How would the authors of the Bible respond to such claims? Stated differently, how does God respond to these claims?
As John picked up his pen to write a letter to a body of believers, he meant to provide evidence to his readers that their faith was not in vain, that its foundation was firm, and that there was assurance available of its reality.
In his short letter, John will demonstrate his evidence by encouraging his readers to ask of themselves three questions. First, what do we believe? What is the doctrine we hold firm to? We will find, if we’re honest, what we believe dictates how we live. Second, who do we obey? Who or what is the authoritative figure that reigns supreme over our decisions and the activities we involve ourselves with? And third, who or what do we love? To answer this question, we should apply Jesus’ instruction that we identify our treasures. He said, “Take a good look at what’s important to you (where time, labor, money, etc. is spent)… that’s your true love.”
How do we ‘know’ we’ve experienced the ‘new birth’ in Christ Jesus? Surely something of this magnitude and eternal importance comes with some method of knowing our faith is secure.
Rest assured, it does. John penned his first letter to believers with exactly this purpose… to give them assurance in their faith. He wrote this letter so they could rest in the promises of God (1 John 5:13).
But these words are sometimes harsh. Especially when we begin to weigh them against our own lives. John says those who are truly the children of God will:
… Recognize their sin, confess, and repent (1:8-10)
… Love God and keep His commandments (2:3-6),
… Love others (2:7-17) (3:11-18) (4:7-12), [by the way, this isn’t simply saying, ‘I love you,’ it’s sacrificial giving to meet needs, just as ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son’…]
… not love the world and the things of the world (2:15-17),
… overcome the world (5:4-5).
Notice what’s not in John’s list? He doesn’t mention a visible morality, intellectual knowledge, or even religious involvement. John doesn’t offer an emotional reaction to a sermon, walking an aisle, signing a card, or being dipped in a pool of water. While all of these may be positive reactions to Jesus’ call on our lives, none of them make John’s list of evidences of true faith.
As a matter of fact, everything John teaches about the security of salvation, along with Paul, Peter, James, and most importantly, Jesus, is written in the perfect tense. They are saying, don’t look to the past, look at the current evidence… right now! Are you living for Jesus right now? If not, Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”
Christianity is not some pie-in-the-sky belief system. Its truths are factual and defendable with intelligent apologetics. Still, John concludes with agreement to the words of an old and favorite hymn, the greatest evidence of its reality is a changed life.
“You ask me how I know He lives… He lives… within my heart.”
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20