The Bible teaches us there are no do-overs. When we die we enter heaven or hell. Therefore if you want to spend eternity in heaven you must make sure you know and do what Jesus Christ reveals is the truth. Paul even warned the Christians at Corinth to examine themselves to make sure they were really in the faith unless they found themselves deceived. (2 Corinthians 13:19)
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, …” 1 John 5:13
How do we do examine ourselves? The apostle John wrote the letter we call 1 John and tells us why. He says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, …” 1 John 5:13
The purpose of the first letter of John is clearly stated as “assurance of salvation.” John wrote to give proof to the people who claim to be Christians that they actually were saved by offering evidence. These truths will also prove whether we are alive in God, or as we say, born again. Make sure you sit down and read the entire book!
Now, what you need to notice is that the Bible never says that you are going to heaven because you believe you are. It does not say you know you are going to heaven because you prayed a little prayer like, “Dear Jesus come into my heart.” Nor does it say you are assured of heaven because your priest, pastor, or grandmother said you were. Instead, John provides seven clear cut evidences of salvation. He learned to look deeper, rather than accept a simple testimony from a person who claimed to be a Christian because Christ taught him to verify salvation by a person’s fruit.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. [Matthew 7:15-18 (NLT)]
The Lord trained his apostles well. And Christ Jesus clearly warned that many, many people would unite with the church and become known to the world as Christians. But, most of these people will be fakes. They would be deceived and sincere, but still, not real. And the only way to know for sure was evidence that existed beyond the surface, way underneath the sheepskins. Those who broke God’s laws were fake, even if they were popular or preachers, sincere and spiritual leaders, and even miraculous and famous.
Here’s what Jesus warned. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matt 7:21-23 (NLT)
So to examine ourselves let’s first define John’s terms.
In 1 John 1:5-7 John writes, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses of from all sin.”
God = Light… What God says is right, is right. And what He says is evil is wrong. So this determines whether we are of God if we obey and live in devotion to Him
Satan = Darkness… the Bible calls him the Prince of Darkness and he led a mass rebellion against God while in heaven. He and anyone who disobeys God has become God’s enemy and lives under his dominance in spiritual darkness separated from God.
fellowship with God = living in light is life in connection with God and obeying Him
fellowship with Satan = living in darkness is living in rebellion to God and under the power and influence of Satan
Now let’s look at the first evidence that proves you are a Christian. What really amazes me, is the proof John uses to begin his test of life. It is not what I would have guessed or even chosen. In fact, I do not know anyone who pushes this first one as evidence of salvation.
Evidence #1 Do You Love The Church (Your Christian Brothers)?
“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.” [1 John 2:9]
Obeying the 1st and 2nd Greatest Commandments is non-optional and proof of life. But more specifically John asks us, do you love the church, the called out followers of Jesus?
John lays down the gauntlet and demands that anyone who claims to be a narrow road follower of Jesus must, without excuse, be totally locked into fellowship and friendship with others in a local church. This means that a change of life takes place in a true Christian and God becomes his love. He advances steadily to love Him with all his heart, all his mind, will and emotions, and all his strength. [Matthew 22]
Then, because “God so loved the world…” [John 3:16] His Holy Spirit living inside a Christian causes the disciple to begin loving his neighbor until it overflows from his heart as a standard passion and lifestyle.
But, Jesus pushed past the concept of just loving your neighbor and commanded his new followers to love their brothers in a higher way than the law ever demanded. This is why John more specifically explains that you must first and foremost love your brother! The priority of Christian family love must supersede all else so that true brotherhood is the evidence of spiritual life.
The Jews asked Christ “who was their neighbor”, but we must ask, “Who is my brother?” Well, the Lord Himself answers this question for all Christians and it is why John uses this concept as vital evidence of salvation. We find this in Matthew chapter 12.
“As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.’ Jesus asked, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then he pointed to his disciples and said, ‘Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!’” [Matthew 12:46-50 (NLT)]
The evidence is clear, just like Jesus explained in Matthew 7, only the people who obey the will of God are His brothers. No one else is going to heaven, or classed as a brother, not people that live in your neighborhood, not friends from school or work, and not even blood relatives reach this level of family.
Many churched people do not do the will of the Father. Many relatives and friends do not do the will of the Father. To those deluded people Jesus will publicly announce, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Judgment Day will destroy their wishful hopes and dreams.
So it is “doing” that proves who you are, not what you believe that is hidden in your mind.
And Jesus makes it clear your blood relatives are second to the relationship you have Him. Unless they are believers also, their demands or connections are secondary to the commands of Jesus.
Jesus stated in, Luke 14:26-27 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Jesus’ own half brothers and sisters from Mary and Joseph, did not believe in Him until after He was resurrected from the dead. So we know from His words that our brothers are fellow Christians who follow and obey Jesus, not our blood relatives. We must love our relatives into the kingdom with prayer, example, and sharing the gospel.
But, we cannot do this alone! As Jesus teaches, the church is our band of brothers. The disciples of Jesus are the ones we must really love to be with, and lean on, for help to reach our blood relatives and community. The ones to gain strength from in days of trouble.
The local church is where our closest friends must be, the people we must hang out with. The ones we join with both in church gatherings and fellowship every day in our homes. We must merge our private lives together with the people of God, and work together to love God and help others. Our brothers are the ones we team up with to do active ministry in our community in Jesus’ name.
The Book of Acts clearly shows the church to be an organic family that is counter-cultural to the rest of the world. Not as a cult hidden in the dense jungle somewhere, but an underground family of people living to turn the world upside down for Jesus while they live their lives among the people around them. You can see the truth of this in the account of Acts 2.
Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—
47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
You must see this evidence as a compelling argument of salvation. It takes a miracle to have such a change in life to the point that you are so altered in your heart that people who were strangers to you become closer than your mother and father. That love of your “brothers” becomes so dynamic that you actually share your money, goods, and food, without coercion, with people you previously never even knew. To sacrificially love others beyond measure without doubt or fear is an amazing conversion from the normal way of life. Only the living God does such work in a person.
This is what a real local church is, a close-knit spiritual family that binds together in love for one another and teams up to follow God’s assignments. All the saints’ hearts are enlarged beyond the normal family mentality of blood relatives. The salvation of Jesus causes believers to want to provide for and protect each other as much as personal resources allow.
It is a new norm to pray for each other, not focus on ourselves. Encourage and help each other, not just follow our goals and dreams. Yes, John says this is the first evidence of salvation!
So how do you know if you are living in darkness, instead of the light of God?
John says, “But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” [1 John 2:11]
Hatred is a harsh word and not many will say they hate people. But, if you hate vegetables you do not eat them. You do not think about them or waste your time studying them. You ignore them. You reject them. You do not have to sit around and build up an emotionally charged anger against peas to hate them! Don’t believe me? Ask a child whose father left them what they feel. They will always ask, “Why does my dad hate me?”
In like manner, you hate the Christians when you hardly, if ever, gather with them for worship and ministry, do not join them and make friends with them, and do not establish strong family ties with them. There are many reasons people reject the fellowship of the church, BUT excuses are not good enough. Judging a local church instead of loving them is proof of a hateful heart. And John is clear if you do not love your brother you are not a Christian.
Next, John gives us the evidence of a lost soul!
“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” [1 John 3:15]
Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical explains this statement,
“That is, he has the spirit of a murderer; he has that which, if it were acted out, would lead him to commit murder, as it did Cain. The private malice, the secret grudge, the envy which is cherished in the heart, is murderous in its tendency, and were it not for the outward restraints of human laws, and the dread of punishment, it would often lead to the act of murder. The apostle does not say that he who hates his brother, though he does not in fact commit murder, is guilty to the same degree as if he had actually done it; but he evidently means to say that the spirit which would lead to murder is there, and that God will hold him responsible for it.”
God knows our heart’s motives and it is important to see how God looks at us, not how we try to justify our actions. When you hate the church, you DO NOT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!
So John tells us the “The First Evidence of Salvation!”
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” 1 John 3:14
It is easy to feel like you love God and have a great relationship with Him, therefore that is good enough. But God says your relationship with Him is pure self-deception, unless you prove it by loving, loving, and loving Christians in a local church. Do not deceive yourself, to be a part of the real world of Jesus you must love His family and have relationships that PROVE IT!
John pounds this truth into our minds! He continues by saying, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” [1 John 4:7] This is not some obscure feeling, but true and real relationships. Relationships that are messy and difficult. John also states, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” [1 John 4:12 (NLT)]
So What does the Bible define as love? Again we do not get to invent the definition of love. John says, “By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” [1 John 3:16] Is it just a general good feeling toward others? Of course not! But that is the “love” many people explain is what they have for the local church. BUT, God demands a devoted and real friendship with fellow disciples. The kind that makes you expose your heart, and serve and help others mature in the faith. You must give yourself away and help others. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” [1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)]
John gives us two examples to define this type of friendship and answer the question, How Do We Love Others?
Our First Example: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” [1 John 3:17]
The proof of this love is the action of helping, not just feelings!
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” [1 John 3:18]
The New Testament gives Christians all kinds of “one another” commands to help and love each other.
Our Second Example: How Do We Love Our Brother? “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” [1 John 5:2] So it is clear, when we obey the commandments of God, for example, do not steal from someone, we are showing them, love. But when we steal from others by refusing to pay for items received, or secretly steal from someone, you prove your selfish hate for them. Love gives and shares, it does not lie, steal or hurt others.
So you see, genuine love lived out in a local church is absolute proof of salvation according to the Bible. But don’t forget there are six more proofs of eternal life, miss even one and you are living in darkness. Make sure you are born again, God clearly gave us the truth in His Word so that you do not miss His free gift of life!
REMEMBER: Unless you allow the Bible to direct your faith and beliefs you will be lost forever. God so loves you and He gave His Word to be clear and concise to prevent you from being confused and miss His gift of eternal life. If you do not know how to repent and follow Jesus contact Pastor Don and join us Sunday for worship.