The message is perhaps best introduced with 3:21-24: "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."
We learn from this that God's Spirit gives us confidence to know we are His, as we believe in Jesus Christ, obey his commands, and love one another. We can further break this down as follows:
- The Moral Test - do I obey Jesus' commands? (1:5-6, 2:3-6, 2:15; 3:4-6; 3:9-10a; 5:18)
- The Social Test - do I love my brother? (2:9-11; 3:10b; 3:14-17; 4:7-8; 4:20-21)
- The Theological Test - do I believe in the Jesus of the Bible? (2:22-23; 4:6; 4:15; 5:10-12)
There are many ways to lead people through this, but one of my favorites is to simply read them through sequentially through 1 John. For example, I read 1:5-6, then say "let's remember this point by calling this the 'moral test' of our faith." When I get to 2:3-6, I say, "what did we call that test?" I then introduce the 'social test' in 2:9-11, and then on throughout the book. (Hat Tip: I learned this technique from Nels "Bud" Nelson, who discipled me while he was the Navigators missionary at Clark Air Base, Philippines in the late 1980s).
Once you've driven home the point that John is really serious about this by going through the passages above, you can then sum up the challenge and promise of the three tests with 5:1-5: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. "
One final note--John is not preaching legalism nor perfectionism (see 1:8-10). But he is saying that if Christ saves me and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in my heart, it will certainly reflect in my life. If not, like Daisy, I'll need to ask myself some hard questions before God!