April 14, 2023

That You May Know Manuscript

DATE: 4-16-23
SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: That You May Know
TEXT: 1 John 5:13 ESV

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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.


We’re starting a brand new series today. Here at Gateway, we love the Bible because we love the God who’s given us his Word — so you’ll find that we spend most of our time going through books of the Bible together. And — since we’re starting a new book of the Bible today — it’ll be helpful for me to give you some background on our letter so we all begin at the same starting point as we begin our journey through First John. 

So — first — please turn with me to First John chapter five — we’ll be looking at verse thirteen. And — while you’re finding First John chapter five — here are some things to know about this letter.

First, the reason why the letter is called First John is because it’s written by John the apostle. This is the same man who wrote the gospel of John, the book of Revelation, and three short letters that are called first, second, and third John in the Bible. And both the gospel of John and our letter — as we’ll see today — were written with the same purpose in mind. What purpose? That by reading the gospel — and this letter — people would believe that Jesus is the Son of God and receive eternal life. That’s why John wrote this letter.

Now — throughout our time in this letter — we’re going to encounter a variety of themes that all relate to practical life. John’s going to talk about how true doctrine — or having right beliefs — leads to right living — or obeying God’s commands. Why is this important? Well right beliefs lead to obedient living which builds in us an ongoing desire to better understand what we believe so we live obediently and the cycle of growth continues. 

So that’s what this letter is about: right doctrine leads to obedient living, which leads to an ever increasing devotion to God. And — if you’re a Christian — I hope this excites you — that our time in this letter will sharpen our doctrine — what we believe about God and ourselves — so we better obey God’s commands — which will result in an increased desire in us individually — and as a congregation — to be more fully devoted followers of Jesus.

And with that as our introduction — here are the words of First John chapter 5verse thirteen

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)


There are two postures I want us to unpack that our verse addresses. The two postures are doubting your faith and assuming your faith — doubting your faith on the one hand and assuming your faith on the other.

The first — doubting your faith — usually plays out like this — and — if we’re honest — just about every Christian has done something like this before — and — if you’re not a Christian — here’s a sneak peek into our lives. You have a moment in your life — could be a tragedy, a health scare, a near death experience — something happens and you think, “God, is this whole Christianity thing real?” Or — maybe in the moment — you think, “God, am I a legit Christian? Like — if this is it for me — cause we’re in some scary turbulence right now — are we good?”

Years ago, I worked in a church in Connecticut and the church was big enough that we had a cop patrol the parking lot for safety reasons. Believe it or not, there were people who targeted the church parking lot on Sundays as easy pickings for theft. 

Well — on one Sunday — the cop didn’t show up. And — this particular Sunday — it just so happened that a suspicious car was parked in the parking lot. And it just sat there the whole morning. Around this time there had been a few church shootings in our country — so we were already on high alert. And the church I worked at was the largest church in Southern Connecticut — so if anyone wanted to make the news in our state — we were the church they’d pick. 

So this car just sat in the parking lot and no one recognized it. It looked suspicious and the staff started to get worried that this car might be a potential threat to the safety of the congregation. So we made the decision to have someone go investigate the car. And my boss at the time — a great pastor named Dan McCandless — felt it was his duty to go check out the car. So he walked out to the car, checked it out, and saw that it was nothing to worry about. 

Now — after the situation was all over — here's what I wanted to know. I wanted to know if Dan had that feeling of, “Hey God, before I go check out this car that may explode on me, are we good?” And you know what? He totally did! He told me that he had the “God, we’re good, right?” conversation as he was walking to the vehicle. Here’s a man who I know loves Jesus, was definitely a Christian, and yet — in a moment like that — he had this moment of doubt. 

Now — if you’ve never had a moment of doubt about your faith — here’s where you may be — I’m not saying this is you — but maybe it is. You may be the person who just assumes that they’re right with God — someone who assumes their faith is legitimate — and — odds are for some of us in this room — this is us. We don’t doubt our faith as much as we assume it.

For years now — as an example — various research groups have collected data on what Americans believe about heaven. And the result of the research shows that the majority of us are assuming a lot of things. For example, forty-eight percent of Americans believe that “a person who is generally good, or does enough good things for others, will earn a place in heaven.” (https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/wakeup-call-for-the-church-half-of-americans-say-good-deeds-get-you-to-heaven-poll-shows.html) That — my friends — is not the gospel. Additionally, fifty-four percent of U.S. adults believe they’re going to heaven after they die. (See previous link). That’s a high percentage when you take into account folks who follow a different religion or none at all. All of this shows that we’re a nation that’s accepted easy believism. A religion which says, “Sure, some people may be going to hell, but I’m not one of them.”

So our verse is going to address both of these postures — the person who doubts their faith and the person who assumes their faith. And — what we’re going to discover — both in our verse and throughout this letter — is that the gospel of Jesus Christ crushes all doubts and diminishes all assumptions about eternal life.


So let’s see how the gospel crushes all doubts and diminishes all assumptions we may have about eternal life. John begins with the words…I write these things… - 1 John 5:13a (ESV) 

Which leads us to ask: what are “these things” that John’s referring to? Because “these things” are the means by which God uses the gospel to crush our doubts and assumptions about eternity. So “these things” are important for us to understand and believe in order for our doubts to diminish and our assumptions to weaken. 

So what are “these things” that John’s referring to? “These things” include the truth that the eternal God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this world and that Jesus is the true God and eternal life. This is part of the gospel — the story of God’s love for us in sending his Son, Jesus. 

How do we know that this is part of the “these things” that John’s referring to? Because — in the letter — he writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the ETERNAL LIFE, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ…4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the FLESH is from God…5:20 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 1:1-3; 4:2; 5:20 (ESV)

In this letter, we’re going to see that Jesus is God, that he was born in human flesh, and that he came into our world to bring eternal life. And this is an amazing doubt destroying and assumptions humbling truth. Eternal life has not only been offered to us — eternal life has a name — and his name is Jesus. And he is true — and he can be known — and he can be trusted with our whole being.

Do you believe that Jesus really is God in the flesh — that he alone is the only way to eternal life — that he alone is the true God? This is one weapon in God’s arsenal of diminishing our doubts and assumptions about eternal life.

Additionally, in this letter we’re going to see that all humans are sinful — yet — Christians have joyous fellowship with God — and each other — through repentance and faith in Jesus. You see, all humans are sinful — yet Christians have joyous fellowship with God and each other through repentance and faith in Jesus.

And — again — this is one of the “these things” that John’s referencing in our verse. And this truth is another crushing blow to all doubts and assumptions we may have about eternal life. All humans — each of us — are sinners. We’ve all fallen short of God’s standards, commands, decrees, and desires for us. Yet Christians experience something that should be impossible for us as a sinner — we experience joyous fellowship with God and each other. 

And the question is how? How do Christians experience what should be impossible for sinners? Through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have FELLOWSHIP with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have FELLOWSHIP with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all SIN. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” - 1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)

Do you see the tension in these verses? There’s a blessed assurance for those who repent of their sins — who believe the truth about who they are — a sinner — and who Christ is — a Savior — and — there’s a wake up call for those who assume that they can have eternal life without confessing their sins and their need of a Savior. No confession — no Savior — no eternal life.

God graciously uses the truth of our sin and his Savior to diminish the doubts of those who are true believers in Jesus. And God uses the truth of our sin and his Savior to crush the assumptions of those who are not true believers. Have you confessed your sins? Have you recognized your need for a Savior? Have you turned to Jesus as your Savior? 

Another weapon in God’s arsenal of crushing our doubts and assumptions about eternal life.

Finally — in this letter — we’ll see that the “these things” — that John’s writing about includes this truth: Those who know Christ keep his commandments — especially his commandment to love one another.

Those who claim to know Christ — those who say “I believe in him” — those who take the name Christian — are recognizable by their obedience to Christ’s commandments. And — specifically — the commandment Jesus has given us to love one another. 

John writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his COMMANDMENTS. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his COMMANDMENTS is a LIAR, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected…3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should LOVE one another…14 We know that we have passed out of death into LIFE, because we LOVE the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers….23 And this is his COMMANDMENT, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and LOVE one another, just as he has COMMANDED us. 24 Whoever keeps his COMMANDMENTS abides in God, and God in him.” - 1 John 2:3-5a; 3:11, 14-16, 23-24a (ESV)

And — honestly — this is where I’m hoping that we — as a church — will grow during our time in First John: that we’ll grow in our love for God and for one another. In our hyper-individualized society it’s easy to say, “Sure, I love God. I’m going to heaven.” But John says that the litmus test for your and my love for God is our love for one another — a love for each other that displays God’s unconditional love for us. And — let’s be honest — it’s really hard to love one another in this way. Hard, but not impossible.

So what I’m hoping for us — is a deepening love for each other that springs out of a deepening love for God. And — hey — I get that people are hard to love. They’re not perfect. They’re messed up. They’ve got issues. And so do you — and so do I. And it seems easier to just go on loving God and ignoring people than it is to obey Jesus’ commandments.

So let me remind you of John’s warning: when you blatantly ignore Jesus’ commandments — including his command to love one another — you do not have eternal life. And if you don’t like that — take it up with John — or better — with God. “Well OK, snarky pastor. But why not — why don’t I have eternal life if I don’t love others?” Because your lack of love for others shows that you don’t really know Jesus — who is eternal life. You see, knowing Jesus makes loving other people possible and — not only possible — but an expectation that marks you as having eternal life. Including loving people who are imperfect, messed up, and have issues that you’d rather ignore. 

And the reason why this is the expectation for those who follow Jesus is because Jesus — who in love laid down his life for you — has commanded you to lay down your life for others in love. 

  • And we lay down our lives by serving others out of our love for them.
  • We lay down our lives by joining a life group and caring for those who are in our group.
  • And we lay down our lives for others by inviting them to Gateway, so they’ll hear the good news of the gospel because we love them and want them to experience God’s love for them. 
  • Our love for one another makes church no longer a commodity to consume — “what does this church offer me and my family” — and makes church a family that God’s placed us in so we can demonstrate to the world that we have eternal life.

By writing “these things” in his letter — John’s going to crush all doubts and diminish all assumptions we have about eternal life. For “these things” are truths that will clarify for us who Jesus is, what it means to love God and one another, and what it means to know that you have eternal life.


Something else — that we see in our verse — is that John is writing to Christians — specifically “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God…” - 1 John 5:13b (ESV) 

Which leads us to ask: what does it mean to believe in the name of the Son of God? I ask — because John clearly states that he’s writing to a particular group of people — those who believe in the name of the Son of God — and that these are the people who he wants to have certainty about eternal life. So this is important for us to understand as this will help crush all doubts and assumptions about eternal life. How so? 

Well — for example — do you have faith in Jesus or in yourself? When John writes “to those who believe” he means those who no longer have faith in themselves, or faith in their works, or faith that they’ll be good enough to earn their salvation, or even that they can be bad enough to un-earn their salvation. To believe in the name of the Son of God means to trust in Jesus alone for your salvation and not yourself. And when you really trust Jesus — your doubts are crushed. Why? Because Jesus’s influence in your life grows to become more powerful than whatever may cause you to doubt. 

For instance, this kind of believing in Jesus leads to justification — justification means a person is made right before God. Though once God’s rebellious enemy — now you’re God’s beloved child. Though once God’s foe — now — by believing in Jesus — you’re now God’s friend. And — in being justified — you’re forgiven of all your sins. And being forgiven of your sins you receive the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. Such as being filled with God’s Spirit and that God has promised to finish the work he’s begun in you. And this is the opposite of faith in yourself. 

  • Faith in yourself believes that you’ll eventually do enough good things to outweigh your bad things. 
  • Faith in yourself believes that God will love you regardless if you love and obey his Son. 
  • Faith in yourself believes that you’re a good person — not a sinner. 
  • Faith in yourself means you trust in your imperfect life to be an acceptable sacrifice to God — instead of Christ’s perfect life being the sacrifice you trust in. 
  • Faith in yourself is the way of a foolish world that’s perishing. 
  • Faith in yourself is the greatest assumption that anyone can make in regards to eternal life. 
  • Faith in yourself results in the greatest heartbreak that men and women will ever receive. Because faith in yourself does not result in hearing from Jesus “Well done, good and faithful servant,” but results — instead — in hearing, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Do you have faith in Jesus or is your faith in yourself?

Additionally, the old adage is true when it comes to faith — seeing is believing. Many times the greatest increases in our faith come from seeing the truths of the Bible come to life. When our eyes see the reality that’s on the pages of this book — our hearts leap with hope and joy because we see that what God’s Word says is true.

And — when it comes to our letter — First John — the seeing we should be striving for together isn’t like Thomas saying “I won’t believe unless I can put my hand in his side.” What we should be longing for, praying for, striving for, and working together towards seeing is God’s love manifesting itself in and through us as a congregation as we grow deeper in our love for one another. 

In a different research poll — conducted by the Barna Group — an open-ended question was asked of Americans: What do you believe are the top contributions of Christianity in the U.S.? (https://www.barna.com/research/americans-say-serving-the-needy-is-christianitys-biggest-contribution-to-society/)

The number one response — mentioned by twenty-five percent of the people asked — was “I can’t think of one positive contribution made by Christianity in recent years.” Ow! Twenty-five percent of those polled couldn’t think of one positive contribution that Christians have made in our country in recent years — compare that to twenty percent of the people who did mention “violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ” as something Christians have contributed to our country.

Compare our reputation with words from our letter — which we’ll come to in a few weeks. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” - 1 John 3:15 (ESV) 

Yes — John means “don’t hate a Christian” in this verse — but there are plenty of other verses throughout the Bible about loving our enemies that should cause us to ask ourselves, “How did our reputation become one of hate when it should be one of love?”

This is why seeing is believing. When it comes to our love for one another — seeing is believing — because — in a church — a radical selfless love for one another is something that — unfortunately — isn’t being seen by our fellow Americans. And a great witness we can give to our community is our love for one another — because — seeing is believing for our community when it comes to our love for one another. 

And just as seeing is believing, so also hearing is believing. The Bible tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the proclamation — or declaration — of the gospel. I’ve already mentioned that — during our time in First John — my hope is that our love for the gospel will grow. That the Good News will be just that — Good News to our ears that reaches down into the depth of our souls. It’s not old news. It’s not bad news. It’s not “ho hum” news. It’s Good News. 

  • We’re talking death to life news — eternal death to eternal life news. 
  • Hopelessness to hopefulness news. 
  • Joyless to joyful. 
  • Division to peace. 
  • Enemy to friend. 
  • Rebellious to obedient. 
  • Sinner to saint. 
  • Unholy to holy. 
  • From not being part of God’s family to being adopted as a child of God.

This is Good News that we’re to proclaim so that many might hear and believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. John gave this letter to us who believe in Jesus so that we’ll have confidence in the truths and promises presented in God’s Word. They are reliable. They are refreshing. They quench our spiritual thirst and satisfy our spiritual hunger. 

God’s words are life giving words and when we hear God’s words — through the singing of songs, and prayers, and confessions, and the reading of Scripture, and through the preaching of God’s Word — we’re hearing eternal life giving words. And this should excite us. This should make Sunday mornings more exciting than Saturday mornings. This should make rolling out of bed easy because there’s an excitement brewing inside of you about what you’re going to hear as we gather together as a church. Why? Because you’re about to hear God’s eternal life giving words that will refresh your soul and remind you of the promises that are yours because you believe in the Son of God. 

I thought about throwing in being just as excited about an hour long sermon as you get about a three hour college football game, but I don’t want to push the analogy. But you should be! We’re hearing from God!


Finally, John tells us that he’s written these things so “that you may know that you have eternal life.” - 1 John 5:13c (ESV)  

Have you ever asked what kind of life is eternal life? If John’s whole point is to make sure that we know that we have eternal life — we should probably know what he means by eternal life, right? Because — my guess is — if this eternal life is important enough for John to write an entire gospel about — and then this letter, two other short letters, and then the book of Revelation — then it’s a pretty big deal to him. 

So what is this eternal life that John’s talking about? First, eternal life doesn’t mean this broken life going on forever. Did you know that? When the Bible speaks of eternal life — we’re not to think, “Great, this broken, messed up, imperfect life going on forever and ever and ever.” 

  • No, when the Bible speaks of eternal life — and particularly — when our author John speaks of eternal life — we’re to think of life at its very best — including a perfect relationship with God that’s unhindered by our sin — because sin will be no more.
  • Life at its best including perfect relationships with one another because the boundary lines of selfishness, hostility, division, gossip, lying, guilt, and shame have been replaced with selflessness, peace, unity, encouragement, truthfulness, glory, and holiness.
  • Life at its best including the death of death and no fear of death. No death looming in front of us at some unknown date. No ending to our life — but instead the life we all hope for: a life without death, without sorrow, without grief, without pain.

The emphasis on eternal life isn’t that it goes on for eternity, but on the quality of life that will go on for eternity. And John wants his readers — including us — to believe, know, and trust that this eternal life — a life of infinitely better quality — is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the life before us. This is our hope. This is the reason why we wake up and die to ourselves and live to love others. This is the reason why you and I are still breathing.

But this eternal life isn’t just a “some day in the future” life — eternal life can be experienced in the present. You see, the way our love for one another most fully testifies about the goodness and graciousness of our God is by us presently living in our eternal life. Because faith in Jesus Christ means your eternal life has already begun. 

  • Meaning you can die to sin and live for righteousness — that’s eternal life living. 
  • Meaning you can choose this day whom you will serve — as Joshua told the Israelites. 
  • Will you choose to live from this broken, temporary, decaying life or will you choose to live from the perfect, glorified, eternal life that God’s so graciously given to you because you believe in his Son?

Our love for one another, our sacrificing for one another, our counting one another as more important than ourselves, our serving one another, our care for one another, our praying for one another, our friendships with one another, our forgiving of one another — this list could go on and on — but all of these one anothers are evidence that we’ve believed the gospel, that we’ve received the grace of God, that we’ve been born again, that we’ve been raised from spiritual death and have been given spiritual life, that we’re not our own but belong to God, and that as children of God — we live a life of obedience because we’re thankful for what we’ve been given — eternal life.

How is your living proving or disproving what you say you believe about Jesus? 

Finally, John tells us that we can know that we have eternal life. There’s a certainty that each of us can have when it comes to eternal life. This isn’t a blind, arrogant assumption. This is a hope-filled confidence because of Who is the source of our knowing. And Who is the source of a Christian’s knowing that they have eternal life? Jesus. 

Some believe that John wrote this letter because there was a rise of mystics in the church. They believed that a person could only know if they were saved through a mystical type experience. And this left many having doubts about their faith — it caused them to wonder if they were really saved since they’d never had this experience. And this happens in the church today. Why? 

Because faith in Jesus is simple and — yet — we Christians have a way of making things overly complex. But if we can just remember — or better yet — if we would just trust that it’s simple faith that’s rewarded eternal life. Faith like a child — Jesus said — is what pleases God. Yes, you need to grow in your understanding of who God is and what he’s done, and in your Bible knowledge — but for many of us — we’re desperate to be loved and encouraged. We can be so hard on ourselves that we eventually turn Jesus into a spiritual tyrant who we can never please. Faith like a child pleases God. Faith like a child leads to eternal life which leads to obedience and a deepening in understanding God’s love for you. 

So let me encourage you — if you believe in Jesus Christ — you have eternal life. And John tells us that we can know that we have eternal life. If you believe in Jesus — remember this promise during the week. Hold fast to this promise. Live out of this promise. Work from this promise. Hope from it. Love from it. Serve from it. Rejoice from it. Worship from it. And when doubt creeps in — crush it by the power of this promise that is yours: You have eternal life.

And — if you’re realizing that you’re not sure if you have eternal life — after we sing — you’ll be invited to come forward for prayer. Don’t leave here today assuming that you have eternal life — leave here today knowing that you have it. Let’s pray.


Heavenly Father, thank you for life — for eternal life. Life infinitely better than this life — so much better that we can’t imagine how good it will be — how perfect — how hope-filled — how joyful because we will be in your presence. 

Holy Spirit, help each of us to remember the gospel and to live from it this week. To love others because we’ve first been loved. To serve others because we’ve first been served. To sacrifice for others because we’ve first been sacrificed for. And to give hope to others because we’ve first been given hope.

Jesus, use your glorious gospel to crush all doubts we have about eternity, about you, about ourselves. For those who believe in you — Jesus — you’ve guaranteed them eternal life. May your words ring more true and more beautiful and more trustworthy than our doubts. 

And Jesus, use your glorious gospel to crush all assumptions we may have about eternity. Convict any person listening who’s simply assuming that they have eternal life. Open their eyes to see their reality clearly so they turn from their assumptions and turn to the eternal life that’s only possible through faith in you. In your name we pray. Amen.


May you go — neither doubting nor assuming — but knowing that you have eternal life. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.