God infuses a new, spiritual life into you when you believe in Jesus. Has this been your experience?
How Has Jesus Changed Your Life?
Genuine belief in the Son of God produces love, obedience and ultimately, victory
“John writes so that we know we have eternal life. We know that he answers our prayers. We know that we will get to heaven. We know that we alone have divine life. We who believe in Christ.”
Topics & Timestamps
0:00 – Looking back
4:37 – Do not be deceived
10:21 – What genuine belief produces
15:06 – Genuine belief is based on God’s testimony
25:12 – Know that you have eternal life
26:36 – Know that God hears your prayers
30:49 – Know that you will persevere
32:57 – Know that you have divine life
36:10 – Know that Jesus is God
41:16 – Test yourself
42:53 – Beware and Rejoice
Top Quotes: Does What You Believe Transform You?
“If what you had was a false Christianity, there’s no second chance.”
“Genuine belief in the Son of God produces love, obedience and ultimately, victory.”
“God did not send 10 saviours. No, he only sent 1 Saviour: his Son, Jesus Christ.”
“You are now God’s very children. Rejoice and let that joy radiate out of your life to impact your generation”
Text: 1 John 5
Date preached: 7 January 2022
Location: Alive and Active National Students Conference. Living Word Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Let’s turn together to First John and chapter five. First John, chapter five. As you do so, let me quickly say: it’s been a real joy for me to have been with you the last few days. Some of you, we’ve managed to catch up here and there, chat a little bit, know what’s happening in your life and it’s been very, very encouraging to me to also realize that some of you have really been relating through social media without me knowing. That’s been another aspect that has really encouraged me, that I’m not coming as a total stranger among you, but I’m coming as a true friend over the years, so that’s great. I’m still around in your country for an extra week, well almost a week. This coming Friday is when I rush back home. We have a leaders’ meeting that begins Friday night up to Saturday around midnight.
We have been looking at First John and we have seen that it’s around a topic that he mentions, in the fifth chapter actually, as he’s beginning to wrap up, and it is found in chapter 5 and verse 13, where John specifically says that, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
We’ve seen that “these things” have likely comprised two things, and that is believing the truth and living a transformed life, and the emphasis there being living a life of love. Over and over again, John has said this in one way or the other, challenging us to examine ourselves so that we don’t end up with that which is false. He will come back to that in this chapter, but I hope you noticed as we went into chapter 4 yesterday, that’s essentially what he again dealt with. He began with test the spirits so that you don’t end up following deceivers. Make sure that you don’t just believe everything that you hear because it’s in the context of the church, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. And if that was being said in in John’s day, it is worse today. And then we also saw in that fourth chapter, how he went to town, as it were, on this issue of love. Love. Examine yourself, because if you are still a warped little soul that’s always thinking about me, myself, and I, then you do desperately need salvation. You still have not been saved by Christ.
We are back to chapter five now, and I have entitled my message: “The transformation that results from believing.” The transformation that results from believing. And again, as we enter into this, I want you to see how John is still very concerned about not being deceived on the one hand, and yet at the same time, about celebrating that which is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we don’t end up being destabilized by false teachers. And again, this issue of being deceived is vital and so he wants us to really believe, and in believing, experience abundant life.
Do Not Be Deceived
Many years ago, a friend of mine was invited for a conference in South Africa from Zambia, and he was a pastor and he started off this journey. As he got to the Zambian border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, he then exchanged his Zambian Kwacha for South African Rands. He made one blatant, well, let me not say blatant, but one major mistake, and it is that the changing of these currencies were done (was done) by the roadside. The guys were offering a better exchange rate than what he was going to get in the bureau or what he was going to get in the bank. And so, with that, he continued his journey: went through immigration, crossed the entire country of Zimbabwe, arrived on the South African border and that’s where now he was about to pay in order to enter that country. And when they put it through the machines, it was a false Rand note. Well, the second one was false, it was fake, the third one, it was counterfeit. And by that time, obviously, he began to realize what had happened. So, he handed over all the notes, and the guy looked at them and said to him, by passing them through, back into his hands, (that) they were all false.
So, what he had to do then, was to borrow money from some other Zambians in order to make a U-turn and head back home. He missed the conference all together. But you can imagine how this only dawned on him when he had almost arrived, almost. While he was going, he was blissfully ignorant, enjoying the journey with everybody else, chatting politics, the weather and so on, until bang at the border, (he was) turned back.
Well thankfully, the following year he went. This time, he went into a bureau and got the right currency, yes? He may have thought it was a lower exchange rate, but (hey!) he was wiser this time. And he attended the conference. He always testifies about that.
The difference between that and what we look at here is this: that if you think you’re a Christian and you’re deceived, and you enjoy the journey all the way to death, and then discover then that what you had was a false Christianity, there’s no second chance. There’s nothing like, “Okay, head back and we’ll invite you again next year.” (And this…) There’s nothing like that. It is too late. And that’s why it’s crucial for you to make sure you have the genuine article.
How many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress? It’s a very common book. Okay, if you haven’t, please. You can download. It’s really an excellent book, an excellent book. It’s the world’s number two bestseller. Number one is the Bible. Number two is Pilgrim’s Progress. Pilgrim’s Progress. Just make sure you read it before you die, or the sooner the better, because it has a lot of teachings about Christianity.
But later on, somebody wrote another book that is called “The Celestial Railroad.” It is the exact opposite of Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s much smaller, by the way, and you can download it also from the internet. It’s brilliant. And the reason why it’s brilliant is this: that in Pilgrim’s Progress, the person is a real Christian who continues this journey all the way to heaven, with all the difficulties along the way. That’s why you should read it. In “Celestial Railroad,” it’s a guy who thinks he’s a Christian all the way, until he crosses the river that is supposed to lead to the Celestial City. And he’s in a little boat, he thinks he’s going to the right place. And then the guy who is actually rowing the boat, as soon as they leave the shore, smoke begins to come out of his ears and nostrils, and he laughs with a hellish laugh. That’s how it ends! In other words, the guy realizes too late that, “I’ve been deceived. I’m not going to heaven. I’m in the hands of the devil. I’m going to hell.”
What Genuine Belief Produces
And this is what is being handled by John here, wanting us to make sure that we are not deceived because there are many deceivers. How does he handle it? Well, first of all, he deals with this aspect of believing and how, out of genuine believing, there is going to be the fruit of love, the fruit of obedience, and the fruit of victory. Genuine belief in the Son of God produces love, obedience and ultimately, victory.
So, let’s quickly read verse 1 down to verse 5. John is speaking in his usual cyclic ways, but you can’t miss his point,
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…” (1 John 5:1a)
Okay so, the new birth produces faith and consequently we believe.
“…and everyone who loves the Father, loves whoever has been born of him.” (1 John 5:1b)
So, you can see the love aspect coming out. So, believing the truth and this life of love.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)
Okay so, you can see there again, believing producing love, producing obedience.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Allow me to add, because the Holy Spirit is in our hearts and is inspiring us, not only to love, but to obey God in all his commandments so they are not burdensome. If you are unconverted, they are burdensome, and you just wish you didn’t have to obey God.
“For everyone who has been born of God…” (1 John 5:4a)
There it is again. The new birth produces faith and then faith produces all these other things: love, obedience and now listen to this,
“Everyone has been born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:4a)
In other words, victory is certain.
“And this is the victory that has overcome the world (we are back to square one)—our faith (our faith). Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
And where did we begin? Listen to chapter 5:1,
“(Whoever) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God….” (1 John 5:1)
So, the basic point that John is dealing with as he’s drawing towards the end, is God infuses spiritual life into us. We were dead. He infuses spiritual life into us. Our eyes are opened. We see the danger we are in. We flee. We see the sufficient saviour. We embrace him. We experience a real transformation, seismic transformation in our entire lives that produces love, obedience, and ultimate victory. That’s the Christian life.
That’s the Christian life and all that happened is somebody preached the gospel to you. That’s it. Just preached to you Christ and him crucified. But that person who shared the word of God with you is a co-worker with God. He’s speaking and God acted and bang, look at what has happened. John is saying, “This is why I am so confident about you. This is why I know that, with all the mess that is around, you will be victorious.”
Genuine Belief Is Based On God’s Testimony
But in the second place, he goes on to speak about why this faith is built on solid ground. Why? And it is because it is believing God’s own testimony. What we have come to believe is not the myth that human beings are coming up (with). It’s not philosophers who have been, sort of, gazing at their navels wondering, “What is life? How do we understand life? And coming up with philosophies and ways of understanding life, as Christians, sometimes are accused of, that God is really an “x” in an equation. So, you don’t know something, so you put “x” there so that you can get your answer in the end.
And then with science coming of age and so on, we now know what that x is. It’s not God, it’s actually evolution. No, it’s not philosophy. It’s not us listening to guys who are just dreaming. It’s actually God himself, the creator of the entire universe, who, in his plans for history, not only planned the actual fall, but much more than that, redemption that finally took place. And that’s the agenda he’s been on. And that agenda, finally 2 000 years ago gave us the coming of his own Son.
Listen to the way he puts it. There are a few things here that, you know, translators wrestle with and so on. I won’t resolve them completely, but I want you to notice as we read through, this word “testimony.” Testimony, testimony, testimony, throughout and then we’ll come and comment on it. This verse 6,
“This is he who came by water and blood- (I’ll come and explain that in a moment) Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who (there it is) testifies…” (Okay so testifying is the verb, the action word. Testimony is the noun. It is that something, we’ll come to it in a moment.) …because the Spirit is the truth.” (Okay so there it is the foundation.) For there are three that testify: (There we are again) the Spirit and the water and the blood; (So he’s now added the Spirit to the water and blood he spoke about earlier) and these three agree. If we receive the testimony (there we are again) of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has (there it is again) the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in (what?) the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is (what?) the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:6-12)
So, whatever we might be confused about, some versions include a few words there that are in the footnotes in my Bible, whatever it is that we might have, let’s remember that this portion is about the foundation of our faith – that it is solid. Let’s go back to the story of my friend. You see, my friend who changed his Zambian Kwacha into South African Rands, went to, let’s use the word, “the weakest place,” where it is quicksand. Anybody will sink there. How do you trust a guy who just comes out of a bush and start exchanging your money with him? How? Okay, we’ll have said at least he should have gone perhaps to a bureau or a bank at the border there.
But there’s something even better. it is this: to go to Zambia’s Central Bank. There you can’t go wrong, because that’s where the bureau and the other banks, that’s where they get their money from – Central Bank. Once you walk in there and you exchange your money, you can afford to sleep all the way from Lusaka to Pretoria, because you’ve gone through the actual place.
Now friends, that’s what he’s saying here about our faith, that it’s not merely something that human beings have spoken and therefore we believed in. It is what God himself has spoken. It is what God himself has done.
So, the testimony that came by water and blood again you can’t miss it, that when Jesus Christ came, the water is probably referring to his baptism, there was that which was spoken from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased.” And even when he was dying on the cross, you remember the testimony of the centurion, isn’t it, when he said, “This man is the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)
There was sufficient testimony of who he really is. The Spirit himself testified and continues to testify in our hearts. That’s what we’ve been told here that. This is the testimony. Those who believe, we have this testimony in us as well, that the one we have believed in, is the Son of God. This is not something that has been made up by fellow human beings. Someone who went up a hill and began to claim all kinds of things and came down and we have now become followers of him. No, our faith is in that which God himself has spoken. And look at the way he ends it. He says, ultimately, this is what God has said. This is his ultimate message:
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)
Notice he’s not saying whoever has been baptized. Whoever has been brought up in a Christian family. Whoever goes to the right church. Whoever, you know, all these many other things that people speak about. He’s saying what God himself has testified concerning his Son, “If you have him, you have life. If you don’t have him, you don’t have life,” said God. And it’s on that, that we base our trust.
What do you base your trust on? What is it that you put your faith in? What is it? Can you honestly say that you have met Jesus Christ? Can you say that?
There’s a song we are singing. I don’t know whether you sing it here. “Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful day, a day I will never forget. After I’d wandered in darkness away, Jesus my saviour I met. Oh, what a something day, but it’s Jesus my saviour I met. Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, he met all the needs of my heart. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
Is that true of you? That’s Christianity, friends. That’s what Christianity is all about. It’s Jesus or nothing.
Know That You Have Eternal Life
Let’s quickly go on, because in the midst of all this, we reach that statement that we’ve been quoting every day, and it is this,
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
Now what you may not have noticed if you’ve read this portion, is that “that you may know,” is only the first “we know” of about five or six “knows” in the rest of the chapter. In other words, the point that John is making is, first of all, he says, “I want you to be assured of this. You may know that this is true about you.” But then he goes on to say that, in fact, one of the fruits of this, is a number of things I can take for granted about you. That, as a result of this new relationship with Jesus Christ, there are a number of things that you know. So, let’s quickly look at them and then we’ll wrap up again with the same text, First John 5:13, we’ll end there.
Know That God Hears Your Prayers
But let’s quickly look at the things that you know. First of all, you know that God hears you when you pray. That’s the first thing. You know he hears you. Look at the way he puts it there. Verse 14,
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know (there it is) that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
One of the real changes that happens when a person becomes a Christian is something attached to an area. And it is this that prior to becoming a Christian you pray in rote fashion. “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…Amen.” And then you’re done. It’s just half words into empty air. It’s just some ritual.
When the Lord saves you, prayer becomes real. (It’s) literally speaking to someone: your father who is in Heaven. That’s why, when people say to me, “Okay, you see, you’re saying that I go to Christ and I pray and you say… how will I know that he has saved me?” My answer is to smile black and simply say, “You will know. You will know.”
And one of the ways is simply, God becomes real too you – very real. Your prayer life changes. And John specifically goes into one specific area to pray about and it’s one that tends to confuse us. It’s verse sixteen to verse seventeen. I’ll quickly read it, I’ll make a passing comment, so that we don’t get too bogged down into it and it’s praying for those who are living in sin. Praying for those who are living in sin.
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, (which is the issue that obviously confuses people) he shall ask and God will give him life – (Notice it’s still about prayer, okay?) to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death, I do not say that one should pray (so notice again it’s about prayer) for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:16-17)
There are many interpretations about this. Commentators are always arguing about this. The simplest I can give you is obviously if a person has sinned and as a consequence of that, he has died, it’s beyond us to pray for his restoration to God. That’s the simplest. But you know, since commentators are in up in the air with these things, whatever you finally decide is up to you. The issue seems to be that, because you now have this living relationship with God, he hears your prayers, one of the things you should pray about are those who were once with you, who have been overtaken by sin – the backsliders. Pray for them. It seems to be what he is talking about. But the main thing is that you now know God hears your prayers.
Know That You Will Persevere
What else? You also now know that you will persevere to the end. You will persevere to the end. Verse 18,
“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not continue in sin… (thank you very much) …everyone who is born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God (referring to Christ obviously) protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 John 5:18)
That’s the second thing. In doctrine, that’s referred to as the final perseverance of the saints. That is the way it is described. I think that’s very reassuring, that the Lord, having given me spiritual birth, guess what he has given me? Eternal life. What has he has given me? Eternal life! Let’s say it with me. What has he given me? Eternal life!
Now, university students, does eternal come to an end? Haha, okay, it doesn’t!
“I write these things to you have believe in the Son of God that you might know you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
God keeps his own. They persevere to the end. They endure to the end. And in the end, they are saved, in the end, as they were saved at the beginning. We know. We are counting on it.
Know That You Have Divine Life
So … that we know we have eternal life. We know that he answers our prayers. We know that we will get to heaven, that he will take us there what’s the fourth one? it is this: that we know that we alone have divine life. We alone have divine life. We who believe in Christ. We know, verse 19,
“ We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
We know. Now often, Christians are accused of being very narrow-minded, especially in terms of evangelism and missions work. And people say, “Look, why don’t you keep your religion and let other people keep their religion? Why do you go to them and start disrupting their lives and making them abandon their own ways of life and so forth. Keep your Christianity to yourself, you bigot!”
Well, the reason why we go to share the Gospel is because we believe it is the only good news in the world – the only good news. God did not send 10 saviours. One for people in Asia. Another one in Europe. Another one for people in South Africa. Another one for people in East Africa. Another one for West Africa. Another one for North Africa. Another one for Europe. Another one for North America. Another one for South America. And, just in case there are some people in the Antarctica, another one for them. No, he only sent one saviour: his Son, Jesus Christ.
And then he has commissioned us, “Go and tell the world that a full redemption has been provided through me. That if they repent and believe, they will have eternal life.” We know it. We know that Christianity is not just one of the many religions in the world. Like going into a grocery shop and you find rice South Uganda and rice from North Uganda and rice from East Uganda and rice from Lake Victoria. No, there’s only one. We have that divine life, and we want others to share it. That’s what makes us such fiery evangelists. It’s precisely this.
Know That Jesus Is God
So how many “knows” have we done so far, for those of you who are counting? Four? Let’s quickly go on to yet one other one. And it is this: that we know that Jesus is, in fact, the true God. The true God. He is God. This Jesus. Is not like God’s Spirit came on him and then left him afterwards. He is the Son of God. Verse 20,
“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 God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
We know that and by that we live. And it’s the Son that shines in our lives every day. We have come to know God the Son. We rejoice in that reality and that’s the reality that we go on to share with everybody else.
Okay so, that’s number five, isn’t it? Okay so, here’s my point: all that grows out of where we began. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13) You trusted in him. You believed in him. And God filled you with these solid convictions that have now completely transformed your life. Completely.
You’ve come back into that world every new person altogether, with a living relationship with God, and therefore you speak to him as a father, dealing with all these difficult issues of life, including backsliders. You deal with them in prayer with the Father. You know that you will persevere to the end. You know that I, together with those who believe in Jesus, are the ones who alone have the right relationship with God. You know now who this Jesus is, and he fills your life. To borrow the words of the apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Galatians,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
That’s my life. It’s about Jesus Christ, the Son of God who loved me, who loved me. I never get over that. Who loved me, and loved me to the extent that he died for me. He was crucified for me. Every day when I wake up, and I look into this world, I say, “God, thank you that you have loved me this way.” And I can go out there with this renewed energy and faith that he is my saviour.
Well, that’s where John ends. It’s just one sentence. One sentence, which almost looks a little strange, that it’s wrong there. Because listen, we know, we know, we know, we know, we know, and then suddenly, “Little children, keep yourself idols.” (1 John 5:21)
And then one wonders why it is it there. I think the point is obvious. Anything other than what I’ve just talked about here is idolatry. Yes. You alone are the true worshippers of the living God. Anything else is idolatry. So, live by that which you have come to know.
So, let me close this entire series by taking us back where we began. And it is this: test yourself, friend. Test yourself. Don’t end up like my friend, that at the end of your journey, that you should discover that what you had was false, because you were listening to so many false teachers. And even when the Bible was preached to you, as I have preached to you this week. (And you’ve also heard brother Andrew, Rodgers, so on.) That you still said, “Aaaah, I’m not going to check. I’m not going to check. It doesn’t matter what is being said, I’m not going to check.” Until it’s too late. Don’t be like that. This book is the only one, ultimately, that is true. Anyone that is teaching that which does not come out of its pages, that which you cannot see for yourself in these pages, run away, for dear life’s sake. Test yourself. Test yourself.
Beware and Rejoice
But may I also close on a positive note, and it is this: if, upon testing yourself, you are seeing that the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit are very evident on your life. This is not about praising yourself, but this is being amazed that a sinner such as you, now has this transformed life, where you have come to believe, and you are convinced, and it is your conviction concerning these Biblical truths around Christ. And there is a life in you of love for God and a fresh obedience for him that was not there before. Two things: number one, don’t let any false teachers come and destabilize you. Don’t. Because all that will do is it will keep you from being ultimately fruitful. While you are busy processing all these people that are destabilizing you, you will not be busy for the kingdom of God. Don’t let false teachers come to say to you, “There’s something missing. That was just you know, maybe ABC of Christianity. That’s not good enough. What you really need is this extra this is the higher life, the victorious life. The whatever life.” Don’t! You have found Christ. You have all that you need.
But even more positively, rejoice in the life that you have. You know, if angels could be envious, they would be envious of you. If they could be envious because they are now your servants in God’s palace. You are now God’s very children. Rejoice and let that joy radiate out of your life to impact your generation. Rejoice. In the midst of all the trials of life – rejoice.
Have you ever noticed in all the regions of the world, that Christians alone are the ones that actually sing, and sing with joy? Have you noticed that? I know one chap he was visiting our church and, at the end of the service, while we were greeting people outside, he comes to me and says, “Explain to me, why are these people so happy? Why are they so happy?” It’s obvious – they know Christ! They know Christ. And that’s the reason why, when believers are singing, you need a very strong box on the roof, otherwise you fly off! Because they sing with exuberance. There is joy in their hearts. Full of life and joy, because they have experienced this great salvation. And that’s where I want to end up with you, saying to you, go forth with great joy.
Our Father in Heaven, thank you for the writings of John: the gospel of John, the epistles of John and the revelation that you gave to him. Thank you that we’ve been able to spend our time meditating on this letter and, oh Lord, how we pray that each one of us might take its central message to heart. That we might truly examine ourselves so that we don’t end up with the counterfeit, the false. We pray if in the recent past, we’ve been destabilized by all kinds of false teachers, that we might come back again to this solid foundation. There is no other foundation that can be laid, than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. And that on that foundation we may build our lives into such a skyscraper that will bring us all the way to glory. We pray this for Jesus’ sake, Amen.