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What does it mean to follow Jesus anyway?
This is part '3/4' to a study entitled 'Growing in Confidence' on 1 John 2:28-3:10. This page shows the danger of underestimating the power of the sinful flesh. Death and judgment are contrasted with life and peace. Click 1 John for an introduction to the Book of 1 John and 1 John 2:18-3:24 for an introduction to this particular section of 1 John. An index is provided for your convevience at the bottom of the page.
The Pathway to Death
Let’s look at this once more. From the start we have inherited a sinful nature. But just as a baby, it cannot fully express itself. The result of this is the penalty of eternal punishment or elsewhere called the second death. But the pathway to that consequence is also marked out by John. God could have judged us all with one sin. But God is patient, hoping for our repentance. But let us look at several phrases that describe this natural existence which has its end as death.
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (3:4).
“The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (3:8).
“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (3:10).
There are two key words that are used to define the expression of this sinful nature: sin and lawlessness. Verse 4 ties them together by simply defining sin as lawlessness. Notice he is not talking about what are motivations or feelings are about a certain matter. You make your choice to either live by God’s standards or to break them. When you choose to break His law, it becomes another footstep on the way to death.
Life consists of many choices. All of them are done not with respect to what God wants. You are sure your way is best. It might look like God’s way sometimes but that is not how you are thinking about it. I remember going to church before I was a Christian and afterwards. What a difference in attitude and learning! I remember the night and day experience that happened I was changed. I did obey my Mom beforesometimes, but I was sneaky. When I became a Christian, I really wanted to please and obey my Mom because God wanted me to. We do not know how evil our ways are until God’s Spirit begins to prod us.
We of course know some things that we do are wrong. God gives us a conscience to help identify right and wrong. In the end it is the deeds by which we will be judged. Revelations 20:13-15 show this so clearly.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelations 20:13-15).
All God has to do in the end is show us our deeds. Like a big video replay of all our thoughts and actions. “Do you remember how you pretended to be so good but were trying to get something from that girl?” “Do you remember how jealous you were of that girl’s looks and your heart response to her?” All along we have God’s Word to help us see ourselves in light of His standards. Yes, we can fool ourselves but it is only for a short time.
Reflection: Perhaps some of you can see your own bluff. You see how you were fooling yourself about how good you were. Now you sense the Spirit of God working in your heart and mind exposing different things. This is God’s good work in you. Welcome Him to come in and cleanse you of your sins through Jesus death on the cross. He will thoroughly cleanse away your sins and even more, He will give you a new life that leads to genuine good deeds. This whole changing process is what is called born again or born from above. It always involves conviction and turning away from sin. If your religious experience, no matter what you call it or how many times have risen your hand, but you still have love of being selfish, sneaky and hurtful. No for sure that you are not on the path of life but on the path of sin and still belong to the evil one. This is what John means in 3:9, “No on who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” John is saying that no one is going to regularly practice sin if he really is of God. God’s seed doesn’t allow him to do this.
Let’s now turn back to what John says about this new life.
The Pathway to Life
Before we left this ‘Plane of Life’ wondering about how we would get there. John likewise has some significant thoughts to say.
First of all we start with the seed of God. When a seed grows up, it will grow into a plant that bears whatever kind of leaves, blossoms and fruits that the gene code in the seed dictate. I think some Christians are deceived here. They struggle so hard to gain God’s acceptance. They are trying so hard to please God but in their heart they really don’t want to.
Even the Christian has a flesh that if he lives by it will get him nothing but rottenness. It is so easy to slip into lustfulness, lying or stealing. Temptations allure the Christian all the time. But we need to get down to your heart’s desires. The seed of God is a seed of righteousness. It will bear fruit of righteousness because it is a seed of righteousness. Note the phrases John uses to describe this exciting new life:
“You know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (2:29).
“Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (3:3).
“You know He appeared in order to take away sins” (3:5).
“No one who abides in Him sins” (3:6).
“Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (3:7).
“No one who is born of God practices sin... because he is born of God” (3:9).
Life on earth is then a summary of opportunities to express your love to God and for the things of God by obeying Him. There are temptations, but those are the words of the evil one trying to allure us back to his own rebellious plans. But in your heart you want to dwell in the house of the Lord forever because it precisely is the think you prize the most: the things of God. Everything in His house has the touch of His love and holiness. Next =>
OUR MEETING WITH GOD
John's Method of Detecting Error (1 John)
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Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
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