That Your Joy May Be Complete #07
1 John 3:4-24
This Is How We Know
If you saw, heard, or read the words, “Man Wanted” … it is important to know what the intent is behind the request before making your decision about what it means.
That request could be from a marriage minded eligible bachelorette … and it would mean one thing …
It could come from an employment agency and mean something different …
Or it could come from a law enforcement agency and mean something else, all together …
If I said “man wanted for murder” … you still would need to know what was the intent. It could mean that a man who had committed a murder was wanted … or it could mean that someone is looking for a “hit man” …
So, let me remind you why John has written this letter because his reasons will shape how you define and understand what he writes.
He is countering false doctrine toward the end of the 1st Century. In particular, that doctrine took two primary forms of falsehood regarding sin. One false doctrine taught perfectionism in regards to sin. And then the opposite falsehood taught that sin was insignificant and irrelevant to Christian living because they said body and spirit were separate from each other.
John knew the church was dangerously close to being invaded by teachers that would sidetrack them from their mission in the world and from enjoying the fullness of what Christ had for them
John then is writing to counter both of these falsehoods and addresses both issues in this letter. John writes that this letter is “that your joy may be complete”.
In chapter one John says that joy is short circuited when they didn’t understand that while we do not HAVE to sin, we do still struggle with sin but forgiveness is available if we confess and receive it
In chapter two John teaches that our joy is complete as we learn that obedience is love lived out and we need to hold to the truth as we have received it.
In chapter three he reminds us again that joy comes in knowing how great God’s love is.
Then we have this transition.
If we know how great God’s love is, then it will change the way that we live.
So then, as we read the remainder of this chapter, it is very important that we step back from the page and see it all in context.
Accurate interpretation requires three things:
- seeing the scripture as it is intended
- seeing the scripture as it relates to its context, and
- seeing it as it relates to the whole of scripture.
Before we read the rest of the chapter, a couple of things
- notice the phrase that is repeated “this is how we know”. John uses this phrase 7 times in this little book. Twice it is used in chapter two, once in chapter five, and four times in chapter three. One other time it is in chapter five, John says “that you may know”. Do you see a purpose and a pattern? John doesn’t want us to wonder where we stand in Christ. He wants us to walk in certainty.
- Before we read … some will say that these verses teach that a Christian will never sin … if you get in too close … and focus to minutely without understanding the purpose and the meaning of the words, it could seem that way. So then, we have to step back and look at the bigger picture.
- Finally, putting these two together, as we read, see if you can see what John is trying to show us that will help complete our joy. Joy is short circuited when sin is unchecked. Joy is also unchecked when love is not free to rule our lives and relationships.
So then, read with me and look for our attitude and actions toward sin and towards one another. I want us to read this passage, then make some observations, and finally come to some Biblical conclusions for us today that will complete our joy by confirming our relationships with Jesus Christ and the health of that relationship
Did you see … John is showing us how to have certainty in our relationship with Christ
THIS is how we know … who belongs to Christ
THIS is how we know that love IS
THIS is how we know we live in TRUTH
THIS is how we know he lives IN us
The common thread here is that Sin and Love are indicators of the state of our relationship as Christians
So … as a Christian … what sets us apart in attitude and action regarding sin and love
My outline might be slightly different than what you have but it will be close
First, for a Christian, what is
1. Their Attitude Toward Sin?
Bottom line, in a word, A Christian does not WANT to Sin …
Remember, John just told us that Jesus, when he comes will complete the work of perfection with us … But … we are NOT there yet
There is a tension between our position IN CHRIST as Righteous and Free from Sin as Paul talks about in Romans chapter 6 … and the struggle with living that out that Paul talks about in Romans chapter 7.
John says that Jesus came for the purpose of taking away sin. That is to do away with the penalty of sin, the power of sin and eventually the presence of sin. Christ came to destroy the work of satan in this world and in our lives as his children.
Before we knew Christ, we could sin and it didn’t matter and didn’t bother us … But after Christ is in our lives, we just don’t WANT to sin anymore.
People often ask me, “do I have to stop sinning in order to come to Christ?” To which I answer “no, but after you come to Christ, he is going to change your ‘wanter’”.
We have been set free from sin by God’s mercy.
We have also been set free from the bondage to seeking the illusion of perfection in the law and legalism.
John is not writing about individual acts of sin when he says “sin is lawlessness” … he is not talking about societal or even the law of Moses.
The word is “anomia” which is translated lawlessness but means the condition of the heart that has contempt for the law, it means a Spirit or Heart of Rebellion
- Sin is rebellion against God.
The one who follows Christ is KNOWN by their Desire to SUBMIT to God, to end the Rebellion. Jesus Christ came to do away with the Spirit of Rebellion in the Human Heart.
A person without Christ could even ACT like a Saint but inwardly, their reason is self-glorifying and that is still rebellion, regardless of the outward actions
It is also possible then for a person IN Christ to commit individual acts of sin, when their inward deepest desire is to please God and submit to him …
That Inward GODWARD Heart is HOW WE KNOW … and so it is evidenced by their
2. Action Toward Sin
ILLUSTRATION - I love the story about the little girl riding in the back seat of the car. She was just big enough to take off her own seatbelt and she took it off and was standing up in the back seat of the minivan. Mom told her to sit down, but she wouldn’t … after a verbal back and forth and the threat of serious consequences, finally the little girl sat down and put on her seat belt. After a few quiet moments, the Submissive Little Girl announced … “I am Standing On the Inside!”
- THAT is a heart of Rebellion!
Our action toward sin is that since we are in Christ, we simply cannot KEEP ON SINNING … the Spirit of Rebellion is gone
It is NOT saying that we cannot commit an individual act of sin
But we cannot live in constant Rebellion and practice as a lifestyle that root disobedience.
The Older Translations simple translate verse six “whosoever abideth in him sinneth not” … the problem with that rendering is that it muddies the water … it’s like that “man wanted” thing …
The tense of the phrase in Greek important, it is NOT in the “aorist active subjective” tense which would refer to any individual act of sin. NO … it is written using the “present active participle” … which means a habitual ongoing lifestyle of rebellion.
This is why all of the later translations render it “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning” …
It is NOT saying that we cannot commit individual acts of sin, but we cannot live in constant rebellion and practice as a lifestyle because the root of rebellion is no longer there
David was a follower of God called “a man after God’s own heart” and though he failed and sinned, his heart, was Godward and desired submission …
- Jesus Christ took away the root control of sin when he died for us and we received him by faith.
In Christ we are now compelled to DO RIGHT because God’s Spirit lives in US
It is not that we will be SINLESS … but it does mean our deepest desire is to Sin LESS … and LESS … and the more we submit to him the greater that truth abides in us.
When we ABIDE … or LIVE in Christ, it changes our “WANT TO” …
- So then, how is it that a Christian chooses to sin?
It happens when our fellowship with Christ is hindered. It happens often with little things like distance. Maybe you miss a few days of prayer and study. Then you miss a few services of worship and preaching from the Word … Maybe something happens in your life that causes you to pull back from intimate fellowship with Christ, his Spirit, his word, and his people …
Then before long, the fellowship is strained and it opens the door for acts of sin to creep in
But if you know Christ, if you are born from above, you are indwelt by the Spirit of God and you cannot KEEP ON sinning … you cannot live a lifestyle of rebellion committing unchecked sin after sin
Wiersbe says “Sonship (being born of God) brings union with Christ but fellowship makes possible communion with Christ that keeps us from deliberately disobeying his Word”
This is how we know … we will come back to this in a moment …
The Christian doesn’t want to sin and they are compelled to do right and because of that, they absolutely cannot CONTINUE, live in, abide in sin.
John then turns the conversation to another evidence of our faith, LOVE, as he furthers his case.
These two things are NOT separate arguments but part of the same argument
So for the Christian what should their
3. Attitude Toward One Another
In a word … we should LOVE …
- we have been born from above. We are the Children of God … so we are filled with his nature
If it is his nature to be righteous, then we are driven to be righteous
If it is his nature to LOVE, and it is, then we are driven to LOVE as well, we cannot help it.
Just like we want to STOP sinning and do right, so we also want to set aside HATE and Self-centeredness and LOVE like Jesus Loves.
John says that we see God at work in us as we are transformed from self-centered to being other-centered
That is what Love IS
By the way John says when we “Do not Love” and he says “anyone who hates” … so it covers a large area … Simply desiring NOT to Love is evidence of no relationship with Christ or a Broken relationship with Christ
And Hate … we might say “I don’t really hate” … the word, miseo = hate, despise, love less”
Remember Jesus said we are to love others “as(equal to) we love ourselves”
V16 says “this is how we KNOW what Love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”
Love says “others matter more than me”
Hatred says “Others do not matter” or “others matter less”
V14 says we know that WE have passed from death into life because we LOVE …
Then John flips it “he who does not love remains in death”
Now this isn’t saying that one unloving act proves you aren’t a Christian … but this means one who lives a lifestyle ongoing of self-centered hate devoid of the love of Christ acting toward others does not know Christ.
- We KNOW we have Passed from death to life …
John is writing to believers, and just as in Chapter one he says that we DO sin so he says that WE can be forgiven and in chapter two we do not HAVE to sin
So then, we who are believers … we who are in Christ … born from above, part of the Family of God …
We MUST LOVE as a lifestyle, we cannot HATE as a lifestyle because we don’t live there anymore.
“We have passed” … literally “we have migrated” … it is evidence OF … not the reason FOR our salvation
But what is love, is it only a feeling
Is love only an emotion?
Is love simply a philosophy?
Because we know that a Christian, in right relationship with Christ, by
4. Their Action Toward One Another
Love is NOT a theory
Love is NOT just a noun
Love is NOT just a feeling or emotion
Haven’t you heard, LOVE is a VERB
If we see a need, v17 says, and have the material ability to meet the need, we will DO it … because if we do not LOVE in DEED, the question asks “how can the love of God be in us”
V18 continues we can’t just say that we love … but we must love with action and in truth!
- When love is professed but not acted that profession is a lie and inauthentic
So, our professor, John, teaches us in the school of Christian Living then gets to his point in verses 19-24
“This is how we know that we BELONG to the TRUTH and how we SET our Hearts at REST.”
John is saying that since our salvation is NOT based on our works … it is the state of our HEART that gives us the assurance we seek
John is writing this letter because doubts confuse us and keep us in ineffectiveness.
- Ignorance keeps us from living in truth. But John says we can assure, quiet, set our hearts at rest
Our actions and attitudes toward sin and love will tell us where we are with Christ they are a proof of relationship and a barometer or thermometer of the health and strength of our relationship.
- The proof is not in the pudding, the proof is in our hearts
Like that little girl that said “I’m standing on the inside”
She acted rightly, but she knew the truth in her heart and that was rebellion
Ultimately God is concerned with our heart because out of our heart comes the issues of life
Proverbs 4:23 – “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
I would rather have a willing heart from a flawed vessel
Than have one who appears righteous but inside is prideful, self-centered and rebellious
So, as we try to wrap this up and make application …
THIS IS HOW WE KNOW …
1. Our Attitudes and actions will either give us peace or condemnation
When I am NOT right with God … then the Holy Spirit who was deposited in my heart,
convicts me and
because I belong to Christ, I WANT to restore what has been broken.
I don’t want to STAY as I am
As a Christian, MUST I sin? NO
Can I sin? Yes
Will I want to sin? NO
Will I continue in Rebellion? NO …
2. How Can we Ask God for Anything when Attitudes and Actions are Out of Line?
When I realize my sin, my selfishness, I am compelled to deal with myself before I can come to Christ
The only way to ask God for anything is to respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction by confessing our sin as 1 John 1:9 says and then receiving his forgiveness and cleansing through the Just and Faithful action of God.
Then he says from that position we can ask and receive from him what we ask
3. How Do We Respond to the Convicting Work of the Spirit?
a. realize that God’s compassion is greater than the condemnation of your heart
What John is teaching us in verse 20 is that when we realize our sin, and our convicted hearts make us realize we are guilty …BUT, Praise God, HE IS GREATER than our Hearts … his Grace is Greater our Sin …
God’s love is deeper, wider, longer, higher
Ephesians 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
God’s Love is greater than we can imagine when we sin, but his POWER is greater than we have taken advantage of to give us power NOT to sin when we submit to his desires within us.
b. Realize that your heart confirms your salvation because it is based on the work of Christ and not on your works
c. Yes, a Christian CAN sin, but they cannot do it without conviction from the Spirit.
If there is no guilt/conviction, then God’s Spirit isn’t in us.
But when there is, Believe This truth, repent of sin, then and DO right … do “what pleases him” … Because One born of God, wants to do what pleases him more than what pleases our base sinful nature.
So we do what pleases him
So we then find peace and confirmation from his Spirit within us
We are those who “Believe on the name” … The tense of this command is not talking about believing FOR salvation, but believing FROM Salvation … In other words Christian living is believing in the name, believing what has already happened IN you …
Believe that you do not NEED to sin and you Can love, you are free from the bondage of sin
Believe in the fullness of the nature of God that is in you
2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the diven nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires
You can sin, but you are not required to and God has enabled you to submit to him resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7)
So, verse 24 here in 1 John 3 says when we submit to him, we aren’t just HIS by covenant relationship, we LIVE there, we ABIDE there
So, Bede says “Therefore let God be a home to thee, and be thou at home of God: abide in God and let God abide in thee.”
That is what Paul prayed for us
Ephesians 3:16-21 - I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
It is not in our perfection nor imperfection that confirms us before God … but his Spirit within us
Christ IN You is our hope of Glory
A preacher was preaching was quoting 1 John 1:7 “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” … suddenly he was interrupted by a skeptic in the crowd saying “how can blood cleanse sin” … The Preacher was stunned for a minute then said “How does water quench your thirst?” The Skeptic said “I don’t know, I just know that it does.”
So satisfied, the Preacher retorted “neither do I know how the blood of Jesus cleanses sin, I just know that it does.”
All I know is that without Christ we are bound to sin, free to sin, full of self-centeredness … but because of the Blood of Christ, we don’t live there any longer, we CANNOT stay there, we turn from sin, we become more and more like Christ, and love like he loves both in word and in deed
Oh The Blood
Oh the Blood of Jesus
Oh the Blood of Jesus
Oh the Blood of Jesus
It washes white as snow
There’s power in the blood of Jesus
There’s power in the blood of Jesus
There’s power in the blood of Jesus
It washes white as snow
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
What can wash away my sin
Nothing by the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Oh precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus