A sermon on 1 John 5:13-21 given in Christ the King Church on June 18, 2006
*Prayer: *Father, we give you the praise and the glory for all you have given us in Christ.
And we thank you for the revelation of your Word in Scripture.
Teach us by it this day.
We pray in Jesus’ name.
*Introduction: *It is a strange day in which we live, where doubt is deemed a virtue, where skepticism is hallowed as humility, and where absolute truth is viewed as absolutely false.
About a decade ago, reflective of this trend, a chaplain at a nearby college (traditionally viewed as a Christian college) held what he called, a Festival of Doubt.
He held a Festival of Doubt, where various lectures were given which both underscored religious uncertainty and ridiculed ‘fundamentalists’ who still held to the fundamentals of Christianity.
Well, I hardly have to tell you that the spirit of our age is so different than the Spirit of God and what He teaches us in the Word of God.
For here in First John, from the beginning to the end of chapter five, the apostle John holds a “Festival of Faith,” a festival which crescendos and concludes with certainty!
*“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.”
Now, this call to confidence (in v.13) only escalates, as we read vv.14-21.
For look at the phrase repeated most, the phrase *“we know.”*
It is repeated five times (twice in v.15, and then once in v.18, 19 and 20).
Also notice the phrase *“that you may know”* is used in v.13 and the phrase *“that we may know”* in v.20.
That’s seven ‘knows’ in nine verses!
So, if there is one thing we are to know about this passage it is that we are to know!
We are to know /God hears our prayers/.
We are to know /Jesus protects us from sin and the evil one/.
And we are to know /Jesus is the true God and in Him we have eternal life.
/If you are taking notes or filling out the Kingdom Kids, I’ll say that again: We are to know /God hears our prayers/.
We are to know /Jesus protects us from sin and the evil one/.
And we are to know /Jesus is the true God and in Him we have eternal life./
*We Know God Hears Our Prayers (vv.14-17)*
Genuine Christians, those who have been born of God, can and ought to have confidence that God will hear our prayers.
This is what is addressed in vv.14-17.
Let’s start with vv.14-15.
Read along with me: *“And this is the confidence that we have toward him *[toward God]*, that if we ask anything *[pray] *according to his will he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
Allow me to make three observations.
First, note the recipient of our prayers.
It is God.
That’s easy enough to see.
So, why illuminate the obvious?
Well, because this simple fact (that prayer is to be directed to God and to Him alone) has not always been so obvious to Christians.
In fact, still today some pray to beings and~/or persons other than God.
Such a procedure is nowhere to be found in the Bible, and (as a point of interest) nowhere found in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, who lived the generation after the apostles.
In both Scripture and in the earliest Christian tradition, it is God alone to whom prayers and petitions are offered.
My second observation is that prayer offered to God is offered with confidence.
*“And this is the confidence that we have toward him….”
*If we can stand with confidence before God in view of the final judgment, as taught in 1 John 2:28 and 4:17, well then surely we can come with confidence to God in prayer.
There is a false humility that thinks /Christians /are too innately sinful to stand before God.
And so we ought never come to Him with boldness.
We ought never to come to Him as a loving Father, but rather is a harsh but fair Judge.
This was the mentality so prevalent in the medieval church.
But again, what does Scripture teach?
Scripture teaches that we can *“draw near the throne of grace,”* with confidence, confidence that *“we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”* (Hebrews 4:16).
Now, this confidence, this boldness, this freedom is, however, not to be abused.
God’s Word does not allow us “an unbridled liberty,” as one commentator puts it, to ask for whatever comes into our heads.
God is not our indentured servant.
Neither is He our butler, chasing after our ever whim.
No, what does v.14 say? Here’s my third observation.
It says we can have confidence that God will hear our prayer (that is, answer it) *“if”-* *“if we ask anything* *according to his will.”
*We can ask *“anything”* of God, absolutely anything, *“anything according to his will.”
So, how about my foolish requests?
How about my sinful requests?
My friends, those petitions fly like arrows against a brick wall.
You see just as prayer is hindered by unbelief and wickedness, so prayers that are contrary to God’s will never (metaphorically speaking) reach His ears.
It is not that God cannot hear.
It is that He refuses to hear.
Now, thankfully in the Bible, we are given examples of people praying and of ‘answered’ and ‘unanswered’ prayer.
And while we could go through the list of answered prayers and those who prayed them, instead we will start and stay at the top.
There was but one man who’s every prayer was answered, and that was the perfect man, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen to how Jesus is portrayed in John’s Gospel.
We are told in 4:24 that Jesus’ will was always one with the Father; in 6:38-40 that Jesus always did His Father’s works; in 3:34, 8:55, 14:10, and 17:8 that Jesus always spoke what the Father wished Him to say.
And then in Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, *“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, /thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”/*/ /so He also embodied that last petition at Gethsemane, when He *“fell on his face and prayed... ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” *(26:39).
I think in a lot of people’s minds prayer is the means by which we change God’s mind.
But such a view is wrong.
In fact, if taken too far it is dangerous, such as the proponents of, what is called, the /Openness of God,/ have done.
No, Jesus teaches us that proper prayer is not we changing God’s mind to accept our will, but rather the opposite, it is God changing our minds to accept His will.
And the best and surest way for us to know God’s will is through Scripture.
When I was in college, there was a little event that God used to change my comprehension and practice of prayer.
At a question and answer time on the Christian life in the living room of my college pastor’s house, a visiting pastor was asked the question, “How do you pray?” Here’s how he answered.
He said, “Each morning, I read my Bible.
When I come to an area addressed in a passage in which I feel I need prayer, I simply pray there and then.”
Now, that simple instruction has been so helpful for my prayer life.
And I hope it can be for yours as well.
So, of course, we should read and pray through the Lord’s Prayer, and read and pray through Paul’s many prayers, and read and pray the Psalms (the prayer book of the Bible), but we should also read and pray through any part of Scripture we take before our eyes.
So, if you, like me, having been reading through First John, why not offer up a petition like this: “Lord, help me to have assurance.
So Lord, help me to love you more and to love others more.
Help me, O God, to keep your commandments.
Help me to trust in Jesus.”
Those are the prayers that God delights to hear, prayers that are according to His revealed will.
Now, the apostle John, interestingly enough, gives us his own example of prayer, an example perhaps very different than we expected.
Here it is in vv.16-17.
*“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him *[this struggling Christian] *life- to those who commit sins that do not lead to death.
There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.”
Now, we will get to *“the sin that leads to death” *in just a moment.
Let’s not miss the forest for the trees.
Let’s not let that issue side track us from the main path John wants us all to travel down.
Here is an example of the kind of prayer God will answer.
It is a prayer for a fellow Christian.
It is a prayer for a fellow Christian who has fallen into sin.
I have a friend who upon his family room wall has an intriguing object hanging.
It is an oblong artifact that has mixed in it various letters.
Noticeably in the middle of this clay-like mold there is the letter “T” and “H” and “E” and “R” and “S.”
At first glance I thought it had something to do with a woman, as I made out the word HERS.