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
Consider: In the last two posts we saw that John warned the believers of the dangers of listening to those who twisted the gospel message (chapter 1). He told them that believers have been anointed with the Holy Spirit and have God’s seal of ownership on them (chapter 2). In chapter 3, John commences with the glorious truth that as believers we are children of God.
John tells his readers that as children of God we look forward to Christ’s return when we will be changed to be like Jesus (in other words our physical bodies will be replaced by spiritual bodies) (3:2). Remember that when John speaks of hope (v3) this is not hope as the world sees it – hope against all the odds, but instead hope that is based upon the surety of Christ’s return. As a result of this hope, John encourages the believers to ‘.. purify themselves …’ (v3).
The next section of his letter deals with sin. As you read the chapter you may have been thinking of your own weakness when it comes to sin. Surely John cannot be setting such a high standard that we are all doomed to fail? The key to this section is verse 6 where it says: No-one who lives in him [Jesus] keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Can you see that what John is talking about is habitual sin! This is sin that we can fall into and then practise for so long that our conscience becomes anaesthetised to it. Look at the words John uses about this sinning: ‘… keeps on …’ and ‘… continues to …’ This idea is reinforced in 1 John 3:9 where it says: No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him, they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
Why was John so concerned about sin? It would appear that an aspect of the false teaching that was prevalent around this time was that sinning did not matter because they had received God’s forgiveness in Christ. John refutes this by telling the believers that one mark of a true believer is someone who seeks to ‘purify’ themselves. This is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Another mark of the true believer is someone who puts their faith into action, by showing love to their fellow believers. John expresses it this way in 1 John 3:17 – If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Of course putting faith into action does not mean that the focus of that action is only towards believers. James puts it like this: In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17).
What has challenged you in this part of John’s letter? Having the seal of God’s ownership on your life, do you see yourself as a child of God? As one of God’s children do you seek to purify yourself, turning away from habitual sin that can bind you and stunt your spiritual growth? Does your faith show itself in love for others?
Pray: Father, may we come to understand the enormity of the great love you have lavished on us. Give us a clearer picture of the responsibilities and privileges of being a child of God. Help us to deal with any sin in our lives that could become habitual. Amen