Looking back as we begin, at chapter 2 verse 28 of this letter, we see that John is exhorting his readers to “...abide in Him (Jesus); so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming”.
I think it is very appropriate to begin a sermon about our lifestyle as Christians, with this same exhortation. “Abide in Him”. Because, you see, all that I’m going to say to you today, and your success in following my counsel (should you choose to do so), hinges on whether or not you truly abide in Him.
Jesus is coming back, my friends. John was already looking forward to that day. He closed his account of the Revelation with the urgent prayer, “Amen, come Lord Jesus”. Now, we look forward to it; and since that day is so much closer now, we should be even more earnest and diligent in looking for His coming.
Well, John says, “...abide in Him; so that when He appears, we (you) may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at his coming”.
I can always tell, when I walk into a room where Nicole is, whether she’s been up to something she should not. She is a terrible liar (and that is a good thing, I think); she cannot hide her guilt from me.
I may not know immediately what she’s been up to, but when I walk in the door and she is in the process of standing, or coming away from some corner of the room, or stepping away from the cat or the dog, ...and our eyes meet... and without my saying anything she looks at me with as innocent a look as she can muster and asks, “what?” then I know something is amiss.
She is shrinking back in shame at my coming.
This is what John was talking about, in reference to our relationship to Christ. The big difference is, He knows exactly what we’re doing, as He will know at that moment he returns. We won’t be looking into His eyes and asking, “what?”, but I’m afraid that many of us will be shrinking away from Him in shame at His coming.
Let’s talk about why.
Now I want to point out first, that John is writing to the church. He is writing to Christians, and his message is not intended at all for the unsaved. Everything he is saying here is to and for the believer in Christ; partakers of the Divine Nature.
He is talking at some points about the unsaved, but not to the unsaved; and he is not talking about the unsaved as third parties, ‘out there somewhere’, he is giving information so that those who have attached themselves to the body of believers and yet are not truly believers themselves, may possibly recognize themselves in his words, and turn to the Lord.
Now we’ll take these verses, 7 - 10, and talk about them one at a time.
In verse 7 John says something that on the surface sounds like a ‘salvation by works’ doctrine. He says, “the one who practices righteousness is righteous”. Since we know that scripture does not contradict itself, and other scripture makes it very clear that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not of works, then we have to look closer and be sure we are understanding John’s point.
To understand verse 7, it is helpful to go back once more to chapter 2; this time to verse 29.
“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”
Here John is telling us that the evidence we see that convinces us that they are ‘born of God’, is that they practice righteousness. His kind of righteousness.
So in verse 7 of chapter three, he is only expounding on that point, and saying, Christ is righteous, therefore when you see someone practicing His kind of righteousness, then they must also be righteous.
One attribute of God, is that He is righteous altogether. So when someone habitually practices God’s kind of righteousness, it is evidence that the person practicing righteousness, is right, (or just) before God.
That is John’s point.
So with that in mind, move on to verse 8.
“...the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”
So what is this saying to us? That if we sin, we are of the devil? No!
It is saying that those who are of the devil sin; and if someone habitually practices sin, that should tell us who they belong to...who their real master is.
If you can habitually practice sin; you who wear the label “Christian” ... you who attend church faithfully and talk the talk and attach yourself to the body like a leech ...
if you do all these things, yet habitually practice sin, this verse in I John is intended to make you look honestly at yourself and realize that you are not born of Him; you are of the devil.
The devil, John says, has sinned from the beginning. He is altogether sinful. He is a liar and the father of lies. He denied the Creator who made him, and he continues to deny Him, and he will continue to deny Him. He has sinned from the beginning, and sin is the very business of Hell.
Be careful who you endorse, Christian! When you wear clothes that have some famous person’s name on the label, or their picture on your shirt, you are advertising to the world around you that you endorse that person. You condone whatever they are doing, and give hearty approval to them, in their beliefs and their actions. You may verbally deny it, but those who see you and don’t know you have every right to believe that you endorse that person.
When you continue in an action or an expressed attitude that to you is sin, or that the Bible makes clear is sin, - no matter what label you give yourself - everyone around you has the right to conclude that you belong to the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
THE BIBLE SAYS, “...THE ONE WHO PRACTICES SIN IS OF THE DEVIL”
So if you say, “No, I’m just weak; but I belong to Jesus”, you are a liar. Because the Bible calls you a liar. The Bible says you are of the devil.
Before we look any further in these verses, I want to talk for a few minutes about our reaction to the sin problem.
We are living in a time in our country, when everything is justified as being a ‘lifestyle’. Sin isn’t called sin anymore. It’s either an accident that happened to us, or something “unfortunate” (as in, “I didn’t lie, I just made an unfortunate choice of words”) or it’s a lifestyle.
“Oh, don’t be so closed-minded and judgmental about ‘gays’; that’s just an alternate lifestyle, and they have a right to their lifestyle.”
Satan has tricked people into calling things something that they are not, in order to hide from their own minds the sinfulness of sin!
Instead of ‘homosexual’, we’ve been trained to say ‘gay’
Instead of ‘abortion’, we’re conditioned to say ‘pro-choice’ or ‘family planning’
We don’t commit adultery, we have an affair.
Society is growing increasingly afraid to confront sin and evil, because society in general is becoming increasingly sinful and evil. As long as you don’t interfere with someone else’s ‘lifestyle’ - or hamper them in their own sinful course, they don’t care what you do; and if it ends up looking politically correct, they’ll even give hearty approval to what you’re doing, whether they’d ever think of doing it themselves or not!
“Go ahead! Do what you want! Do what makes you feel good! Just do it! It’s not my lifestyle; but if it’s your lifestyle, it’s ok.
Isn’t lifestyle an attractive word? Life. Life is a good thing. We all like to cling to life. We want to live life to the fullest. Mikey even likes it!
And style is good too, huh? Style. We all want style. If you have style, it means you’re cool. Everyone sees you as someone who ‘has it all together’. “Hey, I’d like to be like him....he’s got styyyyyyle.”
So combine these two very attractive words into one, and use it to re-label anything you want to do as a regular part of your daily existence, and that makes that thing acceptable.
So what if the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination to God? IT’S MY LIFESTYLE. God needs to get with the times”.
That’s just a very clear and prominent example. Take out the word ‘homosexuality’ and insert your own favorite sin in the blank; it still works.
God doesn’t agree with us, in categorizing our sin as a lifestyle, people.
Practiced sin, if we’ll be honest with ourselves, is ‘sty life’. It is living with the pigs.
It was when the prodigal son finally came to realize how far he had sunk, when he was wallowing in the mud with pigs, (and they were enjoying it more than he) that he woke up and determined to go back to his father and beg forgiveness.
So I want to talk for a couple of minutes about sty life. Not your lifestyle, if you are one who is practicing sin, yet claiming to be born of God. No, not lifestyle, but sty life.
If you are practicing sin, without repentance and without confession and without righteousness, then you are living in the sty, my friend.
I wanted to think of one mind picture from which I could draw several examples of our relationship and reaction to sin; and it suddenly occurred to me that a very good example is given to us in a scene from “The Wizard of OZ”.
Early in the movie, before the storm, Dorothy is playing in the farmyard. She is walking along the rail fence that encircles the hog pen, when suddenly she loses her balance and falls into the sty. (How many remember that scene?)
Now, ... hogs are big animals. Hogs can be mean, especially when you fall on them or surprise them.
So Dorothy starts yelling and trying to get up, and Bert Lahr jumps into the sty to rescue her.
Now Christians, here is your perfect example of how the Lord wants us to react to sin.
He wants us to be as afraid of it as Dorothy was of those hogs.
The Bible never says that we won’t sin. It says we will sin, because we’re sinful creatures in our old nature, and we will struggle with that nature as long as we’re in this flesh.
But the difference between one who is of the devil and the one who is of God, is that the one who is of the devil will stay and wallow, and grunt and root with the hogs; but when we become children of God, and recognize the sinfulness of sin, .... when we find ourselves fallen into it, we should be so frightened that we’re as anxious to get out of that situation as Dorothy was to get out of the pig pen.
The good news for you and me today, Christian, and professing Christian, is that the Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil!
I’m so glad that John included that announcement here in this verse. Because you see, God, who is righteous, had every right to destroy us! Instead, because of His love for us, He sent His Son to die on the cross and pay the penalty for us, that in so doing He might destroy the works of the devil.
It is a sad thing, that so often in today’s church we treat Christianity as though it were good advice, instead of good news.
“Well, it’s a good thing to live like a Christian”
“I wouldn’t do that; I ‘m a good Christian man!”
“She’s such a good, Christian woman; so kind, so friendly and sincere”
We take on the attitude that now that we’re Christians, we’re much better people than anyone else.
Why, we look in the mirror and say, “Ok, now I can see why God saved me. He could see the future, and He knew what a wonderful person I was going to become, and how useful to His kingdom..”
When we ought to remind ourselves often that He saved us for Himself; and not because of our potential, but because we had no potential.
We should never stop being amazed that He would care enough for us to call us and save us, and use us. Each time we stop to think about where we would be without Christ, we should be amazed and grateful that He would condescend to save and use us.
Christianity isn’t just a more advisable lifestyle; it’s good news!
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:5
If we were truly seeing Christianity as good news and not just good advice for living, then
we would be quicker to realize our danger when we’ve fallen into the sty; and more determined to scramble back out as quickly as we possibly can.
Let’s look briefly at verses 9 and 10 so I can draw to a close.
Again, I want to make clear that John is not by any means saying that if someone is a Christian he doesn’t sin any more. There are those who take these isolated verses from John’s letter and establish a belief that they are now sinless, because they are believers in Christ.
Those same people have entirely ignored the verse that says “if we say we have no sin, we make Him out to be a liar, and the truth is not in us”!
What John is telling us in verse 9, very simply, is that someone who is truly born from above, having the spiritual birth that comes from God; the birth from above that Jesus told Nicodemus about; cannot practice sin. Cannot habitually go on in known, deliberate sin. Why? BECAUSE he is born of God! He is a child of God, who is indwelt by God’s Spirit, and cannot be comfortable, wallowing in the sty. He can see the filth, and he can sense the danger, and he wants out; RIGHT NOW!
And brothers and sisters in Christ, when you see a brother or sister in sin, out of love for that brother or sister, you should be as anxious to pull them out, as Bert Lahr was to snatch Dorothy out of the way of the hooves of those hogs.
That’s why John included the lack of love for the brethren as an evidence of someone who is not of God (there in verse 10).
True and manifested love for the brethren is one of the primary evidences of saving faith. Jesus said that even those who are not His will recognize that you belong to Him when they see your love for the brethren in the faith.
You will very often hear people saying that we have no right to judge other people. This is a lie of Satan, and it goes against the admonitions of scripture.
We are not to pass judgment; that is, pronounce condemnation on people - especially brothers and sisters in the faith - because the Bible says that for those in Christ Jesus there IS no condemnation, and they will not come into judgment...and those outside the faith are judged already because they have not believed in the Son.
But in other ways, we are indeed expected to judge. When John tells us here that it is obvious who is of God and who is of the devil, his implication is that we are to use our brains and our God-given spiritual discernment to judge between the two; to make distinctions based on what we see, as to whether people are in the faith or not; practicing sin or not.
For what reason? To condemn? NO! To snatch them out of the sty if and when at all possible!
As a man called to preach the gospel, and to pastor His people, it is my duty before God, to be discerning and to judge on a spiritual level, and sound out the warning.
I say to you what I would say to the congregation at Rosemont, or the largest Baptist church in the organization...
...I say what I would say to a gathering of 2, or 2 million:
...IF YOU ARE CONTINUING IN SIN, IF YOU ARE PRACTICING SIN, IF YOU CAN REMAIN COMFORTABLE, WALLOWING IN THE STY OF SIN, THEN
YOU ARE OF THE DEVIL, AND NOT OF GOD.
Pray for wisdom. Pray and ask the Lord to help you against self-deceit. Pray, “Lord, if I have deceived myself, please show me, and grant me repentance, so that I may confess my sin to you and be cleansed. Lord, snatch me out of the sty before I am trampled!”
He will do it, and He will not reject you.
True believer, if you have confidence that you are His because His Spirit reveals sin in you and you hate that sin, and you repent and turn away from it, and you know the blessing of sensing His on-going cleansing work of sanctification in your life, then you can rejoice.
Be diligent. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t let pride creep in.
Remember that Christianity is not just good advice; it is good news. He saved you by His mercy and His grace, and gave you new life; and renews you by the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit. Rejoice in His love, and let that love flow through you to the brethren.
Those who are of the devil practice sin.
Those who are of God abide in Him so that when He appears (they) may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming; and they love one another.
Those who are of the devil are afraid of His coming.
Those who are of God hope for His coming, and purify themselves in preparation for that great day.
Those who are of the devil focus only on themselves and their needs and their wants and whatever fleeting glory they can grab for themselves in this life.
Those who are of God look for His coming, and, confident of His love and His acceptance, turn their attention constantly to the brethren, giving them preference and honor above themselves.
They do this because that’s what He did, and they are of Him.
May God, by His Holy Spirit, give you sight and discernment and wisdom today, to rightly judge your own condition. If you find yourself in the sty, then cry out and He will rescue you. He wants to rescue, even more than you want to be rescued.