Knowing one’s status with Christ needn’t be a mystery. The book of 1 John really lays it out. Authored by John son of Zebedee, this letter was written to believers. Since it isn’t addressed to anyone specifically either by name or location, it is believed that it was a circulatory letter sent to Christians in many places; aptly so. Then, as there is today, false doctrine was in wide circulation. At that time, Gnosticism was a major heresy. It taught that the spirit was entirely good and matter was entirely evil. One of the major errors that flowed from this belief was the denial of Christ’s true humanity. Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism. Others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism. Neither of these is true. The devil has been busy conjuring lies about Christ’s identity and true nature for ages. But the devil is a liar. Even today there are those who deny that Jesus is the son of God. But do not be fooled, simply to recognize that Jesus is the son of God is elementary. There are those who believe this and are still deceived. So how do you know? How do you know if you are a true believer?
Well, the bad news is, there is no test or physical mark that identifies a true follower of Christ. Also, you are not born a believer, because your mother and father are believers, does not make you one. We are, all of us, born into sin, hence the need to be born again (John 3:3). Then, simply saying the words do not make it so. You may know Him, but He may not know you (Matt. 7:23). The Lord must send for you (John 15:16, Acts 13:48).
So how do you know? 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to be in him must walk as Jesus did.” So how did Jesus walk? He walked in full love, obedience, and with His Father. Obviously, none of us are able to accomplish what Jesus did in its entirety, which is why He had to come in the first place. Jesus knew no sin and we are born into it. But Christians are willing and able to follow Christ’s lead.
When reading John’s letter, there are a few concepts that are repeated throughout:
As I stated before, acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God is foundational. John says this over and over. There were people then and there are people now who refuse to acknowledge this one truth. They are liars, no question about (1 John 2:22).
Loving one another is a principle taught throughout the letter. The letter goes so far as to say, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7. We love each other because we are commanded to do so. It is impossible to be imbibing God’s word on the regular, in receipt of His great gift—His Son, and not love your neighbor. One of the ten commandments is, “Thou shalt not murder” Exodus 20:13. John’s letter says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” 1 John 3:15. I don’t know about you, but this convicts me because there are people in my past and even some in my present whom I would’ve preferred to have never met. Love isn’t a feeling; it is an action. We show that we love people by what we do (1 John 3:18).
Obedience. Obedience. Obedience. Who and what are we to obey? God and His word. “This is love for God: to obey his commands...” 1 John 5:3. God has told us exactly how to love him and that is by obeying his commands. As a young believer, I used to think that God was trying to keep something from me. There were so many rules, and it felt like what I wanted to do was exactly what I should not do. John encourages us here. The verse goes on to say, “… And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” I John 5:3-4. We have victory in Jesus. Christians love obeying God’s word. It is a delight for them. You cannot be a part of the family and continue to break the law. In fact, to break the law is lawlessness; but Christians are under the law and obey it (1 John 3:4).
There are many other things discussed in the letter, all if which are important. Here are my highlights in no particular order:
There is so much more. I implore you to read the letter in its entirety and to get your hands on a good study guide. This letter is packed with information that takes time and diligence to suss out. When reading the letter, you can hear the urgency in John’s words. I accepted Christ into my life as a little girl and have often struggled with the question, “How do I know that I am Christian?” Yes, I love the Lord. Yes, I read my bible. Yes, I endeavor to live by it. But HOW DO I KNOW? This is a question rooted in doubt, disbelief, and fear. God is exactly who He says He is. He will do exactly what He said He will do. I put my faith in Him and take Him at His word. That is my confidence in full. There is nothing I can do and no work I can complete. I have to trust Him and take Him at his word. God is self-sufficient, which means He does need anything from anyone at any time. It is I who need Him. His word, His Son, and His Spirit are for my benefit.
So how do you know you are Christian? “I write these things to who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” 1 John 5:13.