Lesson Five
1 John 3:1-12

Allow me to begin tonight's lesson with a modern parable. A husband and a wife have been married for ten years. It has been and is a good marriage. The wife is an excellent wife in every consideration. She is responsible in the marriage, is committed to the relationship, and is an asset to every aspect of her husband's life. They literally share life. She is attentive, supportive, and encouraging. She makes it a point not to neglect his love needs or his sexual needs.

The husband has an affair with her best friend. In his shame, he does not confess his unfaithfulness. She discovers his unfaithfulness. She is devastated. The two people whom she trusted the most betrayed her trust. She feels betrayed. She feels rejected. And she is deeply wounded.

After the shock wears off, after she copes with her grief, she approaches her husband. "I want us to save our marriage. I want us to restore our love. I want us to heal our relationship and rebuilt our trust and respect for each other. I honestly, genuinely love you. I will forgive you. I will not be vengeful. I will not try to punish you. I do not want to make you suffer."

"If this is what you want, I offer it to you. But it must be your choice. You must trust my love and my promises. You must be committed to working with me to restore what we had."

What do you think of that wife? "That is not a parable; that is a joke! In his dreams! That jerk deserves every consequence he gets!"

  1. What God does for everyone of us so far exceeds that wife's forgiveness and love that God's love and forgiveness and her love and forgiveness are not comparable (1 John 3:1).
    1. Everyone of us fail God in ways that hurt God deeper and create more unnecessary disaster than that husband's failure.
      1. Yet, God's love is so incredible, so enormous, that He not only forgives us, but He also accepts us into His family as His own children.
      2. When God forgives us and accepts us into His family, God begins to remake us into totally different persons.
        1. God remakes us to be like Him.
        2. Those who oppose God do not recognize God.
        3. Because God remakes us like Him, those who oppose God do not know us, either.
      3. God's declaration that He loves us with this astounding love is not merely a claim.
        1. He proved His astounding love for us by giving us Jesus.
        2. He proves that love by allowing us to be His own children.
        3. That God would allow imperfect, flawed, weak, sin prone physical beings to actually be His children is absolutely astounding!
      4. John's point in 3:4-12 emphasized again the truth that he declared in 1:5,6: God is light; in God there is no evil; we cannot practice evil and be in fellowship with God.
        1. In His love, God allows us to be His children.
        2. The blessings God will give us in eternity cannot even be imagined.
        3. One small indication of His great blessings to come is seen in the promise that when Jesus returns we will be made to be like Jesus.
      5. Children are to be like their father (3:3).
        1. God makes us His children so that we will be like Him.
        2. By choice and preference, we want to be pure because God is pure.
        3. The more we become like God the less those who oppose God will understand us.
        4. They did not recognize God; the more like God that we become, the less they will understand us.
    2. John emphasized the truth in 3:4-12 that he emphasized in 1:5-10.
      1. Just as there is a total contrast between light and darkness (chapter one) and a total contrast between the chosen lifestyle of evil and the chosen lifestyle of fellowship with God, there is a total contrast between a life of purity and a life of sin.
      2. Sin is lawlessness; a sinful lifestyle declares "good" does not exist, so there is no "right doing" (3:4).
        1. Law does not exist.
        2. Therefore right doing does not exist.
        3. There is no standard.
      3. Righteousness declares "right doing" does exist.
        1. There is a standard.
        2. Those who live in God's love accept God's standard, honor God's standard, and cherish God's standard.

  2. When a Christian wants to be in fellowship with God, wants to be God's child, wants to be pure, wants to be devoted to God's righteousness, he or she must understand that sin and purity are total opposites (3:7,8).
    1. There is zero compatibility between practicing sin and practicing righteousness.
      1. It is impossible for a Christian to embrace both by choice.
      2. Jesus came to destroy sin; he succeeded; in Jesus there is no sin.
        1. In Jesus the Christ sin does not exist.
        2. The person living in Jesus Christ has his or her sin destroyed by Jesus Christ.
        3. The choice of the person living in Jesus is not to practice sin.
        4. The Christian who practices sin has not seen and does not know Jesus.
      3. The person living in Jesus chooses to practice righteousness.
        1. Jesus was righteous.
        2. The person who lives in Jesus chooses to be righteous.
        3. The person who chooses to be righteous practices righteousness.
      4. It is impossible to chose to do both, to practice sin and to practice righteousness.
        1. The Christian who believes that you can do both is deceived.
        2. The Christian who consciously seeks to do both is following the devil.
    2. The truth:
      1. Jesus is righteous (3:7).
        1. The Christian who is devoted to Jesus practices righteous living.
        2. To be righteous you must practice righteousness.
      2. The Christian who practices sin belongs to the devil (3:8).
        1. The devil practiced sin before human history began.
        2. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil.
        3. We cannot belong to Jesus while we practice an existence that Jesus came to destroy.
    3. Christians conceived by God do not practice sin (3:9).
      1. The Christian who chooses to practice sin has not been conceived by God.
      2. Christians conceived by God do not chose to practice sin.
        1. Their choice is purity, not sin.
        2. It is not a matter of fear; it is a matter of desire.
        3. Even if there were no consequences, they still would choose to practice righteousness.
        4. They choose righteousness because they understand how much God loves them, what Jesus did for them.
        5. They choose righteousness because it is in being like God they find both joy and privilege.
      3. When John said that a Christian conceived by God cannot sin, John is not saying conception by God makes us incapable of sinning.
        1. John was saying that a Christian understands that loving God and practicing sin is not an option. He or she has no desire to practice sin.
        2. Practicing sin opposes everything we become by living in Christ.
        3. Practicing sin opposes God's love and embraces the existence Jesus came to destroy.
        4. If we have been conceived by God, we simply cannot do that.
    4. These are the distinguishing characteristics that contrast the children of God and the children of the devil [among Christians--remember the influence of the anti-Christs who had been among them] (3:10,11).
      1. The children of God practice righteousness.
      2. The children of the devil practice sin.
      3. The children of God love those who are in God's family.
      4. The children of the devil hate some who are in God's family.
      5. It has always been true that the people who love God also love God's people.
        1. Christians are not like Cain who killed his brother Abel (3:12).
        2. Cain killed Abel because Cain's deeds were evil and Abel's deeds were righteous.
        3. Evil's influence in Cain's life made loving his brother an impossibility.

The person who has been conceived by God does not want to practice sin and does not choose to practice sin. Why? He discovered God's love. He discovered the privilege of being righteous. He wants to be righteous and do righteous things. He has no desire to be evil or to practice ungodliness. He is elated that Christ destroyed evil in him through forgiveness.

John's declaration and the too common practice of some who have been baptized illustrate the failure to see life from God's perspective. How many baptized people say, "If you cannot show me in the Bible where it says that I will go to hell if I do that, leave me alone." How many say, "Just show me where the Bible condemns that?" How many say, "Well, I don't see anything wrong with that."

I suggest that the church has fought the wrong problem in the wrong way too long. In our attempt to prove that every kind of sin will send a person to hell, we did and do things that Christians conceived by God should never do. We created commands when we needed one. We took proof texts out of context. We used creative logic and deduction. All to try to prove that a Christian will go to hell or be condemned if he or she practices sin.

We lost sight of the basic problem. We believed that the basic problem was correcting ungodly behavior. In truth, the basic problem is changing the heart. Have we ever proven that we can change behavior without touching hearts!

The Christian who chooses to practice unrighteous behavior understands little or nothing about God's love. He or she feels no sense of privilege in being God's child. He or she finds no joy in practicing righteousness. Joy is found in practicing sin if he or she can just find a way to do it without being punished. The motivation is to avoid hell. It is not being a part of God's family in heaven.

The person who is conceived by God is overwhelmed by the knowledge of God's love. He or she finds it a privilege to be God's child. It is an honor to practice righteousness.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 March 1999
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