If you were in a court of law, could you prove that you are a Christian? Or, more importantly can you prove it to yourself? You see Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21, cp. Luke 6:46). Can we really know whether we belong to Jesus or not? Can we really be sure that we are going to heaven? Maybe it is more important to ask, “How important do we think it is?” The aged Apostle John was confronting some false teachings. Some had “gone out” to do their own thing (1 John 2:19). They had new ideas about Jesus, sin and what it means to be a child of God. Those that held to the apostles’ teachings were confused. So the apostle John told them how a person can know that they know Jesus. He said:
3Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
You will notice that the apostle did not say that this is how you earn favor with God or even that this is what you should do. Rather he is giving us the first of several tests that we can use to evaluate our relationship with God. God has done it all (1 John 2:1-2). These are things that will be there if God is at work in our life. So, what was the apostle saying? Well he was explaining what he had already said. He is saying we can “know that we know Him” (v 3) or that we “have fellowship with Him” (1 John 1:6) when we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7) or “keep His commandments” (v 3; Word, v 5).
He is using different language to say the same thing. But, what does he mean by the word “keep?” The word simply means to “retain,” to “hold on to” or to “pay attention to.” We only do that with things that are important to us. To “keep” His commandments suggests a certain amount of commitment, just as “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7). We will “keep” or hold on to the things that we trust. Does God really know what He is talking about? If so, His Word is trustworthy.When a parent tells their child, “listen to me,” they expect the child to do more than just listen. If we “keep” (value) God’s Word, we will allow it to guide our life as if it were a light in the darkness. We may not be perfect, but we will allow it to show the way.
We can convince others that we are a good Christian. We can tell others God’s Word is important, BUT we cannot lie to our self or to God. If we truly have fellowship with God, we will be listening to Him. We will be walking in the light of His word. This is the first test. The apostle Paul explained the alternative this way, “They profess to know God, but in [their actions] they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). So, with this first test, we must ask our self, “What are we really trusting?”
Now, he does not say that this is just some warm feeling. He describes it as, “walking in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Here he explains that to be consistent, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (v 6). It is not that you must be perfect, but are you becoming more like Jesus? The apostle Paul said that we are to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). God’s standard for everyone is to become perfect “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Now that is a high standard! Will we become “perfect” in this life? No, “If we say that we have no sin [failures], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Nonetheless, this is God’s standard for us. How can we live with so high of a standard? The apostle John is not saying a person must be “obeying” all of God’s Word. He is saying that we must “keep His Word” or “walk in the light.” If we are not doing that, we are “walking in darkness.” The “truth is not in [us]” and we cannot practice the truth (v 4; 1 John 1:6).
Did you notice, the apostle said that a person who claims to be a Christian and is not keeping His Word or walking in the light “is a liar” (v 4; 1 John 1:6)? He did not say that they are “mistaken.” That means that deep inside we know the truth. So are you trusting God’s Word or are you relying on our own opinions. If it is not God’s Word then you are in “the dark.” You do not know the truth and you cannot have fellowship with God. The apostle Paul said we are at “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).
So, what must we do to have fellowship with God? The apostle already explained. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Lets look at that again. When we do fail to live up to God’s standard, we need to admit (or confess) it to God. We are not talking about going out and living a debauched life and thinking that is all right. But, if we trust the Light, then we can trust Him even when we fall short. We can trust that He is “faithful” to His promises and that He is “just.” The price for our sin has already been paid by Jesus. So He is willing to forgive (take the guilt away) and to cleanse us (remove that which is not right). This process is part of “walking in the Light.” It is acknowledging that God’s Word is just and right and that we do fall short as His word says.
If you do not see your need, you only fool yourself and the truth is not in you. It would be a terrible shame to miss out on all of this simply because you did not understand or because you just didn’t make the effort to understand.