See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
Read: 1 John 3:1-10
Consider: In his letter, John wants the believers to understand that as children of God, the life they live should reflect their new life in Christ. Thus he is able to say: No-one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6), while in 3:9 he says: No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they are born of God.
How do we reconcile what John is saying with the fact that we know how easily we sin, despite having been forgiven by God? The apostle Paul recognised the struggle between the two natures found in the believer; the flesh and the Spirit. In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul could say: For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:19-20). Paul is saying that while we are freed from sin (its power and its consequences) when we commit ourselves to Christ, we will have a daily struggle with sin that results in us not being sin free. John, himself, in 1 John 1:8 says: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. We need to be careful that we do not assume that John wrote his letter to unbelievers. It is clear that this is not so, because in 1 John 5:13 we read: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Are John and Paul contradictory? No! Notice that John uses phrases like ‘… continue to sin …’ , ‘… keeps on sinning …’ and ‘… go on sinning …’ (3:6; 3:9). John may be thinking about any sin that we habitually fall into, sins that can drag us down and perhaps even those sins that we are not willing to give up. Paul, in referring to the ‘war’ between the new and old natures recognises that we all struggle with sin on a daily basis.
So must the Christian keep on struggling with sin? Yes and No! Yes, in that when we are tempted to sin we can either go along with it or resist it.. No, in that we do not undertake this struggle alone. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. In James 4:7 we read: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
The key to overcoming temptation is to submit ourselves to God and actively resist the devil. As we all know, temptation always begins in the mind and when we give in it generally leads to sinful actions. Of course, the first and best way is to get yourself out of the situation where you are tempted. Also, filling your mind with scripture or a favourite verse can help, as can singing a Christian hymn or song.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
(1 Corinthians 10:12)
Pray: Father, forgive us for so easily failing to resist the devil when we are tempted. May we use your strength to endure temptation and help us to focus on you so that we fill our minds and hearts with thoughts of you. Amen