We’re about half way through our study in 1 John. The purpose of this letter is recorded in chapter 1, verse 4, "We write this to make our [your] joy complete." The way John hopes to accomplish this purpose is demonstrated throughout this letter, to counter the lies that crept into the church by presenting the truth of God and His ways.
This morning, we will look at 1 John 3:4-10. The lie that John wants us to face and resolve is the lie that our behavior doesn’t matter to our relationship with God. Let me read 1 John 3:4-10 for us.
John wants us to know that not only does our actions matters to God, but our actions should give evidence to a life that knows God. John goes as far to say that what you do reflects who you belong to, because a child is like his or her father. The reason the cliché, "Like father, like child," is often repeated is because a father has great influence over his child.
Thomas J. Watson, Sr. died six weeks after naming his son as the new head of IBM. The son said his promotion made him "the most frightened man in America." But he led IBM into the computer era and to a ten-fold corporate growth. His success was made possible, he said later, by his dad’s confidence in and acceptance of him during his college years, when he was more interested in flying airplanes than in studying or applying himself.
A cover article from U. S. News & World Report concluded: Dad is destiny. More than any other factor, a father’s presence in the family will determine a child’s success and happiness."
The National Fatherhood Initiative noted, "Committed fatherhood would do more to restore a normal childhood to every child, and dramatically reduce our nation’s most costly social problems, than all of the pending legislation in America combined."
Fathers are very important to the formation of our identity and sense of security. Children form their identity using their father as the pattern for their sense of worth, for their value system and for their life skills. I’m diligent because my dad is diligent. I was short-fused for many years because my dad was short-fused for many years. I’m better now because I see that my heavenly Father is patient with me.
We cannot choose our biological father, whether he was loving or cold or whether he was present or absent in our growing up. But we can choose who our spiritual and eternal Father will be. And John tell us that we are either the offspring of the devil, having his nature of sin, or the offspring of God, having His nature of righteousness.
John writes in John 1:12-13, "Yet to all who received him [Jesus Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as the provision from God to make you His child?
This morning, we will see how we are like our father, whether the devil or God. The Bible tells us that if we don’t choose God as our spiritual and eternal Father, we will by default have the devil as our spiritual and eternal father. We will proceed by looking at the nature of the devil and the nature of his child. Then we will look at the nature of God and the nature of God’s child.
First the nature of the devil and the nature of his child is one of sin or lawlessness. We see this in verses 4, 8a and 10.
Sin is not what we like to do that upsets God, but sin is breaking God’s moral laws. And God sets these laws to maintain His goodness to His creation.
For instance, when God says, "You shall have no other gods before Me," He is not saying, "There are other gods who are really good to you, and you are not allowed to relate to them."
He is saying, "There are no other true gods." All other spirit beings, whether good or turned bad, are a part of His creation. To treat created beings as you would the only true God not only breaks God’s law but will break our heart, because all other beings will fail to satisfy our needs in life and for eternity.
The breaking of God’s law didn’t originate with mankind. The Bible tells us this lawlessness is from the devil. Genesis 3:1-6 record the devil in the form of a serpent leading Eve to doubt God’s goodness and so break God’s law:
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?"
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ "
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."
Sin is lawlessness, and that is the devil’s nature, which has influenced mankind from the beginning. When you doubt God’s goodness in your life, which is the precursor to breaking God’s law, you are exhibiting the nature of the devil. God says, "Do it my way and you will enjoy My goodness." The devil says, "Do it your own way in order to enjoy all you are entitled to."
Susan and I parent Esther differently. When Esther wants something that she shouldn’t have, Susan explains to Esther why she shouldn’t have the thing. Sometimes Esther will simply continue to say, "I want. I want. I want." When this happens, I apply reality discipline and give that thing to Esther so she can learn why she shouldn’t have it.
For instance, when Esther wanted to eat our salad, Susan told Esther that she could not have it because she would choke on the lettuce. But Esther thought we were holding back something good from her. So she began her "I want. I want. I want." On that occasion, I gave her some salad. And she gagged on it.
Esther is learning that we set guidelines to maintain our goodness to her. And when she doubts our goodness and breaks these guidelines, she hurts herself.
The devil and his children’s nature are to doubt God’s goodness and to break God’s law. The Psalmist wrote, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (PS 51:5)."
Two first graders were talking after Children’s Church. One boy asked, "Do you really believe all that stuff about the devil?"
The second boy replied, "No, I think it’s like Santa Claus. He’s really your dad."
We are all born with the devil’s nature unless we choose to trust Jesus Christ as the provision from God to make us God’s children.
Let’s look next at God and His children’s nature, which is one of righteousness and love. We see this in verses 5, 6, 7, 8b, 9 and 10.
God is righteous; He will do what is right for every situation. That is what righteous means.
In regard to our sin or lawlessness, God did what was right. He didn’t simply ignore our sin, for He would not be a God of justice. He also did not ignore our problem, for He would not be a God of mercy. God did what was needed and right. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, as payment for our sins.
If you’ve been awake, you would know that our sins are the result of lawlessness. Lawlessness is the result of doubting God’s goodness. And doubting God’s goodness is the result of the devil’s work. Therefore, by proving His immeasurable goodness to us through the sacrifice of His Son, God takes away our sins and destroys the devil’s work by taking away our doubt about God’s goodness, which takes away the motive for our lawlessness or sin.
Romans 8:31-32 tell us, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" If we ever have doubt about God’s goodness in our lives, we simply have to look at what He was willing to give up to show us His goodness and love.
John understood when he pointed out that Christians continue to sin only if they are blind to God’s goodness: "No one who lives in him [God, Jesus Christ] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him ... No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning (1 John 3:6, 9)."
John is not saying Christians never sin. 1 John 1:8 tells us, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." You can have a Christian who loses his or her virginity, but you can never have a Christian prostitute. You can have a Christian who tells a lie, but you can never have a Christian habitual liar.
Steve Brown tells of an autobiography in 5 short chapters that describes the Christian’s gradual perfection by God: (I don’t know the name of the actual author he was quoting from.)
Chapter One: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I’m helpless. It’s not my fault. I take forever to get out.
Chapter Two: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. It’s not my fault. I take a long time to get out.
Chapter Three: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. It’s my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter Four: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter Five: I walk down a different street.
When God’s seed or nature is in you, you will not be characterized as a person who walks down the street called "sin."
Christians who break God’s laws, whether in the area of sexual purity, marital fidelity, financial integrity or any other aspect of life are not sinning because we think God is good and would let us sin. We are breaking God’s law because we think God is not good enough and has held back His abundance from us. We do not really see or know God’s goodness.
Many of us limit God’s goodness only to pleasure, power, prestige and possession. We don’t know God’s greater goodness. For instance, can we put a price tag on forgiveness for our sins? Or what possession would we trade for a clear conscience? Who would want prestige over peace of mind and heart? Wouldn’t we give up all our power for eternal life with God? When we see and know God’s true goodness, we have to admit that they are immeasurably more than we can ask for or imagine.
A little girl was playing with her string of beads when her Mom wanted to get her dressed for an elegant dinner party. The Mom took out a pearl necklace to put on her daughter, but the daughter wanted to put on her string of plastic beads instead. No matter how the Mom tried to explain, the daughter was adamant.
Our old nature, which is from the devil, deceives us to hold onto the things of little value with all of our might, while pushing away God’s true treasures. But a child of God, has a new nature, which trusts in God’s goodness and leads him to do right and love others.
A man in Haiti wanted to sell his house for $2,000. The only man who would buy it offered him $1,000. He agreed to sell all of the house except a nail above the front door.
The previous owner soon felt cheated and asked to buy the house back, but the new owner refused to sell. So the previous owner hung on the nail, which he still owned, a rotting corpse of a dead dog, until the house was uninhabitable.
When God paid the price for our sin and redeemed us to be His own children, we need to make sure He owns all of us, and that we do not own even one nail on which the devil can hang his doubt. Only with full trust in God’s righteousness and love, can a child of God also go through life doing right and loving others.