23 Mar Genuine Assurance in Christ: Insights from 1 John 5:18-21
The Apostle John’s first epistle concludes with a warning and an invitation to find genuine assurance in Christ. In these final verses, we see several key themes, including spiritual victory, identity, truth, and a warmhearted warning. Let’s dive deeper into these themes and see what they have to teach us about our walk with the Lord.
Genuine Assurance in Spiritual Victory (18)
The first aspect of genuine assurance that the passage highlights is spiritual victory. The verse states, “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
John is not suggesting that Christians never sin, but rather that sin should not be a habitual lifestyle for a genuine believer. A person who is truly born of God will have the Holy Spirit within them, and the Spirit will help them to resist sin and overcome temptation.
John Owen, a famous English Puritan theologian, writes in “The Mortification of Sin,” “Those who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin should also make it their business to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”
The concept of mortifying the power of sin is based on passages such as Romans 8:13, which says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
It’s the process of putting to death or killing the power of sin that dwells within a believer. In other words, sin is not simply an external force or behavior, but a deep-seated and pervasive power that resides within us. It is a part of our fallen nature that we must continually fight against as we seek to live a life that is pleasing to God.
To “mortify” this power of sin means to intentionally and actively seek to weaken and destroy its hold over us. This involves confessing our sins, turning away from sinful desires and behaviors, and seeking to cultivate a life of obedience to God’s Word and Spirit.
Ultimately, the goal of mortifying the power of sin is to become more like Christ and to experience the abundant life and freedom that he offers. It is the first step we take as believers to overcome the works of the flesh, and keeping the instruction we’ll discuss later in this post regarding the warning to keep ourselves from idols.
The ultimate objective of mortifying the power of sin is to grow in Christ-likeness and to experience the abundant life and freedom that He offers. As believers, it is the initial step we must take to overcome the works of the flesh and keep ourselves from idols.
Later in this post, we’ll discuss how to practically identify the idols that may be hindering our spiritual growth and victory over sin.
Genuine Assurance in Our Identity (19a)
In the first part of verse 1 John 5:19, John highlights our identity in Christ. He says, “We know that we are of God…” This is more than a vague belief. It’s a confident knowing. If I drop my pencil, it will fall to the ground. I don’t just vaguely believe that to be true, I know it’s true. Likewise, my body requires food to live. It’s lunchtime, and my body is currently reminding me that it’s time to put fuel in the tank – just like it does every day around this time. I don’t just vaguely believe that to be true, I know it to be true. This is the kind of confident “knowing” John is talking about.
As Christians, our identity is found in Christ. When God works in our hearts to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are born again and transformed into new creations in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that our old self has died, and we have been given a new nature in Christ (Ephesians 4:24).
Our identity is no longer based on our past, present, or future sin or accomplishments, but it is rooted in who we are in Christ. We are children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Our identity is based on what Christ has done for us and who He is in us.
Through faith in Christ, we have been reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We are no longer separated from Him by our sin, but we have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). We have been adopted into God’s family and have become His children (Galatians 4:5-7).
Thomas Brooks, a famous puritan preacher, wrote about our identity in Christ this way. He says, “You are not what you do, but what Christ has done for you. Your worth is not based on your performance, but on the finished work of Christ on the cross.” Therefore, Christians can find genuine assurance in their identity as children of God and the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Understanding the Power of the Evil One Over the World (19b)
The second half of 1 John 5:19, says “and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
This passage is a sobering reminder of the spiritual battle that every Christian faces. The evil one, or Satan, has a powerful influence over the world, and his ultimate goal is to deceive and destroy as many souls as possible.
While it’s clear to see the works of evil in the world at large, the power of the evil one is also evident in the many temptations and trials that believers face in their daily lives. These can take the form of various sins and vices, such as pride, greed, lust, and envy, among others. The enemy uses these and other tactics to draw believers away from God and toward destruction. While we have confidence that he will not be ultimately successful and that God sits in sovereign control over our lives, that doesn’t mean that we won’t wrestle against the world, our own fleshly desires, and the spiritual forces of darkness.
For that reason, it’s important to emphasize that believers have a powerful weapon in the fight against the evil one: the Word of God. By immersing ourselves in the Scriptures, we can gain the wisdom and strength we need to resist temptation and overcome the attacks of the enemy.
Conversely, we should not only resist the power of the evil one in our own lives but also actively work to spread the gospel and bring others out of the darkness and into the light of Christ. This involves not only sharing the message of salvation but also exposing the lies and deceptions of the evil one and pointing people toward the Truth.
Genuine Assurance in the Truth (20)
The third aspect of genuine assurance that John highlights is the truth. Verse 20 states, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
Christians can find genuine assurance in the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us. John emphasizes the importance of knowing Christ and having a personal relationship with Him. This knowledge gives us a deeper understanding of God’s love and the assurance of eternal life through Christ.
It’s by meditating on the truth of Christ that we’re able to find peace and stability amidst the chaos of the world. If we’re going to keep our souls steady and calm amidst that chaos, we must be still and know the truth about God.
Owen argues that the world is full of tumultuous and uncertain events that can easily unsettle the mind and emotions of even the strongest of believers. In such a context, it is easy to lose sight of God’s sovereignty and goodness, and to become anxious or despairing. However, Owen maintains that it is precisely in these moments of turmoil that we must learn to quiet our hearts and minds, and to dwell upon the truths of Scripture that testify to God’s unchanging character and promises.
Meditating on the truth about God can have a transformative effect on our lives. By regularly reflecting on the nature of God’s holiness, love, wisdom, and power, we are able to develop a deeper sense of trust in Him and be renewed in our faith and commitment to Him. In addition, such meditation can also help us to discern the lies and deceptions of the world and the evil one, and to resist their influence more effectively.
A Warmhearted Warning (21)
Finally, the passage ends with a warmhearted warning. The verse states, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
John’s warning to his readers is not one of fear but of encouragement. He wants them to have genuine assurance in their faith, to know that they are truly born of God, and to resist the temptations and deceptions of the evil one. And he provides the means for achieving this genuine assurance.
In his book “Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture,” David Powlison outlined a set of questions called “X-Ray Questions.” These questions are a helpful tool for identifying the idols in our lives that can lead us astray and leave us vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. By examining our hearts and seeking to root out these idols, we can draw closer to Christ and experience the true freedom and fulfillment that comes from following him.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the X-Ray Questions Powlison asks in order to reveal areas of our lives where we may be placing our trust and hope in something other than God.
- What do I want, crave, or demand?
- This question helps us to identify the things that we are seeking to find our satisfaction and identity in. Are we seeking our satisfaction in material possessions, relationships, or achievements, rather than in God?
- What do I fear, avoid, or struggle with?
- This question helps us to identify the things that we are seeking to avoid or escape from. Are we seeking to avoid pain or suffering, rather than trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness?
- What do I trust, treasure, or serve?
- This question helps us to identify the things that we are putting our trust and hope in. Are we seeking to find security and comfort in our possessions or status, rather than in God?
- What do I love, hate, or hold onto?
- This question helps us to identify the things that we are holding onto, even when they are harmful or destructive. Are we holding onto bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness, rather than seeking to love others as God loves us?
- What do I dream, imagine, or think about?
- This question helps us to identify the things that we are dwelling on or thinking about. Are we allowing our thoughts to be consumed by worry or fear, rather than focusing on God’s goodness and faithfulness?
By asking ourselves these questions, we can begin to identify the idols that may be present in our lives and seek to turn our hearts back to God. We can ask God to help us to trust in Him alone and to find our satisfaction and identity in Him.
In conclusion, 1 John 5:18-21 provides us with important insights on how to experience genuine assurance in our spiritual walk with Christ. May we all heed John’s warning and remain vigilant in the fight against the evil one, and trust more deeply in the power and victory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Sermon & Sandwiches
Here are some conversation starters based on the post “1 John 5:18-21: Finding Genuine Assurance” that are easy to chat about over lunch:
- What does genuine assurance in Christ mean to you? How has your faith grown over the years?
- How do you actively resist the power of sin in your life? What are some ways that you can help each other in this area?
- How does our identity in Christ give us confidence and hope? How can we remind each other of this truth on a daily basis?
- What are some ways that we can protect ourselves from the enemy’s attacks and resist his influence in our lives?
- How do we meditate on the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us? What are some practical ways we can do this together?
- How can we identify and root out the idols in our lives? What are some steps we can take to keep ourselves focused on Christ and not on worldly things?
The Daily Devotion
Take some time to reflect on your identity in Christ. Write down a list of scriptures that speak to your identity as a child of God, and meditate on these truths throughout the day.
Take some time to study the concept of mortifying the power of sin, recognizing that it’s not just about resisting external behaviors, but a deep-seated power within us. Reflect on Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5, and Galatians 5:24, and consider what it means to put to death the deeds of the body by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As you study, write out a prayer asking God to reveal areas in your life that are not pleasing to Him and to help you resist the power of sin. As Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Remember that the goal of mortifying the power of sin is to become more like Christ and to experience the abundant life and freedom that He offers.
Reflect on the power of the evil one over the world, and consider the various ways that he may be tempting or deceiving you. Ask God for wisdom and strength to resist the attacks of the enemy and to overcome temptation.
Study the importance of knowing truth, and reflect on the role that scripture plays in our understanding of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Take some time to meditate on a specific passage of scripture that speaks to your heart.
Consider the warmhearted warning in 1 John 5:21 to keep yourself from idols. Ask yourself the X-Ray Questions outlined in the post and ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify any idols that may be present in your life. Write those down, and confess to God how you’ve sought to find worth, value, peace, joy and satisfaction in these things apart from Him. Write out a prayer asking for God’s help in turning your heart back to Him in repentance and faith.
As parents, we want our children to grow in their understanding of the essential truths of the Christian faith. Here are some discussion questions and activities based on the post “1 John 5:18-21: Finding Genuine Assurance” that can help children understand these truths in an age-appropriate way:
- What does it mean to have genuine assurance in Christ? How can we know that we belong to Him?
- Activity: Have your child draw a picture of themselves with Jesus and explain what it means to have a personal relationship with Him.
- What is sin, and why is it important to resist it? What are some ways that we can resist sin in our daily lives?
- Activity: Play a game of “Red Light, Green Light” where “Green Light” represents things that please God and “Red Light” represents things that don’t. Talk about how this game relates to resisting sin.
- How does our identity in Christ shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us? How does it give us confidence and hope?
- Activity: Have your child make a collage of pictures or words that represent their identity in Christ, such as “Child of God,” “Loved,” and “Forgiven.”
- Who is the evil one, and what is his ultimate goal? How can we resist his influence in our lives?
- Activity: Make a shield out of cardboard and decorate it with symbols of God’s protection, such as a cross or a sword. Talk about how we can use our shield to protect ourselves from the enemy’s attacks.
- Why is it important to meditate on the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us? What are some ways we can do this in our daily lives?
- Activity: Create a “Truth Jar” filled with verses or quotes about who Christ is and how much He loves us. Have your child pick out one or two each day and talk about what they mean.
- What are some ways that idols can take hold in our lives, and how can we keep ourselves from them?
- Activity: Make a list of things that we can be tempted to put before God, such as technology, popularity, or money. Talk about ways we can keep ourselves focused on Christ and not on these things.
By discussing these essential truths with our children and engaging them in age-appropriate activities, we can help them grow in their understanding of the Christian faith and develop a deeper relationship with Christ.