You must believe that Jesus is the only Savior. Oh, and by the way, this also means that you believe you are a sinner, and you are such a desperately bad sinner that the only way you could be made right with God is by God sending His own eternal Son to die, paying the cost of your sin so that God could still be just and forgive you. That's what the Scriptures teach.

Now, the culmination of the salvation that Jesus came to secure happens when He returns for those who saved. Look at chapter 2, verse 28, it speaks of His coming, but look at chapter 3, verse 2.

Beloved, now we are (the) children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. (But) We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

To be a Christian, you must believe all those things.

But finally, number five, you must “Repent of your sins and Confess Jesus as Lord.” Repentance is woven into the fabric of 1 John. In fact, look at 1 John 3, this is just one example of many. 1 John 3, verse 4:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He (That is, the Son of God.) appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides (remains) in Him sins (keeps on sinning); no one who sins (keeps on sinning) has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no (that) no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil.

What is that telling us? It's telling us if you've really come to know the Son of God, if you've really believed in Him, you have repented, you've turned from those things in your life that you know are rebellion against Him. You must repent.

And you must also place your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; you must believe in Him. Go to chapter 5, verse 1, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God.” Chapter 5, verse 5, “Who is the one who overcomes the world (Who's the true believer?), but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” We saw the same message in verses 10 through 12 as well. But look at verse 13, here's the theme verse of this letter, “These things I have written to you (Notice how he puts it.) who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Now, it’s not as clear in English as it is in Greek; but in Greek, he uses a preposition here, literally, “those who believe into the name of Jesus;” it's more than just, check the boxes, I agree those things are true. To believe into the name of Jesus means that you believe to Him to such an extent that you follow Him, you obey Him; it's acknowledging the truth about His person and work in such a life-changing powerful way, that it leads you to follow Him, to obey Him, to confess Him as Lord, as Paul puts it in Romans, chapter 10. Here's how Jesus puts it in John 8:31, He “was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, if you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” Or, as He puts it in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” He said, “That makes no sense. Don't say, I'm your Lord, and then ignore what I tell you to do. You're not really my followers, if that's true.”

Now, with all of that, go back to our text and look at it one more time. Chapter 3, verse 23, and notice what he says, “This is His (The Father's) commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. “You see, the gospel is an announcement, that's what the angel did to the shepherds that night outside of Bethlehem in Luke 2; it's an announcement to be believed. The gospel is an invitation to be accepted. That’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5:20, when he says, I “…beg you…be reconciled to God.” But here we're reminded that the gospel is also a command to be obeyed. John 6:29, “Jesus…said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Whom) He…sent.’”

If you're here this morning and you have never believed in Jesus Christ, you've never repented of your sins, you've never believed in Jesus Christ, you've never acknowledged that He, that Jesus of Nazareth is God's eternal Son, that He is the divine Messiah, that He is the Savior of the world, and you have never committed yourself to turn from your sin and follow Him, then listen, God commands you to believe right now! And your failure to do so is simply another expression of rebellion against your Creator. “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” I plead with you to do that now, and God commands you to do that now.

But if you have believed, if you're here this morning, you've repented and believed in Jesus, then taking and passing this first test of eternal life can bring you great assurance. Do you believe in the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel? If so, then rest in the promises of the gospel and just keep on trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. You see, when you remind yourself of the biblical gospel, and you rest in those promises, it provides great assurance.

Ian Murray writes, “We gain assurance not by solely looking at ourselves or anything within ourselves, but by looking to Christ alone, and to Christ as is revealed to us in the promises of Scripture.” This is why, by the way, why someone who's been saved five minutes can have a measure of assurance of their salvation. Why? Because they're resting in the promises of the gospel. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Lack of assurance is often caused by being too taken up with ourselves. But our assurance does not lie in what we are, be great or small; it lies in what God has done in his plan of salvation, to secure us to Himself.” Samuel Rutherford writes, I love this. He says, “Believe God's word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your rock is Christ. And it's not the rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.” That's the clear testimony of Scripture.

We are called to believe and to rest in the biblical promises of the gospel; promises like John 3:16, “…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, (so) that whoever believes in Him (should) not perish, but have eternal life.” It was that promise that Martin Luther, the reformer, died repeating to his soul. His only hope was the promise of the gospel. John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will…not cast out.” John 10:27:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of (My) hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

John 11:25 and 26:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never truly die.”

Ian Murray writes, “The Christian will never get beyond the promises of Christ as the sure ground of his peace.”

Lloyd-Jones puts it this way:

It is grace at the beginning (talking about our salvation.). It's grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie up on our deathbeds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us at the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace.

Listen, assure your heart that you have believed and put your hope in the clear promises of the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel. At the same time, as important as resting in the promises of the gospel is, that should never be the sole means of our assurance. The other two tests in 1 John are equally important. You see, the first test asks, “Are you resting in the promises of the biblical gospel about the biblical Christ?” The second and third tests ask, “Are you examining your life for evidence of regeneration?”

Then, when we take all three legs of the stool, and we attach them to our support of assurance, then we can have real biblical assurance. When we are resting in the promises of the gospel, when we look at our lives and examine them, and see evidence of regeneration, and our love for others, and our obedience to Jesus Christ. Lord willing, next week, we'll look at how those two additional tests provide our assurance.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our time together this morning. Lord, You know my prayer. It's that every person who hears this message, who's truly Yours, would gain the assurance You intend them to have. Lord, don't let anyone's faith who's genuine, who truly believes, be unsettled by these truths, but rather, confirm them. Thank You, Father, that for those of us who are truly Yours, we can look at our lives, and we can see that we are truly believing and resting in the biblical Jesus, in the promises of the biblical gospel, that is our hope. And yet, at the same time, we can see the evidences of regeneration in our lives. Lord, thank You, that when all of those three tests become the source of our assurance, we can truly know that we are Yours. I pray You grant us that.

At the same time, Father, I pray for those who are here this morning who've never believed in Jesus and know they haven’t. Perhaps others who have wrongly concluded that they're Christians and these evidences are not in their lives. Father, help them to truly see themselves as You see them. Lord, by Your Spirit, bring life into their dead heart, into their blind eyes, let them see. Father, give them eternal life and the power to repent, and the power to believe by the grace of Your Spirit and Your Son, in whose name we pray, Amen.

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34.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
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35.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
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36.

Love As a Sign of Life - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

More from this Series

1 John

1.

An Introduction to 1 John

Tom Pennington 1 John
2.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
3.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
4.

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4
5.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
6.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
7.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
8.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
9.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
10.

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6
11.

The Priority of Love

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:7-8
12.

Loving One Another - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11
13.

Loving One Another - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11
14.

A Child of the Father

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:12-14
15.

Do Not Love the World

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:15-17
16.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
17.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
18.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
19.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
20.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
21.

It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27
22.

The Christian's DNA - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
23.

The Christian's DNA - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
24.

The Christian's DNA - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
25.

The Christian's DNA - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
26.

The Christian's DNA - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3
27.

Oil & Water

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:4-6
28.

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10
29.

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10
30.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
31.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
32.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
33.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
34.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
35.

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
36.

Love As a Sign of Life - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24
37.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
38.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
39.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
40.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
41.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
42.

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6
43.

This Is Love - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
44.

This Is Love - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
45.

This Is Love - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
46.

This Is Love - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
47.

This Is Love - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21
48.

The Nature of Saving Faith

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
49.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
50.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
51.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
52.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
53.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13
54.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-15
55.

Real Christians & Deepfakes - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
56.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
57.

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21
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