2017 01 29 am 1 John 3:4-10 How Our Practice Reveals Our Progenitor

If someone claims to be a Christian, holy living will be important to them. This is an encouragement for believers who may be assured that they are children of God if they trust in Christ alone, they love what is good and hate what is evil, and confess their sins.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
I once heard about a man travelling from Zambia to South Africa for a conference. And to get to SA from Zambia you travel down through Zimbabwe. Well, to enter SA, this man knew that he needed to pay for a permit or visa at the border between Zimbabwe and SA, and that you had to do this with SA currency. So before he left, he took some Zambian Kwacha (dollars) to the bank and he changed them into South African Rand. Eventually then he arrived at the SA border post and waited in line and finally came up to the counter where payment was demanded and he handed over the Rands he had brought with him, assuming that all would be well. But to his great horror, he learned that the Rands he had with him were counterfeit. And because they were counterfeit, they were not acceptable as payment. And so, he was denied entry into SA. During his whole journey, he thought he had what was necessary to secure entry. But when the decisive moment came, it turned out that he was wrong.
Now, that man had chosen to visit SA. And this problem simply meant turning around and going back to Zambia. And we can be certain that if he visited SA again, he would make very sure that he had genuine Rands with him that time!
But there is a much more important ‘border crossing’ that every human being has to make. And it is a ‘border crossing’ you make just once. If you are unprepared you cannot go back and try and get ready again; it will be too late. It is the Day of Judgment when every human being is going to stand before God and discover his or her eternal destiny. Some will go to an eternity in the joy and delight and pleasure and friendship of heaven, and others will go to an eternity in the misery and loneliness and pain and suffering of hell.
Now, think back for a moment to that man from Zambia who thought he had what was needed to enter SA only to discover that he did not. But now think about those who think they are ready for heaven but who learn that they are not ready and will instead go to hell. Jesus actually spoke about these people in Matthew 7. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SHOCK AND HORROR of those who thought they were ready for heaven but were mistaken?! Well, may the Lord use this passage so that none of us might be among that group. May He use it to wake up any among us who are ignorant or self-deceived. And may He use it also to encourage those of us who truly walk in faith.

So far in John’s letter, we have learned that eternal life has been revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have fellowship with God and with all believers. But we have seen also that not everyone who claims to be in fellowship with God is actually in fellowship with God. So John introduced us to three tests of true fellowship – moral/social/theological. And the purpose of these tests was to reveal false fellowship claims and to encourage genuine believers.

So, having introduced us to the three tests of genuine fellowship, John returns to these three tests in this next section of the Epistle. But this time he does so with CONTRASTS. So as he returns to the MORAL test, which has to do with obeying God’s commands, we see that the contrast is between practicing sin and practicing righteousness.
And this contrast is made as we believers are given five reasons why PRACTICING SIN is so WICKED and why PRACTICING RIGHTEOUSNESS is so NECESSARY.

I. And the first of these is the NATURE of sin. And we see this in v4 where we read, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”

A. Now, the phrase “PRACTICING SIN” is very important for this whole passage. John has already made it very clear in Ch. 1:8 that anyone who thinks he is without sin is deceiving himself. Even believers will not be free of sin until we are with the Lord. But there is a big difference between the one who sins and the one who practices sin.
1. At the moment, we have an electronic organ at home. And every now and then one of us will turn it on and press a few keys. But Jonathan practices playing the organ. And many of us will how much you have to practice playing an instrument if you want to play it well. Right? And that illustrates the difference between those who sin and those who practice sin. Practicing sin is continued and habitual sin with no hatred of sin or sorrow that it is committed (explain/repeat).

B. And that is why the word “LAWLESSNESS” is also very important. Literally, the Greek word translated as lawlessness means anti-law or against the law or hating the law. What is in view with this word is not breaking one commandment but an attitude that thoroughly hates the idea that there is a law and a Law-giver who must be obeyed.
1. In LEVITICUS 26, God warned the people of Israel that if they repeatedly disobeyed Him and rejected Him, He would send them into exile. He said, “They shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my commandments.” The people of Israel were exiled because they wanting nothing at all to do with and hated God’s law – that’s what spurning and abhorring means. And if you know your Bible history, you will know that immediately before the exile, Israel was absolutely awash with Baal worship and temple prostitution and all types of injustice, and that they killed the prophets of God who spoke to them about obeying God’s commandments. They hated the idea that there was a law and Law-giver that they had to obey. That’s what lawlessness is.
2. A few moments ago, I mentioned Jesus’ words in MATTHEW 7:23. To the group of those who thought they were fit for heaven, Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” These are people who hate the idea that there is a law and Law-giver they have to obey.

C. I expect we have all seen (or been) the typical two year old child who is saying NO! before Mum or Dad has finished giving instructions! That two year old just resents the idea that there is this higher authority that they must submit to. Well, the one who practices sin is like the two year old; they will not have God rule over them; they refuse to obey His commands. So despite their profession of faith, their continued and habitual sin, without any sorrow over their sin, reveals that their profession faith is false.

D. And yet, having said this, we mustn’t strip the Holy Spirit’s words of any of the force He intended them to have. ALL sin is lawlessness. The sin of the one who practices sin is lawlessness. But your sin and my sin is not any less wicked than theirs. In fact, it makes our sin even more disgusting because we know better. “Sin is lawlessness.”

II. So all sin is utterly wicked and offensive to God because of the NATURE of sin. But the second reason why sin is so wicked and why practicing righteousness is so necessary is because of the ORIGIN of Sin. And we see this in v8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”

A. Back over in CHAPTER 1:5 we read this, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Therefore, sin does not have its origin in God. And when this perfectly good God had finished His work of creation, how did He describe it? Everything was “very good.” There was no sin in all of creation at that time. But we know from the Bible that some time after creation week and before the Fall, the devil and his angels were cast out of heaven because they rejected God’s authority; they did not want to be ruled by God. And so they became lawless beings. And then we come to that moment when Eve met the serpent. And do you remember the Serpent’s first words to Eve? “Did God actually say?” In other words, Eve, why should God be believed/trusted/obeyed? Why should you have to obey Him? Actually, Eve, you know, if you eat this fruit you will be like God. You can be your own authority. And this idea appealed to Eve and so she ate and then gave some to her husband who was there with her. And so, sin/lawlessness came into humanity and the whole created universe.

B. And that is what John is referring to here. Sin is OF THE DEVIL. Sin is wicked because its father is the devil. So again, the person who engages in ongoing and habitual sin, and who does not repent, which means a decisive turning away from their sin, even though they profess faith in God, reveals that they are of the devil.

C. But again, we need to note that while this is so in the person who practices sin, it is true of ALL sin. As a child of God, you need to know that your sin has the same origin as the sin of the one who practices sin. You should hate sin and be sorry for your sin also because its origin is the devil.

III. So Practicing Sin is Wicked and Practicing Righteousness is Necessary because of the NATURE of sin and the ORIGIN of sin. But as we come to the third reason supplied, the focus changes from negative reasons to positive reasons; and the first of these is the PERSON of Jesus Christ. At the end of v5 we read this about the Lord Jesus, “In Him (meaning Jesus) there is no sin.” And the end of v7 says, “He is righteous.”

A. And these are really two ways of saying the same thing. The Lord Jesus lived a life of perfect goodness and holiness and purity.

B. And whether we are children or adults, we IMITATE those we love and respect and admire. Right? We try and talk like they do or dress like they do or decorate our houses like they do or cast our fishing rod like they do. I am sure we have all seen (or been) the little boy walking behind Dad with a little plastic lawn mower as Dad mowed the lawn with the big mower. One Grandfather was watching His Grandson do this with his son. And he got a huge kick out of seeing just how carefully the little boy was trying to imitate this Dad he loved so much. He even pulled the cord to start his little lawnmower, just like Dad did, even though he didn’t have a cord on his little plastic lawnmower.
1. The point is then that if we believe in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, if we love Him, we will be very eager to imitate Him. If you see someone who engages in lasting and habitual sin who is not troubled by their sin, you can be sure that that person does not love the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who love Christ will want to become more and more like Him in terms of their speech, their thought, and their behaviour. And in these ones, reading the Bible and listening to preaching and participating in Bible study is not a boring task to avoid or just endure but how they learn to practice righteousness so that they can be like the Lord whom they love!

IV. But the fourth reason why practicing sin is so wicked and why practicing righteousness is very similar: It is the WORK of Christ. Look at 5, “You know that He (meaning Jesus) appeared to take away sins,” and the last part of v8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

A. Read the OT and one thing that you cannot fail to notice is the sacrifice of animals by the shedding of blood as an offering for sin. I don’t think we can begin to comprehend just how many animals died in the place of sinful human beings. Hebrews 9&10 make it plain however that animal sacrifice could never actually remove their sins from them; it pointed the OT people forward to the One who would truly take their sins away. And because of the NT, we know that that person was the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember how John the Baptist described Jesus when he first saw Him? He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus came to take our sins away. He came to destroy what the devil began when He said to Eve, Did God actually say…?”
1. So with that in mind, turn with me to a kind of parallel passage in 1 PETER 1:17-19. Peter begins by saying, If you call on God as your Father, knowing that He will Judge everyone’s deeds, “conduct yourselves with fear,” or live a holy and respectful life. And then Peter gives the reason you should live this way, “knowing that you were ransomed” or rescued or delivered from the lawless way of living that you used to live “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” You must live a holy life because Jesus delivered you from sin and the devil with His precious blood.
2. So again, the precious blood of Christ clearly means nothing to those who practice sin, regardless of their profession of faith. What Jesus came to do has no effect on how they behave.

V. So, in terms of the positive reasons why practising sin is so wicked and why practising righteousness is so necessary, we have been pointed to the PERSON of Jesus Christ and the WORK of Jesus Christ. And the fifth and last reason is closely related. It has to do with what we can call OUR FAMILY CONNECTIONS: v6 says, “No one who abides in Him (meaning Jesus) keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” And v9 says, “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.”

A. Now, sometimes Christians can kind of stub their toe, in a manner of speaking, with v6. For at first read it seems to say that if you abide in Jesus you will not sin anymore. And that can lead believers to doubt their salvation because they still see sin in their lives. But remember what we said earlier about ch. 1:8. John was very clear there that we will not be free of sin in this life. What we need to do then is to read v6 together with v9. For both verses use the phrase “keeps on sinning.” But in v9, the phrase is used as another way of stating the phrase “makes a practice of sinning” that is used in the first part of the verse. So v6 and v9 are not talking about committing a sin but practicing sin – the lasting and habitual sin without any sorrow over sin that we have described.

B. The point being made here is that THOSE WHO ABIDE IN CHRIST, who have been joined to Jesus Christ because they believe in Him and love Him and trust Him and know Him to be their Saviour and Lord, will not practice sin. Jesus used the same “abide in me” language in JOHN 15. And He illustrated it there by picturing Himself as a vine and those who profess faith as branches. He said, If you are truly connected to me, you will bear fruit, meaning you will practice righteousness. And He also said, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit [God] takes away.” So those who profess faith but who practice sin are not truly connected to Christ and they will go to hell unless they repent and believe. You cannot abide in Christ and practice sin.

C. And the “born of God” and “God’s Seed abides in him” language of v9 makes a similar point. It reminds us of the remarkable discoveries being made about DNA. Every human being has a DNA code that is powerfully influenced by the DNA of his or her parents. Our biological connection with our parents means our looks and our thoughts and our speech and our behaviour will be very much like their looks and thoughts and speech and behaviour. So, if we are truly children of God, born by the Holy Spirit, we will not make a practice of sinning because our Father is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Therefore, the person who makes a practice of sinning reveals that his or her profession of faith is false.

VI. So there we have the five reason why practicing sin is so wicked and why practicing righteousness is so necessary. And that brings us finally to v10: “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.”

A. So if someone says, I am a Christian or I believe in God but they do not practice righteousness, we may be sure that that person is a child of the devil. If they commit continued and habitual sin, and they are not troubled by their sin, and they do not repent of their sin and resolve to turn away from their sin, it doesn’t matter what they profess, they are a child of the devil. Could this be you? Are you not concerned about doing what is right? Are you committing the same sin or sins over and over again? The you need to know if this does not change; if you do not repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, you will come to that ‘border crossing’ on Judgment Day and hear the Lord Jesus say, “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

B. But the opposite is true also. How can I be sure that I truly am a child of God? I can be sure if I practice righteousness. If I love the commandments of God and strive to obey them; if I pursue growth in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – and if when I sin, I am troubled by my sin and I turn to the Lord and confess my sin, I can be confident that I am a child of God.

C. But having said that, and just to make sure that this is crystal clear to all of us, no one becomes a child of God because they practice righteousness, they practice righteousness because they are a child of God.
1. Earlier in the service we read from EXODUS 34. And in those words, God reveals His character.
We read, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity.” That final word “iniquity” translates the same Greek word translated as “lawlessness” in our passage and in Matthew 7:23. We do not become God’s children because we do good and are obedient; we become God’s children because He forgives our iniquity/lawlessness.
And He can do that, we learn from ISAIAH 53:6, because “the LORD has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity (same word again) of us all.” Jesus went to the cross to take away our sin, our iniquity, our lawlessness. Jesus went to the cross to deal with the problem of our sins. And we become children of God when we believe that He did this for me.
So when the children of God stand before Jesus at the ‘border crossing’ of Judgment Day, He will say, I know you. You are my brother or sister because you believed that I died for the forgiveness of your sins. Welcome home. Come on in. Remain here with me.

D. The title of this sermon is: HOW OUR PRACTICE REVEALS OUR PROGENITOR. And a Progenitor is a fancy word for Father. So we end with this question: Who is your Father? Are you a child of the devil who practices sin? Or are you a child of God who practices righteousness? Amen.