The Process Of Transformation - 3
THE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION
1 John 3:1-10
Imagine that you've been asked to write a book on marriage.
Your publisher says, "We want to target young engaged couples who are considering getting married."
So you dust off your typewriter and get to work.
What do you want to say to young couples considering marriage?
Maybe you'll talk about Compatibility.
Give them some ideas on how to determine if they're right for each other.
Maybe you'll talk about Assurance.
Before the couple goes through with the wedding, they need to be absolutely certain they're making the right decision –
so you'll give them advice on how to be sure this is the right decision.
Maybe you'll talk about Support.
You'll encourage them to listen to what others are saying.
Do friends and family support the idea of getting married?
You'll encourage them to listen to the advice of others, no doubt.
With these things in mind you begin writing your manuscript.
Several weeks (and 100 pages) later your publisher calls and says,
"Change of plan.
We don't want a book for young engaged couples considering marriage.
We want a book for married couples considering divorce.
We've discovered that most people who consider divorce get bad advice from their friends and family –
most of the time they encourage them to go through with it.
So we want a book for married people in this situation."
Changes everything, doesn't it?
You look at the first draft of your manuscript and realize that everything you've written –
though it is certainly true –
doesn't apply to your new target audience.
an engaged couple should ask the question
"Are we right for each other?"
For a married couple, it's too late to ask that question.
Instead, they need to ask,
"How can we make this work in spite of our differences?"
If a young engaged couple said,
"Everyone we know is telling us not to get married."
We would say, "Maybe you should listen to them."
But if a married couple says, "All our friends are saying we should split up."
We would say, "Don't listen to your friends."
Different people in different situations need to hear different advice.
The book you write for a struggling married couple is different than the one you write for a young engaged couple.
Does That make sense?
JOHN'S TARGET AUDIENCE
In the same way, 1 John was written for people in a specific situation.
In order to understand 1 John, you need to understand who these people were.
They weren't seekers.
They weren't non-believers.
They weren't game-playing religious people.
They were born-again, Spirit-filled, fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Now, among them there were some heretics who were trying to lead them astray, but John isn't writing to those people.
He writes about them, but not to them.
John is writing to a group of dedicated and devout Christians who are, most certainly, saved.
Here's the problem.
Some people go to 1 John with questions that he didn't intend to answer in this letter.
1 John wasn't written to answer the question "Am I really saved?"
He makes it clear that he knows his readers are members of God's family.
Instead, he's answering the questions,
"How can I change?
How can I be more like Jesus?
How can I go deeper in relationship with God?"
This is an important distinction because John says some things in chapter 3 that are difficult to understand if you don't know who he's talking to.
Case in point. He says...
(v. 9) Anyone born of God does not sin. (KJV)
I think I had been a Christian about six months the first time I read this verse, and it sent me straight into despair.
I actually hadn't realized how sinful I was until after I became a Christian.
Before, I thought I was a fairly decent guy.
When I got saved I discovered that I was, in fact, truly wretched:
I was selfish.
I was petty.
I was jealous.
I was irresponsible.
I was deceptive.
And on and on.
Before, none of this bothered me – in fact, I hardly noticed it.
When I became a Christian something happened: the Holy Spirit entered my existence and began convicting me of sin.
He showed me again and again, day after day, just how much was in my life that shouldn't be there.
And then I read John's words, "Anyone born of God does not sin."
This bothered me because I struggled so much with sin.
I went to see my pastor about it, and he explained to me that the verse indicated "on-going" sin,
and he showed me how other translations rendered the verse differently.
(v. 9) No one born of God practices sin. [NASV]
(v. 9) No one born of God will continue to sin. [NIV]
Oh, I thought, he's not talking not about one sin.
He's talking about on-going continuous sin.
It didn't make me feel better.
I still qualified for John's exclusion.
I "continued to sin".
I had been at the Christian life for six months now, and I was still sinning every day.
Several times every day.
Several times every hour.
Almost every minute.
I thought, if no one born of God continues to sin, that rules me out.
I must not be saved.
I became convinced that my conversion didn't work.
It didn't take.
My problem was that I was using John's words to answer the wrong question.
When he wrote this letter he wasn't saying, "OK, folks.
I have my doubts about a few of you;
some of you might not be saved.
I'm pretty sure a few of you are really lost.
In fact, here's how we can tell who are the phonies among you are:
those of you who still sin, you're not saved."
JOHN'S WORDS ARE NOT A THREAT
That's not what John said.
It's true, in his letter he talks about heretics and phonies, but he doesn't talk to them.
The "you" in this letter is always the same:
born again Spirit-filled believers.
Later in this chapter he draws a line between the believers and non-believers,
and next week we'll look at the distinction,
but right here this isn't what he's talking about.
Hear me closely.
When he says "No one born of God continues to sin" –
that's not a threat;
it's a promise.
He's not trying to make his readers doubt their salvation,
he's trying to give them hope.
"You belong to God –
we've already established that –
and since you have been born of God,
you won't continue to sin. You can be free of its grip."
John isn't addressing those who may or may not be Christians, trying to help them determine which camp they're in.
He's addressing those who are most certainly saved.
So, when we read this letter, that's how we need to interpret his words.
Remember the marriage manuscript?
What you would say to the engaged couple is different than what you would say to the married couple.
It's the same with John.
If, in addition to addressing true believers, he were addressing hypocrites, phonies, and wannabes,
he would have expressed himself differently.
Here, however, in this letter, he's talking only to believers.
HE TAKES AWAY YOUR SIN
In chapter 3 John tells his readers that followers of Jesus can experience transformation from sin. He says...
(v. 5) And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins.[NLT]
That's the way John the Baptist described him:
"Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29 NIV)
Jesus came in to the world to pay the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven.
He also came to eradicate our sins, to get them out of our lives.
He came not only to erase the penalty of sin;
he came to erase the presence of sin.
His idea is that we should be holy because he is holy. [1 Peter 2:16]
John says at the beginning of this letter,
"If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves...but...I write this to you so that you will not sin."
Even though he acknowledges the fact that his readers still struggle with sin, he offers them hope:
It will not be like this forever, because you've been born of God, and...
(v. 9) No one born of God will continues to sin because God's seed remains in him; he can't go on sinning because he has been born of God.
YOU HAVE BEEN BORN OF GOD
John refers to God's seed.
Did you ever do the Sunday School project where you put the seed in a Styrofoam cup?
The project never worked for me.
I would take the cup home on Sunday, and on Monday I wanted to know where the flower was.
I'd dig the seed up, make sure it was still there,
put it back in, check back a couple of hours later –
still no flower.
I'd think, "
This doesn't work.
My seed must be broken."
Of course the seed wasn't broken.
I was just impatient.
It's the same with the seed God has planted in your life.
He has placed his life in you, but the seed has to grow and fully mature.
It takes time, but it works.
It can't not work. It can't fail.
ABIDING IN CHRIST IS THE KEY
Do you know what the key is to making it happen?
John tells us:
(v. 6) "No one who abides in him sins." [NASV]
When you're abiding in Jesus –
the word abide means to remain or reside –
you cannot practice sin.
When you're abiding Jesus, or as John also calls it, walking in the light as he is in the light,
the Holy Spirit convicts your heart of every thought and action that comes between you and God.
You cannot continue in that thought or action.
Your new nature –
the life of God that is in you –
will rise up against it.
There's a difference between being saved and abiding in Jesus.
You received salvation when you invited Jesus Christ to come into your life and forgive you of your sin.
It's a one time event, it's an act of God, you receive it by faith.
But that's not where the God part of our lives ends.
It's where it begins.
Those who have been saved are called to abide in Jesus.
What does this mean and how do you do it?
Here's what it means to abide in Jesus:
It means acknowledging his presence in everything you do, and yielding to his leadership at every turn.
Brother Lawrence called it practicing the presence of God.
Bill Bright called it spiritual breathing.
It's receiving God's presence in your life each day, each moment of the day.
"no one who lives in him keeps on sinning"
because the seed that God has placed in your life will continue to grow,
continue to mature,
continue to blossom,
until the image of Jesus Christ is fully developed in your life.
OUR ULTIMATE TRANSFORMATION
But remember the Styrofoam cup;
this is not an overnight process.
In fact, John tells when the process will be completely finished.
(v. 2) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared yet what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is. [NASV]
When will we attain perfection?
When we see him face to face in heaven.
Till then, our sanctification is a process –
a process that God guarantees will be successful, but a process nonetheless.
When you struggle with sin, it's not a question of whether you're in or out of the camp,
it's a question of whether you're living each day in his presence.
If you've asked Jesus Christ to come into your life,
your struggle with sin, then, is not the result of badness,
it's the result of awareness.
You can't live apart from Jesus; you'll fall on your face every time you try.
Do you want to experience transformation from sin?
Then live in him.
Make it your habit everyday to acknowledge his presence in everything you do, and yield to his leadership at every turn.
For some people, the question "Am I really saved?"
keeps them in constant turmoil.
"Did I really mean it when I asked Jesus into my heart?
Was I really sincere?
Did I do it right?
Did it take?"
God's not playing games with you, and he's doesn't want you to be plagued by doubt.
The bottom line is this:
If you invited Jesus into your life and asked him to forgive you of your sins, you're saved.
That's it. It's not my promise, it's God's promise.
If you're saved, John wrote this chapter for you –
not to gauge the authenticity of your salvation,
but to gauge the progress of your holiness.
John says that Jesus Christ came to take away your sin.
Since God's seed is in you, you won't keep sinning.
You'll become holy, just like Jesus, if you abide in him—
that means acknowledging his presence in everything you do and yielding to his leadership at every turn.
Do this and you'll begin to see transformation take place in your life.
And then John reminds us that the ultimate transformation takes place when we see him face to face.
That's our hope.
As John begins this chapter:
(v. 2) Behold what manner of love the father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God. [RSV]
You are God's people.
He has put his life in you so that you can experience power over sin and can be changed into the image of Christ.