Last Thursday morning as I led the teachers at Glenvale Christian School for devotions our focus was the first letter of John. It”s a lovely letter in which one of the major themes is love. Twice John tells us that God is love. All our love for God and for others stems from the love that God demonstrated in the atoning death of His Son. As God”s wonderful gospel love is poured into hearts we are enabled to love in return.
But in the first chapter John makes sure that what hinders our relationship with a loving God is dealt with, so one of the first things he writes about is sin. John is quite confronting. If we say that we haven”t sinned we deceive ourselves and we make God out to be a liar. That”s quite a reality check. The good news of course is that God has an answer to our sin problem and that is that if we confess our sins God is faithful and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So far so good… but there is a fly in the ointment.
The old King James Version of John 3:9 reads “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” That seems to contradict John”s earlier statement that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and make God out to be a liar. How do we resolve this apparent contradiction?
The answer is that in the first instance John is telling us that we need a good dose of realism and face up to the fact that in this life we will never be perfect. In the second instance he”s pointing out that even though we still fall into sin occasionally we do not deliberately choose sin as a lifestyle.
And that”s where I struggled again this past week as I sat down to help people work through issues.
One parent lamented to me that his grown up kids no longer worship God. They say that they still believe in God but they just don”t see the need for church-going. In my book that”s choosing sin as a lifestyle. For two reasons! They ignore God”s instructions that we are not to neglect meeting together as some are in the habit of doing (Heb.10). They also fail to put the Lord first in their life – worship of him is way down in their list of priorities.
Another person lamented about something that is increasingly common – a relative is sleeping with someone and although claiming to be a Christian she says she can”t see anything wrong with that. In my book that”s choosing sin as a lifestyle. It thumbs the nose at God”s ordinance of marriage. It seeks sexual satisfaction without any public commitment to a spouse.
Early in my ministry an elder and I confronted a man who had abandoned his wife and children in order to shack up with another woman. We confronted him about his sinful lifestyle. His reply was that he knew that God still loved him and that in fact the relationship with this other woman actually made him feel closer to God. The elder who was with me said to him, “The trouble with you is that you think you can keep God in your back pocket.” Spot on!
That”s the point John makes in 1John 3:9. Whoever is born of God does not choose sin as a lifestyle. Yes, they still fall into sin despite their best efforts but they do not happily life a life of disobedience. That”s like trying to keep God in your back pocket. In other words, we call the shots and we expect God to bless what we do.
If we want to know the marvellous love of God in our life and enjoy that then we need to deal with sin, confess it and find renewal and change through the atoning work of our Saviour.