Read 1 John 2:28-3:10
The title for this edition, Children of God Don’t Keep On Sinning, is a bit troublesome. Have you ever parted company with someone that you’ve been deeply involved with? Whether this is a personal relationship or business partnership, the decision to go separate ways is always difficult. When it comes to matters of Christ’s Church, you can multiply this difficulty by a thousand.
Reading First John is like listening to one side of a phone conversation. We don’t know what is being said on the other end, but by seeing John’s facial expressions and hearing his tone of voice, I’m convinced this is a call that breaks his heart. One or more of his church startups is splitting. Worse, those who are leaving are trying to mislead those who are faithful. They’re all quite new in their faith, so they really don’t know how to react.
Imagine John sitting in exile on an island trying to encourage his flock. His words give us a model to follow. Notice how he accentuates the positive while only implicating the negative. When he says, “don’t keep on sinning,” I think he’s referring to those who are leading them astray. This is the stated purpose of the letter (1 John 2:26, 3:7). It might be a stretch, but perhaps John hopes the secessionists will read the letter as well and come back with changed hearts! Notice that the bulk of the letter implores us to love our brothers and sisters, even when they sin against us. John emphatically tells us to keep on loving others, even when it hurts.
Further, the message I hear from his words is not to talk bad about those who have offended me. This is a call much more significant than “let it go,” it’s a call to radical love. Trust that God has a plan. Know that the redeemer can always redeem, far beyond my capability and comprehension.
I hope you can see the message within the message. With that said, let’s walk through today’s passage.
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 1 John 2:29
Knowing that Jesus is righteous doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it affirms that we are born of Him. At a recent Bible study, Marci reminded us that our birth in Christ means that we have His DNA mixed with ours. When we are born again, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are changed forever for the better. All that to say, being born of Him is a huge deal!
Don’t expect the world to stand up and cheer, but please hear these words:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
We are His children, heirs to His Kingdom with all the rights and responsibilities inherent with that prestigious honor. To amplify this definition, John adds the following incredible statement:
But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3
Christians often say we are washed in the blood of Jesus; we are purified by His redemptive sacrifice. While this might make sense in circles of mature Christ-followers, this message would likely confuse those who have yet to step across the line of faith, or as in this case, have left before fully understanding the significance of Christ’s sacrifice. The emphasis here is on the simple word: hope. Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek term like this:
elpis (hope): to anticipate, usually with pleasure Strong’s Concordance
We have hope. And our job is to share that hope with others.
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:6
If we extract this one verse, we will miss the critical transition in John’s words to his flock. His words do not suggest that we are not His children because of our sin nature. Don’t read this verse in isolation. He immediately follows this with his intended purpose:
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. 1 John 3:7
There are those who would lead you and me astray. Our focus needs to be on the love of the Father. He does not want us to wander off with those who would mislead us.
John wants to clarify his definition, just in case there’s any doubt.
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:10
Going separate ways is hard. Watching a church split is painful and confusing. We are imperfect beings that don’t always get along well. When this happens, don’t lose your love for your brother or sister. We know this is right, even when it seems impossible. Do what is right in God’s eyes. Let the Father be the Father. He is always faithful.
John isn’t finished with his lesson, but I have to pause and ponder these thoughts. I hope you have space to do the same.