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Optimized for Growth
1 John 2:3-11

Optimized for Spiritual Growth

– Spiritual Foundations of Growth –

Paul J. Bucknell

A.)   The Profession Based on Confession (1 John 2:4-5) 

Optimized for Growth (1 John 2:3)
A. The Profession Based on Confession (1 John 2:4-5)
B. The Profession Based on Relationship (1 John 2:6-8)
C. The Profession Based on Spirituality (1 John 2:9-11) 
Study Questions on 1 John 2:3-11

This is part '2/4' to a study entitled 'Optimized for Growth' on 1 John 2:3-11.

I know Him (Problem: evangelicals)

Confidence: Profession of relationship with God but nothing to back it up. “I’m saved.”
Fault: They are willing to ignore to believe how they live has no essential connection to how they live.
Danger: They think they are saved when they are not. Others around them are disillusioned with ‘Christianity.’
Affirmation: Obedience to Him should produce a strong confidence of our salvation.

"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." 1 John 2:4-5

We must realize that there are many people who profess to have a relationship with God but do not know Him. This is very much like verse 1:6. We have their profession and yet do not see their walk match with their talk.

Some may have heard of this as ‘easy believism.’  Many Christians think repentance is not necessary to become a Christian. Many are convinced that Jesus can be Savior but not necessarily their personal Lord.  In other words, they can get salvation but not sanctification.

Easy evangelism comes from an age where the incomplete gospel has been proclaimed. It is not necessarily what the evangelist has been saying but what they are believing or not believing. Even if we assume that a great evangelist like Billy Graham is speaking everything right, only a tiny fraction of those individuals that came forward to as he says, ‘make a decision’ for Christ actually remain going steadily to a church. I praise God for the many that were saved through the many evangelists scattered about but something is wrong.

Let me pause here and comment on assurance of faith. John is actually trying to build up our assurance of genuine faith. He does this through showing that many should not have assurance of their salvation because of their blatant disobedience. The evangelical church has perpetuated a problem of professors but not doers by a simple and innocent sounding matter. We assure people of their salvation based on what a person says rather than on what they do.

After a crusade, the counselors are instructed to tell the people following Christ to sign on the dotted line or hold one’s hand up during a crusade is the same thing as believing. If they have repented, then it is fine. But who can know the heart? In other words we can make an emotional decision to follow the Lord but not one from our will. Our will combines our heart, intellect and emotions. If we through emotional effects – sound, sight, crowds, testimonies can affect people one night, it does not mean they really have come to know the Lord. I have met individuals who the day or two after such an event are totally untouched. They are living as always. 

And even worse, the counselors after some evangelistic event meet with these individuals and are told to persuade them that they are Christians. I have been thus trained. I know. They are told never to allow anyone to question their eternal security. If they doubt it, then they are to go back to when they believed and gave their lives to Christ. This is good enough if they really believe, but this method has a lot of not genuine believers but professors confident that they are saved because of that emotional response that night despite an unchanged heart.

Confidence in our confession or decision

If this is biblical then why is it that John here is causing us to question the genuineness of our salvation dependent upon our walk?  Success-oriented American evangelism is satisfied with a signature or simple profession. They are focused on statistics. God is concerned with the people and their needs. Out from  this unbiblical approach has emerged a terrify beast composed of a mass of professing Christians that all is well with their salvation even though they have no sincere interest in the things of the Lord. Their confidence is not in the love for God but in their profession that they know God.

I recently read of one heart wrenching story. A person got to witnessing to a hotel manager at a Christian leadership meeting where the meeting was taking place. The manager was very interested and almost come to the Lord. But at the end of the meetings he became very distanced from this person who had cultivated a friendship. After trying to find out what was wrong, the hotel manager finally told him what he just discovered. A large percentage of these Christian leaders in the hotel were watching pornography during the Christian leadership conference. If we can’t live it, then we don’t believe it.

We can gauge our beliefs by seeing whether we really our lives conform to His commandments.  John says that if we do not keep His commandments, the truth is not in us. But if we keep His commandments, then we can be sure we know Him. Let’s ask three commonly asked questions.

  • Firstly, why are we tested against keeping commandments?  His commandments are a projection of God Himself.  His Word is an extension of His character.  Even as the universe displays the awesome glory and power of God, His Word displays the moral side of God. If we profess to know Him, then we must live our lives around His priorities.  What He says is important becomes our instant priority.
  • Secondly, is it proper to judge whether another person is a believer? They assert judging others is wrong. In fact, no person should judge another. But this means that we are not to guess at the person’s motives. They will be exposed on the Last Day before the Heavenly Court. But in fact we are to judge a person’s character. We do it all the time. Would you have your car worked on by a mean that has ripped you off before? Of course not. It is foolish not to discern a person from his life. It is wrong to judge a person by his looks, sex, nation of origin, skin color, name etc. God prides Himself that He saves people from all around the world.

    If a person lies, it shows no matter what the situation that he has valued something more than obedience to God. This passage clearly tells us that we should evaluate our lives. Would you want me here teaching if I did not live out what I was teaching? I hope not. A person’s actions are a reflection of their beliefs. If our faith isn’t changed by meeting God, then the faith is in vain. Ephesians 5:5 clearly says,

    “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

    The world operates by flexible standards in order to accommodate sin, but God’s fixed standards are dictated by the unchanging character of God.  It is not the one who knows he is a Christian and lives like Christ who is presumptuous. The presumptuous one is he who professes to be a Christian and does not live like Christ

  • Thirdly one might ask, “I thought people are not saved by works?”  The question is good and bad. It is good to remind us that we are not saved by keeping His commandments. In just a few verses before this we see that John said we are not perfect. In fact, it is through our confession of weakness and failure that we actually come to know Jesus. We need a savior because we have not kept His commandments. But as a result of our Christian lives, we should see a great desire to keep His commandments [entolav] and keep His Word [logov} (5).  This is the result of growth.

But many evangelicals conclude that because one is saved apart from good works, then good works need not be part our lives for salvation. But if they are thinking this way, then it shows they really don’t love the Lord anyway. They are looking for a way to get to escape the penalty of sin but not the life of sin.  A person who consistently does not live by God’s Word should not have any confidence that they are a genuine Christian. Nor should they be teachers in the church of God.

The sign of growth is obedience. The whole purpose for the love of God is found in helping a person obey God’s commands. “But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” Let the love of God be perfected in your life. If He has so wonderfully won your heart to Him, then show it in your life. Legalism characterizes people who live by the law for law sake. A Christian keeps God’s Word because he loves Him. When we become a Christian, we should see a change in our desire to keep God’s Word. As we grow more, we should keep even more of His Word.

Application     Are you willing along with me and the apostle John, to challenge the easy-believism of this day?  Saying you ‘are saved’ does not make you a Christian.  We must challenge false evangelism which  penetrates peoples’ feelings but purposely excludes a challenge to their wills and lifestyles.  The best thing for any person at any point in their lives is to live their lives according to His commandments. Is your life conforming to Christ’s Words?

Next=> B. Profession of Tradition (1 John 2:6-8)

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Next=> A. Profession of Confession (1 John 2:4-5)


Optimized for Growth 1 John 2:3-11

Introduction to 1 John 2:3-11
Premise (1 John 2:3)
A. The Profession Based on Confession (1 John 2:4-5)
B. The Profession Based on Relationship (1 John 2:6-8)
C. The Profession Based on Spirituality (1 John 2:9-11) 
Study Questions on 1 John 2:3-11

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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