1 John 2:28 - 3:10
We watched an outstanding movie last weekend – “Courageous.” It presented, from an overtly Christian point of view, that what is wrong with so much of society comes back to the fact that so many fathers have abdicated their role of spiritual leader in the family – and how if we as fathers are willing, we can make an incredible difference in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
There are a lot of contenders out there for the “Worst Dad” award. But my vote goes to… Darth Vadar. You remember the scene in the first Star Wars where Luke and Darth are fighting and slashing with light sabers, and Darth tells Luke – “I am your father.” What a kick in the head to find out your father was Darth Vadar! So, if some of you think you grew up with a lousy dad – it could be worse!
There is something pretty neat about having someone say, “Your son looks just like you.” It’s nice to have people notice a resemblance.
On the other hand, there are times we see or hear our children do or say something we know they got from us – something that brings, not pride, but embarrassment or shame.
The truth is, our children will inherit many of our characteristics: physical, but also emotional, relational and spiritual. And some of us are packing some pretty heavy baggage on those young shoulders.
That’s what John is writing about here in ch. 3 – family ties and a family resemblance.
I love the implication in 2:28 – who is it that has confidence and is unashamed to run into the presence of the father? His children.
Illustration - Abraham Lincoln and his son, Todd
1 John 3:1 – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Children of God know their father and glory in his presence.
In the next few verses John is going to describe for us how you know you are a child of God – and be careful you don’t make some automatic assumptions that you already know, because his answer isn’t our answer. We usually ask, “Have you been baptized?” John asks, “How do you live?”
For John, being a child of God is not participating in a ritual, but living a life. And if people look at you, and don’t see the family resemblance in how you live and how you treat people, chances are there is something wrong with the relationship.
John is going to reduce this family resemblance down to three basic distinctions: 1) Do you do what is righteous? 2) Have you severed your ties with sin? 3) Do you love your brothers?
In fact, he says in vs. 10, this is how you tell the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
John begins and ends with the statement that righteousness is THE distinctive family resemblance – it is one of the basic definitions of God’s nature – who he is – God is righteous – and as such, his children will also be righteous.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
Twice in this passage –
2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.”
3:7 “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”
But what in the world does “righteousness” mean?
What does it look like in real life? Wrapped in flesh and blood? When Jesus tells his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” what exactly is Jesus telling them is so important that everything else will follow if we seek it?
We know that “righteousness” is virtually synonymous with “godliness” and “holiness,” and that says a lot in itself.
In Romans 2, Paul says the man who obeys the law is righteous. In Romans 6, that obedience leads to righteousness. But in Romans ch. 1,3,4 and Galatians ch. 2,3, he emphatically declares that righteousness is NOT because we perfectly keep the law, but because of our faith in Jesus Christ, who is our righteousness – and that righteous people are ones who live by faith.
Jesus helps us define it in Matt. 25 – in a familiar passage – he talks about those who will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven – vs. 35-40 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Righteousness comes down to acting like God acts -- treating people like God treats people. Righteousness boiled down to its essence is doing what is right.
Of course it’s always easier to define something by what it isn’t. And we get some help from the Bible in defining the opposite of righteousness. In speaking of the unrighteous:
Romans 1:29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Ephesians 5:3-5 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Certain lifestyles, and choices are incompatible with righteousness. A child of God cannot be a part of them and be a part of God. The child of God will start to resemble God in how she lives and acts. To borrow Paul’s words – we are being “transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.”
And that is essentially John’s second point in 1 John 3:6, 8-9. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him…. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
Sin is the family characteristic of the devil – his children imitate him in lives of sinfulness and unrighteousness.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
As Tony Ash writes, “sin is not a miscalculation, not an error in judgment. Sin is letting Satan have control, not God.” Continuing sin in your life is evidence that you simply don’t know God – if you did, you would want no part of it. If you are a child of God you will let God have greater and greater control over your life and sin will become less and less a part.
The third family resemblance John points out in the last few words of 3:10 – “…nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
John began this discussion back in ch. 2, will address it again in ch. 3 and in ch. 4. This really is key to John’s main theme.
You see, there were some Christians who believed and were trying to teach that religion is a personal, private affair with God – it didn’t matter how you treated people, and it didn’t matter how you lived your life. The church was unimportant and irrelevant because you could “do religion” on your own. As long as you felt right with God and were a “spiritual” person, you could live however you wanted, treat people however you felt and you could still be a good Christian. It’s a good thing we live this side of the cross and know better!
If there is one consistent message in the Bible, from OT to NT, from Paul to James to Peter to John and from the very lips of Jesus himself – we are in this together. Jesus puts us in his church, dependant on each other. We cannot survive spiritually without the “one another” of body life. And it DOES matter how we treat each other. John will say, “Whoever loves God, must love his brother.”
And it DOES matter how we live. If Christ died on the cross for our sin, we are spitting in the face of God and nailing Jesus back on the cross if we willfully choose to live a life of sin.
Let’s notice one more thing in this powerful little passage. As you listen to 1 John, you hear a word occur over and over – it is the word “know” – 29 times in 1 John, 6 times in these 12 verses.
There are a lot of things John says “you know”:
2:29 – You know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
3:2 – But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3:5 – You know that he appeared so that he so that he might take away our sins.
3:10 – This is how we know who the children are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
But for John, this is not abstract information – this is personal application. This is getting a glimpse into your family tree. This is the spiritual DNA that makes you who you are. It affects everything about you.
This kind of knowledge isn’t spiritual trivia (“I’d like biblical knowledge for $500 Alex”) – it is the path to changing how you live. Knowledge without doing something about it is worse than ignorance, it is rebellion. James wrote: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Knowledge – real knowledge is never an intellectual exercise. Real knowledge always leads to action – to some kind of change of life.
If we always think about “righteousness” as something that is for the super-saints – some kind of unattainable goal for the normal Christian, or something that applies to someone else (who really needed to be here to hear this sermon), we have missed the point.
God wants you to ask, “what does this mean for my life?” He wants you to look inside yourself and ask, “how would my life be different if I really strove to be righteous?”
James said it this way, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
The question is, how much do you desire to look like your Father? How much do you model your life after him? Act like he acts, think like he thinks, value the things he values? Do people look at you and think, “He reminds me of someone…”
Illustration - The Touch of the Master’s Hand
Posted on Sun, October 23, 2011
by John Roberts