Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 20 October 20:
1 John 3:1-3 — 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.
Children act like their parents. Your actions reveal whose child you really are. Proverbs 20 says it like this: “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20:11) John stresses that we are God’s children NOW, and we should strive to act like it, though we still have much growing up to do and will not be fully matured until Christ comes again. Our effort to act like Him, to be ‘little Christs’, reflects how much hope we have in His promise. What does your behavior reveal about what you really believe?
1 John 3:4 – “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”
“It is a dangerous thing to live your life without a spiritual ‘plumb line,’ or standard, by which you determine right from wrong. God’s Word is that plumb line, the only true plumb line. Many see God’s laws and commands as restrictive and limiting, but in truth living by God’s ethical laws and commands, much like living by His natural laws, allows people to experience true freedom and the fullness of life on earth for which they were created without needless pain and suffering. Living by God’s word is as essential as breathing (more so). To borrow an analogy from Tim Keller, consider a fish in the ocean: Fish were created by God to live in water; its life is in the water, where the fish is free to experience the life God intended for it. What if the fish felt the ocean was just too limiting, preventing the fish from experiencing the ‘wonders, excitement, and joy of the vast world outside of the water. Would removing the fish from the ocean so that the fish could live the life on land it imagined mean freedom and joy for the fish or painful death? God created fish to abide in life-giving water, and God created us to abide in Him, the Living Water, the Life. We abide in Him when we obey His laws and commands – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
God established absolute, unchanging ethical and spiritual laws that we are free to ignore, but we do so at our own peril. These laws are timeless. Cultural morality does not supersede them. Circumstances do not abrogate them. God’s laws are eternal, and they bring life and freedom to those who follow them, a protection against needless pain and suffering. For example, when God said that you are not to commit adultery or have sex outside of the union of one man and one woman, He wanted to free you to experience the fullest pleasure of a marriage relationship and to free you from the pain of destructive relationships which is so pervasive in culture today. He knew the devastating heartache that would come to you, your spouse, your children, your relatives, your friends, and your church family if you broke this law. “How important the laws of God are for your life! Without them, you would be robbed of the delights God has in store for you. Sin is choosing a standard other than God’s law on which to base your life. If you are measuring your life by that of your neighbors, or society at large, then you are basing your life on lawlessness, and lawlessness is sin.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 John 3:5-10 — “You know that he appeared in order 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. 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.”
1 John 3 closely mirrors 1 John 2. John is reiterates the essentiality of obedience, holiness, and righteousness in the life of a Christian, and points to ‘love’ as the ultimate test of obedience – he digs in deep into the heart as if he has anticipated the reader who might be tempted to start counting off his ‘good deeds’ and ‘works of service’ in his head while denying the truth of his self-centeredness, anger, bitterness, envy, greed, lust, and pride. In both chapters, John challenges the ‘desires’ that drive the outward activities, and dares us to be honest with what is in our hearts. (1 John 2:16; 1 John 3:21) In both chapters, John reminds us that we cannot walk both in selfishness and with Christ – we must die of ourselves and be selfless. From the perspective of love (rather than pride or fear) he returns to the importance of making your faith tangible in this world – “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Genuine love comes from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Those who desire a “pure heart” must “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” — two action verbs which involve running at max effort, not lightly or half-heartedly. (2 Timothy 2:22) Those who desire a good conscience must live in humility, repentance, and confession before the Lord, constantly living out 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“You have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:26) In Christ, you have become the ‘priest’ and the Holy Spirit within you reveals truth to you, convicts you, and teaches you. (1 Peter 2:9, Rev 5:10) While others might be used by God to convict you, the issues of your heart are between you and God and must be dealt with solely between the two of you. No one else knows your heart but God. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” (Ephesians 4:30) What has the Holy Spirit revealed about the condition of your heart that must be confessed (as in 1 John 1:9) today?
“Let no one deceive you…. 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.” If you are living a lifestyle of careless sin, you are grieving, quenching, and getting out of step with the Holy Spirit rather than walking by the Spirit, regardless of how you might justify your sin. If you don’t hate sin the way God does, you are not in agreement with Him, not of the same mind, not in right fellowship with Him. No religious activity or good deed will nullify your disagreement with God concerning those things for which Christ paid the penalty with His blood. As John reiterates, Christians sin but reject the lifestyle of sin – they confess, repent, and make every effort to avoid repeating sin, maturing in Christ over time. If we are truly abiding in Him, we cannot keep sinning as we once did.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 October 20: Today, pray that God will help you view sin the way He views it.