The Practice of Sinning
1 John 3:4-8 ESV
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
The scriptures go to a whole lot of work and detail and repetitiveness in order to help us understand this concept. For, you see, our salvation from sin is not about some one-time experience in our lives, done deal, after which we live however we want, since we believe we are guaranteed heaven as our eternal destiny.
The scriptures teach our salvation as progressive, i.e. we are saved (past), we are being saved (present, active) and we will be saved (future) when Jesus Christ returns to take us to be with him forever, and our salvation is complete, and our marriage to Christ is consummated (Rom. 8:24; Rom. 13:11; 1 Co. 1:18; 1 Co. 15:1-2; Eph. 2:5; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:5).
Yes, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, and not of ourselves. This is a gift from God, not of works lest any of us should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. No amount of good works done in the flesh will ever attain for us God’s acceptance. Our good deeds can never outweigh our bad deeds. Only by God’s grace, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on a cross, can any of us be saved.
But, our salvation is not absent of works, nor are they disregarded as unnecessary. The difference is that these works are not ours. They are not of our own making. They are not done in the flesh. We aren’t trying to earn God’s grace and forgiveness. We aren’t trying to work our way to heaven. But, when we believe in Jesus Christ, truly, by God-given faith in him, it will result in works done in the Spirit being evidence of Christ in our lives.
For, although works done in our flesh do not save us, we who are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should WALK IN THEM. And, he will equip us to do them, too, for they are of HIM (Eph. 2:10).
Also, since the faith to believe is God-given, and not of ourselves, it will submit to Christ as Lord, and it will surrender one’s life over to Jesus Christ to do his will. It will follow our Lord in obedience, and it will leave our old lives of sin behind us to follow Jesus wherever he leads us.
And, the works we now do, we do in the Spirit, and of the Spirit, for they are the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in (live, practice) them, according to the Spirit of God, and no longer according to our flesh.
Ok, so all this comes from God, but we still have to submit to God and do what he has prepared in advance that we should do as a matter of our life course. But, we do it in his power and strength, under his authority, and under his direction and guidance, and empowered by his strength.
And, here we need to understand, too, that we aren’t saved merely so we can escape hell and so we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He shed his blood for us on that cross in order to buy us back for God so that we would now be God’s possession and that we might glorify God with our lives (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Co. 6:20; Tit. 2:11-14; Rom. 6:1-23).
So, faith in Jesus Christ is not just some words we say or some confession we make with our lips. It is not some emotional or spiritual experience, either, and it doesn’t happen just once, done deal! Faith which is genuine faith endures, it continues, it keeps going, it keeps growing and maturing, and it bears good fruit for God’s eternal kingdom (Jn. 8:31-32; 1 Co. 15:2; Col. 1:21-23; II Tim 2:10-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15; II Peter 1:5-11).
To Take Away Sin
So, we need to comprehend this. Jesus did not die just so we could escape hell and just so we could go to heaven when we die. He died to put sin to death in our lives. Jesus came to take away our sins, but not just the punishment of sin, but our addiction to sin. He died that we might die with him to sin and that we might be resurrected to new life in Him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
So, although our salvation from sin is a gift from God, and it is of God, and not of ourselves, still scripture says we must die with Christ to sin and live with him to righteousness, if we want to have eternal life with God. This is not us earning our salvation. It is us living out the salvation that Jesus provided for us in obedience to our Lord. And without that, we aren’t really saved. This is what this passage is teaching us.
So, if we are abiding in Christ, and we are being saved from our sins, and we are walking in the faith which God provided, empowered of His Spirit, then sin is not going to be our practice, our habit, our lifestyle, our “go-to.” For, if we keep on in our sinful practices after we confess him as Savior, we need to know that scripture teaches that we don’t know God. We are just fooling ourselves thinking we are saved and bound for heaven.
This is not saying, however, that we will never sin again, or that we may not ever stray from our pure devotion to Christ. But, it is saying that sin will no longer be our master. We won’t be controlled by sin or owned by sin any longer. Our salvation from sin, in Christ, set us free from our slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin, and it empowered us to walk in righteousness.
So, sin will no longer be our practice, our habit. We won’t be addicted to it. And, this is not saying we have reached instantaneous perfection, either. But daily we are to deny self and take up our cross and follow Jesus. Daily, by the Spirit, we are to be putting sin to death, and we are to be walking by the Spirit so as not to gratify the sinful cravings of our flesh (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; Rom. 6:1-23; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).
So, if we live and walk and abide in sin, and it is what rules our lives, we aren’t of God, but of the devil, this scripture teaches. But, if we make a practice of righteousness, i.e. the righteousness of God, not self-righteousness, then we are righteous. For, the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in those of us who WALK (in practice) according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. For, if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, not have eternal life with God (Rom. 8:1-17).
It is Evident by This
1 John 3:9-10 ESV
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
Again, this is not of ourselves. This is not us trying to earn or to deserve our own salvation. This is us, controlled by the Spirit of God, walking according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. And, the end result is that we have eternal life with God (Rom. 8:1-17; Rom. 2:6-8; Gal. 6:7-8).
And, this is because believing faith in Jesus Christ is not stagnant. It is a walk of faith and obedience to Christ and to his commands. And, our salvation is not stagnant, either. It is progressive and won’t be completed until Jesus returns. So, if we are following Jesus, walking with him, in his word and in his truth, we will not walk in darkness (sin, wickedness), but we will have the light of life guiding us each step of the way (Jn. 8:12).
And, how we live our lives, either for the flesh or for the Spirit, either under the control of sin and Satan, or under the control of the Spirit of God, gives evidence as to whether or not we truly have been born of God, and whether truly we know Jesus, and we are His, or not. If sin is what we practice, we are not born of God but we are still under the control of Satan. If God’s righteousness is what we practice, empowered by the Spirit of God, then that gives evidence that we truly are children of God.
And, this is also realized in how we treat others, for when we sin as a matter of course, we aren’t the only ones impacted by our sin. Our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our extended family, our church family, our neighbors and co-workers, etc. are impacted by our sin.
And, those who have been hurt deeply by other people’s sins struggle sometimes to understand why it has to be this way, and how good can come out of it. And, this is where our Lord reminds us that when we don’t understand, we need to trust his heart, for his heart is good!
Trust His Heart
Songwriters: Babbie Y. Mason / Eddie Carswell
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don’t see
How they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don’t see Him,
Remember you’re never alone
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart…
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