For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 18, 2008
"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. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (3:1-3)
This is a great passage. Who we are in the Lord Jesus is a wonderful privilege. And what we get in the future is even better. It is so good even John admits he does not understand what all will be involved, he just knows it will be good. That's really all we need to know.
"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. 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. 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." (3:4-9)
This is an important passage that needs to be read very carefully. John has already stated earlier in his epistle that no one, not even the best Christian in the world, lives without sin. So John cannot be saying that Christians do not sin. When you come to two passages or statements that seem to contradict each other, go back and check your premises. One or possibly both of them is wrong. That is the logical law of non-contradiction. What John is saying here is that someone who habitually indulges in sin cannot be a believer. A person who has no compunction about sinning is not born again.
"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. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (3:10-15)
The ultimate act of hatred is murder, which is what Cain did to Abel. Hatred of a fellow human being is not an attribute of a truly born again person. Love, however, is an attribute of a Christian. You all know people that demonstrate this fact, in both ways. People who love everyone they meet, and people who seem to hate everyone they meet. Which of those two kinds of people do you like to be around?
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything." (3:16-20, ESV)
There is more to love than just a positive feeling. Genuine love is demonstrated by actions. You can say you love someone all day long, but if you never do anything for them, they will not believe it. True love will give to the person or thing loved, whether it is meeting a physical need or just being with the person and spending time with them.
Notice John also allows for doubts on our part from time to time. As fallen creatures, there will always be times (or at least there are for me) when I doubt my salvation or even if God is there or just a figment of someone's imagination that I happen to be following. But then the Lord always comes through with confirmation. It is wonderful to see and be a part of. I am truly blessed.