I can’t stand that sinking feeling I have when I am going into a meeting unprepared. Can you imagine going into court to be judged and being unsure if you will be found innocent or guilty? Well the apostle John takes time in his first letter to reassure the persecuted disciples and to help them to be sure that they were in fact saved. Later on in chapter 5:13 John will state that we can know we have eternal life. At the end of chapter 2 he restates some things to emphasize his point.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28, 29 ESV)

John revisits the promise God has given us from verse 25, which is eternal life. Eternal life is not just life that does not end, but rather includes a quality of life that is only possible in the presence of God. So we are not just talking about existing forever. But how do we know that we have that life now, and will also inherit that life in the end? By whether we “practice righteousness” or not.

First of all, we need to know what this does NOT mean. It does not mean constant sinless perfection. If that we’re the case, we would be constantly slipping in and out of salvation as we sin and then confess. If this were the case, our entire eternity would be based on the timing of our death. And you had better hope you never committed a sin and didn’t realize it, especially if you have forgotten about it!

John also is not saying that by the performance of one righteous deed we are saved. We can no more earn heaven than long jump to the moon. The righteousness we have is as the result of appropriating what Jesus Christ has done for us, and not trusting in our own merit for salvation. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul said:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)

Our righteousness is the result of being in Christ. But you cannot be “in Christ” and not have it change you. But even as fruit requires growth, often slow growth, we must realize that we are not going to instantly be sinless, but will need time to mature as we bear steadily increasing fruit.

We have to realize why it says “practices” here. John is talking about a lifestyle characterized by trying to do what is right. Are we following after Jesus, or are we following after the world? Ae we acting in faith, or have we decided to define good and evil for ourselves? So let us test ourselves to see if we are growing in righteousness. In 2 Corinthians, Paul puts it this way:

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)

When reading the Bible, ask God to open your eyes to areas that need fixing in your life, but also see where you are doing well and begin to increase in those areas. But know this — don’t stay there constantly wondering if you are saved. Be about the Lords work and be confident that when he does appear, He will say to you “well done”.

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