Two Sides, Same Coin?

May 26, 2022 at 11:51 AM 1 comment

In 1 John 3, the apostle John speaks about what it means to abide in Christ, or put another way, to be in fellowship with Him. This is often easier said than done because of the inherent problem all humans have and that being the sin nature. We are marred by sin and it affects our bodies physically, our mental acuity and our spiritual health.

Anyone who has been a Christian for a length of time understands that living the Christian life can be done in one of two ways. We can either live it legalistically or we can live in realistically. Living the Christian life legalistically means we are focused on the law. We might tend to take everything to the nth degree in order to believe that we are doing it right. This tends to cause us to focus on externals. Are we doing this? Are we say that?

Unfortunately, living the Christian life from a legalistic emphasis actually forces us to focus on ourselves and how we feel we are doing. We tend to look at outward expressions and judge our “holiness” based on those things. Of course, God focuses on the heart of the person and He proves this throughout His Word.

Living the Christian life from a realistic viewpoint means we look not at the requirements of the law, but at our relationship with God in Christ. As I focus on my relationship with Him, things should come more naturally to me. Of course, it goes without saying (but probably needs to be said anyway), that if I am basically unaware of what my relationship with Jesus actually means based on His Word, I will utterly flounder.

The Word of God is the Guide He has presented to us and the Holy Spirit (for those who are truly saved), are being transformed by His indwelling Presence. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way of course is to be in the practice of submitting our will to Him so that His will for us will be worked out in and through us. The hard way is where we continue to live the way we want to live, forcing Him to sometimes take drastic measures to bring about the growth He wants and needs to see in each of His children.

The apostle John opens 1 John 3 with by reminding us just how great the Father’s love for us is and it is a love we should appreciate and value.

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.

The first three verses above tell us some wonderful things. John says God loves us so much that we, who are truly saved, are called “children of God.” He then states that this is the reason the world does not “know” us (or appreciate us, understand, or like us). They don’t know (or understand), us because they do not know God and because of that the world thinks we’re literally whacked. They laugh at us, shake their heads at us and in some cases, persecute us. This is due to the fact that Satan is the god of this world, allowed to be that god by God Himself, who will one day return physically to this world, judge it and then set up His Millennial Kingdom and rule over it. This will prove that He is the rightful owner of this earth.

The next several verses are a bit confusing to many. I’ve met some Christians who believe this section teaches that Christians should strive for and can reach a state of sinless perfection here in this life. This is absolutely not true and I believe when viewing things in their context (taking into consideration the teaching of the entire Bible), it is very difficult if not impossible to come away with this belief. Other Christians throw up their hands in frustration asking, well who can actually live the Christian life?!

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 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.

Ultimately, what John is talking about in the above verses of 1 John 3:4-10 is that Christians should not live a lifestyle that willfully practices sin. In other words, if an unsaved person is in the habit of drinking to get drunk, does drugs, sleeps around (or add your own), then after they become Christians, these practices should subside until they are not part of the new Christian’s live.

I seem to be hearing increasingly about well known pastors who are caught in adulterous affairs or embezzling funds from their church or doing something else that they should not be doing. Everyone can fail and fall. Every one of us can fall far because none of us are without sin. The problem John is emphasizing though is not the individual times a Christian might fall, but whether or not that Christian is making a practice of a particular sin so that they’ve designed their lives around it and do their best to keep things secret.

There have been well known evangelists who appear to have lived hidden lifestyles that the general public knew little about until things came broiling to the surface. Once they came to the surface, organizations associated with those evangelists sometimes went into overtime trying to cover things up or smooth things over or tried to then make corrections so that it wouldn’t happen again. This should not be.

If we consider King David and his situation with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), it is clear that David made a very egregious error, one that he paid dearly for not only with his son that was born (and died), due to the union of David and Bathsheba, but also due to the sin of having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, killed. This was terrible and David came to understand just how terrible his sin was through the prophet Nathan. It seems clear that God forgave David completely but the consequences of David’s sin were not removed and it terribly affected his kingdom, his children and ultimately, Israel.

But we also need to understand that this one tragic set of events in David’s life was not the way he lived before God. David wasn’t in the habit of practicing unrighteousness while pretending to be righteous, as many seemed to be in the Hebrew Scriptures. David sinned terribly and paid the consequences but God did not forsake him or toss him on the useless pile, though it is clear that God was not happy with David at all.

The idea that Christians can come to a point in this life of living without ever sinning has been taught within aspects of the Charismatic Movement and the so-called Holiness Movement. The constant push to arrive to a point where temptation can no longer draw the Christian into sin because they have “arrived” is simply not Scriptural. Certainly, we would love that to be the case but it cannot be in this life. It will be our natural state in the next life though!

Weekly, if not daily, I am reminded of my frailty, my sin, my failures. This is done by the Holy Spirit to bring me to a greater dependence upon God. It is not done to make me feel guilty or terrible about who I am and how much God must “hate” me or be angry with me. This is not the case at all.

John is reminding his readers that there is a huge difference between constantly living in and being overcome by sin and the times that we sin because we have unfortunately, let our guard down.

The professional athlete understands that being in great condition and having that competitive edge requires a practiced and sustained life of eating right, working out daily and pursuing only those things that help build up, while avoiding those things that do not. The athlete who does this on a part-time basis will quickly find him or herself losing their competitive edge. Great athletes are always working toward the goal.

Like the athlete who avoids certain things while steadfastly pursuing the things that help is also what the Christian needs to do daily. These are two sides of the same coin and ultimately, I believe this is what John is talking about when he speaks of our abiding in Jesus. If we do that with purpose, we will not have time for habitual sin.

My pastor makes it a habit of noting that God does not hate us. He is not angry with us. He doesn’t reject us when we sin (though when we do sin, our fellowship with God is broken until we come back to Him in repentance), and He is not waiting for us to fail so He can toss bolts of lightning our way.

We need to understand the difference between habitual/premeditated sin versus sins that happen because we are/were careless. Sin is sin and the Christian is responsible for both types of sin because all sin is reprehensible to God. However, the habitual sin is the one that is practiced and often enjoyed by the Christian for a time. To purposefully pursue that type of sin as a lifestyle is to not only break fellowship with God, but to come to the point where He may choose to take that person out of this life earlier than He originally wanted to in order to save them from themselves (1 Corinthians 11:30).

Abiding in Christ is a managed practice. It must be something we seek and we do that by turning our back on sin itself. If we can make seeking Jesus daily a habit, the sin in our lives will become less and less.


Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Prophecy.

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