Let Righteousness Be What We Practice

1 John 3:4-6 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.”

We know from reading 1 John 2, as well as from reading the whole of the New Testament, that this is not teaching that we can never or that we will never sin if we believe in Jesus (see 1 Jn 2:1-2). But we also know from reading the whole of the New Testament that our Lord draws a line in the sand, so to speak, when he says if we make sin our practice that we will not inherit eternal life with God.

[Rom 2:6-8; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Co 5:10; 1 Co 6:9-10; 1 Pet 1:17-21; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Rom 6:16; Rom 8:1-17; Jn 15:1-11; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev. 2-3; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27]

Please notice that about half of these Scriptures referenced here are the writings of Paul. So, it isn’t just John or James or Peter who taught this, but Paul taught that if we walk in sin, and if we make sin our practice, that we will die in our sins because we refused to die with Christ to our sins. Therefore, if sin is our practice, and righteousness is not our practice, we will not inherit eternal life with God.

The most popular gospel message today, which is not of God, but of human making, excludes the necessity for obedience and for cessation of the practice of sin, for it teaches that Jesus took care of it all and so we do nothing. And they teach obedience and repentance as works-based salvation, and they teach we are to cease from works for that is still being under the law. So, they teach God’s moral laws as something we must not adhere to.

But that is because they are mostly willfully misinterpreting the Scriptures when they teach about the law and grace, and so what they are actually promoting is lawlessness. But if we study the Scriptures and what they teach, we will not be able to miss the fact that “the law” they were freed from was all the liturgical, ceremonial, and sacrificial laws under the Old Covenant, but the New Testament still teaches we must obey God’s moral laws, and that if we don’t, we are those who practice lawlessness, which ends in death, not in life eternal with God.

Now, some people may differ in opinion on what it means to make a practice of sinning, for they say we all sin sometimes. I do believe the Scriptures make it clear what it means, for it has to do with deliberately and habitually and premeditatedly sinning against the Lord, repeating the same sins over and over again, as a matter of life course, without any true repentance, always going back to the same vomit and slime in direct defiance of God.

Now, what we learn here, but also from what Paul taught, is that if we walk in sin, making sin our practice, and if we are not those who practice obedience and righteousness as a matter of life course, we do not know the Lord. Now, this is not to say we will never sin again or that we might not ever have a time where we wander. But if we profess faith in Jesus and then we go on living like we were living, or if we turn away from the Lord and go back to our vomit and remain there, we don’t have eternal life.

1 John 3:7-8 ESV

“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.”

So, let no one deceive you. All those people telling you that you can believe in Jesus but that you don’t have to repent of your sins and that you don’t have to obey the Lord are lying to you. When they tell you that Jesus does it all and that we do nothing, that is a big fat lie! Yes, we can do nothing in ourselves to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Only by God’s grace are any of us saved, but his grace trains us to say “No” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.

Jesus died on that cross to put sin to death in our lives so that we will no longer be enslaved to sin but so we would now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. He died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. And he shed his blood to buy us back for God so we would now honor our Lord with our bodies.

[Rom 6:1-23; 2 Co 5:15; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:19-20; Tit 2:11-14]

Also, “righteousness” is not just something we inherit positionally from Christ by faith in Christ, but righteousness is to be what we practice. We are considered righteous in the eyes of the Lord when we make righteousness our practice, by God’s grace, and in his power and strength. For, if sin is what we practice, we are not of God but of the devil.

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.”

Now, this takes it a step further, although this was already made perfectly clear, I believe. We cannot claim that we are born of God, that we are his children, that we are saved from our sins, and that heaven is our eternal destiny, if we make a practice (deliberate and willful habit) of sinning. And this would be like someone addicted to porn, as an example, who keeps willfully and defiantly returning to his sexual idolatry no matter who gets hurt in the process.

And it is not true repentance if all you do is “sin, confess, sin, confess” but you don’t ever change directions, if you don’t become someone else. You may have pauses between incidents, but if that is what you keep returning to, and you do so knowingly, and you plot it out, and you even lie in advance and/or afterwards to cover up your sin, hoping to not get caught, and you willfully cause pain and suffering to others over and over again, that is not repentance. Repentance is a spiritual U-turn.

And this is really the bottom line here. If you do not make righteousness your practice, if obedience to our Lord is not what you do as a matter of life course, and if you do not love others, but you fake righteousness in between or during your sin cycles, then you are not righteous in God’s sight no matter what you profess with your lips. Those who are righteous live righteously. They walk (in conduct) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. And they are the ones who are the true children of God.

The Prayer

Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager,
Alberto Testa and Tony Renis

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When the stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

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P.S. This is not an endorsement of the singers other than as musicians

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