Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. Today’s passage in 1 John 5 (like much of 1 John) has to do with confidence. I don’t know how confident you feel as a Christian, but I remember spending much of my younger years worried about destination of my soul; where I was going. I remember I would pray the sinner’s prayer sometimes a dozen or more times a day. I knew about faith, but didn’t have assurance. And you can imagine how most of my prayers came from a posture of fear, rather than confidence. This is why this epistle has been (at least for me) so transformative. John writes…
1 John 5:13-15 (NIV)— 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. 14 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.
Ironside and the Seeker of Assurance— Once [An elderly man said to H.A. Ironside, "I will not go on unless I know I'm saved, or else know it's hopeless to seek to be sure of it. I want a definite witness, something I can't be mistaken about!" Ironside replied, "Suppose you had a vision of an angel who told you your sins were forgiven. Would that be enough to rest on?" "Yes, I think it would. An angel should be right." Ironside continued, "But suppose on your deathbed Satan came and said, 'I was that angel, transformed to deceive you.' What would you say?" The man was speechless. Ironside then told him that God has given us something more dependable than the voice of an angel. He has given His Son, who died for our sins, and He has testified in His own Word that if we trust Him all our sins are gone. Ironside read I John 5:13, "You may know that you have eternal life." Then he said, "Is that not enough to rest on? It is a letter from heaven expressly to you." God's Spirit used that to bring assurance to the man's heart. (H. A. Ironside.)]
Assurance for You— And those words of John can also be used by God to bring peace to your heart; peace concerning where you stand in relationship to the Savior. That is John’s chief aim in this epistle; to give you and me assurance of our salvation.
1 John 5:13 (NIV)— 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.
Theme of Assurance— Now once again this verse summarizes the theme of the entire book, which is to give the believer assurance of their salvation so that we might have confidence of where we stand with Christ. There are signs of transformation in the life of the believer that point us to the saving presence of Christ and His Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is there, making us like Christ, we know that we are in Christ because it is only through Christ that we can receive the Holy Spirit.
believing in the name of the Son of God— But how do we receive Christ to begin with? Verse 13 says that it involves us believing in the name of the Son of God. Now what does it mean to believe in somebody’s name? Keep in mind this is kingly terminology. If you come in the name of a king, you are a physical representation of them; you carry their authority; their power. So to believe in Jesus’ name is to believe in His authority and power as (what?…next phrase) the Son of God. And that is crucially important, because we believe that Jesus’ authoritative power to save and redeem comes from His being the Son of God; God in the flesh.
knowing that you have eternal life— If we have placed our faith and trust in Him, understanding who He is and what He has done for us, then we have come to the starting point of our salvation; we have entered the fold. And as we remain in the fold, we become more and more like our shepherd in our character and how we relate to our brothers and sisters and to the world. And so because of what Christ has done for us, in us, and is doing through us, we can have assurance that we are saved.
Assurance & Prayer-- But that assurance that we receive also can empower other aspects of our relationship with God as well, particularly prayer. And that is what John focuses on in our passage today. Look at verse 14…
1 John 5:13 (NIV)— 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Ishmael: God Hears-- I am reminded of the story of Hagar in the Bible, the woman Sarah gave to her husband Abraham as a wife in order to conceive and bear an heir. And sure enough she conceives. But she begins to despise Sarah and Sarah, unable to stand it, gets Abraham to surrender Hagar to her power and then Sarah mistreats her, forcing her to flee into the wilderness. Here was a woman in a desperate situation. She has lost all security; she has no home. And on top of that she’s pregnant and on her way back to her former home in Egypt. Yet God meets her by the well. He tells her to go back. And then He promises to bring many descendants from her and also makes a promise providing a future for her soon to be born son. And God commands her to name her son what? Ishmael. And what does Ishmael mean? God hears. God wanted her, every time she called her son’s name, to be reminded of the fact that He had heard her; and that He still hears her.
Even when things seem toughest for you and me, God wants us to always remember that He both sees and hears us. And because of that we can have confidence.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)-- 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
confidence in approaching God— Now this doesn’t mean marching into the throne-room of God with a long list of demands, but humbly knowing that our heavenly Father both knows our needs and is actually eager to meet them. So what do we have confidence in? We have confidence in the fact that God hears us; and John doesn’t mean that God simply knows what we need, but that word hear implies a response from God. God hears and answers our prayers.
The Two Oranges-- Once [While crossing the Atlantic on an oceanliner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain's request he spoke on "Answered Prayer." An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, "What did you think of Dr. Meyer's sermon?" He answered, "I didn't believe a word of it." That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear "what the babbler had to say." Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. "You seem to be enjoying that orange," he remarked with a smile. "Yes, sir," she replied, "My Father is very good to me." "Your father? Surely your father can't be still alive!" "Praise God," she replied, "He is very much alive." "What do you mean?" pressed the agnostic. She explained, "I'll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!" The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ. Yes, praying in God's will brings an answer. (Our Daily Bread.)] One of the most amazing things for us as Christians to witness is how God hears and answers prayer. And yet sometimes I think God is just waiting to move if we would just bend the knee and ask Him to.
if we ask in accordance with God’s will— Now one of the things about prayer that we have to remember is that although God’s love is unconditional, His response to our prayers is not, as John makes clear. What is the condition that John gives before God will answer our prayers? That we ask…according to his will…: if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (v.14)
a common misconception about praying God's will— Now the way that you and I approach this is we will ask Jesus for something and hope it’s His will. If we watch and it doesn’t happen, then we conclude it wasn’t His will; if it does happen, then it must have been His will. But in either case we do not know what is going to happen and what does happen is what supposedly reveals to us what the will of God was. But I would like to challenge you on this point, because I believe that interpretation is out of tune with what John has been saying in this passage. He has just said that we can have confidence. Confidence of what? Not confidence only that God will hear us, but confidence that (v. 15) we have what we asked of him. In other words, what John is saying is that we can have confidence ahead of time (going into prayer; approaching God) knowing what His answer is going to be. I don’t think you can interpret that verse any other way because of the tense John uses. He tells us to believe that we have what we asked of him; in other words, that we have already received it. Well, how can we do that if we are are unsure of how God is going to answer? That wouldn’t make sense. No, what John is saying here is that you can know (maybe not always, but often) how God is going to answer. Well, how is that? Well we need to go back to that phrase if we ask anything according to his will because it is then that He is said to hear us. What John is saying is you can know ahead of time what God’s answer is going to be if you pray in accordance with His will. Well how do we do that?
seeking the will of God— First, we must seek the will of God. And waiting till after you pray to see what happens is to late to see what the will of God is. That isn’t confidence, that’s guessing and hoping. No, we first seek God’s will in a situation and then we pray that that will might be accomplished. And my point is that before we ask, there ought to be a seeking period when you ask God to make His will known to you. And that involves listening as much as anything else. We ask God to reveal Himself; we seek Him in His word; we follow the guidance of His Holy Spirit; and God makes His will known to us or (if not specifically) He will at least reveal to you how to pray. It is then that we can pray with certainty; with confidence; with assurance that it will indeed happen because God is leading our prayer. We can pray with confidence; with certainty. We can pray knowing that God will move.
praying in His will in confidence— Asking God for something is not enough; praying that God’s will will happen in a situation is not enough; we must take the time to actually seek His will so that when we pray (knowing as much of His will as He will allow us) we can pray in faith with confidence rather than just a shallow kind of “hit or miss” level of hope. Hope that is truly Christian goes much deeper than that. And so I want to encourage you today to pray in confidence. If you are like me, prayer can be a challenging thing at times. I tend to rush at God with my requests, maybe after a quick word of thanks. But prayer time in which you allow yourself the time to come into the presence of God; where you are seeking His will and aligning yourself to that? That is the kind of a prayer life that can move mountains. Let us commit to pray together that way as we always seek to enter into the awesome presence of God. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.