Journal 1 John 3 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 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. (1 John 3:3-8)
Observation: John’s letters can be difficult to disseminate, to break down. I think I cannot take his statements directly without understanding and leaning hard into the Gospel foundations.
Application: In an earlier post, I said that I frequently reconfigure the text in an attempt to make it read coherently. I did that in this reference, and…I am not sure my attempt was successful.
This part is clear: People who hope in His Salvation make it their aim in life to–
- Purify themselves.
- Resist sinning or the practice of sin.
- If I want to abide in Jesus, then I should stop sinning.
John is clear about the following:
- If I practice sin, I am practicing lawlessness.
- If I keep on sinning, I haven’t seen Jesus or know Jesus.
- If I make a practice of sinning, I am of (or directly related to) the devil.
Therefore, it is a binary issue: In Jesus, no sin. If sin, then not in Jesus.
I notice there is nothing theoretical about John’s statements here. All his statements are measurable and observable—they have to do with how I act.
Tough stuff to digest—and while I embrace what John is saying, I want to respond, “Yeah, but…”
Where is forgiveness? Where is grace? Where is understanding my weaknesses? These statements are so…condemning and judgmental. If I sin and do not have “victory” over my sin; If I relax in the arms of His forgiving Grace and don’t address my sin, I am not “in Him?” I am in “the devil?”
What should I think of this?
I remember basic things about the Gospel:
- Salvation and “saving Grace” is all of the Triune God’s doing and decision: I have nothing to contribute, nothing to add—even my exercising of “will” to say “I believe” could not have come out of my mouth without God prompting me to do so: I could not have chosen Him if He did not choose me first. This is God’s Sovereignty in action.
- Being a disciple is surrendering my will to Him; I am actively choosing (in parallel with the Holy Spirit enabling me) to follow Christ. If I am a student of Christ, then it follows that I am a student of the Living Word.
So, if I am following Christ, what is the immediate output of my life? John wrote earlier, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
I choose to read this verse (and the subsequent verses in 1 John 3) not as metaphorical as if just because I said, “Save me, Jesus; I believe,” and I am automagically “in the light.” No, this verse reads that I must expend effort and intent to “walk in the light.”
Paul alludes to the same idea to the church at Corinth: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Cor (9:24)
Or the writer of Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…(Heb 12:1)
Prayer: Father, I want to walk in the light. Therefore, help me, Holy Spirit, to resist the sin that, even now, so easily entangles me. I want to walk worthy of the Gospel and learn every day what that means.
Ricky Two Shoes