In these verses John continues to develop
the subject of walking in the light as Christ is in the light. We are urged
to "continue in him" --- that is, we are to continue in Jesus Christ. We
must continue in the light he has provided. Continuing in Christ striving
to do right gives us confidence in Christ, for our desire to do right is
proof that we are born of him. The way we can know we are in Christ is
the depth of our desire to do right.
John is not talking about a legalistic righteousness
where we take pride in our righteousness and depend upon our righteous
to save us. John is speaking of the kind of righteousness that results
from focusing our lives on Christ call. We live righteous lives for the
sake of Christ. We live righteous lives according to the spirit of Christ.
What motivates us to do right is of utmost
importance. Is our motive to fill a sense of pride in our own lives? Are
we seeking attention for ourselves? Or is our motive for doing right for
the purpose of exalting Christ through sharing Christ's love for others?
Does doing right create a holier-than-thou attitude in our hearts. Holier-than-thou
attitudes seek to depreciate others and appreciate self.
Our Worth in God's Sight
We must see our worth from God's vantage.
When I speak of worth, I am not speaking of worthiness. No one is good
but God. Sin seeks to depreciate our worth, but our worth cannot be depreciated.
No matter the depth of our sin, God continues to tell us of our worth.
I am speaking of our value in God's sight. John speaks of our worth in
God's sight as he speaks of God’s lavish love for us.
1 John 3:1-2
How great is the 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. Dear
friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been
made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for
we shall see him as he is. (NIV)
We only lavish love on those we esteem. How
much love has God lavished on us? He wishes to call us his children. He
has given his Son to make this possible. God's love and the love the world
bestows upon us are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The world only loves
those who love the world. God's love seeks to love those who hate God.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray
for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the
righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward
will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet
only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans
do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
God's love is an exalting love that
lifts us beyond the plateaus of this world. The world's caste system
seeks to deprive us of our real value. The world says people feel inferior
because they are inferior, while God seeks to exalt the inferior as well
as those who feel inferior. God's-worth of us exalts us infinitely higher
than our sense of self-worth will ever be able to. Paul reminds us of God's
love for us in our depravity.
You see, at just the right time, when we
were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone
die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare
to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were
still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by
his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the
death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved
through his life! (NIV)
Sin is deceitful. Satan encourages us to sin
through pride. He tells us what we are contemplating doing will make us
wise. When we do what Satan asks, we experience shame. Satan uses our shame
to tell us our worth has been depreciated because of sin.
Through understanding the love God has
lavished upon us we can allow God to exalt us to the position of his child.
The lavish love of God seeks to purify our lives of evil as we literally
struggle with that evil in our personal lives. God's future plan for us
speaks of his desire to exalt us in the present. John says, "Dear friends,
now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see
him as he is." God's desire for us to be like him is much different than
the world's attitude. The world believes precious few of us will ever be
exalted as individuals; yet, God seeks to exalt each of us to be like him.
If God seeks it; it is possible. We can share in Christ's glorious inheritance.
Redemption vs. Salvation
We may want to be redeemed without being
made whole. Redemption is about being redeemed. Redemption requires
a price be paid for the object being redeemed. Christ redeemed us through
the sacrifice of his life. Christ paid the impossible price of redemption.
John's message goes beyond redemption to embrace salvation.
Salvation has to do with being made
whole. It has to do with healing the soul's disease of sin. We
may be tempted to rush to Christ for redemption without salvation. We may
want to be redeemed from sin without accepting God's offer to salvage our
lives from sin. We may want redemption, but refuse healing.
Our desire to be healed reveals the
true nature of our birth. If we wish to be redeemed from sin and
our desire is to continue to live in sin, we are not born of God.
1 John 3:4-6
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact,
sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take
away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.
No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (NIV)
John tells us that redemption without
salvation is impossible. Many seek redemption but refuse to have
their lives salvaged from sin's powerful grip. Of course, all of us have
sin in our lives, but are we seeking to confess the sin so that we might
forsake it and walk in the light?
1 John 5:16-18
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that
does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer
to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to
death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is
sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that anyone
born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps
him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (NIV)
Christians can commit sins that lead
to death rather than life. This is encouraged when we look for
redemption without salvation. John says there are sins Christians commit
that do not lead to death. All wrongdoing is sin, but not all wrongdoing
leads to spiritual death. The sin that leads to death is the sin that a
Christian refuses to repent of and turn from. In reality there is no repenting
without forsaking the sin; repenting is forsaking. The sin that leads to
spiritual death is the sin a Christian refuses to confess to God and to
repent of. It is the sin he refuses to confess to his Advocate Jesus Christ.
If it is not confessed to God through Christ, we will have to stand before
God in Judgement alone without Christ coming to our defense.
Do we enjoy God's presence in our lives
or Satan's presence? John is concerned about God's word having
a living presence in our lives. God's word abides in us when it enjoys
a living presence in our lives. If God's word abides in us, we cannot go
on sinning and we will not continue to practice our sinful ways.
1 John 3:7-10
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you
astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been
sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy
the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because
God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been
born of God. 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
a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (NIV)
God expects us to sin less and less. We cannot
be totally free of sin, but sin cannot be the habit of our lives.
Abraham lied about his wife. (Genesis 12:10-20)
Moses lost his temper and disobeyed God. (Numbers 20:7-13) Peter denied
the Lord three times. (Matthew 26:69-75) However, sin was not the settled
practice of these men. It was an incident totally contrary to their normal
habits. When they sinned, they admitted it and sought forgiveness.
James speaks of those who are carried
away with sin.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is
tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away
and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and
sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (NIV)
A Living Example
Cain is an example of how some desire redemption
without salvation. The redemption Cain sought--left his heart depraved.
We find Cain at the altar seeking to worship God with hatred in his heart.
He sought redemption through the sacrifices he made, but he was not saved
because his actions were evil.
1 John 3:12
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the
evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his
own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. (NIV)
In the murder of Abel we begin to see the
tangled web sin weaves. Cain killed Abel because his own actions were evil.
However, evil convinces Cain that Abel is the one who deserves to die.
Sin convinced Cain that Abel was the cause of his problems. Cain knew that
he was evil and his brother was righteous. Rather than repent of his evil,
he decided to destroy his brother.
Failing to repent from sin only compounds
our problems. We may think, "Well, I haven't ever murdered anyone." But
do we harbor hate in our hearts? We must remember that hate is the same
"You have heard that it was said to the people
long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject
to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable
to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of
the fire of hell.'" (NIV)
Hatred may not do the same amount of damage,
but it is destructive. Your neighbors had rather you hate them than murder
them. Hatred is not the same as anger, but anger can lead to hate and hate
can lead to murder.
Even murder can be forgiven. Paul's was forgiven
for his participation in the murder of Stephen. Paul admitted that his
vote helped kill the innocent. (1 Timothy 1:12-15; Acts 26:9-11) But God
saved Paul because he was willing to confess and forsake his sin. The issue
is not whether a murder can become a Christian, but can a murder be forgiven.
But we don't have to murder or hate to sin;
we can just be indifferent to the needs of others. Love is both positive
and negative. Isaiah says, "Stop doing wrong and start doing right." (Isaiah
1:16-17) It is not enough to say we won't do harm, we must do that which
is good toward others.
1 John 3:13-15
Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the
world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because
we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone
who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has
eternal life in him. (NIV)
Christian love is personal and active. The
parable of the good Samaritan is a story about loving our neighbor. (Luke
10:25-37) Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus focused on the need
of one man. He used a priest and Levite in his parable to illuminate his
answer. The priest and the Levite should have been setting the example
for others. Jesus used the Samaritan whom the Jews hated to teach the Jews
how to be a neighbor.
1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ
laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has
no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us
not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (NIV)
The test of loving others is not done through
proclamations about how we love others. The test comes when we are willing
to quietly help those in need. Christian love is loving in deed and in
truth. There can be no true love without deeds, which manifest that love.
Results of Loving Others
Loving others gives us confidence before God.
The only way we can have assurance before Christ is to know that we love
others as Christ loves us.
1 John 3:19-24
This then is how we know that we belong to
the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our
hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before
God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands
and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name
of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those
who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know
that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (NIV)
We can know the truth abides in us when we
practice what the truth teaches. When we practice what the truth teaches
we have no condemnation.
When we practice the truth we know that Christ
is alive in us.
When we are seeking to obey the truth, we
have assurance that God hears and answers our prayers.
When we practice the truth, we know that it
is God's Spirit leading us. The Spirit guidance gives us confidence.