Summary: The truth is, that how we live, matters to God! Christians are to keep in step with the Spirit and to walk in obedience to God's revealed will - but what's our motivation for doing so? Is it Law or is it Love? And why does it matter?

No Compromise! - 1 John 3:1-10 - July 28, 2013

Series: That We May Know – Life With Jesus - #9

We’re continuing in our series in the book of 1 John this morning so I’ll invite you to open your Bibles with me to 1 John, chapter 3, and we’ll begin reading in verse 1. And, again this morning, the message is going to be shorter than usual, and we won’t have a lot of time to get into it, because we’re going to have some more baptisms today. We’re excited about that, and we’re looking forward to it, but at the same time we don’t want to miss what God is telling us in His word this morning either. So let’s get right to it …

If you were with us last week you’ll remember that John essentially divided everyone in the world into one of two camps – you’re either for God, or you’re not. If you’re not for God, then you’re against Him. There is no middle ground. You have to come down on one side of the fence or the other. So every one of us here today is either for God, or we are not. We either have Jesus, or we do not. And, while Christians may come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, there are certain things, that John says, that are true of each and every one of them.

First, is our attitude towards sin. A Christian does not rejoice in sin but is rather grieved by it. When we sin we become convicted of it and experience a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. It’s more than just feeling “sorry” for something; it’s desiring to, and being willing to, turn away from the darkness and live in the light.

Secondly, is our response to God’s Word. A Christian’s heart humbles itself to walk in obedience to God’s commands. There is a desire there to learn what God’s will is, what’s pleasing and right in His sight, and to live in accordance with that. So a Christian seeks to get into God’s word, not just to read what’s there, but to know God better, and to put His word into practice in our lives.

Thirdly, a Christian is growing in love – love for God and love for one another. A little later in this letter John is going to write these words … “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19–21, NIV84) Jesus said that love was the defining characteristic of His disciples, so the life of a Christian, is to be characterized by love. And that love begins with God. Let’s start reading in verse 1, where John writes these words …

“How great is the 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. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1–3, NIV84)

God’s whole plan of salvation begins with love for the people that He has created. Listen to what Scripture says: John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV84) Romans 5:8 - “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV84) And Ephesians 2:4-5 - “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV84)

That love has been lavished on us for a reason – Why? That we might be called, “Children of God.” Who are the children of God? Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiven their sins, and born again of the Spirit of God. Jesus came, lived a sinless life, went to His death on the cross, in order to bear in His flesh, the penalty that sin demands. And there was a purpose in it. The Bible tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV84) These are the ones – the forgiven, the redeemed, the born again, who are the children of God. They have experienced the incredible reality of God’s love first hand, and they have been touched by His amazing grace which has brought them to salvation, and named them, “Children of God.”

And John says, “that’s what we are!” And if you have Jesus, that’s great news! But it’s not great news for everyone, because not everyone is a child of God! Jump down to verse 10 with me for a moment. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10, NIV84) Again, John’s telling us that everyone in the world can be divided up into one of two camps – those who are the children of God, and those who are the children of the devil.

What divides the two groups then? … The answer is, “Jesus.” The one group knows Him, the other does not. The one group has Him, the other does not. The one group loves Him, and the other does not. And because the one group has Him, and knows Him, and loves Him, they seek to live their lives in a way which is honoring, pleasing, and glorifying to Him. Let’s read the next few verses beginning in verse 4 …

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4–6, NIV84)

Friend’s, it’s not enough to say you believe God’s Word, to say you know Jesus, to tell Him that you love Him – the reality of those things is proved by the choices we make day after day. We can’t merely hear the word of God and believe that that’s enough. Faith that is real will result in action which is in keeping with God’s commandments. Jesus has said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” And John says, and he’s not pulling any punches here, John says, “Jesus has come to take our sins away. There is no sin in Jesus, and those who are His, will seek to turn away from sin as well. In fact, no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning and no one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.”

And maybe those words are hitting a little close to home this morning for some of you, because you know, deep down, that your life is full of sin. You’re making choices day after day that you know don’t honour God. It’s not a matter of ignorance. It’s not that you don’t know better, that you don’t know what God’s word teaches you. It’s a matter of pride, of believing that you know better than God; that your way is better than God’s way.

John says that sin is “lawlessness.” The world might call it “fun,” or, “no big deal.” But Scripture teaches us that it’s something different entirely. The Bible teaches us that sin is rebellion, that it is defiance against, God. When you choose to go your own way, to satisfy your needs or wants or desires, in a way that falls outside of God’s will for our lives, - and that’s what we’re doing when we sin – we’re satisfying a need, or a want, or a desire, in a way that is not in keeping with God’s will – when we do that, what we’re doing in that moment, is defying God. We’re rebelling against Him! And some of you here this morning – you’re filling your lives with sin – and you know it, and you’re not turning from it, and in some cases are maybe even celebrating it. If that’s you, listen again to what John has written – “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” We need to examine ourselves in light of those verses because they teach us a critical truth that isn’t very popular today.

Let’s go on to verse 7 … “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:7–8, NIV84) There’s a warning in those verses, a warning not to allow yourself to be deceived, a warning not to permit yourself to be led astray.

What’s John warning us about here? He’s warning us about one of the most popular, and deadly beliefs, in Christian circles today, namely this: That if we claim to believe in God, that we can live in whatever manner we like. That can look like a lot of different things, and we can make it sound good by wrapping it up in words like “loving,” and “tolerant,” and we can justify it in all sorts of ways as well by saying things like, “everybody’s doing it,” “nobody’s perfect,” “I’m not as bad as the guy down the street.” But when it comes right down to it, we’re talking about rebellion against God.

And I want to differentiate here between wilful sin and on-going sanctification. Sanctification is the process of being made holy, of your life being set apart for God’s glory. It is a lifelong process by which we are being purified and the character of Christ is being shaped within us. As the years go by, and we are seeking to draw ever closer to God, allowing His word to penetrate to our hearts and shape our values, priorities and beliefs, God will reveal sin in our lives that we never saw before. That sin, which we suddenly see, will fill us with sorrow and bring us to repentance before God. We acknowledge it, confess it, receive forgiveness for it, and we turn away from it from that time forth. But it’s sin we weren’t aware of before, and when we do become aware of it, we turn from it and turn back to God.

What John’s warning us about here though is wilful sin; of knowing the right, but deliberately choosing the wrong. And he’s saying, “It doesn’t matter that you call yourself a Christian, the proof is in the fruit of your life, and if you’re not seeking to walk in righteousness and holiness before God, then you don’t know the Father, you don’t have the Son, and you haven’t received the Holy Spirit.” Look at the end of verse 8 here … “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. [Not so that you could revel in it, but that so it would be destroyed! For] No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:8–9, NIV84)

We can’t compromise with sin, because sin isn’t the result, of seeing, and knowing, and doing life, with God. Deliberately walking in sin is incompatible with who we are in Jesus. In verse 1 John tells us that the world does not know us – it doesn’t understand us – it can’t conceive of the Christian, and what drives them, because it has not known God. When we compromise with sin, the world knows us then because we’re living exactly how everyone else is living – in rebellion against, and defiance to, God. But we are called to be holy – to be set apart – to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – to be new creations in Jesus – and when we live in accordance with what we are, the world doesn’t know what to do with us. But holiness is that which God has called us to, and so, as it says in verse 3, everyone who has this hope, that Jesus is coming again to call His own to Him, “purifies himself, just as” Jesus is pure. That means that the one who has the Son, who knows Jesus, will seek to put to death the things of the sinful nature and walk in the light as Jesus is in the light.

But I want you to understand that our motivation for obedience isn’t the Law. It’s our love for Jesus, for it’s Jesus who said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”(John 14:15) Not, “If you don’t want to get into trouble, you’ll obey me.” Not, “If you don’t want to pay the price, you’ll do what I say.” But rather, “if you love me, you’ll walk in obedience.” And this right here is probably the most important part of the message this morning, understanding and grasping the reality of what I am about to say: If our motivation is simply the law, we’re going to look for ways to get around the law so that we can do what we want. We’ll look to excuse and justify our actions; and we’re going to choose to walk in sin more often than not if our motivation is simply the Law. But if our motivation is love for Jesus, it changes everything. If our motivation is love, then we are going to look for ways to fulfill what God has asked of us.

Now, that’s all the time we have this morning. But I want to plead with you to take to heart the passage of Scripture that we have looked at today. Set aside some time this afternoon, or later this week, that you can meditate on this passage, reflect on it, and ask yourself the difficult questions: What does my life say about which side of the fence I come down on? Do I have Jesus, or do I not? What do my choices say about the reality of my beliefs? And what’s my motivation to follow Jesus? Is it the Law, or is it love? Your answers will make all the difference in the world.

Let’s pray …

In a few minutes we are going to listen to the testimonies of several people who are responding to God in love today as they enter into baptism. But for now I’m going to turn the service back over to Josh and those of you who will be baptized today, this is your cue to go and get changed and we’ll meet out at the pool.