The older I get the more I realize the number of things I don’t really know. For instance, I don’t really know much about technology. I struggle with my computer; I even struggle with my TV set. I don’t know how my health is going to be in the next two years.
As far as deep questions go, I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know when I’m going to die. I don’t know what heaven is going to look like. There are so many things I don’t know. It appears I’m not alone.
I came across a humorous article written by a gentleman who has questions about things he doesn’t understand. He says,
Why is it doctors call what they do, practice? I don’t know.
Why is the person who invests all your money called a broker? That I don’t know either.
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour? I don’t know.
And my favorite,
If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport, the terminal? I don’t know.
While there are many things I don’t know, today I want to share with you some things I do know, and I want you to know as well. They are important. When I talk about knowing, I’m talking about a deep certainty within, a confidence that it is a fact I can build my life on. I know these things.
We’ve been looking at the first letter of John for the past several weeks in our Deeper series, and now we’re at the end, chapter 5. John’s congregation had a lot of I don’t know, I’m not certain, and I’m not so sure happening in its midst. Times were difficult for the early Christians. They were being persecuted. People didn’t understand them. They were a real minority, almost viewed as a cult. To top it off, false teachers were coming into the church with doctrines that were different from what the people had initially learned from John. Questions arose about the basic tenets of the Christian faith. John, being a good pastor, reassured them, There are some things I really want you to know.
First of all, everything I have shared with you is based upon testimony God Himself has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ (His life, His death, and His resurrection) and through the Holy Spirit. Here are some things I want you to pick up on.
• Eternal life with God is available. God has given us eternal life (vs. 11). The definition of eternal life is the life of the ages. It is life with Him, living with God as His child now and forever. It is eternal.
• Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, alone. He is where it is found and experienced. Whoever has the Son has life. He who doesn’t have the Son doesn’t have life (vs. 12).
Then John says, Not only do I know eternal life with God is available and it’s found in Christ, but I also know who has eternal life, who can live with assurance. This is my purpose for writing this letter in the first place. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God – Jesus – so you may know (have a deep certainty) that you have eternal life” (vs. 13).
You who believe in Jesus. He is writing to believers. You can know . . . I want you to know . . . God wants you to know . . . His promises are true.
It is very interesting to note that before John wrote this letter, he wrote his Gospel account to people who were checking Jesus out. In his statement of purpose, John wrote, “These things are written in order that you might believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
In his letter, John is writing to those who are believers. They’ve said yes to Christ. He spends a good share of the letter talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In the last chapter, John says, As a follower Jesus Christ, you can know you have eternal life.
Early in my ministry at Shepherd of the Valley, I was interested in teaching my folks how to share the Good News of Jesus with other people. So I took a course to share with my members called, Evangelism Explosion. One of the opening questions it teaches you to use in a spiritual conversation is this: “Are you to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you are to die today you would go to heaven?”
I am always amazed at the number of people who look like a deer in the headlights when asked that question, including Christians. They say things like, I hope so, or No one can know for sure, can they? John tells us today, I write these things so you may know (and live with a deep certainty) that you have eternal life in Christ. To be able to say, I know I have eternal life is not presumptuous or arrogant thinking based upon your own goodness or merit. It is a deep certainty and confidence in the promises of Jesus Christ.
John is saying there is no need for doubts about your standing with God, about your present or your future with God. You belong to Him. There is no need to wonder if He hears you when you pray. We can pray with confidence in Christ’s name knowing our Father hears us.
John also says I also know that we are God’s children by trusting in Jesus (vs. 19). The rest of the world lies under the power of the evil one, but not us. We have a glorious future ahead. We are God’s children who share in the victory of Jesus Christ. And it’s almost as if he is saying to them, Yes, bad things will still happen in this broken world of ours because Satan is still around. Sin is still is at work. Disappointments happen and hardships come, but know this: nothing can snatch us from Him. Whether you live or whether you die, you belong to Him forever.
The last thing John says is, You can know God Himself. You can enjoy a personal relationship with the heavenly Father and grow closer to Him. John says, “We know the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so we may know him who is true” (vs. 20). We are in Him who is true and His Son Jesus Christ.
You can know Him. You can actually say along with Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me . . . Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for he is with me; I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
John says You can know Him. You can know the Good Shepherd. God has given us testimony about His Son by raising Him from the dead on Easter. It was God’s stamp of affirmation. Jesus is the resurrection you’ve longed for, the life with God you thirst for. You can know you’re going to heaven and nothing in this life can separate you from God because of what Jesus has done for you. You can know you are loved – not just today but all the way into eternity – as you trust in Jesus Christ and receive what He has come to give you. Wow! All these things we can know.
God has communicated everything we really need to know. Yes, there will always be things we don’t know, but He has told us everything we need to know through His Son Jesus Christ. The bottom line for John is faith – faith of the Church and your faith. Trust Jesus Christ and what He has done for you at the cross. Build your life upon Him. Be confident and full of courageous hope as you live with Him and live for Him as a shining light and a witness in this world.
Follow Jesus and live life Christ’s way. Walk with Him, and come to know Him more and more through the gospel stories in Scripture. Grow to be like Him as you do life as He did life, as you strive to be a person who is full of love, kindness, joy, patience, faithfulness, and self-control, and give yourself away to others out of love for them because God first loved you.
All this leads, according to John, to a deep certainty. Hope instead of doubts. Confidence instead of worry. Assurance instead of anxiety.
Gerhard Frost, a Lutheran writer I enjoy, tells the story of a powerful man in the world of business who was accustomed to having his own way. One day, late for an appointment, he decided to take a shortcut. To his dismay he found he had chosen the wrong road and was completely lost. Determined to ask the first person he saw for directions, he saw a child on the side of the road. He addressed the young boy gruffly, “Boy! Which way to Dover?”
“I don’t know,” the child responded embarrassed.
“Well then,” the man demanded, “How far to Paynesville?”
“I don’t know that either,” the child answered.
The man’s questions grew angrier as the boy repeatedly responded with the same answer, and the boy grew more and more uncomfortable. Finally the man lost his temper and shouted at him. “You don’t know much, do you!”
Then, for the first time, the boy smiled and looking up the winding road to a little house where the evening light shown through the window. “No, but I know I ain’t lost.”
Isn’t that what we all want to be able to say as we look to our own future, as we look at the various questions we can’t answer but can always say, “I know I ain’t lost.” That is why Jesus Christ came into this world – so you could have an assurance in your life that comes from being connected to the heavenly Father through faith in His Son.
Notice John’s progression here. It is kind of a roadmap of the spiritual journey from his Gospel through his letter. Near the end of the Gospel, he says, “I have written all these things so that if you’re wondering about Jesus, you can come to understand Him better” (John 20:31). My hope is you will believe. Take the next step and trust in Him.
Then we get to his letter where he is talking to believers about following Christ throughout life. Follow life out with Jesus. Grow in knowledge of Him and of God. Give yourself away to others out of love. Be a person of integrity and walk life out as Jesus would walk it if He were you.
This deep confidence within leads to a certainty that no matter what happens, I know the end of the story. I know God wins. I know whose I am. I know why I’m here. And I know where I’m going.
Where are you on this roadmap? Are you hearing it for the first time? Are you a believer? Have you taken a step to live with Him, follow Him, and grow in Him? Because the knowing John is talking about is waiting just for you.
A word of encouragement. How about taking that next step? Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer