How We Know We Know Him

Taken From the Book of First John

Introduction

The question of salvation and assurance, or lack of, can be answered in the book of first John. In first John you will find what a true believer in Jesus Christ looks like. Our faith or belief is comprised of mainly two themes like the wings of an airplane; 1. the correct confession or what we say (orthodoxy,) 2. the correct practice or how we live (orthopraxy) A true believer will have the right understanding and confession of essential doctrines. They will also have a life that lines up with the scriptures. One without the other is insufficient.

In the study of religion, orthopraxy is correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, which emphasizes correct belief, and ritualism, the use of rituals. The word is a neoclassical compound—ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning ‘correct practice’. (source of definition is Wikipedia)

How do we know that we know Him? Below is the criteria formatted in a simple outline easy to follow. Each item will have the scripture reference. For this study the terms: “know Him”, “in Him”, “abide in Him”, “we  are of the truth”, and “born of God” will be synonymous. I also have made some brief comments under each statement.

1 John 5:13 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, and that you may continue  to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Orthopraxy or What We Practice

We Know When We Keep His Commandments – 1 John 2:3, 3:24
I don’t believe this is talking about the ten commandments but the specific commandments Jesus gave, namely, “love one another”. You may want to investigate the difference between the ten commandments and the two Jesus gave.

We Know When We Keep His Word – 1 John 2:5
I would say this means to embrace and obey His Word and would include the whole of His Word.

We Know When We Walk As He Walked – 1 John 2:6
In a modern day vernacular it would mean to “live it” Are we living for the Lord?

We Know When We Do Not Love the World – 1 John 2:15-17
This is quite a revealing verse that many today I would say have a problem with. You may lack assurance if you are living and loving the world and all that it offers. There would be good reason to doubt if in fact this is the totality of your life. Then you may not be saved. In 1 John 2:15 I would pay attention to the term, “not in him” If we love the world the love of the father is not in us. A very sobering thought.

We Know When We Continue in the Faith – 1 John 2:19
The continuing evidence of our salvation is that we are not those who leave the faith and are exposed as antichrists.

We Know When We Have An Anointing From the Holy One 1 John 2:20, 24-27
This can be a subjective test of knowing that we are in God and He is in us. Mormons and other cult members will claim that they know the truth because of their “anointing”. In the case of Mormons it is the burning in the bosom. How can one be sure? The anointing that Christians receive is the supernatural ability to discern truth. This discernment comes from the Holy Spirit, it is not something that is learned from man. Coupled with the rest of the book of first John it will make sense. I don’t think this test is a stand alone proposition.

We Know When We Do Not Practice Sin – 1 John 3:3-9, 5:18
As Christians we sin. If we didn’t, John would not have given us the remedy for when we do sin. 1 John 1:8-10, 2:1-2. There are besetting sins that a believer may battle with where failure occurs. I don’t think it means this. The practice of sin is a habitual lifestyle of sin. This makes any  profession of faith suspect to being genuine. If you have ongoing episodes of living in sin and are out of fellowship with God, and other believers, then you may lack assurance, and perhaps rightfully so. The mirror of this statement is found in the next verse. 1 John 2:29, 3:10

We Know When We Love Our Brother – 1 John 3:10-18
Most commentators would disagree with me here but I think it is talking about any human being and is synonymous with the word “neighbor”  Love thy neighbor as thy self. Later in the book it mentions specifically Christian brethren. This passage also contains the fruits, (or works) of love as evidence if we really have love. This is a very convicting passage here for me. Remember we are called to love our enemies.

We Know When Our Heart Does Not Condemn Us – 1 John 3:19-23
Along with the anointing this is another subjective type of test but produces confidence, answered prayer 1 John 5:14-15, and strength and faith to obey.

We Know When We Are Given His Spirit – 1 John 3:24, 4:13
Once again we are given perhaps a subjective experience as to having the Spirit. John follows with the caution not to believe every spirit and gives the mandate on how to know if it is the correct Spirit of God. 1 John 4:1-6

We Know When We Love Other Believers – 1 John 3:13-14, 5:1-2
I think this is one of the simplest evidences of how we know God. Do we love the children of God? I can describe it as an uncanny love for all believers even if I don’t know them, or agree with them. I don’t really have to particularly like them. The love of God transcends over all human ability.

We Know When We Hear the Message of the Apostles – 1 John 4:6

We Know When We Love God – 1 John 4:17-19
This is a larger discourse on love by John here. It encompasses the full range of God’s love for us and our love for God. The text also elaborates on our love for one another and seeing God through the manifestation of love. Next is the perfection of love in being confident or bold on the day of judgment. We have no reason to fear like Adam did if we have been perfected in love.

We Know When We Overcome the World – 1 John 5:4-5
In order to overcome the world we must believe in Jesus.  Because Jesus overcame the world, (John 16:33) we will overcome. If we are born of God, we will also overcome because He is in us.

Orthodoxy or What We Confess

We Know When We Confess Jesus is the Christ (or Messiah) – 1 John 2:22
By rejecting the teaching that Jesus is the Messiah one is found a liar and an antichrist. This is an elementary part of our salvation. This denial has serious ramifications. Do you confess Jesus as being the Christ?

We Know When We Confess that Jesus Came in the Flesh – 1 John 4:1-3
Do you believe Jesus is God incarnate? This is an absolute truth to be believed upon for salvation. John 8:24, 2 John 1:7 The  acknowledgement that Jesus is God will come out in a person’s testimony by the Holy Spirit. Cults and alike will not acknowledge this fact. Also that He was a real man; a real man without sin however.

We Know When We Confess that Jesus is the Son of God – 1 John 4:15
Upon the Ethiopian’s confession Philip then baptized him. (Acts 8:37, 38) Also we see that when the Jews told Pilate that there was a Jewish law that Jesus had violated; namely Jesus said he was the Son of God, which they knew to believe he was claiming deity. Pilate then became more afraid and then proceeded to ask where Jesus was from. John 19:7-9

We Know When We Believe that Jesus is the Christ – 1 John 5:1
Similar to the above statement, we believe in Jesus and who He is because of the fact we have been born of God. John 3:3-8

We Know When We Believe the Testimony of God – 1 John 5:9-13
When we believe and accept the testimony that God has given  us of his Son, this is evidence of eternal life. This involves having the witness in ourselves and it is all because of the Spirit in us

The Sinner’s Prayer

What is the Sinner’s Prayer?

The  sinner’s prayer has been used verbally by preachers in leading someone to the Lord and has been put into print in a myriad of Christian publications. Below is an example of a typical sinner’s prayer:

Dear Jesus: Thank You for dying for me. I confess that I am a  sinner and in need of salvation. Please forgive me of my sins. I believe you died on the cross and rose from the dead. I ask you right now to come into my heart and be my savior. Amen!

Does  this sound familiar? With every head bowed and every eye closed. Is there anyone here that would like to come to Christ? If so, raise your hand; just slip it up real quick. There, thank you, thank you, over there in the back, thank you.

We  hear of the sinner’s prayer often enough that it’s easy to see why people think  of it as being from the Bible. The fact is, there is neither any specific  formula found in Scripture for a Sinner’s Prayer nor is there any biblical  example of such a prayer being recommended in the salvation experience. The  modern usage of the Sinner’s Prayer originates in the 19th Century and was  popularized by the experience-oriented evangelistic style of Charles Finney. As Scripture presents it, men should repent, believe, and be baptized. There is no mention of “altar calls” or “sinner’s prayers” or requesting for Christ to enter one’s heart. Source of information on this paragraph:  BlueLetterBible.org

What Does Scripture Say?

I  don’t want to split hairs when it comes to words, however we must be careful what we are communicating. The idea of asking Jesus to come into one’s heart or  to “accept Christ” maybe confused with the Biblical concept of receiving  Christ. John 1:11-12 Many people recite this scripture when witnessing as well; Rev. 3:20 The context is the lukewarm Church, but nevertheless it is a Church that Jesus says He loves. (Verse 19) You could say these were believers he was addressing, although he is standing on the outside of the Church knocking to get in. I don’t see anything wrong with using this verse in evangelism. A biblical sinner’s prayer is found in; Luke 18:13 The Lord said he was the one who went away justified.

Look  if you will at some other sinner’s statements from the Bible. There are many  examples of how people in the Bible came to Christ. I want to just point out a  few. The first one that comes to mind is the thief on the cross. Luke  23:39-43 The one criminal confesses that he is under condemnation and then simply says, “Lord  remember me when you come into your kingdom”. The  Lord promised the thief to be in paradise with Him. As a side note, the thief  did not say a formulated prayer, nor did he have opportunity to come down from the cross and be baptized before he died. It was also impossible for him to make any restitution or show “fruits of repentance”. However correlated with  the other Gospel accounts both of the thieves were mocking Jesus at first,  therefore there must have been some change of heart/mind at some point. I think  this is a great occasion where we can see that the Lord knows the heart. We do not know a person’s heart, therefore we can not deemed them saved based solely on a repeat after me sinner’s prayer.

In Acts 2:37 after Peter preaches the Gospel message to the crowd, they responded by saying, Acts 2:38-39. The instruction was to repent and be baptized. Needless to say that upon doing so, it  showed that one believed. If you notice here the instruction was not to repeat  a prayer, come to the front, walk an aisle, or sign a decision card. InActs  16:30-34 Once again there was no instruction  for him and his family to go through a specific prayer. However they were given the Word of God. (Verse 32) and  the jailer’s faith was evident by the fact that he washed Paul and Silas’  wounds and gave them something to eat. He and his family were also baptized. It  concludes the passage by saying that they believed God.

These are just a few examples. If you  look at the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament you will not find the practice of a formulated prayer method anywhere. Does this mean that if someone  goes through a sinner’s prayer or responds to an altar call they can’t be saved  that way? The answer I would say is no of course not. You may think I leave people hanging and not “seal the deal” as it were. I want to mention a few  instances in the Bible when Jesus Christ ministered to people. First there was the scribe who asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. After the scribe  grasped the answer that Jesus gave, Jesus said to him that he was not far from the kingdom of God. Mark  12:28-34 That is how the Lord left him. I am sure that we, on the  other hand, would have tried to lead him in a prayer to receive Jesus. Remember the rich young ruler? Matt. 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23 after Jesus pinpointed the man’s obstacle to coming to Him, it says he went  away sadly. Notice that Jesus didn’t chase him down and say, “wait, what can I  do to make you come to me?” Sad to say many of us would have still made it easy  for the man and said, just repeat after me…

I have a friend who, in my opinion, tries to get people to say “the sinner’s prayer” all too often when witnessing.  Before I go any further I should mention that I use to minister in such a fashion as well. That is why I am writing this article. We should really look close at our practices. I think we all too often want to downplay the repentance and commitment aspect of following the Lord. It has become sort of  the “fine print” or disclaimer we must tack on the end of our presentation.  Then we hurry it, as not to lose the person so to speak. One time my friend and  I were out witnessing. As I preached, he talked to this lady who claimed she was interested in what we were talking about. My friend tried to lead her in a prayer for salvation. She stopped him and said she wasn’t ready. Now he was sorely disappointed, but I asked him, would it have been better for her not to  say anything and just repeated your words as not to embarrass herself? Or  sometimes I wonder if people feel hounded and go through the motions just to get us off their back. I have learned to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work  at that point. I urge them not to put it off. Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation. Nevertheless, it is between them and God.

The Universal Call

I believe in giving an invitation to come to Jesus Christ before it is too late. Matt.  11:28. Our humble Lord and Savior gave this heart felt plea as the invitation to come. Rev. 22:17 I  give invitations to come to Christ, but it is just that, “come to Jesus Christ”  not come to me, or come to a church, or come forward to the altar. Bye the way,  there is no altar on the sidewalk or a park where my evangelism takes place. 2 Cor 5:20. I have pleaded  and even begged people to come to Christ. This is for their own good. It should  be explained to people that it is to their benefit that they repent and  believe. I do not however coerce, deceive, trick, or promise them anything  outside the realm of scripture. In other words, you will not here me say come to Christ and you will be rich etc.  Acts  17:30 I have commanded people to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What’s the Big Deal?

There is nothing wrong with the content of the prayer itself. Most sinners’ prayers contain doctrinally sound phrases. For example; Rom10:9 The problem with leading someone in a  “sinner’s prayer” and then because of that prayer, deemed them saved, is  problematic for many reasons. I think the biggest problem is in the solicitation of such a prayer. In looking through the book of Acts, the  response to the Gospel was always initiated from the recipients. It was never  prodded by the preacher saying, now if you want to receive Christ come forward or repeat after me… etc. In a broad sense, I think the aspect of leading  someone to Christ, in most cases; dumb downs the elements of sin, repentance,  and commitment. Perhaps you could say an “easy belief” Gospel message, which is no Gospel at all.

Often  in “altar calls” or “invitations to accept Christ”, in an evangelical setting, there is the assumption that the audience knows all about the biblical Jesus and the  Gospel message. So although there may be a sermon or personal testimonies  given, there often is no clear presentation of whom Jesus Christ is, why we  need Him, or what He has done. It is most often assumed they know. In our day  and age of apostasy, doctrines of demons, bad theology, and a distorted view of Christ, we should give a clear presentation of biblical truth concerning the  Gospel and salvation. My question is; who and what are these people accepting by coming forward and praying a prayer? They may very well be accepting a Jesus they have contrived in their mind, but not Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. 2 Cor 11:1-4

If you or I were to find ourselves in  the position of leading someone to Christ, at the very least we should let the  person verbalize the confession or prayer on their own accord. This idea of  “repeating after me” does not give the true sense of what is going on. If you  were to ask me to tell you about wiring a jet airplane, I would have nothing to say on the subject. But, if you said to repeat some phrases after you and then say, “now you are a wiring expert”, it wouldn’t make sense. Romans chapter 10,  Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth… Also what is in the heart  overflows into speech. 1 John 5:10. Look, if the person cannot confess something about what they are doing on their own accord, it is  my opinion that in most cases, they are not ready. This could be for a number  of reasons. Let’s look at a few below:

It is a work of man (or the flesh) John 3:7-8 They are not truly being drawn by God  but are either responding by emotion or pressure from the person ministering to them. John 6:65. They do not understand or are not ready for the  commitment. In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus tells us to count the cost. Luke 14:33. Perhaps  they are not told about this part. When sharing the Gospel I tend to  motivate people by sharing the benefits of eternal life in heaven and the  warning of eternal damnation in hell. I think these are biblical truths that  certainly should be told. However, sometimes a person wants “fire insurance” if  you will, and doesn’t plan on anything other than that. Eternal life is more  than heaven to gain or hell to escape. John 17:3

Professions – True or False

Many years ago in my evangelism, several of us at  the Church I was attending went out into the community sharing the faith. There  were many occasions that I or someone else had “led someone to Christ”. This  was very exciting. If we led someone to the Lord, our strategy was to go back  the next week and follow up with them rather than searching for new people to witness to. This follow up, which by the way, was stressed very much for those who did evangelism, in fact the evangelist was somewhat negligent if they did  not follow up. The problem was that in most cases the follow up was very  difficult because, looking back; I don’t think all those professions were authentic, although some probably were. For example; after someone came to Christ, when we would go back to their house a week later, they didn’t want  anything to do with God or us. Also the in-between time during the week the  person would not come to Church or any gatherings and would avoid any contact.  This, as you can imagine, was very frustrating. Sounds much like the seed that  the devil came and stole. What I saw over that period of time was all four soils of the seeds in the parable of the sower. I can say that even in leading someone to the Lord through a specific prayer is still just a seed sown. Wait and see how it grows. Luke  13:6-9

In our modern times when everything is fast and  instant we bring this into the things of the faith. It could be that because we are not willing to wait and see what happens after planting the seed of the Gospel that we rush into “picking fruit that is not ripe” for the sake of  chalking another one up to our ministry. This I must say has affected me over the years, as it has been the status quo in the evangelical world for so long.  The more I involved myself in serving the Lord in evangelism and reading what  God’s Word has actually said concerning these things, I began to see that we were not really doing what the Bible says. This usually produces either no  results or undesirable results. I have found that many of these practices I am discussing in this paper are Church traditions that have been contrived by man.  The question is; has the modern day evangelical world become like the Pharisees  of old, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men?

Conclusion

My supposition is this; the more accurate and faithful we are to the Word of God in our practice of ministry, the more chance  of desired results or outcome, assuming those desires are the same as God’s. I  am not a pragmatist in regard to preaching the Gospel. I think of it in this  way; if we do it the way the Bible says and we don’t get results, at least we  are using the pattern given. I think we stand on uncertain ground when we stray  from the instructions in God’s Word. My advice is to stay away from unbiblical practices and methods when presenting the Gospel and dealing with the recipients of your message. We all could certainly pray to remain close to Jesus. John 15:5