Cautious Love

Steve Viars August 31, 2014 1 John 2:3-6

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2 truths regarding the authenticity of your faith

I. God Wants You To Know If You’re One of His Children or Not

”By this we know that we have come to know Him.”

A. That is one of the three reasons John wrote this book

1. That you might have fellowship with God and others – 1:3

2. That your joy might be full – 1:4

3. That you might have greater assurance of your salvation

1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

B. This book contains several “tests” of an authentic believer

1. 1 John 2:6 - the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

2. 1 John 2:9 - The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.  The one who loves his brother abides in the light...

3. 1 John 2:15 - Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

4. 1 John 2:29 - If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

C. Reasons this is so important

1. Because so many men and women aren’t sure

2. Because there’s so much confusion about how a person gets to heaven

3. Because there’s a difference between being a “professor” and being a “possessor”

4. Because assurance frees you up to develop this relationship without fear

5. Because Scripture allows you to potentially have assurance in at least three ways

a) historically

b) theologically

c) experientially

6. Because there are always going to be people around who would like to make it harder than it is

II. People Who Know God Guard His Commands

1 John 2:3 - And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

A. What commands?

1 John 2:4 - The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…

B. What does it mean to keep?

2 Samuel 6:7 - And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

C. But I thought we lived under NT grace?

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

“In this verse the indicative and the imperative of the Christian life are joined together as a cause and effect. This union occurs only to the degree that the soteriological significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ precedes the ethical imperative, so that the indicative of the Christ-event becomes the foundation for and the content of the imperative.” (Daniel Akin, NAC, p. 95)

“Under the new covenant God accepts believers’ loving and sincere, albeit imperfect obedience (cf. 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9) and forgives their disobedience (cf. Ps. 65:3; 103:3; Isa. 43:25). By His grace they display a consistent, heartfelt devotion to the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16; cf. Hos. 6:6) as revealed in the Word (Ps. 1:1-2; 112:1; 119:1-2; Isa. 48:17-18; Luke 11:28). That willing obedience to Scripture in daily living is a reliable indicator both to self and others that one has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 7:21; John 8:31; 14:21). It differentiates the unregenerate from the regenerate; Paul called the unregenerate “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), whereas Peter identified the regenerate “as obedient children” (1 Pet. 1:14). God-honoring obedience is really reflective of genuine love; as John wrote later in this epistle, “we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (5:26-3) (John MacArthur, 1-3 John, p. 57).

1 John 2:3 - And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

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Well, I was a sophomore in college when this particular story occurred which says a lot in and of itself. Do you do anything but dumb things when you're a sophomore? The previous summer I had been able to purchase my first car and so my sister Sharon and I were going home from college on Thanksgiving break. We hadn't been home in several months; we had a thirteen hour drive in front of us. We were excited to get home. We wanted to see our family; we wanted to see friends. Frankly, we were just in a hurry. And you know the Bible says that the king's business requires haste. You know that is, it's right there in the Bible, remember that. In fact, we were in so much of a hurry that the thought of actually stopping the car to change drivers, it seemed like a gross waste of time. It really did. So we're going down a mountainside somewhere in Pennsylvania, one of those places where you look over the guardrail and you just see air because the embankment is so steep. The plan was we were probably going 70, maybe a little faster, but anyway we were moving because, after all, the king's business does require haste. Did I mention that? Thank you very much. That's right in the Bible. We were moving pretty good and the plan was I would slide to the right to the center of the seat and my sister would slide over me and take the wheel. You do this all the time, right? I'm assuming I'm describing a process that you use in your car. We figured we would save at least three solid minutes compared to actually stopping and changing the conventional way. Well, the problem was in the middle of the transfer we hit a pothole and one of our knees hit the steering wheel and spun that car three times around. The third time around we slammed into the guard rail which thankfully we didn't next go over the guardrail, instead it slammed us back into the middle of the interstate perpendicular to both lanes of traffic kind of like a T, much to the chagrin of the two semi drivers that were coming down that mountainside right behind us. Now not one of my sharper moments. An incredible lack of caution and a terrible failure to understand the significance of the risk, putting our very lives in jeopardy for something that gained so little.

Now I'm not going to ask you for words you might use to describe my behavior on that day. I think my father used all of the available ones anyway and maybe a couple we wouldn't say here in the church house anyway but I tell you that story for a couple of reasons. Most of us could share  examples about times we did things that were foolish. That were dangerous. That lacked common sense. That lacked caution, right? In fact, you might be thinking of some right now from your life. Don't leave me hanging here. I mean, if we had time you could tell some too,  right? Don't give me the "I've never done anything dumb" look. But secondly, I told you that story because I want to now say there's something even worse than lacking caution physically and that is lacking caution spiritually and being lackadaisical about the things of God.

With that in mind, open your Bible,  if you would, to 1 John chapter 2. That's on page 185 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. We're talking this year about "Loving Our Neighbors" so this fall we are listening to the apostle of love. This is a verse-by-verse exposition of the epistle of 1 John. Let me just ask you: have you been finding some opportunities throughout the week to as I encourage you to do, to read through the epistle of 1 John all in one sitting? I hope you have. It doesn't take that long so don't fuss about it. I mean, it doesn't take all that long. I would encourage you even if you have various translations of the Bible available to you, to read it in different versions throughout this study. It's a great book. It's a foundational book. I hope we're going to wring out all of the truth that we can from this marvelous portion of the word of God.

This morning we're talking about cautious love. Cautious love and we're just going to study four verses from this book this morning. I want to ask you really to lock on to the argument or the flow of thought, the logic of this text as I read these verses. 1 John 2, beginning in verse 3, where John says,

3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

So we're talking about cautious love and with the time we have remaining I'd like us to take those verses and organize them in a way that we find two truths regarding the authenticity of your faith. Cautious faith. Two truths in cautious love; two truths regarding the authenticity of your faith. Here's the first one, it flows right out of the beginning of verse three and it's great news God wants you to know if you're one of his children or not. In fact, what we read  in the beginning of verse 3 is a concept that's repeated over and over in this book. "By this we know." Could also go, "Know for sure, we know that we have come to know him." You see, God wants you to know if you are one of his children or not. In fact, we've already  seen this is one of the three reasons that John wrote this book. Hopefully by now, you can list the three stated reasons that John actually wrote because it becomes our skeleton, a framework on which to organize a lot of the material in these pages but the three purposes: 1. we would have greater fellowship with God and others and we saw that  develop through the rest of chapter 1. Fellowship, koinonia with God and with others through walking in the light. The second reason John said he wrote this book was: so that your joy might be full and if what we've been singing about this morning is true in your relationship with God, Be Thou My Vision, if that's true of the way that you relate to your God, I have no question about the fact that you woke up this morning with joy in your heart. Your joy can be full even if you're going through difficult times, if God is your vision. And then thirdly, John wrote so that you might have greater assurance of your salvation. He makes that quite explicit at the end of the book, 1 John 5: 13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that," you're constantly looking for hidden clauses, purpose clauses, "so that you may know that you have eternal life." And clearly, that's the particular goal that's especially in focus in the verses we have before us. In other words, salvation is not designed as a hope-so proposition. That's some good news, huh? God is not a carrot-on-the-stick kind of God. He's not one of those leaders who believes in management by keeping one's troops in the dark. He doesn't believe in motivating people by uncertainty or by fear of the future because of the unknown. You see, God wants you to know if you're one of his children or not.

Part of the good news is that this book actually contains several tests, what does an authentic believer look like? What is he characterized by? Here's how you can know for sure. Now a little later on we are going to talk about how does the Lord want that kind of information to impact people like you and me? If we have assurance of our salvation, what should we do? If we don't meet these tests, what should we do? But first let me just take a quick survey through at least the beginning part of this book and look for emphasis on that issue. Here's how you can know that you know. We saw it in verse 3 already but we even see it in verse 6. The one who says, "he abides in Him," do you say that? "Ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." There's one of the tests. Is that person progressively walking like Jesus Christ? You can test that. Or later in that same chapter verse 9, "The one who says he's in the light," do you? "Yet hates his brother," do you go around hating people? "And yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now." There's another test: the one who loves his brother abides in the light. Or verse 15, "Don't love the world or the things that are in the world if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him." There's another test. A person should not say that they know, that they know, that they know." A person can't say that they are a follower of Jesus Christ if the evidence in their life would give clear indication that they really just love the world. Test after test after test. Verse 29 of chapter 2, "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him."

Now, I'm not going to go any further just because of time but you could literally walk your way through this book, that's one of the reasons I'm encouraging you to read this book all at one sitting, so you're becoming more and more familiar with the truth. More and more familiar with the logic, the argument of the text but you can walk through this book and find test after test after test that helps the person determine whether they know Christ or not. Well, a key question would be: why? Of all the things that God could have given us in the Bible, why would the issue of our being sure that we are one of his children be so important? That's a good question. Here's some answers: it's because in part, so many men and women aren't sure. If you asked and, by the way, I hope you do this, but if you ask the average person on the street, the kind of people you would interact with at work, in your neighborhood, etc., "Friend, do you know for sure that you're on your way to heaven? Or have you thought about what's going to happen after you die?" More times than not you're going to get an answer that is something less than definite. "Well, I hope so I hope so. I'm not really sure." And the principle from this book is in part: God never intended for human beings to be unsure about the nature of their relationship with him. Aren't you glad for that?

Now, why else is this emphasized in this book? It's because there's so much confusion about how a person gets to heaven. If you continued that conversation with a friend I mentioned to you a moment ago by asking, after you said something like, "Hey, have you thought about what's going to happen after you die? Or do you know for sure you're on your way to heaven?" The next logical question in that discussion many times would be, "Well, what determines whether a person goes to heaven?" Or the old standby, "If you died and were at the gates of heaven and were asked, why you should be admitted, what would your answer be?" And I can promise you in the majority of conversations with persons in our culture, the answer to that would be something about my works. "Well, I'm a pretty good person. I've tried to live a good life. I've tried to blah,blah,blah," but the answer that they would give would have something to do with their works. It's almost as if God grades on a curve and so, "I'm certainly better than So-and-so and so I'm going to be okay but it depends on the way I lived." Well, that might sound logical, I guess, until you open like one page of the Bible because that belief is not even close to the biblical gospel of the sinfulness of man and the need for repentance and trust and the death, the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and if a person answers on the question of, "Here's how I believe I'm going to heaven," and it has nothing to do with an acknowledgment of their own sin and if it has nothing to do with an understanding of the holiness of God and how their sin separated them from God and has nothing to do with the shed blood of Jesus Christ, has nothing to do with the empty tomb whatever that is, that is not a biblical hope for salvation.

Now you might say, "How could that be?" If that's true, there's so much confusion about how a person gets to heaven. Reconcile that with the fact that there's a church on every corner in this country and in some cases several churches on the same block which, because church number two is a split off of church number one, and church number three is a split off of church number two, I mean, they are everywhere. Yet how can there be so much confusion in our culture about how a person gets to heaven if there's also many churches? Well, here's the hard answer, it's not particularly pleasant but I think it's true: many are essentially ashamed of the Gospel. Because people in our culture don't like to hear about personal sin and they certainly don't want to hear about a virgin-born Christ because that starts sounding miraculous and so we jettison that. Not understanding that the perfect Lamb of God had to be born of a virgin whether that makes sense to your so-called intelligent sensibilities or not and if you have the view that God's not powerful enough to do that, do you really think he's powerful enough to get your soul to heaven? The virgin birth is like a little thing compared to how in the world are we transporting all your sin to heaven? Or what in the world are we going to do about it first? People don't like to talk about Jesus being the literal Son of God. They don't like to talk about his substitutionary death on the cross. They don't like to talk about the fact that they needed somebody else to shed their perfect blood on their behalf. They don't want to talk about his bodily resurrection. They don't want to talk about repentance. They don't want to talk about forgiveness and as a result I am convinced we have a generation of men and women who have grown up in this culture who are not so much hardened to the Gospel as is they're ignorant of it. I'm not saying that as some sort of a mean-spirited pejorative fashion, I'm just simply saying that's why there is so much confusion and, of course, if you don't know how to get to heaven then you couldn't possibly be on your way to heaven, therefore, you couldn't have assurance of something you don't possess.

So God wrote a book to clear up the confusion. This is also important because there's a difference biblically between being a professor and being a possessor. You say, "What do you mean by that?" Well, not everyone who says "I'm a Christian" truly is. You may say, "This is another happy holiday sermon." Well, here's what Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven." That's why John gives us these tests so we can take the tests to learn the task and then determine, "Am I in or am I out? Am I one of God's children or not?" You see, God doesn't want us to be doubting this matter nor does he want us to be living in confusion about this matter in any way.

Here's another reason this is in the Bible: it's because assurance frees you up to develop this relationship without fear. There are plenty of people who will hear this message today and you woke up this morning absolutely secure in your relationship with God not because of your own work but because of your trust in the finished work of  Jesus Christ on the cross. You were able to come over to the church house and it didn't matter if the weather was everything you wanted on a holiday. It didn't matter if all your circumstances are going the way you want. You came over to the church house secure in your relationship with God and therefore you were ready to worship him passionately. You were ready to explore every nuance of that relationship. You were ready to think new thoughts. You were ready to expand your spiritual horizons. Why? Because you know the relationship is secure. You see, if you're not sure where you stand with another person, you're going to feel paralyzed. Ever been in that situation? You don't know where you stand. There's no security. You're always afraid they're going to explode or say or do something that's irrational or unpredictable. They are always threatening to leave. Now if you've ever been in a situation like that, how does that affect you? "I was afraid to say anything. I was afraid to do anything. I was like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights, frozen out of uncertainty and fear." You see, God doesn't want you to waste time and energy in that condition that could better be spent developing your relationship with him because it's based on security.

Also remember this: the Scripture allows you to potentially have assurance in at least three ways. Did you know this? This is very important. You can have assurance of your salvation historically. You say, "What do you mean by that?" Well, you ought to be able to explain how and when you came to Christ. That's your testimony. That's your story. You may not remember the exact day, you may not remember the exact moment, but at least historically you know this much: you know you were born separated from God. You know you were born in sin and you know that you were born on the wrong side of the tracks and you know that at some point in your life you admitted your sin and you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. So historically, it's part of what gives you assurance of your salvation. Historically, you can talk about when you chose to become a Christian.

You can also have assurance of your salvation theologically and I don't mean by that that you need to be able to say the books of the Bible backwards in 60 seconds or less. I'm not saying you have to be able to answer the hardest theological question, that's not true. Jesus talked about having child-like faith. But you understand that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone and Christ alone. You at least know this much: if somebody approached you today and asked, "How can I become a Christian?" you would be able to tell them. You would be able to walk them biblically through how you become a follower of Jesus Christ because, friend, if you cannot answer that for someone else, how could you possibly answer it for yourself?

So there's assurance of your salvation historically; there's assurance of your salvation theologically; and then there's also assurance of your salvation experientially. You say, "What do you mean?" You just look at your life. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold all things have become new." So part of what gives you assurance is you can point to changes that God has made in your life and God is making in your life. All of that. The fact that salvation is a decision that is made at a point in time; the fact that the Gospel message is clearly articulated in the word; the fact that it will produce changes in your life. All of that is designed by God to help you know that you know, that you know, that you're on your way to heaven.

Now here's one other reason why God wants you to know: it's because there are always going to be people around you who would like to make it harder. You may have grown up in a very legalistic setting where there is all these rules, all these standards outside of the word of God and people were making it a whole lot harder than it really is. The reason I mention that, by the way, is the context of this book. In John's day there was a heresy brewing that later became known as Gnosticism and the short version of that was, that there was a group of people who believed that they had access to special levels of knowledge that was not available to the uninitiated. And so these Gnostics look down their nose at everyone else with the attitude of, "Well, you don't really have it all or you're not really saved because you're not part of the club. You're not one of the elite." What we're saying this morning is that 1 John to 2:3 along with the sweep of this book, teaches that God wants you to know if you are one of his children or not.

I. God Wants You To Know If You’re One of His Children or Not

Now let's push the pause button on that for a minute because the question then would become: how would the Lord want that to affect us? Well, here's at least two reasons, two appropriate possible responses: one is this, as the Apostle Peter said, "To make your calling and election sure." What I mean by that is, I realize that there are going to be people who are going to hear this message today and say, "You know what? I really don't have assurance of my salvation. I couldn't talk about when I became a Christian. I really couldn't explain theologically how you become a Christian. There's really not any evidence. If you're honest, the evidence, it's not there and maybe some days I think that I'm a Christian but I don't have that kind of assurance." Well friend, here's what I want to do: I would want to pastor you today and if you don't have genuine assurance of your salvation, I would want to motivate you to do something about that right away. Right away. And you might say, "You're starting to make me feel uncomfortable." Well, I would rather make you feel uncomfortable today if that motivated you to place your faith and trust in Christ for the real thing so that the day you died you were really comfortable. You see, I think this is one of the worst things that I can do as a pastor is not get at this particular issue from time-to-time and have as a result, a number of persons attending our church who thought they were followers of Jesus Christ but there was no evidence, there was no reality to that and we all kind of just tiptoed our way to a Christ-less eternity. Whatever I was, it wasn't a biblical pastor.

So let me kind of give you the speech that I give often in counseling when I'm talking with a person and clearly as we start to unpack what's going on in their life, even if they thought they were a Christian, there's really no evidence. They don't meet any reasonable test. Here's what I encourage them to do. I say, "Do you know what? You're obviously not sure, not by my standard but by what you are saying compared to the word of God, here's exactly what I would do if I were in your situation right now. Not later. Right now. I would pray to the Lord and I would say something to him like this, 'Father, I know that I'm a sinner. I know that you are holy. I know my sin has separated me from you and I'm not sure if I'm a Christian. Clearly the evidence is not there and the assurance is not there and so if I never have before, I want to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord right now.'" And I encourage folks right that date down in the back of your Bible. Tell somebody right now, right away, that you have trusted him as Savior and Lord. Let the Redeemed of earth say so and then get busy growing in Christ. And if when you die you get to heaven, you find out that you were saved sooner than you thought, that's a whole lot better than dying and waking up in hell having thought you were saved when you really weren't. And I would say the exact same thing to every person who's going to hear this message today. "Make your calling and election sure." And again, tell somebody because you know what keeps many people from making this decision? It's their pride and their stubbornness. You might say, "Well, that wasn't very nice." It wasn't intended to be but whatever it takes to help you cross the line to having the kind of assurance that this book promises.

Here's the second response, by the way, if you know Christ, if you do, I think we ought to dive to our knees and thank him for making assurance of salvation part of the way he designed the salvation plan. Because let me tell you right now, if I was God, it wouldn't be like this. Not a lick. For one thing, forget grace. If I was God, you'd been working for it every day of your life and not because I'm mean because we all know I'm not mean. That would've been a good time for, "Yes, we all know that and we heartily agree." The reason I would make you work for your salvation is I would conclude that's the only way to keep you on the straight and narrow. And the second thing, forget about assurance. I'd keep you guessing every day of your life and why? Because again, I would assume that's what it would take in order to keep you heading in the right direction. You have to earn it and you're never going to know for sure that you have it. Aren't we glad I'm not God? The loudest amen in the last decade. You know, you people could be a bit nicer to me. But aren't you glad for a God who has designed salvation to be first by grace and secondly something that we can know absolutely for sure.

II. People Who Know God Guard His Commands

Now what do we see in the second part of verse 3? Here it is: people who know God guard his commands, right? Am I saying it right? "By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands." Now if you're tracking with the word of God, I would assume you have several questions about that. Let's walk through them logically. What commands? Keep his commands, what commands? Well, not just the Ten Commandments. John's talking about all that God has commanded us in his word. In other words, the person who says he's a child of God must have a concern about keeping the commandments of God and you can plow it the other way: a person who's not concerned about keeping the commands of God has no business saying or believing that he or she is one of God's children. And you may say, "Well, that's kind of harsh." Well, how did the apostle of love say it? In the very next verse, let God's word do its work, "The one who says I have come to know him and does not keep his commandments is a," what? It makes me sound sweet, "is a liar and the truth is not in him." Well, then the question I think becomes logically: what does it mean to keep? "By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments." What does it mean then to keep? Because if you're tracking with what this passage is saying, about now we ought to be responding with an uh-oh. If keeping the commands of God means keeping them perfectly, what? We are in big trouble boys and girls. There's no question about that because no one here would say that he or she has kept the commands of God perfectly. Well, where does that leave us? Remember, one of the principles of Bible study that guides us is, that our interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture has to be able to bear the weight of the rest of the Bible and we call that the unity principle, Scripture interprets Scripture. And we know that John cannot be saying in 1 John 2:3, "By this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments," that that means "keep them perfectly" because that would contradict what he just said a few verses before. If you look back at chapter 1 verse 8, we just saw this last week, "If we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves." Verse 10, "If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." Well, how do you put that together? John is making it clear that even after we have come to know Christ as Savior and Lord we are going to continue to some degree and in some way, struggle with sin and yet he also says chapter 2 verse 3, that "By this we know we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments."

How do you put that together? Well, the answer is biblically we have to figure out what does that word "keep" mean? That's the key to this whole discussion. What does the word "keep" mean? How would you like a little help on that point? Absolutely. Here's what I need you to do: look at "keep" one more time in that text in verse 3, "keep His commands." Hold your hand right there in 1 John 2, we're going to be back. Go back to the Gospel of Matthew for a minute, Matthew 28. Here's what's going to happen, now don't let me lose you, here's what's going to happen: we're going to find a word that comes from the exact same root as "keep" in 1 John 2:3, "keep His commands," the exact same root is used in the noun form in this particular verse and I want to see if you can find it. Are you ready for a little challenge? It's Labor Day so let's labor. Matthew 28:4. Here you go, this is the story, by the way, where the angel comes and rolls the stone away from the tomb of the Lord. It's time for the disciples to see that Jesus was really risen. Now here's the verse, verse 4: "The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men." Do you see it? The word "keep" in 1 John 2:3, the noun form of that same root is in Matthew 28:4. Now some of you are saying, "You've got the wrong verse." Come on, I'm a seasoned professional. Let's try it again. Okay, forget all that. Here it is verse 4, "The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men." Do you know the same root that is translated "keep" in 1 John 2:3, do you know what it is? It's the word "guard." It's the word "guard."

Now factor that back into our discussion in 1 John 2:3. What's the point? The point is "By this we know that we know Him if we have caution. If we have a guarded stance towards the word of God." Guards weren't always perfect. By the way, the guys in that particular text proved that point but they were cautious. That's why when John says, "By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands," you could just as easily translate that with, "If we guard His commands." The issue is not perfection but the issue is cautiousness.

Now don't say, "Oh, great it's not perfection. I can do whatever I want." No, come back logically to that issue of caution. What that means is when a man is very careful about wanting to understand what the word of God says before he moves forward, he's showing evidence that he's a believer. He's cautiously guarding the commands. When a woman is very careful to do what God's word says even though her emotions may be raging and motivating her to go a different direction, she wants to do what the word says. She's giving evidence that she truly knows Christ because she's guarding the commands. When an individual is very careful about what they let come out of that mouth, "I'm not going to say that unless I'm absolutely sure that's in line with the word of God." There's evidence that a person is a believer. When a person says, "I'm not just going to express my anger however I want. I'm going to be sure that I'm controlling my anger through the grit of biblical truth." There's a person who has evidence that they're truly saved. Before they send the email. Before they send the text. You see, between your thumb and that button is the word of God. "I'm not going to send it. It's going to have an electronic life forever. I am not going to say that I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to send that." And I realize you might say, "What? About now you're going to break out into a rendition of be careful little feet where you go? "Fine, "Oh be careful little feet where you go, Oh be careful little where you go, for the Father up above is looking down in love." That's exactly what we're talking about and that's off my notes, by the way, that's evidence that a person is saved.

Another word with a very similar meaning is the word "circumspect." Remember the book of Ephesians in the King James talks about walking circumspectly? What does that word mean? Circum: around. Spect: to look. The idea is I'm walking carefully. I'm walking cautiously. I'm walking with my eyes wide open. It's the opposite of the spiritual equivalent of the driving stunt I told you about at the beginning of the message. You see, some believers are like that spiritually, they're careless. They are lackadaisical about the commandments of God. They have the view that they were saved by grace through faith and they're on their way to heaven so what's the big deal about the way they live today? So for them the Gospel was a past decision with a future hope but no present reality. It's a carefree, nonchalant, take-it-or-leave-it approach to obedience. And this text says that if a person has that kind of careless, nonchalant, cavalier attitude toward keeping the commands of God,  that very well may indicate he's not a genuine believer in Christ. You see, God does not want believers to live in cowering fear before him but nor does he want believers who live with lackadaisical indifference.

A good example of this characteristics that we're talking about is found in the Old Testament story of a man named Uzzah. Remember Uzzah? We won't take time to actually turn there in our Bibles. It's found in 2 Samuel chapter 6. Let me just tell you that story quickly. David in 2 Samuel 6 is leading a large group of people who are bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was a piece of furniture which represented the presence of God to the nation of Israel and God had given very explicit commands about how the Ark of the Covenant was to be treated including the command that it was never to be touched. Never. In fact, when it was made God commanded the people to place rings in the corners so that the pole could fit through the rings so that when it had to be moved, you were touching the poles not the Ark. And by the way, you might say, "Well, I'm not sure I like those commands." Welcome to "that's a big part of the problem" because do you understand that you're not God? Somebody told me about a plaque once which really helps us: You need to remember two things: there is a God and you're not him. So the question is: do I always agree with all the commands? Not the point.

The importance of the Ark of the Covenant had diminished in Israel so much that even the Philistines had it for a while. So David is leading his people to bring back the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. They are transporting it on a cart. The Bible tells us that the oxen pulling the cart nearly turned it over and Uzzah carelessly reached up and touched it and here's what happened next, "And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah and God struck him down there for his irreverence and he died there by the Ark of God." And I believe that the sin of Uzzah is the sin of many of us in the American church. There is a lackadaisical attitude toward keeping the commands of God. It's an attitude that says, "I will obey God my way, on my terms, by my time table." That is Uzzahism. That's indifference.

Now you might say, "But I thought we lived under New Testament grace. What do the commands of God have to do any of this?" Well, we have to avoid two ditches. On the one hand, I hope I've made it very clear: we are saved by grace alone not by our works. But on the other hand, if we genuinely know Christ, out of love for him and amazement of his grace, we want to guard his commands. That's why Paul explained, "For by grace you've been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It's a gift of God not as a result of works so that no one may boast." Now here's the other side, "For we are his workmanship," that's where the guarding the commands comes in, "created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." That's the balance. If you want the seminary version of this message, here it goes: in this verse the indicative "who you are" and the imperative "what you're to do" are joined together as a cause and effect. This union occurs only to the degree that the soteriological significance, that's salvation, of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ precedes the ethical imperative so that the indicative of the Christ event becomes the foundation for and the content of the imperative. Chew on that over Labor Day. If you say, "I want that dumbed down one level," well here you go. John MacArthur said it like this, "Under the New Covenant, God accepts believers' loving and sincere albeit imperfect obedience and forgives their disobedience. By his grace they display a consistent heartfelt devotion to the mind of Christ as revealed in the word." Yes, we should. "That willing obedience to Scripture in daily living is a reliable indicator both to self and others that one has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It differentiates the unregenerate from the regenerate. Paul called the unregenerate sons of disobedience whereas Peter identified the regenerate as obedient children. God honoring," here it is, "God honoring obedience is really reflective of genuine love. As John wrote later in this epistle, we love God and observe his commandments for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not burdensome."

From the way this message should impact you is dependent entirely on the nature of the spiritual life that you brought into the room and if you're here and there's not evidence that you cautiously guard the commands, I want to encourage you to deal with that today and just like what I would say to persons I'm counseling, I would say the same thing to you: make your calling and election sure and tell someone. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved." And if this message has been used to draw you to Christ, I want to encourage you to repent and believe in him and tell someone else that you did. Christian friend, what about this matter of being lackadaisical? I would encourage you to think long and hard about what steps need to be taken in order to develop more caution toward the commands of God and let's all thank him that it's possible for us to meet that particular test of our assurance.

Let's stand together, shall we?

Father in heaven, we thank you that you are quite direct with us and on the one hand you give us your grace but on the other hand you provide tests and, Father, I pray that you would help us respond to this text in whatever way the spiritual condition that we brought into the room warrants. Father, would you use this to help us grow in our assurance, recognizing that the finest fellowship and greatest assurance is always going to be with the fewest sins? We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video