How do you really know something to be true? That’s not an insignificant question in the land of clickbait headlines and conspiracy theories.
That quest for assurance is at the heart of John’s first epistle: how do you really know if you’re truly a follower of Jesus? How do you really know if you are a child of God? Is there any objective evidence to give you confidence in your standing before God? Can you ever really even be sure? Or has God left you to do your best, cross your fingers, and hope it all works out in the end?
John’s resounding answer is, “Of course you can know!” No, John doesn’t write those exact words verbatim, but it is clearly implied. His letter, particularly the first three chapters, almost reads like a template for evaluating one’s life for assurance of a growing relationship with God: am I walking in the light (1:7)? Am I keeping his commandments (2:3-6, 3:24)? Do I exhibit a genuine love for others (2:9-11, 3:14-18)? Have I wrongly prioritized the things of this world (2:15-17)? Do I consistently and continually engage in unrepentant sin (3:4-10)?
God has not left you in the dark–after all, he is light (1:5). There is genuine assurance available for those who believe so long as we are willing to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pet. 1:10).