LIVING AS God’S childREN
1 John 2:28-3:10
Last week we received a prescription from Psalm One to help us become healthy. The prescription said: “Blessed are those who meditate on God’s word day and night… they will be like trees firmly planted by streams of water which produce fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” When we follow this prescription, we will be healthy Christians—we will know God and walk with God. This brings us to our theme today from 1 John 2:28–3:10: Living as God’s Children.
The first part of John’s letter spoke about the reality of knowing God and walking with God, and in the second part, we explore this further. Following the theme of remaining in Christ from the previous verses, 1 John 2:28 says, “And now, dear children, remain in him.” First of all then…
The idea of remaining is used often by John. It appears over 40 times in his gospel and 24 times in his Epistle. In John 15:4, Jesus said: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself—it has to remain in the vine.” 1 John 2:28 applies this further when it says: “Remain in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed at his coming.”
If we remain in Christ, we will know God and walk with God. In other words, we will know the blessing of eternal life. This is the message of John’s Epistle. 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe… so that you may know that you have eternal life. If we know God and walk with God, we will be unashamed at his coming.
The expression when he appears in v28 means to make something that is hidden, visible. The word coming at the end of v28 corresponds with this and means to unveil. Christ is present with us now by his Spirit, but when he appears, we shall see him as he is. In other words, he will be unveiled for all to see. It is like speaking about someone and then realising they are in the same room—behind a curtain or a door.
Those who remain in Christ know him and walk with him, will be confident and unashamed at his appearing. John 15 tells us how to do this. It says we should remain in his word, we should remain in his will, and we should remain in his ways. If we do this, it will make a massive difference to the way we live in the world. Jesus said in John 15:5-6 that if we remain in him, we will bear much fruit… if we do not remain in him, we will wither and die. This leads to a further point…
These verses take the idea of remaining in Christ further as we respond to him in our daily lives. Verse 29 says: “If we know that he is righteous, we know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” In other words, we have the same nature as him and should behave like him. Verse 1 of Chapter 3 tells us where this new nature comes from. It says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called God’s children! That is what we are!” We are God’s children, and like all good children, we should respond positively to our father.
The expression born of him in v29, and born of God in v9 could be translated like this: out of him, we are begotten. In other words, those who follow Christ and do what is right are from God. This is explained further in v2 when it says: “Now we are God’s children, and what we will be has not yet been revealed, but we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” One day we will be free from sin. We will have a body that is no longer subject to sin but fully conformed to God’s glory. According to v2, this will happen when we see Jesus. At his appearing and in his presence, we will be transformed into his likeness.
Verse 3 goes on to say that those who have this hope purify themselves even as he is pure. God’s children desire to be pure like their father. 1 Peter 1:14-15 says, “We should not conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance, but like the one who called us is holy, we should be holy in all we do.” We desire that our children follow us in the way we live, and God desires the same for his children. He says, “Be holy because I am holy.”
Today, we can prepare for Christ’s appearing by getting to know him, walking with him, and being transformed into his likeness. Romans 8:29-30 says, “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. This is the ultimate step for God’s children. In the meantime, we seek to be renewed in his Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “As we behold God’s glory, we are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” This leads to a further point. God’s children remain in him; God’s children respond to him…
The profound implications of this passage are given in 3:4-10. Verse 5 says that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. In the light of this, he says in v6 that no one who remains in him, sins. Those who sin have neither seen him nor known him. The point here is that anyone who knows God and walks with God does not have permission to sin; they do not justify sin, and are not casual about sin. We will sin and we do sin, but it is not God’s will for us.
The word sin in v4 is to miss the mark. It is to come short of God’s moral standard. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” John calls this lawlessness. Chapter 3:4 says that whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. Whenever we sin, we are lawless: we are lawless towards God, towards ourselves, and towards each other. It is important to highlight this because to know God and to walk with God, we need to recognise sin and react to it.
Verse 5 says Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins. The second part of v8 says the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. In response to this, we should be determined not to sin. It is like someone we love saying, “I don’t like it when you do that” and us continuing to do it. No! We try hard to please those we love, and we should do the same for God.
A school head might say to a pupil who doesn’t wear a blazer: we don’t do that here. If we were asked if Christians commit adultery, the answer is no—never. If you asked if Christians do commit adultery, sadly the answer is yes! This is the reality, but it is not the ideal. Verses 6 says that whenever we sin, at that point, we do not see God, we do not know God, and we do not walk with God. Conversely, when we see God and know God, we do not sin.
When John speaks about being righteous here, he is not talking objective righteousness in Christ or our judicial position in Christ. He says those who have the hope of spending eternity in God’s presence begin the process now by purifying themselves just as he is pure. The gospel of grace is no cop out for bad behaviour. God takes sin seriously, and so should we. Verses 7-8 says those who do what is right are righteous, just as he is righteous. Those who commit sin are of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” Like father; like son. Verse 9 says, “Those who are born of God will not sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.”
I could have spoken about the snow, the strikes, and the soccer, but there is nothing more relevant than sin. Sin infiltrates almost everything we do, and we should avoid it. We should avoid sin because it displeases God; we should avoid sin because it separates us from God; we should avoid sin because it keeps us from knowing God; we should avoid sin because it hinders our walk with God. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” This does not mean we won’t see God at all. It means we won’t see God now. We won’t know God or walk with him. Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” God’s children remain in him; God’s children respond to him; God’s children react to him. To this end, we sing…
Purify my heart