Summary: We can be sure about our faith if we live in obedience to God's will as it is recorded for us by inspiration in the scriptures.
You Can Can Be Sure (Part one)
The text for our lesson is found in 1 John 5:11-13:
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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..." (NKJV).
"that you may know that you have eternal life". In past few weeks we have seen a number of our members who had been immersed in water at some time in the past develop some doubts as to whether or not their baptism was valid. I myself had these doubts many years ago and, like several of our members lately, I chose to eliminate that doubt entirely. Whether or not this action was necessary is not the subject of this lesson. The subject of this lesson is first that we must be sure and secondly, that we can be sure.
Why must be sure of our eternal salvation? The most obvious answer is that our final destination is eternal and we don't get any do-overs. Once we die and leave this physical realm, our eternal destination is forever sealed. We only have one life to offer God and we better get it right. We can correct our failures so long as we live in this life, but after we die, the consequences for failure are permanent.
In Romans 14 Paul gives instruction on conduct in matters of opinion. God gives us certain liberties under the gospel and sometimes well meaning folks either don't know or don't understand what God's expectations might be. The natural tendency for someone who is concerned about obeying God is to take the more restrictive path if they are uncertain on something. Paul gives instruction on how Christians are to behave toward one another when this occurs. There are a number of instruction in Romans 14 but for the purpose of this lesson, we are going to look at only one of them. In Romans 14:23, Paul writes this, "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." If we are doing something that we are not absolutely sure about, or something that we may have doubts about, then it is sin. Christians are commanded to be convicted in their beliefs and practices. Think about this in the terms of raising our children. Suppose you discover your child doing something they are not supposed to be doing. Something for which you had already given them instruction on. Are you going to accept their excuse when they tell you they just weren't sure about it so they went ahead and did it anyway. What's your response to them going be? How about this response? "if you weren't sure then why did you do it?" Well that's similar to what Paul is saying in Romans 14:23. God has given us His instructions in His inspired record. He wants us to know His instructions. And if we don't know then, He wants us to seek them and be sure about something before we make a mistake. All of God's laws are for mankind's benefit, they are designed to keep us safe and to keep us from harming one another. Our rules for our children are for their benefit. They are designed to keep them safe and keep them from harming themselves and others around them. We don't want our children making mistakes that are harmful to themselves and others and we expect them to understand this and to seek and follow our guidance in this matter. We are God's children. God expects us to seek and follow His guidance in the things we do.
The rules we give our children is a reflection of the love we have for them. Similarly, the rules we receive from God is a reflection of the love He has for us. We can look at His word and see that He cares for us, He is concerned for us, He has our best interests at heart. 1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" 2 John 6, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments". God is a concerned Father and He expects us to seek His will on things that we do and He expects us to be sure about those things. Whatever is not of faith, is sin.
So how can we be sure? The first step to being sure is to know the truth. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jesus starts this saying with a conditional word: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed". The word "if" provides a condition upon which something depends. In a conditional statement there is a stated result and an implied result. Jesus stated that "IF you abide in my word, you are my disciples. This statement carries the implication that those who do not abide in His word will not be His disciples. Jesus follows with an another statement beginning with a conjunction: "AND you shall know the truth" And then yet another one with "AND the truth shall make you free". So we have three separate results that depend on the condition of abiding in His word.