1 John: Christianity in Black and White, Part VII :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 John 3:1-9: The Life of the Child of God

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned since the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God”

(1 John 3:1-9).

The apostle continues to define the life of the believer and expose the corruption of those who would deny the faith. He doesn’t mince words as he encourages and warns his readers. In these verses, he presents the concept of being God’s true child and the avoidance of sinful behavior. He says, in essence, “Child of God, this is how you should live.” This hits home when I know I’ve done or said something that is contrary to how I should act and think, like someone who openly proclaims his dedication to Christ. If you’re honest, there is no doubt that you have been in the same predicament.

The difference between a believer and a non-believer in terms of committing sins is that the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us at the moment we surrender our lives to Christ, will convict us and not let go until we have confessed this sin before the LORD, repented of it, and asked for forgiveness. The non-believer has within his design a conscience that tells him that an action or word was wrong (Romans 2:12-16), but because the Spirit of God does not dwell in him, he is more likely to cast the feeling aside, ignoring it at his own peril.

I have a lot of positive and encouraging replies from those of you who keep up with my writings, but I have had a couple of comments that were less than cordial, especially when I defend my faith and point out the exclusiveness of the gospel claim by our Lord Jesus. I expect this kind of response from those who are looking for a spiritual scrap or to start an argument. I have come to the conclusion in these last days when there is such a growth of skepticism and hostility towards the message of Christ, that oftentimes it does no good to try and explain the reasons I hold on to the beliefs I have developed in my years of walking with the LORD.

Now, I know that there are honest skeptics who are truly looking for answers to life’s questions, and are open-minded enough to listen to what I have to say or write. I enjoy communicating with them and pray that the Holy Spirit will gently draw them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. However, there are some non-believers who are content to stay where they are in terms of their attitudes and opinions; and it seems that nothing I would have to say or present will sway them towards at least an openness to the possibility of the existence of an all-powerful Being who created all things and interacts with His creation, especially us. Quite frankly, they are a waste of my time and energy.

Jesus called people like this “pigs” who weren’t worthy of having the gospel presented to them because they would trash it (Matthew 7:6; Proverbs 1:25, 5:12, 9:7, 10:17, 12:1, 15:10, 29:1; Amos 5:10; John 7:7). He also told His disciples that if there were towns that rejected the gospel, shake the dust from off of your feet and go elsewhere (Matthew 10:5-15; Luke 9:1-6).

This is why I look back at past efforts to present the gospel and sometimes shudder, because the evangelist or preacher will present the truths of salvation in a way that seems as if our LORD is begging people to come to Him and will be sad if they don’t respond, especially after hearing the choir sing “Just as I Am” for the fifteenth time. Now, as a former pastor, I believe in asking people to repent and place their faith in Christ when the Spirit impresses me to do so. There have been instances where I have said to the congregation that if they wanted to talk to me about their soul or other spiritual matters, they can come to me after the service.

Here’s the point I want to make. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where the Lord Jesus begged or pleaded with anyone to believe in Him. All throughout His ministry, He laid everything down on the line, saying, in essence, “Here are my terms for you to have a relationship with me. I am the only way you’ll ever get forgiveness or real peace with God. You bring nothing into the discussion. You need to give up everything for my sake without regrets. There is no bargaining or compromise. I don’t offer alternatives or dialogues. I present one way of having a reconciliation with the Father, and that’s through me” (see John 14:6).

The late German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer opened his book The Cost of Discipleship with this statement: “When Jesus calls a man to follow Him, He bids him to come and die.” This is a call for unconditional surrender to the Creator of the universe and the very Being who controls your next breath.

It is this call to complete obedience and surrender that sticks in the throat of the world. It totally eradicates any thought that somehow we can get goodness without submitting ourselves to the direction of God. It deflates our already oversized egos and throws our fleshly nature off of the throne of our lives. What’s even harder for some to realize is that mere religious practices and adherence to rituals and ceremonies are no substitute for an intimate relationship with the Sovereign Lord. We’re comfortable with things as they are when it comes to what the world considers “spiritual.”

People tell us that they believe in God in order for us to get off of their back when presenting the gospel. All right. Of which God are you speaking? Is it a mere idea of a spirit, a deity of your own making, a god of a world religion apart from Christianity, a New Age positive thought, an idea of assumed design and order? None of these are even close to describing the true God of the Scriptures.

The God of the Bible makes demands and expects responsible, disciplined, mature, and righteous behavior through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He will, in the end, demand accountability for what you’ve done in your life (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; 1 Corinthians 3:5-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5). For some believers, this process is quickly learned and established; and for others, it takes time and focus away from the things of the world, which can be difficult since it tends to get thrown in our faces constantly.

The devil does everything he can to distract us, with the goal of rendering us ineffective for the cause of the gospel. For example, there have been many men called of God to preach who have succumbed to the lusts of the flesh and ruined their testimony, family life, and church because of one look or comment towards someone of the opposite sex. I recall the televangelist scandals of the late 1980’s, where prominent TV evangelists fell from grace due to sexual deviancy, and in turn brought about a stain on the body of Christ that took years to correct.

The point is that we who are saved by the work of Christ on the cross as an atonement for our sins must live lives worthy of His sacrifice and nature. The goal of the believer is to grow more Christ-like in mannerisms, speech, and actions through sanctification. We will never be free from sin in this life or be perfect, but we can stay focused on the Lord Jesus and live a life that is above the activities of the world and its demands to not be so pious, calling on the Christian to understand their behaviors and be “tolerant” of what is acceptable in society. This is nothing more than compromising one’s walk with God to appease bad behavior.

If the world can get the church to be comfortable and accepting of the expectations of unsaved people, then they can’t offer forgiveness of sins through Christ and the call to repent, basically rendering them useless. It is a master stroke of the devil and his minions.

We must come to grips with the fact that this world as it stands now is under the sway of the devil. He has planted within the minds of many that the person and work of Jesus Christ is either irrelevant; a work of fiction and fantasy; unknowable; or unworthy of serious inquiry, opting for a life of “non-belief” and leaving the subject of spiritual matters alone. The world obviously doesn’t know God nor do they wish to know God. They ridicule the believer, and we should not be surprised at the increase of antagonistic behavior towards us.

If you remember, during the last presidential administration, when thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians were tortured and murdered by ISIS, no one took action or showed compassion, basically ignoring the plight of innocent people and their slaughter. The world can make friends with Islam and other religions, but those who profess Christ are left to rot. As believers, this shouldn’t shock or surprise us. This kind of behavior towards God’s elect has been around since the birth of the church in Acts 2.

It’s difficult for a lot of us to understand the seemingly chaotic atmosphere in which we find ourselves as believers. We have to admit that even those of us who have walked with God over the years don’t have all the answers.

The Scriptures tell us that God is under no obligation to explain everything (Deuteronomy 29:29). This is why He also tells us to walk by faith and not necessarily by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our minds are finite and corrupted by sin. Only when we see the Lord face to face will we be able to even comprehend a fraction of His work and rule, and then give Him praise and glory for using events in our lives to make us more faithful and trusting towards Him, and to teach us His concepts on what it is to live and conduct oneself as a child of God in a wicked world.

Sin, whether it comes from a believer or pagan, cannot be explained or excused away. John makes this point very clear. Sin is lawlessness and rebellion against God; and the only way that sin can be forgiven is by the actions of the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross and resurrection three days later assures us that our sins can be taken away and remembered by Him no more (Psalm 103:12).

There is a lot of inquiry on the internet about habitual sin, a sin that one asks forgiveness for, yet falls into it constantly. God is a forgiving God, to be sure, but the fact is that this kind of behavior needs to be controlled through self-discipline, avoidance of anything that could trigger the impulse to repeat the sin, and constant reliance on God’s direction to keep your mind off of the incident.

Of course, the Scriptures tell us to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith and not self-deceived (Psalm 77:6; Lamentations 3:40; Matthew 7:5; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4; Psalm 51). This is a sobering thing to consider, especially if you’ve not lived a life that demonstrates your commitment to Him. Read Matthew 7:21-23 and renew yourself, or get right with Him in the first place. Salvation is of the LORD, and once that is settled, there is no way we can ever lose it (John 3:16, 4:10, 10:27-29; Romans 5:15, 6:23, 8:1, 32, 34-39; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 5:11).

I realize it’s not that easy to remain Christ-like in a world of wickedness that we see every day. We can’t do so in our own power, which means that we must call upon Him always and lean on Him for comfort, guidance, and assurance that this behavior and blatant evil will come to an end when He returns to rule and reign. One day we will see the devil and his followers get their just punishment, and we will be rid of him forever. I believe that we are not too far from seeing this come to pass.

Make sure that you are right before God, repent of your sins, and from this day forward, let Jesus Christ be the Lord and Savior of your life. When eternity starts, you’ll be thankful that you trusted in Him and not yourself for real peace and comfort.

As we progress through John’s letter, we will explore the essence of Christian love, discernment, and confidence in Him who loved us enough to die for us and rise again. Amen.