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LESSON 11 - TOTAL CONFIDENCE (1 JOHN 5:13-21)

     Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references
     are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are
     found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses
     a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: I hate to see 1 John come to an end!  This week our
study is the last 9 verses of 1 John 5.  The good news is that we
will move on to 2nd and 3rd John in the next two weeks.

I. CONFIDENT FUTURE

     A. Some time ago I read a portion of the Valuegenesis report
     which asked our young people in the Church if they had
     confidence they were saved.  The number who said they believed
     they were saved was astonishingly low.

          1. Should we teach Church members, young and old, that
          they can have confidence they are saved?

               a. Why?  What is the purpose of this?

     B. Have you ever worked on a project where you doubted the 
     ability of those who were in charge and there was a general
     attitude that this project was not going to come out right?

          1. What is the result of such doubt?

          2. Isn't doubt good if the project is not going right?

     C. Let's read 1 John 5:13-14. Does John want us to have 
     confidence? (Yes! One theme of his book is the two paths--the
     path of light leading to eternal life and the path of darkness
     leading to eternal death.  Throughout his book he has been
     giving us "reality checks" so we can know which path we are
     on.  Finally he says, "This is true. You can know it, believe
     it and have confidence in it. You can take this message to the
     bank (of eternal life, that is)!)

     D. John says in v.13 he is writing to those "who believe in
     the name of the son of God." Why should we believe in the
     name? Why not believe in the Son? (This goes back to 1 John
     2:12: "Your sins have been forgiven on account of his name." 
     See also, 1 John 3:23: "And this is his command: to believe in
     the name of his Son, Jesus Christ...." Jesus' name is the
     essence of who He is. In John 20:31, John says that Jesus is
     the Christ, the Son of God "and that by believing you may have
     life in his name!")

II. CONFIDENT PRAYERS

     A. Let me re-read v.14 and add v.15. Does this confidence that
     we just discussed extend to our prayers?

          1. Can we be sure we will get favorable answers to our
          prayers?

               a. Or does John just promise us we will get a 
               "hearing" on our prayers?

          2. Do you sometimes feel like God does not hear your 
          prayers?

          3. I am always inclined to do what my wife asks me to do.
          Sometimes she "claims" to have asked me to do something
          which I did not hear.  (My children almost always "claim"
          they did not hear!) Hearing the request is the crucial
          initial step to answering a request.

               a. If God hears us, does John say He will give us
               what we ask? (v.15 Yes!) 

               b. Does John place any conditions on God hearing our
               requests? (Yes. "If we ask according to his will,
               he hears us.")

     B. I find this to be a most interesting statement about 
     prayer. At least on the surface, John does not say that God
     hears everything and then exercises judgment over what He
     answers. He says that if God hears your prayer, He grants your
     request "--whatever [you] ask--."  However, God does not hear
     your request unless you ask "according to his will."

          1. Do you understand why this distinction exists? 
          (I do not. Some may argue (validly) that "hearing" really
          means "hearing favorably," and therefore I am making an
          artificial distinction.  However, if hearing literally
          means perceiving, if I were in charge, I can certainly
          see two advantages to this system. First, wouldn't it be
          nice not to have to spend your time considering requests
          that you would reject? Wouldn't it be nice just to know
          that you should answer every request you hear, and not
          worry about any others?  I would like that.  Perhaps this
          is some celestial "screening device" of God that is
          beyond the imagination of man. Second, a person may get
          mad at me if I consider, but do not grant, his request.
          It sure would be a lot easier if I never heard the
          requests I would deny. The person with the denied request
          would not take it personally, because I just did not
          hear.)

     C. However "God's end" of this prayer question works, our 
     practical concern is with "our end" and John tells us God does
     not hear our requests unless they are "according to his will."

          1. How do we know whether our requests are "according to
          his will?"
          
          2. How do we make our requests "according to his will?"
          (The obvious answer is that we have to first know God's
          will. This gets back to the very first part of this book.
          In 1 John 1 we are told about the path of light brings us
          in "fellowship" with God. This fellowship helps us to
          know God. As a result, in 1 John 2:3 John says that we
          "have come to know him if we obey his commands."  It
          would seem then, that our prayer requests should be in
          accord with God's commands.)

     D. If God is only going to give us things "according to his
     will," what is the point of asking? (Our lesson has a great
     question, "What kind of relationship is one that is simply a
     list of requests?"  If we just come dragging in this long,
     boring list of requests every morning and night, God must be
     "thrilled" to "hear" this.  But if we have the attitude that
     we are co-workers with Him who are working out a battle-plan
     in prayer for advancing His will here, now that would be
     something to hear! Thus, the point of asking is to become co-
     laborers with God in advancing His kingdom.)

III. INTERCESSORY PRAYERS

     A. Let's find out more about prayer, read vv. 16-18. These 
     texts seem to say that we can (and should) pray for our fellow
     Christians when they are involved in certain sins but not
     others. 

          1. What sins are "OK" to pray for?
          
          2. How do you know which sin "leads to death?"

          3. Is there a hierarchy of sin? Is some sin worse than
          other sin? (Our lesson suggests that all sin can be
          forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark
          3:29), and therefore downplays the distinction made by
          John. I think the better view is to fit what John says
          here with what he has been saying all along. He has
          continually been talking about the two paths: one leads
          to eternal life and the other to eternal death. Since he
          says that those on the path of eternal life will sin (1
          John 1:8), and in fact indicates that those who deny this
          are on the path of darkness), why not say that sin that
          does not lead to death is the sin of those who are on the
          path to life?  Thus, his injunction is to pray for fellow
          believers who are on the path of life, but are struggling
          with sin.  They struggle as they progress on the path of
          light. This fits perfectly with v.18 which says those
          born of God do not continue to sin.  There is an end to
          the path of light. It is eternal life without sin. This
          simple explanation avoids creating some ornate theology
          about the various (and doubtful) hierarchies of sin.)

     B. John connects not "continu[ing] to sin" with being kept 
     safe by Jesus ("the one who was born of God"). How are these
     two related? (Jesus rescues us from sin. He rescues us from
     the practice of sin by changing our attitude, and He rescues
     us from the punishment of sin.)

IV. SAFE HARBOR

     A. Read vv. 19-20. John says the whole world is under the 
     control of the devil. But we are children of God. 

          1. What do yo call a situation when good children are in
          the hands and under the control of evil people? (Sounds
          like a kidnapping! A hostage situation.)

               a. What reason does John have to tell us we are 
               hostages held in hostile territory?

     B. Is victory promised to us? (Verse 20 says that despite the
     current situation, we are on the side of the true God who will
     give us eternal life!  This belief in the "long view" of the
     path of light is essential.  If we did not look at life in the
     context of eternity, we would bow to the one who is in control
     of the world here and now.)

     C. Read v.21. What an awful way to end the book. Can you make
     any sense out of this?  Was the bottom of the letter torn off
     by accident? Did some very early scribe fall asleep before he
     copied all of John's letter, and then later forgot he had not
     finished? (Although this seems very strange at first, John is
     saying that all of these false teachings on the false path are
     idols that turn our allegiance away from the true God. He is
     really saying in closing: stay the course with the true God!)

V. NEXT WEEK: "Don't Lose Out!" Study 2 John!
that turn our allegiance away from the true God. He is really saying in closing: stay the course with the true God!) V. NEXT WEEK: "Don't Lose Out!" Study 2 John!