In Part One, we met Robert, Eddie and David. Three strangers who discovered, to their utter astonishment, that they were identical triplets separated at birth. The Big Reveal came when they met and saw mirror images of themselves in each other. The resemblance was so remarkable it had to be genetic. One look and they knew they were from the same family.
The triplets story illustrates a primary point behind John’s first epistle: Likeness reveals family. John helps his readers to know whether they truly dwell within the family of God. Sometimes Advent can stir questions about where we are with God. For those wondering, here’s the second test we can self-administer:
Test #2: The Confession.
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” 1 John 4:14–15.
How do we know if we’re in God’s family? We confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
This test seems pretty straightforward. John starts, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 1:14). Here John is locating himself in the starting lineup with the other apostles who followed Christ and wrote Scripture. He’s saying the Savior who stands at the center of the gospel message is neither myth nor legend. The confession of his life, death and resurrection is based upon eyewitness testimony that’s been inscribed and passed down. It’s credible, reliable, witnessed, and authoritative. John is saying, “I was in the room where it happened. For years I walked alongside the Savior. I watched him serve, love, heal, eat, laugh and pray. My world collapsed as he hung suspended upon the cross; indescribable ecstasy filled my heart at his resurrected appearance three days later. Many have now lost their lives testifying to the unalterable transformation Jesus delivers. I’ve seen it. I’ve said it. You need to hear it.”
But John’s confession cannot stand alone. His eyewitness testimony supports the evidence for our own confession of faith. If we’re in the family of God, we can affirm what John is saying.
C.S. Lewis was religious, but not a Christian. But his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien moved him to see the risen Christ at the center of Christianity. On a September night in 1939, Lewis, Hugo Dyson and Toilers (Tolkien’s nickname to his closest friends) took an after-dinner walk around the grounds of Magdalen College. During the conversation, they explored the uniting truths behind various myths and legends. While the specifics are not knowing, Dyson and Tolkien presumably traced a pathway from those stories to the person and work of Christ. Lewis later testified, “”I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ, in Christianity…. My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a great deal to do with it”. Lewis was finally in a position to take and pass the test of confession.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, abides in God, and God abides in him! Believers reveal the reality of God’s work in their lives, the reality of their family heritage, by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s the statement of their allegiance. Words that many have sacrificed and died for. Willingness to confess Jesus as the Son of God becomes an evidence of God’s indwelling presence and a marker of family resemblance.
The Power of Confession
I think we’re moving into a day where the cost will be greater to become part of the family. One hardly needs to be a prophet to observe that political and cultural polarization will make it more challenging to identify with Jesus. I mean, prejudice against Christians is now somewhat predictable. In the days ahead, Christians will be characterized more as haters because of our testimony. Canceling Christians will become common. Once there was a cultural “home-field advantage” in the west. Now it has evaporated. But when you follow a suffering Savior who was crucified for his beliefs, you eventually learn that your confession is not designed for home-field advantage. Our message will never win the world’s approval. Long ago, Paul reminded us that for some—perhaps even many– our faith in Christ will seem like folly. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
This is important to ponder as we prepare to be with friends and family this Christmas. If we’re fortunate, some of them will be unbelievers, meaning there will be opportunities to love and serve them through our words and works. But don’t go into the holidays craving their acceptance. Because Christ took the wrath we deserved, we now enjoy the approval Christ earned. This means we can go home this Christmas aware that we already possess the only approval that truly matters.
When you think about it, the family of God was not conceived to thrive with a home-field advantage. Just consider our founder. Christ’s mom was a teenage peasant. He was born in a cave. Once here, the government launched a genocide to ensure he would be killed. Jesus was raised in a super-small town, surrounded by poverty. He was a carpenter, a blue-collar laborer who worked with his hands. Christ was inexplicably despised, hated by the very people he came to save. Ultimately, he was denied and betrayed by his closest friends, then nailed upon a cross as a public spectacle of humiliation.
No, our Savior wasn’t popular. We shouldn’t be surprised when we aren’t, either. But God does intend to make us potent through the Holy Spirit, by the confession of our faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
As you have an opportunity during this Advent season, think about where God is calling you to confess Jesus as the Son of God. Seek his leading and follow him. Let your works accompany your words. And as you follow after the Spirit and bear testimony of Jesus to those who don’t yet know him, you will discover a different kind of grace. Because testifying to the reality of Jesus not only unleashes gospel power into the lives of others, but it also supplies the soul-warming reminder that you bear the marks of another family. You can be a witness for Christ this year knowing that a day is coming and is not far off, where each day with your forever family will be like the best of Christmas mornings.