Beware Of Pretenders 1 John 3b
1 John 3:1-10
Stephen Caswell © 2001
Detecting Fake Currency
The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. How do they learn to identify fake bills? Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Rather, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply by feeling it. This is the approach in 1 John 3, which warns us that in today’s world there are counterfeit Christians. John calls them children of the devil.
John warns us about false Christ's in chapter two. Now he deals with false brethren in chapter three. How can you distinguish true believers from mere pretenders. In John's day people were claiming to be Christians whilst living sinful lives. John tells us to evaluate their works not just their words. A summary of this passage is found in verse 10. 1 John 3:10: In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. Today will see The Characteristics Of God's Children and The Characteristics Of Satan's Children.
Firstly, The Characteristics Of God's Children
1 John 3:1: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
The first characteristic we see is that Christians are called God's children. Through the new birth mentioned in 1 John 2:29 we enter God's family. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and makes us new creatures. At this time a number of things happen. Firstly, John says that God justifies Christians. He declares us righteous. All of our sins are forgiven and washed away and we are pure in His sight. We are saved from the penalty of sin. Through faith in Jesus Christ we receive a new birth, a new name and a new nature. God calls us His children.
All of this marks a complete change in our lives. We leave our old family and become part of God's family. Instead of being God's enemies we are God's friends. This involves a radical change in our allegiance. Instead of loving the world, we love the Father. God's children are called out of the world. In fact we are very different to people in the world. Although the Father loves us and showers us with His blessings, the world doesn't understand any of this and it turns against us. Verse 13 says the world hates God's children. This is because we see the world the way that God does. We see the sin and wickedness that God hates and avoid it. Firstly, our new privileged position as God's children motivates us to live holy lives.
I Will Be Good
On March 11, 1830, a little English girl was doing her lessons with her tutor, and the lesson for that day had to do with the royal family. As she studied the genealogical chart in the book, she became aware of the astounding fact that she was next in line for the throne! At first she wept, and then she looked at her tutor and said, I will be good! The fact that little Victoria would one day be queen motivated her to live on a higher level. Christians are God's royal children. If we will reign with Christ one day, shouldn't we be holy now?
1 John 3:2-3: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
The second thing that John talks about is the Christian's hope for the future. The Bible tells us that Christians will be transformed at Christ's appearing. Philippians 3:20-21: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. John says that we will be changed to be like God's Son. Our glorified bodies will be just like Jesus' resurrection body. Our new bodies will be sinless, immortal and incorruptible. They will be perfectly suited for eternal life in God's glorious presence.
Romans 8:29-30: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. The Christian's future is truly glorious. In fact we earnestly look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. We will be delivered once and for all from the presence of sin. Secondly, the Blessed Hope further motivates us to overcome sin.
1. Christ's Sacrifice
3:5: And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
In verse 3 John says that this hope motivates us to be holy. In the following verses John explains this in more detail. John gives three good reasons why believers don't sin. The reason that Jesus came was to take away our sins. John the Baptist said this, Behold the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world. Jesus came to remove our sin and restore us to fellowship with God. To do this He had to give His life. Why would believers want to be entangled by the very things that separated them from God in the first place? Jesus Christ saved us from the penalty of sin on the cross.
He also saves us from the power of sin in our lives. We don't have to sin anymore. Believers can claim his victory and overcome sin. After a person has become a child of God, born again by faith in Jesus Christ, he cannot practice lawlessness! For one thing, Jesus Christ was without sin, and to abide in Him means to be identified with the One who is sinless. And even more than that, Jesus Christ died to take away our sins! If we know the person of Christ, and if we have shared in the blessing of His death, we cannot deliberately disobey God. The whole work of the Cross is denied when a professed Christian practices deliberate sin.
2. Christ's Fellowship
1 John 3:6-7: Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
The second reason a believer won't sin is fellowship. A believer abiding in Christ won't sin. By this, I mean that he won't make sin a way of life. The verb for sin is in the present continuous tense. The word commit poiew means to do, to perform, to practice. In chapter one John says that sin breaks our fellowship with God. People who say that they can live in sin and still have fellowship with God are only kidding themselves. John says that they have neither seen or known the Lord. God's children want to have fellowship with their Father, but this is impossible when we willfully sin.
Therefore true children of God avoid sin. To maintain fellowship with the Father we must do two things; avoid sin and practice righteousness. The key to this isn't concentrating on all the don'ts but concentrating on the do's. John highlights the importance of love through out his epistle. To abide in Christ means that we live the way that Jesus lived. Jesus lived to do God's will. He loved His Father and His fellow man. Jesus proved this by serving others. But, what happens if we do sin? We confess it immediately and receive His forgiveness and cleansing.
Afraid Of Hurting Her Father
A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. I’d rather you took me home, Jan said to her date. My parents don’t approve of that place. Afraid your father will hurt you? one of the girls asked sarcastically. No, Jan replied, I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him. She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.
3. Christ's Nature.
1 John 3:9: Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
The third reason that God's children don't sin is their new nature. This was already mentioned in 1 John 2:28. Through the new birth we receive a new nature. No longer are we dominated by our fallen nature. Now we have a choice. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away all things become new. Our new nature comes from our heavenly Father and hates sin. Since Jesus Christ conquered sin so can we. God's children posses the divine nature. God's seed remains within us and produces good fruit. Therefore we ought to reflect the character of God which is holiness. The old nature produces sin, but the new nature leads one into a holy life. A Christian’s responsibility is to live according to his new nature, not the old nature. Thirdly, God's work in our lives should motivate us to overcome sin now.
Two Dogs Within
A converted Indian explained, I have two dogs living in me; a mean dog and a good dog. They are always fighting. The mean dog wants me to do bad things, and the good dog wants me to do good things. Do you want to know which dog wins? The one I feed the most! A Christian who feeds the new nature from the Word of God will have power to live a godly life. The physical man needs food, and so does the inner man, or spiritual man. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God Matthew 4:4. We are to make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
John gives three good reasons why God's children don't sin. Firstly, we don't sin because of our new position. We have been freed from the penalty of sin, or justified. God has called us to be His children. Does your allegiance lie with the Father or the world? Secondly, we don't sin because of the hope that lies before us. We are awaiting Christ's return when we will be glorified. Once and for all we will be delivered from the presence of sin. Are you keeping yourself pure for Jesus? Thirdly, our new nature has freed us from the power of sin. Are you reflecting the new nature of your Father? Are you being sanctified?
Godliness Isn't A Burden
Princess Elizabeth carried the crown for her sister in the procession at Mary's coronation, and she complained to her aides of its great weight. Be patient, was their answer. It will seem lighter when on your own head. The outward forms of godliness are as burdensome to an unregenerate person as was the crown to the princess. But once he is born again and so made a possessor of God's grace, they will sit easily enough upon his head, as his glory and delight.
Secondly, The Characteristics Of Satan's Children
a. They Are Lawless
1 John 3:4: Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
Sin is basically a matter of the will. For us to assert our will against God’s will is rebellion, and rebellion is the root of sin. It is not simply that sin reveals itself in lawless behavior, but that the very essence of sin is lawlessness. No matter what his outward action may be, a sinner’s inward attitude is one of rebellion or lawlessness! Even though there is constraint from the outside, there is still rebellion on the inside; and this attitude is the essence of sin. Cain was a religious man, but he wasn't righteous. He refused to worship God the way that the Lord had commanded. As a result he tried to earn God's favor by works and not by faith. When this failed he killed his brother Abel for showing up his own sin!
Standing Up On The Inside
Little Judy was riding in the car with her father. She decided to stand up in the front seat. Her father commanded her to sit down and put on the seat belt, but she declined. He told her a second time, and again she refused. If you don’t sit down immediately, I’ll pull over to the side of the road and spank you! At this the little girl obeyed. But in a few minutes she said quietly, Daddy, I’m still standing up on the inside. For a Christian to live a sinful lifestyle is to rebel against their Heavenly Father. It is to behave like the Satan's children!
b. They Are Lost
1 John 3:8: He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
What about people who live sinfully, who's lifestyle resembles sin not righteousness? John says it straight, they belong to the Devil. There is no shades of gray here. For John its all black and white. Satan has sinned from the very beginning and his children are identified by sin too. A person who deliberately and habitually sins is proving that he does not know Christ and therefore cannot be abiding in Him. He has never been born again! The logic here is clear: if a man knows God, he will obey God; if he belongs to the devil, he will obey the devil. The contrast here is between Christ who has no sin, and the devil who can do nothing but sin. When Christians say that it's okay to sin they are denying the very salvation they claim to have received. Such claims cannot be proven from the Word of God.
Jesus spoke of Satan's works in John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
c. They Are Loveless
1 John 3:10: In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
John summarizes the whole argument in verse 10. The children of God are revealed by righteousness and love. The children of the Devil don't love or practice righteousness. False teachers in John’s day taught that a Christian did not have to worry about sin because only the body sinned and what the body did in no way affected the spirit. Some of them went so far as to teach that sin is natural to the body, because the body is sinful.
The Two Adam's
A Sunday School teacher was explaining the Christian’s two natures, the old and the new, to a class of teenagers. Our old nature came from Adam, he explained, and our new nature comes from Christ, who is called the Last Adam. He had the class read 1 Corinthians 15:45: So also it is written, The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The Last Adam became a life-giving spirit. This means there are two Adams living in me, said one of the teenagers. That’s right, the teacher replied. And what is the practical value of this truth? The class was silent for a moment, and then a student spoke up. This idea of the two Adams really helps me in fighting temptation, he said. When temptation comes knocking at my door, if I send the first Adam to answer, I’ll sin. But if I send the Last Adam, I’ll get the victory.
The New Testament condemns making excuses for sin. A true believer does not practice sin; a counterfeit believer cannot help but practice sin, because he does not have God’s new nature within him. The true believer also loves other Christians, which is discussed in detail in 1 John 3:11–24. But these words were not written so that you and I might check on other people. They were inspired so that we might examine ourselves. Do your works identify you as a child of God or a child of the devil? Are you living in obedience to God's law or are you rebelling against Him? Do you seek to fulfill the Law through love? Do you seek to overcome sin? Or are you content to play with it? Do you think that you can sin now and say sorry later? John puts it in black and white, God's children don't sin!
Today we have seen, The Characteristics Of God's Children and The Characteristics Of Satan's Children. Does your lifestyle reflect the character of God or the devil? What nature dominates your life, the old nature or the new nature? Could other people look at your lifestyle and say that you are a child of God? I trust that they can!
2 Peter 3:17-18: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.