November 13 – What You Need to Know

1 John 5: 1 – 12 NLT

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross – not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses – the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree. Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. 10 All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.

11 And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

In this last chapter of 1 John, he is summing up the major points we need to know about our faith. His first point is “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.” The key to our relationship with God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ – the son of God, a member of the trinity, the Messiah, God in human flesh. With that belief, we become God’s child. The word “become” indicates it is something that happened after our physical birth. There is a rebirth when we become God’s child. John mentions this fact as he talks with Nicodemus in John 3: 3 – “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Becoming a child of God occurs when we believe who Jesus is.

There is some practical proof that this rebirth has happened. “And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.” The love and caring we show to all the other people in our church – to anyone who loves God – is evidence of belonging to God’s family.  Does that make you stop and think for a minute? Are Christians in our world today known for their sacrificial love for one another? Or even just that they get along well with each other?

And then John makes another clarification. “We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” What are God’s commandments? He tells us clearly in Matthew 22: 37 – 40. “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.  40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  There you go – loving God and loving people are the two most important things in any believer’s life. They go hand-in-hand. Charles Swindoll in his commentary Living Insights 1 John says it’s like a piece of paper. Love God is on one side of the sheet of paper, and love others is on the back side of the same paper. You can’t separate them.

It’s interesting that John says these commandments are not “burdensome”. I can imagine if you’re anything like me, you know that loving God and other people is often not the primary focus of your life. Just looking after the ‘nitty-gritty’ of day to day living consumes most of my time; going to work takes up at least 8 hours every day. Knowing that I fall short of what God wants is burdensome. Thankfully, John gives us an answer to that problem. “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” We don’t have to put God on a list of to-do things – things we must do to keep God happy with us. It’s our faith in God’s ability to change us that makes all the difference. I have the benefit of being God’s child for many years. I know that God has changed me over my life, and is still changing me. For example, while writing these devotions in 1 John, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of my non-loving attitude towards some people in my life. I don’t like admitting I’ve messed up, but I am so thankful that God keeps working with me. Keeping his commandments are not burdensome because God knows exactly when he needs to convict me, and at what point I’m ready to listen. “And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

John goes on to tell us why we can believe who Jesus is. What proof is there? What is our faith based on? “And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross – not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses – the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.” What is John referring to when he talks about the Spirit, water and the blood?

Let’s start with the “water”. He is likely referring to Jesus’ baptism. You can remember as John the Baptist baptized Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Mathew 3: 17) As John writes his first gospel, he talks about the day Jesus was baptized. I wonder if he was one of the 2 disciples mentioned in v. 35. In these verses from John’s gospel, we see the Holy Spirit mentioned as well as the water: “I (John the Baptist) didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” 35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit was mentioned in those verses, but he is mentioned in other situations as well. On the Mount of Transfiguration we see the Spirit present as well. God makes sure we know that Jesus is his son. “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.” (Matthew 17: 1 – 8)

The blood refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. There are so many prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus’ coming to earth and his sacrifice for our sin. Isaiah 53 is such an amazing account of Jesus’ life and death. I’ll just include a few verses of that amazing chapter. (Isaiah 53: 5 – 6)

“But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.”

John concludes these verses by saying that our belief in Jesus, God’s son is the one thing that makes us a child of God. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God’s son, God in the flesh, then you are not part of God’s family. That is the crucial belief. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

If for some reason you think you have to do something to be God’s child – to be a good person, to give to charity, to attend church faithfully, to … whatever you think God might want. Know this. It’s your belief that Jesus was God’s son, a member of the trinity, who came to earth and died for you – that is what makes the difference. Not what you can do, but what God has done.

Our song for today is Jesus by Chris Tomlin.

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