You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week we saw that a lifestyle marked by sin is a clear indication that a relationship with Jesus Christ does not exist. Christians have been freed from sin because the Lamb of God appeared and takes away the sins of the world. That is good news that we need to share with others. That’s good news that we need to live by today. This morning, John just can’t get away from the central theme of this letter. No matter what anyone may say, actions speak louder than words.
1 John 3:7-10 says, “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is 1aborn of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is 1born of God. 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.”
John addresses a continual problem: “Make sure no one deceives you.” Do you feel like telling John to give it a rest? How many times does he have to tell us? Until we get it. We live in a dangerous world in dangerous times. John’s instruction is like that of a parent to a child. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t take candy from a stranger. Wash your hands before you eat. Deception is all around us and attacks our core values at every opportunity. Deception tells us things like: There is no absolute truth. There is no heaven or hell. The Bible isn’t all true. It’s my body and it’s not a baby. I’m not hurting anyone. I can live anyway I want and you can’t judge me. Sin is relative. I’m just as good as the next guy.
Deception is all around us. John says, “Make sure no one deceives you.” They’re going to try, but don’t be fooled. Remember one of the reasons John said he wrote? “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” (1 Jo. 2:26) These anti-Christs were purposefully trying to deceive the church with their false doctrine. What’s their purpose, what’s behind what they do? Why would anyone intentionally deceive Christians? Look at the truth that follows the instruction. “The one who practices righteousness is righteous.” Again, it’s important to look at verb tense. This isn’t a onetime good deed. This isn’t something that comes and goes. This isn’t the idea that, “Oh yea, I used to do that.” John is conveying the idea that practicing doing what is right is a characteristic of someone who is righteous. John is talking about a particular righteousness. It isn’t as the world defines it, but is defined by Christ. “The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”The qualifier is Christ. Righteousness is a distinct characteristic of the regenerative process that begins at salvation. A Christian practices righteousness because of an inner quality that comes from Christ. Doing righteous acts does not make a person righteous; doing righteous acts is an outpouring of an inner righteousness. Matt. 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”
Righteousness is expected of Christians because Christ is the model; He is the standard. Do not be deceived by the false teachers whose lives were characterized by continual, habitual sin. They claimed to be righteous based on some type of esoteric knowledge. Not everyone was special enough to have that knowledge. It’s really easy to deceive people when you have some sort of special enlightenment or revelation. That’s the great thing about pure doctrine. God has given everyone the ability to discover truth. The deception today is that you can’t understand the Bible. The Bible is too hard to read, it doesn’t hold my attention; it’s dry. I find it interesting that people who make these types of claims are the same ones who will pour over their text books not just to get a passing grade, but so they can excel. They’ll review boring, dry technical manuals because it’s part of their job. They’ll memorize hundreds of sports statistics. They’ll pour over the internet reading material from a variety of authors on a variety of subjects. We don’t need a special revelation to understand God; to understand His character, to understand His love; or to understand how we should live our lives. We simply need a willingness.
John is emphatic: “Make sure no one deceives you.” Counterfeit Christians were trying to convince true believers that a person could be “saved” and still practice sin. John does not say that Christians will never sin, but he does say that Christians cannot live in sin. A person that enjoys deliberate sin and who does not experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit or experience God’s chastening better get serious about evaluating their supposed relationship with God. Righteousness is an inner quality that is displayed outwardly. Romans is a great book on the fundamentals of the faith. Every Christian needs to study that book. Rom. 3:22, “Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.” Rom. 5:17, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to say, “And having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18) Our righteousness is a result of Christ’s indwelling Spirit.
Let’s answer the question in the title of today’s message. In v. 4, John said that, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” It’s another contrast in v. 8. If you practice sin. Engaged in sin on a continual, habitual level. Sin is a characteristic of your life. If this is what you are, then John says you are, “of the devil.” Interestingly enough, this is the first time John mentions the devil directly. You practice righteousness because you’re righteous. You practice sin because you’re sinful. This is not very popular. We want to feel good about ourselves. We’re just as good as the next guy. We tend to redefine what is right and good in the world, but we base that on what feels good, we base goodness on things that are relative or arbitrary. We base what is right and good on a shifting standard. John says, “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” The devil sinned from the beginning, but Christ is righteous from before the beginning. Sin began with devil. He is the source of sin.
So when was the beginning? That is a great question without a very clear answer. What we know is that Satan was on the scene in the garden. How long before the garden, we don’t know. How long was he the created being Lucifer before he sinned and became the devil, we don’t know. Isaiah 14 recounts the story, but there is no timeline. This we do know; Satan sinned from the beginning and continues to sin. God did not create sin or evil in Lucifer, Lucifer created sin and evil by rebelling against God. Satan enticed and deceived Adam and Eve with the same thing that enticed him: pride. Satan wanted to be like God and he deceived Adam and Eve by enticing them to rebel against God. Don’t get discouraged, don’t get down; there is hope for the world. John is so good about telling us things clearly, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” What are the works of the devil? SIN! The devil uses many methods. Sometimes he veils his intentions in what appears to be good. Sometimes it’s kind of tough to understand what the devil is trying to do, but his goal is always for our destruction. John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus appeared for one primary reason: “To destroy the works of the devil.”
He has said it before, but he provides a level of finality in vs. 9-10. A Christian cannot practice sin – present tense. A Christian cannot practice sin because he is born of God. A Christian cannot practice sin because Christ’s seed abides in him. When you plant a garden, you plant the seeds in the ground of what you want to grow. You do not plant lettuce seeds to grow corn. The idea is that when Christ’s seed abides or remains or lives in you, what grows will look like the seed that is planted – in this case – Christ. There are two family groups John mentions. First, there are the children of God. How are they identified? They practice righteousness. Second, there are the children of the devil. How are they identified? They do not practice righteousness. For John, there is no third group. You’re either a child of God or a child of the devil. John goes even further to say that it is obvious to identify which group a person belongs to.
Christ set Christians free from the works of the devil. We are not enslaved to sin. We aren’t to be deceived by the devil or his plans to destroy us because he has been defeated by Christ. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” If you are in the family of God, it should be obvious.