************ Sermon on 1 John 5:14-15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 7, 2020

1 John 5:14-15
"We Know (2)"

"Nothing is certain but death and taxes." That's what Ben Franklin said. I quoted Franklin the last time we looked at 1 John. "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." I said Twain is wrong. I told the girls and boys that we are certain 2 + 2 = 4 and that milk comes from cows.

A couple of you kidded me that milk also comes from goats, camels, and other creatures. So, we aren't certain that milk comes from cows. Someone else sent me a lengthy text about Vector Math. What does 2 + 2 equal in Vector Math? Anywhere from 2.83 to 4. So, it is not certain that 2 + 2 = 4.

We live in uncertain times in an uncertain world. We aren't certain that milk comes from cows. We aren't certain that 2 + 2 = 4. So is Twain right? Absolutely not! Christians have certainty. Christians are certain about so much.

I A Certain Promise
A John wrote his gospel, the three letters, and Revelation to make us certain about Christ, sin, salvation, eternal life, and all the promises of God. That's why, as I told you last time, John uses the word "know" 33 times in 26 verses; at the end of chapter 5, John uses the word 6 times as he tells us the Christian's certainties. Christians aren't uncertain. Christians aren't unsure. Christians know. We are sure.

We know. Why? Why do we know? Because the Christian faith is based on absolute truths as we find them in the Bible. The Greek word for "know" in our text means absolute knowledge. It is not something learned by experience or observation. It is not something learned by science or philosophy. It is not something learned from nature or astronomy. It is not based on what we feel or think. It is not based on dreams, revelations, or voices in the night. Rather we know because it has come to us by divine revelation -- from the Bible, from the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is God's truth. This truth is authoritative and inspired and inerrant.

We know. It is the world that doesn't know. The world thinks it knows. Scientists and evolutionists think they know. Same with philosophers. But if you are outside of the Word of God, you can't really be certain of anything.

B As I said, John ends his letters with various certainties. Glorious certainties. So, what do we know? Last time we looked at how Christians know they have eternal life. Look at verse 13:
(1 Jn 5:13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Did you hear that? We know we have eternal life. Do you know why we know? We know we have eternal life because the Bible tells us so. "I write these things to you ... so that you may know ..."

C What else do we know? Our Bible reading tells us a second thing we can be sure and certain about: namely, God hears and answers our prayers.
(1 Jn 5:14-15) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (15) And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him.

Tie this certainty with the first certainty: that we know we have eternal life. We are waiting, aren't we, we are waiting for eternal life in all its glory. We already have eternal life in this life and on this earth. But it is not yet fully ours. Not by a long shot. Because this life so often is a vale of tears. We have troubles, struggles, problems, concerns, worries, temptations, persecution. So what are we to do as we await the fullness of eternal life amidst life's troubles and trials? We are to pray. And, as we pray we are certain that God hears and answers. "He hears us," says John. About this, we are sure.
(1 Jn 5:15) And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.
God obligates Himself to hear and answer us.

II A Confident Promise
A John uses the word "confidence." "This is the confidence we have in approaching God ..." John is talking about prayer. We have confidence in prayer. Confidence at being in God's very presence -- because that is what we do in prayer -- we go into the very presence of eternal God.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God ..." This is now the fourth time John uses the word "confidence" (cf 1 Jn 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; 5:14). It means "boldness." Not cocky. Not over-confident. But bold and confident. John has told us that Christians are confident about the life to come, about the second coming, about Judgment Day (1 Jn 2:28; 4:17). Today, we are told we have confidence in prayer (cf 1 Jn 3:21).

B What does it mean to be confident in prayer? We can look at this from man's side and we can look at this from God's side. From man's side confidence means you have the freedom to tell God exactly what is on your mind. We have freedom of speech when it comes to prayer. We have the freedom to go before God with any issue and boldly ask. We hold nothing back. We are free to ask God for anything, to say anything that's on our heart. We speak to Him as a loving child to a loving father. Do you see how we pray? With confidence. With boldness.

The unrepentant sinner doesn't do this. The unrepentant sinner wants to do anything but speak freely to God. But the Christian goes to God with confidence. The Christian knows God as Abba, as Father. We rush into His presence. We confidently ask for anything and everything.

From God's side confidence means God hears and answers. God hears us. Hearing is answering for God. So God does not just listen, God does not just know the request. It is a hearing that is going to answer.

C Put the two sides together. We have confidence to ask God anything. We have confidence that God hears and answers. What an astounding, wonderful, amazing confidence. No limits, no boundaries. Prayer is a blank check that has been signed and certified by God Himself. God obligates Himself to hear and answer us. We are confident we have access to all of God's resources through prayer.

Now, remember, we are told to "pray continually" (1 Thess 5:17). Which means, dear people, which means our prayers are always heard and answered continually. Wow. Awesome. Wonderful.

III A Qualified Promise
A We know and are certain God hears and answers prayer. We are confident about this promise. But now a question: Is God required to hear and answer every prayer? A friend of mine was filling out a psychological evaluation to be a police officer. He was asked what he wished for. He wrote, "I wish for a lot of money." For himself. For his own needs and security. Does God have to hear and answer this kind of prayer?

Did you notice the qualifier John writes when it comes to our prayers? We have a blank check with God but it can't be used for any old thing we want. Here is the qualifier: "that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 Jn 5:14). Do you hear that? We need to ask "according to his will." To see what this means let's look at Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as the third petition of the Lord's Prayer.

First, Jesus' prayer: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk 22:42). God's will meant the betrayal, the mock trial, the spitting, the beating, the crown of thorns, the whipping, the cross. God's will meant the three hours of darkness. God's will meant being forsaken by God. God's will meant unspeakable anguish, pain, suffering, and terror of soul. If Jesus had His way, none of this would have happened. But He prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Second, the third petition of the Lord's Prayer. What are we asking for when we pray according to God's will? We aren't asking what is our will, our wants, our desires. It isn't what we want that is most important. It is what God wants that is most important.

To pray according to God's will means we ask for what advances the work of the church and kingdom. To pray according to God's will means we ask for what brings honor and glory to God and His name. The Christian wants to pray this way; he or she wants to pray according to God's will. We want God's will to be front and center and our own wills in second place.

B To better understand this we need to go back, for a moment, to what John said earlier:
(1 Jn 3:21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
John is talking about the same subject: confidence in prayer. We have confidence in prayer if our hearts are right, if our conscience is clear, when things are well with our soul, when our sins -- by grace -- have been paid for in Christ. Then we are more than able to pray God's will.

Or, let me go to the very next verse. There we find another explanation:
(1 Jn 3:22-23) and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
Realize that believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is not on the same level as obeying His commands and loving one another. It starts with believing in Jesus and what follows from this is obedience and love. Now, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you keep His commands, if you love the brothers, then your heart's desire is to pray God's will.

C There are people all over Visalia and California and the USA who pray to God. In fact, there are people all over the world who pray to God. Most of them pray to God only during a crisis, when they or their loved ones are in trouble. I am talking about unbelievers. They don't have faith, they don't love Christ, they don't keep His commandments, they don't abide in Christ, their heart is not right, they don't remain in His Word. Do the words of our text apply to them? Does God assure them that He listens to and answers their prayers? According to His promises, is God obligated to hear and answer their prayers? No. Let me say it again: NO!

God is under no obligation to answer the prayer of an unbeliever. God may choose to hear and answer but He is not obligated to, He does not promise to do this. God is not obligated to answer an unbeliever as He has obligated Himself to listen to true Christian believers.

Isn't this sad? All those people in false religions, all those people without true faith, they can cry and scream and pray -- like the worshipers of Baal during the days of Elijah -- but God does NOT have to answer them. All those prayers go up. All those prayers about family, health, jobs, children, cancer, disease go up with no assurance they are heard. All those prayers at graduations, political conventions, meetings of city council, world day of prayer go up; but there is no assurance God hears and answers. That's why calling unbelievers to pray doesn't make any kind of sense. But Christians, they know, they are sure, they have confidence when they pray because God promises to hear and answer.

"Nothing is certain but death and taxes." No, Ben Franklin, you are wrong. Eternal life is certain. Answered prayer is certain. If, if, you are a Christian.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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