My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, the three epistles that he wrote, and of course, Revelation.
There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:
He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.
It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).
John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.”Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.
The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:
I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).
None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.
John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.
Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.
You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.
If you have never cried, you can stop reading right now. But if you have shed tears for yourself or for others, or if like me you have shed some without even knowing why or where they came from, take heart. God knows the tears you have shed. Psalm 56:8 says so. Here are several translations of that wonderful verse:
Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record? (NIV)
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle Are they not in Your book? (NASB)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)
Write down my poem of sadness. List my tears on your scroll. Aren’t you making a record of them? (NIRV)
I love the image of God keeping all my tears in a bottle. I can envision shelves filled with bottles in Heaven, each with a name on it, and an accompanying scroll documenting every tear and lament. Or maybe it is just one huge bottle with all of our tears mingled together.
Today tears are being shed in dark rooms where children are being held as sex slaves, in Africa as people remain homeless and without food and water, in the United States as many remain jobless, in hospitals and on the streets where the mentally ill are forgotten, in homes around the world where people are spiritually lost and have no hope.
We live in a fallen world.
Tragedies happen and humans are not always kind to one another. And so tears are shed. It is hard to fathom God collecting every single one, but He does. He notices and He records each tear and each lament.
The more I think about it, I like the idea that God has mingled all our tears together. The Psalm does refer to God’s “bottle” in the singular. And if He has collected every tear in that bottle, then mingled with our own are the tears of Jesus. In John 11, the apostle records this event: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.
In this passage, Jesus weeps when He learns of the death of Lazarus.
When they see Him weeping, the people say “See how he loved him!” John 11:36. But I don’t think Jesus was weeping because Lazarus was dead – He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Rather, I think He wept because of the compassion He felt for humanity as we weep over our own tragedies and losses. It is us that He loved so much that it brought Him to tears.
So if you weep today, remember that God is collecting your tears in His bottle, and mixing them with the tears of our dear Savior. Not only that, but God will deliver you from the final trial that lead to tears by redeeming your soul.
For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Linda and I hope, and pray that Jesus will direct and keep you in His care.
I’m looking to a Christmas a thousand years from today, when He will bring us all together. I think that we’ll all kick back, and we will try to remember Christmas, 2021. We will most likely say, “But that was so long ago, it feels like a dream, I’m not so sure now…”
Like me, I trust your deepest hopes are pinned on an incredible grace.
The gifts that are for me, under the tree are good. But we have been given a gift– of gifts. It is something that ‘rocks our world’. It’s called ‘eternal life’. It has been given to us freely, and without any stipulations. We’ve been ‘cut-loose’ from the tangled mass of sin. We are now very much free.
I know I need to learn to live like a free man.
My physical and mental illness often trips me up. I’m saddened by my weaknesses. But I reach out and touch this grace, I pull it in and take and make it my own. Jesus has freed me, and I want to walk in truth, with Him—and with you.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. I’m grateful for my doctors, they’re definitely a blessing. I must keep looking to my rose–my Jesus who is my Savior. I covet your prayers especially now.
Our Lord Jesus is truly a “rose in the snow.” He has come to this hostile environment, and is precious and beautiful in the eyes of the faithful. Linda and I pray that you find Him flourishing in your heart.