Yesterday, as I was reading in 1John, I started thinking about vital signs. Indicators that there’s life, particularly indicators of spiritual life. Yesterday I read that if we find that there’s an innate love for others who claim the name of Christ, it’s a pretty good indicator that we’ve been born of God.
Reading this morning, John says combine love for the brothers with an authentic, abiding belief in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ, add in an ongoing desire and drive to obey His commandments, and you’ve got a pretty good set of vitals signs.
Abiding belief? Abiding behaviors? Abiding affections? If those are all present, there’s a pretty good chance you’re abiding as a new creation in Christ.
But what if the instrumentation’s wrong? If the blood pressure gauge is unreliable, then it doesn’t really mean much if it says my blood pressure is 110 over 70. If the heart monitor only picks up every second beat, a resting heart rate of 60 beats a minute isn’t really all that good. If your thermometer is made with substandard mercury (dating myself, aren’t I?) then there might be a reason you feel like you’re burning up even though it says your temp is 98.6 degrees.
So, applying that to my spiritual vitals, what if my spiritual measuring devices are inaccurate? After all, I still have this old nature banging around inside of me. There’s still the remnants of a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” and beyond knowing (Jer. 17:9). And the illuminating of my mind, which was once steeped in darkness, is an on-going process. So what if I’m not reading the vitals right?
What if I’m off on how authentic my belief is? What if I’m misinformed as to how obedient I am–that I’m only obeying the convenient commands? What if my love for the brothers isn’t as fervent as my heart and mind leads me to believe? How can I have confidence that I’m reading my vitals correctly? Cue the Spirit . . .
And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (John 3:23-24 ESV)
“By this we know.” It’s one of John’s favorite phrases. Used nine times in this letter. John’s desire is that God’s people would walk in confidence in God’s love. That they would know that they abide in the Almighty and, wonder of all wonders, that the Almighty abides within them. Thus the reason for the vital signs. And thus the unfailing means of discerning those vital signs, “the Spirit whom He has given us.”
The Spirit who Jesus said would come to His disciples after His departure (John 14:16-17). The Spirit who searches the deep things of God (1Cor. 2:10). The Spirit who leads us into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit who does battle on a daily basis with our old nature (Gal. 5:16-18). The Spirit who knows us so well that He can intercede on our behalf when we don’t have the words to intercede for ourselves (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit who has sealed us as a guarantee of our future inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). This same Spirit is the One who can give us an accurate read on our vitals.
We know our belief is true, because the Spirit bears witness. We know our obedience is sincere, because the Spirit reveals duplicity and confirms sincerity. We know our love is authentic, because the Spirit knows the heart and knows the mind and has a direct line to the conscience. And we know that when our belief wavers, and our obedience is flakey, and our love becomes self-centered . . . that when we sin, if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin (1John 1:9), because the Spirit within us testifies with our spirit to the power of Christ’s shed blood to cleanse and the abundance of God’s overflowing grace to forgive.
Vitals are kind of important. So is an accurate reading of those vitals.
All thanks be to God for the Spirit He has given us!
Because of grace . . . for His glory.