Five Minute Devotions: 1 John 3
As John moves into the middle chapter of his epistle, he remains fixated on this idea that your actions bring legitimacy and authenticity to your Christianity. He also brings in the concept that you are now required to act like God desires because you have been brought into his family (1 John 3:1). Previously, John has discussed those who claimed not to sin, now he talking to those who claim that sin is really no big deal, countering their claim with 1 John 3:4: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”
Sin No More
Moreover, he is emphatic that “No one who is born of God will continue to sin” (1 John 3:9). This seemingly contradicts what John has said earlier in his epistle about the follies of claiming to be without sin. How should we interpret this? We have two strong options.
First, note that John also says “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning” (1 John 3:6). Every time he makes a statement like this, the words “keep on” or “continue” are at play. John’s emphasis is more on continued, habitual unrepentant sin. No genuine Christian can engage in habitual unrepentant sin. No authentic believer can cordon off a section of his life and keep it from God. Sin is serious and we must deal with it.
This is important because many Christians have their pet sins and downplay them, yet call out other believers for their areas of struggle. Christians decry homosexuality, yet downplay their own heterosexual lusts. Christians will picket abortion clinics and then not provide for widows and orphans. My sin is always less than your sin. My sin is a burden, your sin is a damnation. John is clear that Christians cannot play with sin.
Community and Action
John also returns to the idea of community and action. Christians are called to not do certain things (i.e. sin), but we are called to do certain things. 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” We cannot claim that we love widows and orphans and then fail to provide for the unwed teen mother. Christianity is a religion of action.
It is not enough to avoid sin, we must also pursue truth. We must pursue the outcast and the downcast, the marginalized and the distressed. We must engage in community with those we have no commonalities with, save the saving commonality of Christ. The greatest of us must be prepared to lay down our lives for the least of these. Isn’t that the example of Jesus?
Lastly, John gives us a clear test of genuine Christianity: “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). Question: Are you saved? You know the answer by whether or not you have the Spirit within you. By definition, a genuine Christian is someone who is indwelt by the Spirit of God. That’s why the true test of a Christian is a transformed life. You cannot have a new Spirit indwelling you and remain unchanged.
Father, today we lay down our sinful habits at your feet to exchange them for crowns of righteousness. We ask for your Spirit to guide us through temptation that we might emerge stronger on the other side. We pray for deliverance from the evil which has ensnared us. And we long for that day when sin’s presence shall be no more. Come, Lord Jesus, come! But until that day, keep us strong in the fight against sin.
What are some practical ways Christians can avoid or break sinful habits?
What is the importance of community is defeating our sinful natures?