Text: 1 John 2:28-3:10 — 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. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will have not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Introduction: We’ve been working through the book of 1 John in the New Testament. It is a letter that one of the twelve disciples, John, who was also the last surviving apostle, wrote to Christians in Asia Minor. These believers in Jesus were dealing with false teachers, probably from a Jewish background who made the claim that they, too, followed Christ. Unfortunately, they embraced a different version of Christianity that amounted to mingling the Christian faith with a form of teaching that would later evolve into Gnosticism. (1) It taught, among other things, that the material world is evil and the spiritual world is good. (2) And that man’s biggest problem is not sinning, but ignorance. To achieve salvation, one needed special knowledge (not forgiveness). This knowledge was unattainable to the ordinary person but only intended for a select few who would then be saved. Obviously, this teaching was directly opposed to the gospel message which said that mankind’s biggest problem is sin and the resulting separation from God. And that salvation comes by grace through faith in the “substitutionary atonement”. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what that means. It’s just a way of saying that Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, died a physical death on the cross as our substitute, paying the penalty for our sins through His shed blood (i.e. the giving of His life for ours).
Aware of these false teachers, John wrote his letter to provide some spiritual vital signs as a way for them to know who was really in the Christian faith and who wasn’t. These vital signs, or ways of measuring the spiritual health of someone who professes Christ, began with this one: “keeping the commandments of God”(By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments – 1 John 2:3).” The second was “loving your Christian brother(Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him, there is no cause for stumbling – 1 John 2:10). The third was “confessing Jesus is the Christ(Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ … Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also – 1 John 2:22-23).” And today we meet up with the fourth … “practicing righteousness”. This means living our lives the right way…according to the will of God as it is revealed to us in Scripture. This is not to say that believers will never sin. In fact, to make that claim is against scripture (If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us – 1 John 1:8). Because Christians sometimes sin, we are often called hypocrites. But that’s not an accurate label for us to wear. Here’s why. A hypocrite is an “actor,” someone who is only pretending, and the true believer in Jesus is not acting or pretending to be something he is not. The authentic Christian is sincere in his faith and trust in Christ, however, he occasionally stumbles into sin. The word means “to trip up”. And when we do, we’re called to sincerely confess our sin and repent of it. This process was not and is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, in the early church, repentance was an involved process. Sin was seen not as a personal matter but as something that destroyed the unity of the church. Penitents fasted and prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, appeared before the church to make a public confession, and were barred from the Lord’s Supper until they gave evidence of a change of heart and were absolved. The only exception was for people facing persecution. They were readmitted to the Lord’s Supper so they could receive strength.(“Worship in the Early Church,” Christian History, Issue 37). I can remember one of my friends, Donald Hague, who told me that he was working in a rice field near Katy, Texas when he saw a copy of Playboy. He picked it up and looked through it. Immediately, he came under such heavy conviction from the Holy Spirit because he’d given in to the lust of the flesh that he had to leave the field, return home and fast and pray to the Lord about what he’d done. Only after spending considerable time with Jesus, did he feel like he could go back to work. That’s a pretty good picture of repentance as well. So, Christians are not sinless, but the expectation of the Apostle John is that we’re going to sinless as we practice a lifestyle characterized by the pursuit of righteousness. Now that we understand what he has in mind, let’s look at the various persons who are involved in the believer’s pursuit of righteousness.
The Christian’s Part – Abide in Christ– (1 John 2:28-29 — 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. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him). There are at least three keywords in these verses. The first is to abide. It means to stay in a given place. The idea is that Christians do not occasionally visit Christ as if He’s a long lost relative. We live with Him day in and day out and learn to love and obey the Lord as we rub shoulders with Him. The second keyword is “appear.” It’s used in reference to the 2ndcoming of Christ. When He returns, Jesus will set in motion a series of events that include the Great White Throne judgment where all unbelievers will be found guilty of sin and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). In addition, the Bible mentions the judgment seat of Christ, before which every believer will appear that we might receive what is due us (rewards) for the things we did while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). John reminds us that even as Christians who have been saved from the wrath of God, we will still be judged on the basis of the good and the bad we’ve done as believers and rewarded according to our faithfulness. Unfortunately, some of us will be ashamed at how little we did for the Lord. This is meant to serve as motivation for doing the right kind of things before God. Soon the future will be the present and then we will all give an account. The third word is practices. The literal translation is “every one that doeth righteousness.” But because it’s a present tense verb, and implies on-going action, it’s translated in a way that conveys continual and regular action. Christians don’t merely do the right thing once a decade, but it is what we should strive for all the time. SUMMARY: So, John is saying that our responsibility is to live continually with Christ, to be mindful of His appearing and our judgment and to regularly do what is right as we go about our lives.
The Father’s Part – He makes us His children–(1 John 3:1 –See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are). In the previous verse, John used the phrase “born of Him.” Christians call this being born again or the second birth. In his gospel, John says that we, believers, experience this new birth not by virtue of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but because we are born of God (John 1:13). The idea is that just as a child does not get to choose his family, but is born of his father and mother and so becomes a member of their family, so Christians do not choose to become a part of God’s family, but are born of Him and thereby join His family. And that’s how we become “children of God”. We are adopted by God and sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our adoption. This is why we can pray: Our Father, who art in heaven. It is a great privilege to be a child of God, though we’ve done nothing to earn it. John says two things of those of us who are God’s children:
· The world doesn’t recognize us as His Children– (1 John 3:2 — Beloved, we areGod’s children now, and what we will have not yet appeared; The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. John admits that he doesn’t quite know what our inheritance as God’s children will look like when Christ returns (what we will have not yet appeared). He then says that just as what we shall be does not seem apparent to us, so what we are(children of God) does not appear to be obvious to the world. The latter point John’s making is that the world doesn’t understand how we can have a relationship with God because it never understood the true identity of Jesus, as the Son of God, and the one who brings reconciliation between man and God.
· To be God’s child means to be like Jesus– (1 John 3:3 — And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.). The sequence goes like this: first Jesus appears, then we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. And what is Jesus like? He is pure. The word means “clean, innocent.” We might say Jesus was never stained by sin. He was the one who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And now it is our responsibility to purify ourselves (to do what is right and restrain from sinning) just as our Lord did throughout His life. Illustration: Perhaps the most difficult part of this is realizing just how much we sin in the first place. People magazine once undertook a part-serious, part-tongue-in-cheek survey of its readers on the subject of sin. The results were published as a “Sindex,” with each sin rated by a sin coefficient. The outcome is both amusing and instructive. Sins like murder, child abuse, and spying against one’s country were rated the worst sins in ascending order, with smoking, swearing, and illegal videotaping far down the list. Parking in a handicapped spot was rated surprising high, whereas unmarried live-togethers got off lightly. Cutting in front of someone in line was deemed worse than divorce or capital punishment. Predictably, corporate sin was not mentioned at all. The survey concluded, “Overall, readers said they commit about 4.64 sins a month.”I don’t know if I really buy that. Cleaning up our lives as Christians means looking for the deep-rooted and often expressed sinful patterns in our lives and I’m pretty sure we offend God more than 4.64 times a month.
The Son’s Part– In order for us to no longer be slaves to sin, but to become servants of righteousness, Christ had to do two things:
· He had to take away our sins(1 John 3:4-6 — Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him). The defines sin as “whatever is not of faith” (Romans 14:23); “knowing the good we ought to do and not doing it” (James 4:17); “unrighteousness” (1 John 5:17). And here it is lawlessness. Evidently, the false teachers were saying that once enlightened, they could afford to be indifferent to sin. This is much the same way many people view sin today. They want to call it anything but what it is. John doesn’t agree. He views it as an active rebellion against God and His Word. This rebellion is what precipitated God sending His Son into the world in the first place (Genesis 3:15). He came to pay its penalty and break its stronghold over our lives so that we could abide in Jesus and walk in righteousness.
· He had to destroy the works of the devil(1 John 3:7-8 — Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil). Satan is the God of this age. For centuries, unbelievers were destined to surrender themselves to the world (that is under his control) and believe as the world believes and behaves as the world behaves. Jesus came to overthrow the devil and undo his works. Through faith in His death, burial and resurrection to life, we can now surrender ourselves to God, believe as He believes and behaves as He behaves. That’s how important the work of Christ was for mankind.
The Spirit’s Part– (1 John 3:9-10 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed, abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother). John says that we are children of God because we’re born of God. As a result, we have God’s seed abiding in us. This is a reference to the Word of God and the Spirit of God (just like the word ‘anointing’ in2:27). It is because God’s Spirit is at work in our lives using God’s Word to change our beliefs, that our behaviors also change. We start to want to do what is right. Those who remain, children of the devil, have no concern for doing as God commands.
Application Questions: Are you doing your part to practice righteousness?
· Do you spend enough time in God’s Word? The Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word.
· Do you regularly confess and repent of sin?
· Do you order your life to avoid situations where you might be tempted to sin?
Conclusion: In the movie, Changing Lanes, Ben Affleck plays a young Wall Street lawyer named Gavin Bannock. The movie begins with Gavin speeding to the courthouse to file papers giving his firm power to control the assets of the deceased Mr. Dunn’s charitable foundation. Unconvinced of the legitimacy of his firm’s case, he repeatedly tells himself, “I did absolutely nothing wrong.” On his way to court, he gets into a car accident with Doyle Gibson(played by Samuel L. Jackson). He accidentally drops the file with the power of attorney papers signed by Mr. Dunn. Without this file, his firm’s case for controlling Mr. Dunn’s assets is null and void. As the movie progresses, Gavin comes to the realization that he had taken advantage of Mr. Dunn. Though his partners assured him that there was nothing wrong with getting the feeble old man to sign the power of attorney over to them, Gavin soon realizes that it was extortion. As he plans to confess this to the judge, his senior partners forge new documents to replace the lost ones and file them with the court. After hours, when all of the other employees have gone home, Gavin goes to one of his partners to discuss his plans, at which time his senior partner tells him it’s taken care of. Aware that Gavin’s conscience is getting in the way, the senior partner begins to rationalize his actions and explain why he is no worse than Mr. Dunn himself. “You think those factories in Malaysia have daycare centers?” the senior partner asks about Mr. Dunn’s business. “Want to check the pollution levels of his chemical plants in Mexico, or look at the tax benefits he got from his foundation?” he continues in his attempts at defamation. “This is all a tightrope. You gotta learn to balance,” he advises Gavin. “How can you live like that?” Gavin asks. The senior partner answers, “I can live with myself because at the end of the day I think I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got to judge by?” A lot of people would agree, but it turns out there is another standard. Jesus shared it in the sermon on the mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5:48. Of course, He knew we couldn’t be morally perfect so long as we are battling the flesh, the world, and the devil, but Jesus still expected us to strive for it. And in truth, what the Lord shared in the greatest sermon ever preached is really not much different from what John said. “Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” This is a key vital sign to be measured against someone’s profession of faith. Is it our regular practice to do what is right as it is laid out for us in God’s Word, or do we continually walk in sin? It’s a question worth asking because the answer we give informs us of either our place in the kingdom of God or the world.