May 10, 1994
A waitress approached two customers, a small boy and his mother. She asked the boy for his order and he said, “I’d like a hamburger, fries, and a glass of chocolate milk.”
Mother said, “He will have Salisbury steak, vegetables, and a glass of plain milk.”
The waitress, eyes on the child, said, “What would you like on your hamburger?”
“Just ketchup, please.”
After the waitress left, the boy turned to his mother with excitement. “Did you notice that, mother? She thinks I’m real!”
Imagine yourself at a social event or party and no one listens to anything you say. How would you feel? Invisible? Insignificant? Unimportant? Hurt? Angry?
Anyone who is ignored in any situation, feels frustrated. Continued neglect can result in low self-esteem, depression, even violence or suicide.
People need to know some one hears them. That is one reason prayer is so important. Even if no one else hears or cares, when we talk to God, He listens. How can we be sure?
The Apostle John wrote three short letters besides his familiar “Gospel of John.” Apparently the early Christians also had feelings of uncertainty and worthlessness. They wondered if they really belonged to God and if their experience with Him was real. 1 John addresses these uncertainties.
John first wanted them to be certain their sins were forgiven and they had eternal life. He told them to test themselves by their attitude toward their sin. Did they pretend they were not sinners? Or did they confess their sin? If so, he assured them God forgives and cleanses whatever they confess.
He also told them to test how they responded to the world’s system. Did they give in to sinful cravings and boasting? Or were they more concerned to do God’s will? If so, he assured them this desire came from their Father, therefore they were part of His family.
A third test involved how they treated others. John asked if they hated others and “loved” them in words only? Or was their love real and demonstrated? Were their relationships characterized by kindness, truth, and obedience to God?
A fourth “be-sure-you-are-forgiven” test involved the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. If they genuinely believed Jesus is the Son of God, and if He actually was in their lives, the Spirit would assure them they had eternal life. They would just know.
Besides forgiveness and eternal life, John wanted his readers to be confident about who was who. Many claimed to be Christians in that time (as they do now) but were actually deceivers. True believers could test such “false prophets.” What was their attitude towards sin? Did they confess it? or embrace it? Did they accept or reject Jesus Christ as One who came from God? Did they continue in fellowship with proven Christians? or did they walk away?
John also wanted Christians to have confidence in God’s love for them. He reminded them, and us, that God proved His love by sending His Son to die for our sins. That alone should be proof enough, but there is more; Christians can prove God’s love by loving one another with the same sacrificial love. Since this love comes only from God, when we demonstrate it, we have confidence God loves us.
Finally, John’s readers are assured of God’s love because He hears them. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us--whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him” (5:14,15).
As long as we belong to Him, and as long as our requests are on His menu, answered prayer builds our confidence: God “thinks we are real.”