1 John 3:1-7
Try to imagine what it must have been like for the early church. In some ways they must have been elated. The church was growing at an explosive rate. Sometimes thousands would be added to their number at once. [Acts 2:41] Jesus, their Lord, had proven all that He taught was true by doing the impossible, coming back from the dead just like He said He would. That meant that their sins were forgiven and they would spend eternity with God in a perfectly loving relationship.
However, there were also less encouraging signs. Some of them had been arrested, imprisoned and even beaten for preaching the Gospel of Jesus. There were also distressing issues in the church itself. Members fought with one another over how to properly live for Jesus.
And perhaps worst of all, the people in the church found problems within their selves; they kept on sinning. There was no doubt they were saved; they had been born again. Yet, they still sinned.
There was Trouble in Paradise.
John wrote to these people to encourage them and rebuke them.
John starts off this part of his letter by describing that which is the greatest, most valuable thing in the universe, the love of God.
The love of God is love in action. It has a purpose. It saved the world. [John 3:16] God loves us so much that He came down from heaven for the specific purpose of sacrificing Himself on the cross. If we ever want to know the depth of God’s love just look to the cross!
God’s love is intense. It can overwhelm any force set against it. It knows no bounds. It is infinite. God’s love has a noticeable effect on those who accept it. John specifically said God’s love makes us Children of God. What could be greater than to be made the children of the King? We become inheritors of that which is God’s! He didn’t merely have mercy but had grace!
What does the life of a child of God look like? We are to love as loves. Indeed, we are to love because we are loved. Our obedience shows our love in action. [John 14:15]
We are to even love our enemies [Matt 5:44] just as God loved us when we were His enemies. [Rom 5:8-10] Of course, we are also to love our fellow believers. [John 13:34]
What does this kind of love look like? We are love God as He loves us, sacrificially. Sacrificial love is one of the reasons the Father loves His Son. As Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” [John 10:17] Sacrificial love is the greatest love. [John 15:13]
But if we look at how we love God and others, it might it seem like being a Child of God is tenuous, but it is not. We are children of God. All persons of the Trinity work together to prove it. The Father tells us we are His children. [2 Cor 6:18] Jesus tells us. [Heb 2:11] The Holy Spirit tells us. [Rom 8:16] It is a present reality. Whatever else might happen in our lives, it is true for God gave us the right to be His children and no one and nothing can take it from us. [Rom 8:38-39]
For God to call somebody something is to make it be that thing. After all, this is the same God that spoke the universe into existence.
And the going will not be easy for the world will, in part, be against us because they do not know Jesus as we do. That is they do not understand Him like we do.
What then does it mean to know Jesus? It means more than simply knowing He exists. Even the demons know that. [James 2:19] It means we believe He is our Lord and so we obey Him in all things.
Many think that what we believe is foolish. [1 Cor 2:14] We’re foolish for believing in the impossible. Or we’re foolish for giving up pleasure. Some say we’re worse than foolish; they we’re hateful for judging them.
They don’t know Jesus as He truly is. A God of love and justice. A God of power and humility. The people in Jesus’ day certainly did not know Him. At one point they cried out “Cruficy” to Jesus. Jesus said it bluntly, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” [John 15:18]
But how do we interact with the world? The same way God did to us, with love. People should be able to tell we are God’s child by our love. [John 13:35] Sometimes we will not be able to see these changes in ourselves. Yet it is a real change! Even though here will be times we won’t understand why we so easily gave into sin.
But whenever we feel like that, we must remember the ultimate promise in being Children of God is that our destiny is to be like Jesus. [Rom 8:29] That is which is true about Jesus now will be true about us. We will be without sin. We will love God and others perfectly. We will have new, perfect bodies. [1 Cor 15:42-53] Our bodies will be glorified like His is now. [Phil 3:21] So that means we are not yet done becoming Children of God, we all have a long way to go!
This makes for a strange parallel between us and the world. The world can’t really understand us much like we can’t understand what we will become.
But we do not know what it will be like to be what we will be like. What will it be like to not desire to sin? To have a perfect body? It doesn’t even look like it is possible for us to fully comprehend it right now. Paul said it’s like seeing in mirror dimly but one day it will be as clear as seeing face to face. [1 Cor 13:12]
Maybe knowing those things would simply be too much for us. Paul was once shown what being with God in heaven is like but was not allowed to tell anyone about it. [2 Cor 12:3-4]
Yet we cannot forget that we see a part of this now because we are beholding the glory of the Lord now and we are being transformed to be like Jesus from one degree to another now. [2 Cor 3:18] We have the Holy Spirit which is more than enough to keep us until Jesus comes back.
When He does finally get back we will finally see Jesus as He truly is. We will see Jesus much like John did. We will see Him and hear Him and touch Him. We will see the scars the crucifixion left behind just as His disciples saw. [John 20:24-29] But more than that we will see Jesus fully God.
Maybe in actually beholding Jesus as God with our eyes we will be transformed. How could looking upon the face of God not change us? This might be the greatest promise in the Bible. We will see the face of God! We will see God as He truly is.
The only way we could ever receive such a promise is because of Jesus Himself and our hope in Him. Our hope in Him is pure and will not disappoint us. It could never be in anything else because all other things will eventually disappoint us.
Yet John said we must purify ourselves, but can’t only God purify? Yes, but our hope must remain in Jesus to remain pure. If we put our hope in anything else, we will become lost.
There are some authentic Christians that believe you cannot lose your salvation and in one sense they are right. You cannot lose your salvation in the same way you lose other things. You lose your car keys because you forget where you put them; it is a careless, unintentional act. Losing your salvation is not like that because it must be done purposefully. As John seems to suggest here, you could place your hope in something other than Jesus even after you truly put your trust in Him.
Some object to this making because it makes it sound like salvation is based on works, but I don’t think that’s a correct inference. Salvation means you are in Jesus; if you are no longer in Jesus you are not saved. Perhaps one can look at it like marriage. How does one stay married? You don’t stay married by works but by not getting divorced. Likewise, you stay in Jesus by not leaving Him.
That might sound scary or make us think our salvation is shaky, but look at what John said. So long as our hope is in Jesus we are pure. Everything relies on Jesus’ purity and not in the least bit on our own.
It could also mean that we do have a part in our purification in that we can resist sin. We have God’s help our battle of course, but God will not override our will. He will allow to make sinful choices if we so choose. Paul told us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12]
Right now we can have one degree of purity; we can choose not to sin and even do so for a time. Later we will have the same degree of purity as Jesus; that is we will be sinless. We cannot attain this now for as John said we are liars if we say we are pure now.
Also, this will happen to all Christians. We will all become as pure and holy as Jesus, even those are struggling the most now. Knowing what we will become gives us strength and hope.
John gives us even more reassurance in what he says next. He speaks about practicing sinning, meaning it doesn’t look like John is talking about sinning in general but sinning as a lifestyle. If we carefully look at our lives, it shows whom we are trying to please, ourselves or God. Yet, we do not obey God out of fear of punishment but out of a desire to bring Him glory and pleasure.
But even when we sin, remember that Jesus came to cleanse us of those sins by living a perfect life and so we abide in Him. When John says we abide in Jesus, he seems to mean we live with Him, like we live with our families in our homes. It is a continuous state; living with Jesus effects every part of our lives.
When we put our faith in Jesus, we are confessing Him as our Lord. That is, we declare that we will do whatever He commands no matter what and that we want to be like Him. If that is true then we won’t truly desire to go on sinning because to do so would be to break His commandments and it would make us unlike Him, the two things we most want to do. For us to indulge in that what He came to save us from belittles His death. It would even rob Him of His glory because people that do not have faith in Him will often judge Jesus by His followers.
Or maybe the question is not “Do we sin?” for we all sin but “What will I do when I sin?” Do I repent? Make excuses? Not care?
John could not have meant living entirely without sinning because while we abide in God we keep sinning. Even the most faithful people in the Bible did so. David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned. Abraham sinned. Peter sinned. They had faith and still sinned. So, it must mean one cannot make a habit of sinning without repentance because that is not what a born again person does.
Salvation is easy. Yet it can still be confusing. We have to be on our guard because there are forces out there and in us that want to deceive us. While they cannot take our salvation [John 10:28] they make us less effective ambassadors for Jesus.
Sometimes these deceivers are easy to see: those that clearly preach another way to be saved other than Jesus or those that tempt you to sin or those that attempt to redefine sin.
But other times those deceivers are not so easy to see. Maybe they will openly confess faith in Jesus, but also insist on other things as being essential to salvation. For example, in Paul’s day some Christians said that one must be circumcised to be saved. In our day, some might put too much weight on confusing Biblical topics.
Of course, the ultimate deceiver is the same as it has always been, the devil. He was liar form the beginning. [John 8:44] He will do anything to make people doubt Jesus or turn away from Him.
There’s even another deceiver and it is perhaps the most insidious one of all, ourselves. Many suffer from the small voice inside of them telling them they have sinned too much too often too purposefully for Jesus to forgive them. That voice is a deceiver and lair just like the devil.
So we listen to the only one that will never lie to us, God. Jesus told us to live as perfect as God Himself [Matt 5:48] and so we practice righteousness and in so doing become righteous, as righteous as Jesus.
You can take this in two ways. If you live a righteous life, you are righteous. We could also say that only the righteous live righteously. This shows us the importance of living a Godly life. We can say all want about our belief and quote the Bible but unless we are living it, they are mere words. We are not talking about expecting perfection but desiring it and living as best as possible.
But in the end, living a righteous life doesn’t save us because we are already saved. Whatever good we after being born again is done through and because of Jesus. He gives us all that we need more.
Could it be that we are as righteous as Jesus? I ask you to really meditate on that. Are you as righteous as Jesus? Yes! We are not merely declared not guilty but not guilty and currently righteous.
As so my beloved I leave you with this: We are righteous in Jesus.