Some ideas blow your world apart, and 33 years ago, I heard such an idea when I was at West Point on bivouac. Bob Maruna, an upper class cadet, stopped by my tent and told me I could know whether I was going to heaven. I had never heard such a thing before, but it is clearly biblical:
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 (ESV)
John is wrapping up his letter, and the summation of all of it is in this verse. It is possible to know if heaven is yours. And if this is true, it stands to reason that there is only one way that is possible – eternal life must be a matter of faith, not works. If it were about being good enough, how could I ever know if I had met the standard, but if “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…” (1 John 1:7 ESV) then certainty was possible.
That was the idea that revolutionized my life at West Point in 1982: I needed not fear a Day of Judgment where my good works would be weighed against my bad. John said in verse 13 that certainty of eternal life came through believing in the Savior Jesus. In the two verses previous, it’s all about whether we have Christ:
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 (ESV)
John fills his letter with other ways we can know, clearly showing like James that works will follow our faith (James 2:22). As Martin Luther said, “Salvation is by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” So the true Christian will seek to obey the Lord and will love his brothers, but the reason all this happens is because Jesus has “cleanse(d) us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
So, today is Thanksgiving. Are you giving thanks…because you know? If you don’t know for certain, you can. As Paul said to the Philippian jailer:
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” Acts 16:31 (ESV)
For Friday, November 27th: 2 John 1