“Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this. When people do what is right it shows that they are righteous just as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.
Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning because they are children of God.
So now we can tell who are children of God and children of the devil. Anyone who does not live right and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” – 1John 3:7-10
Sometimes the cold hard facts feel hard to face. What is John saying here? Why have I not heard much preaching from this text? And maybe you are even thinking, “how can anybody be God’s child then?”
Back in the day we might say “the proof is in the pudding. You might also hear someone say, “I am from Missouri, show me.” John states clearly that God’s children should be able to be recognized by their righteous living and by their love. He makes no bones about saying without love and right living you don’t belong to God. He dares to call such folks children of the devil. Sounds rather harsh don’t you think?
So now that I have ruffled a few feathers, first let me say it is God’s word we speak of here, not Patricia’s opinion. A gospel that doesn’t change you has not become a part of you. God says it and I therefore believe it, though it may feel hard to handle. Maybe it isn’t preached much because people don’t want to hear it. “God is love,” we hear all the time, yet is that his only characteristic? Has our world made the verb love a god in place of God Almighty?
Look carefully at John’s message. He says God’s child does not practice sin or keep on sinning. I think he refers here to habits. Sinful habits do not bring glory to our father. Instead they hold us captive. God can break those chains that bind us to the devil. He will break such chains. Thus John does not say we are now perfect. Instead he makes the point that if you don’t change, if you prefer to rewrite the gospel to permit you to do what God forbids, then according to our text you do not belong to the family of God. And these are the cold hard facts of life so to speak.
Over and over I have stated that salvation is God’s free gift, yet the result of this free gift is a changed life. John makes this same point. If nothing has changed at all then you have reason to question whether or not you or that person really belongs to Christ. Even Jesus said, “by their fruit you will know them.”
And what about “Judge not or you will be judged”? I challenge you to read before you go there. Read that entire chapter. You will notice that Jesus speaks of knowing people by their fruit, not by their clothing or appearance. So we are told basically not to make snap judgments about people based upon first impressions. Instead we are to view actions and behaviors. Yes we love and that means we display the fruit of the Spirit. Still now through our text we know to pray for the salvation of those who based upon how they live do not know Christ.
What do John’s words say to you personally? Feel free to share as we consider his word this morning.