On Thursdays, I have been sharing a little bit about what I have been learning as I read through 1 John.
Recently, we began a section in 1 John that explores the idea of identity. John identifies that some are children of God and others are children of the devil. Key to identifying either has to do with their conduct and relationship to sin.
“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one 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. Those who are born of God will not continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Those who do not do what is right are not God’s children; nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:7-10 TNIV
What stands out to me in verse 7 is what the Voice describes in its translation “The one doing the right thing is just imitating Jesus, the Righteous One.” The one doing the right thing abides.
It makes me pause to consider the relationships I have. Am I surrounded by the kinds of people who do the right thing? Will they encourage me to do the right thing?
This is what I want in friendship. This is the kind of friend I want to be.
I do have these kinds of relationships with my husband and with my closest friends. I am thankful for this. I want to commit to continuing to live this way, mindful of it.
As I look at verse 8, I notice the contrast John makes between the devil and Jesus. The devil has been sinning from the beginning. The word beginning has to do with “the origin or the active cause of a person or thing” (VINE’S Expository Dictionary). The devil is about sin. Those who do what is sinful are aligned with the devil. On the other side, you have Jesus appearing to destroy the work of the devil—to destroy sin. He himself is righteous.
The two are very much opposed to one another.
I marvel at the idea of righteousness. “It is a state of being right or of right conduct. It is said of God designating perfect agreement between His nature and His actions. It is a standard for all men” (VINE’S Expository Dictionary).
On the other side, sin is not the opposite of this righteousness. Instead, it is a picture of “missing the mark.” It is the idea of distorting that which was meant to be good. It is just all wrong. Things are not as they should be. The active cause of the devil is sin—missing the mark.
To me, this verse really sets up the ideas within verses 9 and 10—a contrast between those who are children of God or children of the devil. This is where I can begin to identify myself with one category or the other. I am a child who lives righteously or I live as a child who misses the mark.
I like the way the Voice translates this.
“Everyone who has been born into God’s family avoids sin as a lifestyle because the genes of God’s children come from God Himself. Therefore, a child of God can’t live a life of persistent sin. So it is not hard to figure out who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolical one: those who lack right standing and those who don’t show love for one another do not belong to God.”
It makes me think about how I approach sin in my life. Do I allow sinful habits to form? Or am I repentant and seeking accountability for my actions when I struggle?
As a child of God, with God’s “seed” remaining or abiding in me, I will be in the latter category. Any other response is an indicator that I have never really been born of God.
An honest response to these thoughts should not scare me; instead, it should help me honestly consider what God desires and what I want my response to Him to be.
I want to be in right standing. I want to leave a sinful lifestyle behind.
This is a good place to be.
I think about Andy Stanley’s Community study. In it, he talks about commitment and conviction and how they can be in the right place and we can still fail to live up to them. He talks about the need for community to step in and remind us of these things and help us when we struggle.
He writes, “You can deceive yourself, but if there are people who know what’s going on in your life, you can’t deceive them as easily. Self-deception is a powerful force but it loses its power in community. […] Too many good people have drifted horribly because there was no one in their lives to help keep them on course. It can happen to any of us” (33-34).
When we live in the midst of community who supports us, as we pursue Christ, we will not be led astray.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we pursue Christ, surrounding ourselves with community that will support us and hold us accountable. May we find that we become more like Christ and that our friends do as well.