A few times in youth group we’ve played a game called “The Resistance.” The premise is that we’re members of a resistance group that is working to overthrow a corrupt, totalitarian regime. But a couple of the players are secretly spies working for that regime. The object of the game is to figure out who the spies are before it’s too late. It’s all about certainty--who can we trust?
Imagine if you were in that situation for real. Certainty would be a precious commodity, would it not? You’re surrounded by enemies on all sides. They say to “trust no one,” but you’re going to have to trust someone eventually. You need some way to be certain you’re messages make it back to your superiors--and you need to be certain that the orders you received came from them! You need to be certain that the people you’re working with are really on your side. And you also need to be certain that you’re doing the right thing. You might also wish for certainty that the resistance can actually succeed--that your risk and very possible death won’t be in vain.
Actually, we are in that situation. This Sunday’s sermon text tells us, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Christ is reigning over us, but until He returns, this world we’re living in is still occupied by Satan’s forces. We are in hostile territory, and our mission is to overthrow the enemy one soul at a time. If we take our mission seriously, there will be opposition. There will be risk. There will likely be loss.
So we need some certainty. We need to know that the risk and loss will be worth it. We need to know we’re doing the right thing. As a church, we need to know that we’re all on the same side--even as we see each other caught in sin sometimes, deceived and used by the enemy. And we need to know that we can communicate with our Commander--that the orders we’re following are genuinely His, and that He hears the requests we send back to Him. We need certainty to carry out our mission.
That’s why John wrote the letter we call 1 John--to encourage a doubting church to grow in certainty of the gospel and assurance of their identity in Christ. It’s not a sin to struggle with assurance, but without assurance we will struggle to be healthy Christians or a healthy church. Assurance is good for us; assurance is for our good. We can know that God hears our prayers; we can know that God will protect us and our fellow Christians, and we can know that even in our risk or loss God is at work to build His kingdom in and through us. Certainty changes everything.