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What Follows Assurance?

March 31, 2013 Pastor: Don Green Series: 1 John

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: 1 John 5:14-15


Well, good morning once again. As I was singing along with the rest of you those hymns, I couldn't help but remember the words that Martyn Lloyd Jones said about the importance of Christians gathering together to worship together and one of the aspects of that is that people come together and sometimes individuals come in struggling with doubt, discouraged, wondering if it's all worth it all, sometimes wondering is this all really true or not, and then they gather together in a collection of believers together and they look around and they see each other and they say, "Well, while I might have my doubts, I see that he believes this is true and she believes this is true," and there is a collective strengthening of faith that happens when believers gather together in the body of Christ. And I'm just so grateful that all of you have come out on Sunday morning and that we can share in that mutual encouragement and mutual strengthening that happens when the body of Christ gathers together. And as the days go on and as we continue to see the decline and hostility toward Christianity becoming more and more open and the effects of our original religious heritage, whatever you want to call that, increasingly receding into the background, our gathering together is going to become ever more important; as we gather together as you see that I believe and I see that you believe, our mutual faith strengthens one another. And so, thank you for being here to participate in that collective act of worship and thank you for being here as we open the word of God together.

We're in the book of 1 John and I invite you to turn to 1 John 5 here this morning. 1 John 5:14-15 and this is going to be the text that prepares our heart for communion here this morning and it's a text that, while it doesn't directly deal with the resurrection per se, it shows what the outworking of resurrection truth should be in the life of a true believer. It shows the outworking of the spiritual results of true conversion.

Now, last time and I'm just so delighted to be able to share these things with you, last time we looked at verse 13 and, oh, is this ever, ever important. Look at chapter 5, verse 13. This will lead us into our text for this morning. It's a well-known passage. You've probably memorized it in your younger days as a Christian, a passage that speaks to the reality of the assurance of salvation that belongs to those who truly believe in Christ and in verse 13, John says, "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." The Apostle John wrote with the express intention of giving true believers assurance and confidence that they truly belong to the Lord; assurance and confidence that their salvation was real. So as we gather together, we are affirmed in the reality of our salvation as we look out on other believers and we see that we share a like precious faith, John says, "I have written these things to you so that there might be an additional means that you know that your salvation is real, that the totality of this book would strengthen you in the principle of the assurance of your salvation."

It's a blessed truth and if you're here today as a Christian, oh, what a day to be here together as we remember the resurrection of our Lord. Soon we will remember his perfect sacrifice in communion on our behalf and we stand, as Rhoda sung earlier, we stand forgiven at the feet of the cross. This is a glorious day to be a Christian anywhere in the world, it's an especially glorious day for us together at Truth Community Fellowship to be together, to be assured of these things and to have confidence that our salvation is real, that the price of sin has fully been paid, and we stand reconciled to a God who was once our judge and enemy and now is our Savior and friend. What a gracious, lovely, perfect gift God has given to us in his gift of salvation.

Now, here's where we're going in verses 14 and 15. The question is this: now that we have this assurance, so to speak, in light of this assurance that belongs to us that John has given to us in verse 13, what comes next? You see, I've been waiting to say this all week and so I'm just delighted that this moment is finally here and I can get this burden off of my heart, this delightful burden to be able to say what I'm just about to say here. There is no question that some people have a totally warped view of assurance that is contrary to what true assurance is supposed to do because you're taught, at least you have been taught in the past, some of you, that you pray this prayer of salvation, you are pronounced eternally secure and you kind of clap your hands and say, "Now that's settled, now I can get on with the rest of my life. Eternity is secure, now I can get on with living the way that I want to live." Well listen, that is so totally distorted, that is such a wrong view of assurance and we have before us the divine inspired corrective to that. You see, assurance is not meant to be given to you so that you can forget about spiritual things and get on with your earthly life, assurance is given to you so that you can now, having confidence in the reality of your salvation, begin to seriously grow as a believer in Jesus Christ. It's not meant, assurance is not meant so that you can put the Bible and these other things aside knowing that when the day of judgment comes you'll be okay then and in between is this parenthesis of you pursuing your earthly desires and earthly whatever you want to pursue in life. No, no, assurance is given to you so that you can really get serious about growing in Christ and becoming all the Christian that God intends you to be. Assurance is the foundation of a growing healthy walk in Christ. You don't find assurance and then leave it behind and go on to something else as if there was something more important than living for Christ in this life. No, no, assurance is there to give you a deep seeded, deeply grounded foundation upon which you can live to the glory of Christ who saved you in whatever years he gives you here on this earth.

Look at verse 14. I'm going to read verses 14 and 15 as our text.

14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

Now, I very rarely do this but it's important to do it here. The connection between verses 14 and verse 13 is not as clear in your English Bible, at least in the New American Standard, as it could be and as it should be as you see in the Greek text if you took a look at the Greek text. In the Greek text, there is a little three letter word, three letters in English, three letters in Greek, that connect verse 13 to 14 that is not translated for you in verse 14 and it's the conjunction "and." It's the conjunction "and" that connects them and shows that verse 14 is not a thought independent of verse 13, it is jointly connected to it; it is what flows out of the assurance that John describes in verse 13 so it reads like this, "I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life and," do you see the connection? Do you see the difference that makes? "And this is the confidence which we have before Him."

So there is this huge connection that's easy to miss when you're just reading the English text is that this assurance leads into a confidence in the presence of God. That's the connection that the Apostle John intended us to see. You may know that you have eternal life, now that you have that confidence of eternal life and this is the confidence, this is where you go from here. Now it's like finding yourself on a map, you know, and this is where you are at right now and you find yourself. You say, "Where am I at spiritually? What is my spiritual life like?" Well, I understand that for some of you you're horribly confused and if you were honest with yourself you'd know that right now here at 9:35 in northern Kentucky that you're a miserably lost sinner and you have no idea of what the resurrection means or the death of Christ means for you and they are empty words to you. And when you find your point on that map, let this service, let this opening of the word, let the ordinance of communion speak to your heart. Ask God to open your heart and to open your eyes because it would be a horrible tragedy for you to continue on in this resurrection day tromping on toward this certain coming judgment that you're going to face, to continue on in that lost miserable condition. You see, the Lord Jesus Christ brought you who are like that here today, that there might be a collective testimony through the people of God, a testimony through his word, a testimony through song, a testimony through the ordinance of communion, that all of these things are real, that they are true and that you have been ignoring and turning your back on the only means of the salvation of your soul. Wouldn't that be a tragic way to spend the day of resurrection? If that's you, you need to find your place on the map and realize that it's time for you to turn to Christ. It's time to put the games aside. All of the false rationalizations that you try to come up with to avoid surrendering your life to Christ, it's time to put it away. It's time to come to Christ. It's time to believe in him. It's time for you to repent, to come out of your sinful life and your sinful refusal to bow the knee to Christ, to come out of all of that, to turn your back on everything that you have ever lived for and to give your life to this Lord Jesus Christ who died for sinners just like you and who rose again to secure their salvation. If that's your point on the map, there you go. Everything about this day for you was designed to bring you to that point of repentance and faith.

Now, for the rest of us, and for most of the rest of this message, I'm just going to be talking to the body of Christ here because the passage is speaking to believers, right? He says, verse 13, he says, "I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God," and so it's my privilege and prerogative really and responsibility, better stated as the speaker here this morning, to just to speak to those that the passage is speaking to. Those of you who believe in Christ, those of you who rejoice in Christ, who rejoice in the resurrection, who know that your sins are forgiven, this passage is specifically for you. This is for us to gather around to warm our hands at the fire of God's truth, as it were, and to see how we are to live in light of this assurance. Where do we go from here? You see, I want you to understand that assurance is a means to another end, it's not an end in itself. Oh, of course it's wonderful to be assured of our salvation. It's the song in our hearts. It's the joy on our lips. You could have reversed that and said it's the song on our lips and the joy in our hearts and it would have been the exact same thing. But anyway, listen, what I want you to see is that assurance, if you have that assurance of salvation, that now it's time to step on the accelerator, as it were, of spiritual growth, and to realize that there are things that flow from assurance that make and form the very future of the rest of your spiritual life.

We're going to look at two things here this morning. We're going to see two points out of this passage. John is telling us that now that we have an assurance of salvation, the supreme over-arching motivation of the rest of your life is to seek the will of the God who saved you and to live out life in the midst of that will; that that becomes what you seek. You see, it's not assurance and then, "Oh, now that I don't have to worry about eternity, let me go and do what I want." No. Oh no, what a travesty that would be. No, no, the idea is this: now that I have assurance of my salvation, now that I'm confident, now that I understand the propitiatory work of Christ on the cross and I see the evidence of true salvation in my life and I know that these things are true and they are true in my own heart, now in a loving, gracious response to the God who gave that salvation to you, you devote every ounce of your energy to pursuing his will for your life as being the only appropriate way to respond to the Christ who gave his life for the salvation of your soul.

So we're going to see two things. First of all, and John frames this around the theme of prayer here in verses 14 and 15, but underlying it all is this yieldedness, this consciousness of the divine will of God on your life and to pursue that with the innermost sanctuary of your being. So we're going to see two things here this morning: first of all, in the context of prayer and in the context of assurance, we're going to see, first of all, the nature of our requests. The nature of our requests. That's the first point for this morning. How is it's another way to think about it; this just occurred to me and I want to say it. That false view of assurance, that false result of assurance that I was talking about, "let me go out and pursue life in the way that I want to because after all, I'm not going to hell so let me do what I want now," a totally horizontal man-centered approach, man-centered response to assurance. Well, think about it, think about it with me, if these things are true of which we speak, if salvation is true in your own heart, then the proper response to that gracious gift that God gave to you is vertical. It's not about sorting out how you want to live the rest of your life according to your own desires, there is a supreme affection that flows up out of your heart that says, "I must seek this God who delivered me from my sin." That's all that matters. He is the object of my affections. "He did this for me?" you say, "then I must seek him. I must respond to him. I must love him." And that desire is the nature of our requests as we look.

Look at verse 14 with me again. What is the nature, how do we live in response to assurance? What does this confidence give itself over to? What is the next level of Christian growth now that you have assurance? Verse 14, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything," watch this phrase here, do you see it there? "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." We're confident Christians now in light of what we've read. We have assurance and now we're going to God and we're praying and what is the center point, what is the reference point for our prayerful response to the God of our salvation? John says the reference point is his will: that we pray now, we seek him according to his will, we pray yielded to him and asking his will to be done in our lives, not our own. That's what he's saying. That is the nature of prayer. That is the nature of the response that we make to this God who has done this magnificent work of salvation on our behalf.

God hears our prayers that are according to his will. You see that, right? "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." You know, we're all guilty of a selfish approach to prayer one time or another. I know I am. You have circumstances that you don't like and you want God to change them, "God, change my circumstances." You have people in your life that you don't like, "God, change So-and-so." And we try to leverage prayer so that our circumstances are more pleasing and favorable to our own desires. We've all prayed that way and sometimes we're taught to take that selfish, self-centered approach to prayer. "God, smooth out my circumstances. Give me a level path in front of me. Let it be easy for me. I don't like this difficulty. Take the difficulty away." Well, what I want you to see in the nature of this passage is that when you pray as an assured Christian, as a confident Christian, when you come to God in prayer, you should pray, watch this, mark this down, if you're not going to write anything else in your notes but the other two points, write this down, is that you should pray according to the priorities of God that he has revealed in Scripture. This is where it's in the Scripture that we find the will of God revealed, not in our imaginations, not in our own desires, it's the Scripture where God has declared what his will is. Stated differently, as a Christian enjoying the assurance of your salvation, your prayer life now becomes your opportunity, watch this, oh, does this change everything, prayer becomes your opportunity to surrender your will to the will of God. That's what assured Christians do. That is how they pray. That is the focal point of their heart. You understand that salvation wasn't given to you so that you could pursue your own thing and do your own thing in the life that God has given to you. God has saved you so that you would be an instrument of the accomplishment of his will here on earth. That's the point.

Write down this verse. I'll just quote it because you know it. There is no need for us to turn there. Matthew 6:33. Jesus taught us this, he said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." You see, you're so overwhelmed by the grace of God in redeeming you from your sin that you say, "I'm set apart to serve him." One of the fundamental aspects of being a Christian is that we are sanctified in the sense that we are set apart for the service of God. God saved you, plucked you out of the domain of the devil and set you apart so that as a Christian you would be an instrument in the fulfillment of his will. He saved you to own you. He saved you so that you could serve him unhindered by doubts about your salvation, unhindered by uncertainty about what your spiritual future holds. No, because you've been delivered unto an assurance of salvation, a confidence that eternity will be blessing for you, that frees your mind and it frees your shoulders from carrying other burdens except for the burden, "God, I just want to be an instrument in the fulfillment of your will. I'm going to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness in response to this gift of salvation that you have given to me."

Think about it this way, think about what our Lord Jesus did in his own prayer life when he taught us to pray in Matthew 6. He taught us to pray this, the third element of the Lord's prayer, "Your kingdom come, your will be done"; as in heaven, so also upon earth. When he taught us to pray, he taught us to pray according to the will of God, that prayer would be a seeking, an asking for God to do his will, a submission to his will. In Gethsemane when Jesus was facing the harsh reality of the cross just a few hours away, you remember how he prayed, right? "Father, remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will," Mark 14:36. You see, the obviously appropriate response to one who has saved you is to give your life to him. John says here in verse 14 that what flows out of our assurance is that we ask, we pray according to the will of God. Jesus taught us to pray, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and by his own example, he illustrates for us in the severe crisis of the looming cross, Christ prayed, "Father, remove this cup from me if it's possible but not what I will but what your will be done. I want your will more than my own." You see, that's where assurance leads us. That is where the blessedness of the Christian life is, where you stop seeking your own thing, when you stop asking God to order things according to your preferences and instead you say, "God, I realize what Christ has done for me. I remember it here at communion. I see the bread and it reminds me of his body crucified for my sins. I remember his blood poured out for my remission. I remember it all. Lord, in response to that, the only right way, the only right disposition of my mind is for me to respond to that, that you did for me to now say, you just do with me whatever you wish." That's the only right way to respond to such a great sacrifice and that is where true assurance leads you.

Now look, I don't want to tell you and I'm not saying that it's wrong for you to pray for God to change your circumstances if you find yourself in difficulty. It's not wrong to ask him to help you with a particular problem. That's not the point here at all. There is a place for that prayerful dependence in the midst of our earthly circumstances but, beloved, what I want you to see is, what I want you to fundamentally grasp is because it will totally alter the trajectory of the rest of your Christian life, is that that approach to prayer is subordinate to the greater reality of simply offering yourself to God as a living sacrifice to be used and spent according to his will. That is what it means to be a Christian. "I have been saved, I am confident in my salvation and now, Lord, I am set apart for you. I am an instrument of you fulfilling your will. You are not an instrument of me fulfilling my will." That changes everything, beloved. God doesn't exist to fulfill your wishes as a Christian, especially. He saved you so that you would be an instrument of the fulfillment of his will on earth.

That is the most noble life that anyone could have and let's think about it from a different perspective in terms of what we're talking about and just to use a phrase, that self-centered approach to praying and living. Look, let's be honest with each other. You do not even need to be a Christian to want some God to arrange life to your liking. You don't need to be a Christian to ask God to do what you want. People do that all the time. There's nothing spiritually significant about that. That for a lot of people, that's just a further expression of the selfishness that dominates their lives. No, no, that's not the heart of being a Christian at all and I have such certainty that most of you have higher aspirations for your spiritual life than that. No, your aspiration, you realize God has saved you and therefore you understand that it's the exact reverse. "God, do your will for me." You see, the main point in everything that we're saying here is that God did not give assurance to you so that you could become self-centered in your approach to life. God gave assurance to you so that you would realize that there is a different motivation that animates everything that you do. You view the totality of your life differently as a result. You say, "My life has been given to me not for the fulfillment of my ambitions, not so that I can find life, love and the pursuit of happiness for my own sake. No, no, I realize God saved me and gave me this life for his purposes." And that changes everything. It changes everything.

So when it comes to dealing with difficult circumstances, let's bring it down right to the nitty-gritty gnarlyness in which we all live and find our lives, let me encourage you in this direction. Look at verse 14 with me again. I want to keep the words of Scripture here in front of you. Chapter 5, verse 14, "And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." And so it starts in your heart that you've got assurance and along with that assurance is a commitment to seeking the will of God above all else and that assurance and that commitment and that aspiration after his will is what bubbles up out of your heart, it's the flowing fountain of the spiritual life of your heart and that fountain informs the kinds of requests that you make when you're praying to God. His will informs what you ask in the realm of your spiritual confidence. So for those of you that are facing issues that you don't like, issues and people and circumstances that are not to your choosing, not what you would have ordered at all, here's how this informs your prayer going forward in light of those things. This is all very practical. This is all about how you conduct yourself as a Christian in the most noble life that anyone could live on the face of this fallen sod. How do you pray in light of those things? Somewhere along these lines, "Instead of asking you to make me happy by rearranging my circumstances, O God, I ask for you to do your will in the midst of these circumstances and let my happiness come or go as it may because, God, it is more important that my purpose in life as an instrument, a vessel of your will to be accomplished, than it is for me to experience happiness in the temporary 70 years you give me on this earth." You say, "Father, it is more important for me to grow in holiness than to grow in happiness."

That's the spirit that assurance leads itself over to. You see, assurance isn't designed to make you selfish, assurance is designed to make you selfless. It's designed to give you a joyful spirit of gratitude toward the one who saved you and out of that joy and gratitude you say, "Lord, I belong to you. Just do with my life what you want and accomplish your will." And, beloved, I can tell you that when you pray that way, when that is the spirit that animates your heart, having your circumstances changed fades in importance. You realize, "It's more important for me to be holy here. It's more important for me to do what God would have me to do. It's more important for me to have a mindset that I'm his vessel rather than for me to get what I want." And you see, beloved, when that is the spirit of your life, when that is the spirit of your prayer, that is the mark of true spiritual growth, right?

So the financial issues, the physical issues that some of you are going through, the uncertainty about the future, you know, I was around Christians for a long time many, many years ago who would say stuff like this, who would say, "I don't know what to pray for. I don't know how I want this to come out and so I don't know how to pray for it." Well look, this liberates you from all of that for the most part. Nothing that we do is going to be remembered 100 years from now, right? And so we have to realize the temporary nature of life, the temporary nature of our pursuits here, and to realize that because they're temporary, because as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, you know, they are going to be forgotten by the generation that comes after us, to realize, "Oh, oh, it's just starting to dawn on me. Then this can't be, being a Christian and pursuing the will of God can't be about this temporary existence, this little parenthesis of 30 or 40 years of my existence as a Christian. It can't be about that. That would be ridiculous because it's all going to be forgotten by a generation that comes later." You say, "Oh, oh, these circumstances then have an unseen purpose. These circumstances have a greater value and the greater value, what gives them a eternal value is the fact that I am approaching them now as a child of God redeemed by Christ and therefore simply an instrument of his in the outworking of these years that he has given to me." It changes everything and you aspire after more noble things than your own happiness. You aspire after the fulfillment of the will of God for whatever reason he put you here on earth. That's what it means to be a Christian. That's the point of assurance is that now I am free to live this way. Sorrows, I don't like sorrow any more than you do but you see it all as an instrument in the hand of God and day by day, moment by moment, you're seeing yourself as an instrument of the fulfillment of his will.

Now, in light of all of that, if you still want to pray for change in circumstances, go for it. I'm not going to restrict how you pray in that sense but what I want you to see is this: you can test your desire in your pursuit of life, you can test your desires as you're praying for the change in those circumstances that are difficult and uncomfortable, test your desire by this, it's a simple test, it's a simple way to measure the condition of your heart when you say, "Father, here's what I would like to see but," here's what you add to that, "Father, not my will but yours be done." That is the test of a heart surrendered to God in the midst of difficult circumstances. "Not my will but yours be done. Father, I'm not seeking a particular result as much as I am that whatever the circumstances your will would be done. Father, more than anything I want to grow in holiness as you work out your providence in my life."

You see, and if you turn back to 2 Corinthians, you can see the spirit of this with another inspired example. We saw it in Jesus. 2 Corinthians 12. We saw it in Christ in Gethsemane, "Father, not my will but thine be done." You see, this changes everything. I hope you see that. I hope you see this, that it changes absolutely everything. This is totally transformational. Chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians, verse 7, you see the exact same principle at work, just different words being used to express it. Paul had seen divine revelations as he said in chapter 12, verse 1, speaking of himself in verse 2, he says, "I know a man in Christ whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, such a man was caught up to the third heaven." You see, Paul's experience with heaven was real, unlike some of the best-selling books of four-year-old kids going to heaven that are just an utter fiction and fabrication. Paul's experience was real and he had had these surpassing great revelations given to him but now he found himself in the midst of struggles, difficulties.

Verse 7, look at all of this as it comes together. He says, "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations," that were given to me, "for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me - to keep me from exalting myself!" Verse 8, "Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me." He's saying, "Lord, I want this to change. Lord, please change this. God, please change this." Three times he prayed showing that it's not wrong to pray for the circumstances but what do you do when they don't change? What's the lesson that you're supposed to be drawing out of this trial that you're seeing in your own life right now that you carried in, as it were, on your shoulders when you walked into this room? Well, verse 9, Paul says, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'" You see, your trials are not just meant to teach you to seek the will of God above all else, beloved, listen to me because this is absolutely true: your trials are meant to be a vehicle of God's grace in your life. What the trials are designed to teach you, to wean you off of earthly things and to see in verse 9 the sufficiency of divine grace, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."

Now, watch where Paul goes after that. "Most gladly, therefore," having this thorn in the flesh, having asked for its removal, having God say no, my grace is enough, Paul's whole demeanor about it changes when he says, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." You see, that's what assurance does for you. "I know that I belong to Christ, therefore, when these trials come, oh, I don't like this, but do you know what? They're a vehicle of grace." And you know this is true. Those of you that have been Christians for any length of time, you know that what I'm saying here is true. Haven't the times of your greatest trials ultimately proven to be the times when God most displayed his grace to you? Aren't the best and deepest longest lasting lessons of grace that are imprinted on your heart come from the most awful sorrows that you have known? Isn't that true? As a Christian, that's absolutely true. God displayed his grace, God transformed those from the sorrows that they were into vessels where you knew him better as a result. You treasured Christ more after that trial than you did beforehand. That's the nature of grace. That's where assurance leads us. "Not my will but yours be done." You see, assurance teaches our mind, it teaches our heart, it teaches our lips that the will of God is what matters; the grace of God is what matters. And assurance teaches us to trust him for that grace and to be content regardless of the outcome.

When you see these aspects of the Christian life that you are just plainly taught in God's word, I haven't said anything that you couldn't see for yourself from reading God's word, you realize the nobility of being a Christian and you realize something else: no matter how what we believe is characterized and falsely portrayed in the media by those who mock Christ, who mock us and all of that, forget about all of that mockery and realize the truth of the matter, realize the truth of the matter, beloved, that to be a Christian and to work through these things and to wrestle with these things and to struggle with these things even, is the most noble thing on earth. This is high and lofty, a high and lofty pursuit for the human soul to love its God that much, to respond with that kind of gratitude that says, "My circumstances are secondary to the fact that I want to please you." And that's not to your glory or mine. When we live that way, it shows forth, it shines forth the great exalted worth of Jesus Christ that we would prefer him to anything on earth. And when you live that way, when you seek that, when you are content in the midst of your trials, when you're trusting God for the grace of that, understand that even if no one else gets it, what you're doing is you are showing forth the great worth of your Savior and that is the most noble thing that the human soul could ever do is to be a reflection of the glory of Christ; to point people to the glory of Christ. "Father, not my will but thine be done." That's the nature of our requests. It's the nature of our life now in Christ. That's where assurance leads us.

Now, having seen that, having seen this from Scripture, seen it from the illustrations in Jesus and in Paul, how does God view it? How does God respond to that? Well, that brings us to our second point: the nature of his response. We had the nature of our requests, now we see the nature of his response, a divine revelation here because no one could tell us the mind of God but God himself and we see it in verse 15. When John says, let me say this, at the end of verse 14 when it says that he hears us, do you see that at the end of verse 14? "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." He's saying that God hears us favorably. God receives that life response to his word, that life response to his Son, he receives it favorably. When you respond to life like what we talked about just in the past 20 minutes or so, you have an absolute assurance that God is hearing your prayers and he views you with great divine pleasure. He takes great pleasure and satisfaction in seeing you fulfill the purpose for which he saved you. And while men mock us or ignore us or whatever they do, that fades into the insignificant dump bin of history where it belongs compared to the great surpassing value of realizing that the God who saved us views us favorably now as believers walking and seeking his will.

That's the nature of his response. The child that the Father saved is now seeking the Father's pleasure and when we pray this way, when we pray with this surrendered will, this surrendered attitude of life, of course the Father's answer to the desires of our heart is, "Yes." Of course it is. That's the whole purpose. God is pleased to answer the requests of children who are praying that way, that way being the operative phrase here. It's not anybody naming the name of Christ and then presenting all of their selfish demands and expecting God to answer them according to their desires and their requests. That's contrary to the whole spirit of the passage of "according to his will." No, this is a more narrow group that we're talking about here, it's the group that we each individually aspire after to contribute our part to those who love the will of God more than we love life itself. And the nature of his response, verse 15, "if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask," flowing out of that heart that's seeking his will, "we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."

Now, it's supremely important to understand what this verse is saying especially in the context of the whole book. Beloved, you've got to understand this and you can't lift out one sentence out of context and shape a whole approach to prayer out of it. This is not the guarantee that every prayer you make will be answered in the way that you specify. God does not subordinate, listen to me, God does not subordinate his sovereignty to your selfish or misguided temporal requests that are based on your limited perspective about what's best. You wouldn't even want him to if you were thinking rightly about it. You wouldn't want God to subordinate the totality of his good perfect sovereign will to what your impulse might be at the moment. You wouldn't even want that.

Also remember that earlier in this letter John had conditioned answered prayer on an obedient life. Look over at chapter 3, verse 21. Remember the context is always so important to informing the way that we understand a given verse in a given book because the Scripture writers were consistent with what they wrote and so we can interpret Scripture in light of Scripture to keep us from straying into error. Chapter 3, verse 21, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God." There is that confidence again. You see, the Christian life is meant to be one of confidence, not ongoing doubt and struggle about whether your salvation is real. God intends for you to know and to be confident about it.

"We have confidence before God," verse 22, "and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." Answered prayer is conditioned on obedience. It's conditioned on living a life that is pleasing to God. That is the life that God answers favorably, that God responds to. And, beloved, when your will, when your mind is informed by these things and when your will is surrendered to his, the very nature of the way that you pray changes; when it's informed by the book of 1 John, you would pray along these lines, "God, bless your word to my heart in the lives of your people. Help us to understand and apply it faithfully." God hears that prayer and says, "Yes, of course. That's my design too, my child. I delight in answering that and saying yes to that prayer and desire of your heart." "God, preserve the unity of your people. Help us to love and serve one another in love. God, help us to obey your word as children who revere their Father." "Yes, my child, you're praying exactly along the lines for which I sent Christ into the world. I'm pleased to bless that and answer that according to your words."

You see, you tie the way you pray into the goodness of the people of God and the display of Christ's glory not for your own selfish ends. You see, when we're praying according to his will, we're praying with God's perspective in mind not our earthly ease. One writer said it this way and I quote, "Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will on God or bending his will to ours but it is the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his. It is by prayer that we seek God's will, embrace it and align ourselves with it." And as we pray in that manner, God hears us. "God, I just want to be aligned to your will. I want to honor you with my life. I want to honor you in these difficult circumstances, in this difficult relationship. God, that's what I want more than anything. I want to see your will be done. I know you set me apart in salvation to be a servant of yours and, Lord, here is your servant." We've aligned ourselves with his purposes and when we ask in that alignment, we can know that we will see him work in response. The purpose of prayer is not to make God do what you want him to do, it's so that you can align yourself with him, express your trusting submission to him and then watch expectantly as he works out things in his time and in his way. That's the glory of being a Christian. Our whole reason to exist is changed by the reality of assurance.

As we remember communion, we see the sacrifice of Christ and it could be no other way, could it? We are transitioning now, preparing our hearts for communion here. Really, really think with me on this, it couldn't be any other way. Christ obeyed the Father and came and gave his life as we see it represented in these elements, the bread and the juice before us; the Son of God molded his earthly life after the will of the Father. Obviously then, those of us that have been saved by him would have the exact same approach to life. We won't be among those who think of Christ coming to the cross to save us and then twist that and take a right turn and make it about what we want out of life. No, no, we'll align ourselves with the purposes of God and as you do that, as you do that you find that actually what God wanted proved to be what your redeemed heart wanted all along to begin with. It's not that God does this so that we don't get what we want. What we find is that as we live the life that God appointed us to live with the heart spirit, the heart attitude that he calls us to, we find that what he wants is what we wanted anyway.

Think back on your life, Christian. Think back on those severe trials that are now in a little bit more distant past. Hurt, cried at the time bitter, hot tears, "Why, God?" And then in his great grace and faithfulness over time, brought you to a place where you see him completely differently, no longer an object of your resistance but an object of your praise. The whole of Christian life is like that. The whole of the Christian life is just like that where we follow God, we follow Christ, we continue in his word, we continue in prayer under the umbrella of his sovereignty, under the umbrella of his goodness, and while we sometimes don't understand and we really wrestle with it, "God, this is so hard!" but we continue on, confident that as we yield to him, we will see his blessing. Beloved, there is no one who has truly trusted Christ and found him to be unfaithful.

More in 1 John

July 26, 2016

Jesus Declares His Deity

April 18, 2014

The Plight of Man and the Power of God

April 14, 2013

Final Certainty