Sermon on 1 John 3:1-10
Authentic love for others starts when we understand that we have been deeply loved by God. By being God’s Children, we are given a love the world cannot match. God’s seed of love and Christlikeness is forever planted in us, and we will become increasingly like Jesus and able others without limitation.
Have hope of being like Jesus in order to be with Jesus (vv. 2-3)
Our second reason for hope: to be like Him spiritually.
Have discipline to seek righteousness and avoid practicing sin (vv. 4-10)
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Prayer and Introduction: Snow won’t stop us | Frozen Chosen | Warmed by Word
 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
In verse 1, the tense of this phrase — “Has given” is in the perfect indicative, meaning that it has fully been done. There is no question in John’s mind if and when this will be done; rather, He is giving us assurance that we have already been given the love of God, without question.
The outcome of that love is that we have been called the Children of God. He didn’t have an attitude of “well, you are my kid, so I have to love you.” Rather, his love was a choice that then led us to be called children. This is the picture of adoption and why I love how adoption tells the story of the Gospel. If two parents chose to adopt, they are choosing to love a child that is not their own. By that choice to love, they are now calling that little one their “Child” and welcoming it into the family without discrimination—he or she is fully in, first by a conscience choice to love and then by a title change to “Child” and accepted as part of the family.
This is what God did for us! The adoption papers were signed; he chose to love us. By His love we are now considered “Children of God.” Romans 8:17 says, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory”(NLT).
The sweet promise is then that we can Have confidence in being called a child of God, because that is what we are. There is no tiers of sanctification or second class citizens in God’s kingdom. We are invited into the family as coheirs of the estate with Jesus Christ.
John’s point here is to say, you have been so deeply loved, so live fully right. The NIV translates verse 1 as saying, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us!” As if we’ve been given a bath in His love. Or like a lover lavishes gifts on the one they love, so he lavished—covered, heaped, bestowed, smothered—us with love. Therefore, we see Christ’s lavished love [as the means to] leads to virtuous living.
Though the world rejected him, he gave the love. Though we were sinners, enemies of God, he gave us love. When we awaken to that, we can’t help but want to live for Him.
At the end of verse 1, John was quick to remind us that the world has rejected Christ since the very beginning. Nothing has changed. He told us in His Gospel that “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). He has always been rejected and so have those who follow Him. So when he states “the world does not know us” That should not be a surprise to us because he points out at the end of that sentence, “they did not know him” either. The reject Jesus, they reject us.
Our glorious hope is end with our rejection of God or His rejection of us, but it ends with acceptance. Look a how John continues to explain that hope in verse 2:
 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Our hope is confident expectation about our future with Jesus. Christians are not just optimistic people or optimism’s sake. We have faith to believe that there is something greater coming than what this world has to offer. So knowing that we are God’s Children now gives us a certainty that when Jesus comes back we will be made like Him.
John gives a basis for our future hope with two things here: First, he says that we should be like Him. This means that we will have resurrected bodies where will no longer suffer, experience illness or pain or grow old (that sounds good, huh?). Jesus was what Paul called “The first fruits of the resurrection”—meaning that his coming back from the dead in physical form is an example of what we too will experience someday.
Our first reason for hope: to be like Him physically. Around Easter, we talked about the joy that comes from knowing we will physically be with JC some day. His resurrection was not just some spiritual vision, but it was a physical reality. That means that we too have the hope of being resurrected and with Him if our faith is in him. Paul wrote:
“ But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)
John already wrote in verse 18 of chapter 2 that we are living in “the last days,” meaning the days before Christ comes again. We are certain that He will come again, and we he does, we don’t want to shrink in shame bur rather have confidence and excitement to meet our savior again and be given new life physically and spiritually. So our first basis of hope is that literal future recreation of ourselves, done by God, not our own doing. And though the physical resurrection is great – we will be made whole physically (no more sickness, sadness, fear, sorrow, suffering, etc.). Our second reason for hope, and maybe the main reason is that we will be like Him spiritually.
The second basis of our hope goes beyond the physical suffering being lifted and has to do with our spiritual suffering being lifted. No more guilt or shame, but he says, we have home in purifying ourselves, as He is pure there in verse 3. In eternity, Christians will be morally without sin, intellectually without falsehood or error, physically without weakness or imperfections, and filled continually with the Holy Spirit.[i]
Can a man be pure?
The Barna group did a survey of both Christians and non-Christians to see if they thought what John was saying here – that we can be pure – could actually happen. Can a person actually be considered “Holy” in this life? The first survey of non-Christians resulted in 3 out of 4 saying “No” you cannot have purity or holiness in God’s eyes or at all in this life. So they asked the same question of Christians and guess what they said? With passages like 1 John 3:3 and others, Christians know that Christ makes us holy and we can be forgiven, we know that, the Bible tells us that… and the Christian results were – the exact same. 3 out of 4 said we cannot have purity or holiness. That is wrong (sad).
The truth is that we Have hope of being like Jesus in order to be with Jesus. “I have made you a “New creation” the Bible says. Jesus told Nicodemus, “whoever believes in me… will be born again” and have new life. We don’t have to stay in sin, but can be forgiven and fight a winning battle with the desires of our flesh. Based on the power of Christ, John goes on to tell us to fight in verse 4— Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Lawlessness here in the original language could be read as a sort of anarchy. A Conscience decision to go against the will of God and ignore what he has told us on how we are to live. The person who practices lawlessness have total disregard for what God has to say, and they chose their own way—as a lifestyle or as a momentary decision.
Notice that John moves from specifically calling out “Some people” in chapter 2 to now saying, “Everyone” in chapter 3. This is not just the antichrists or the false Christians; anyone and everyone that sins practices a total disrespect for God’s will. Let that sink in for a minute—anyone of us who sin, which we all do, are disrespecting God with our sin. He says, “Sin is lawlessness.”
But he calls out the practice of habitual sin by saying, if you make this a practice you have made lawlessness (disregard for God) your lifestyle. To live a life that ignores the will of God has grave implications.
This should cause is great pause, my friends. If you really love Christ, it should cause you to say wait, do I do that? Do I practice a lifestyle of “Lawlessness?” To I act like a rebel or instigator of anarchy against the Holy Spirit of God that I know lives within me? If we have a practice of continually sinning, especially in the same sin, over and over, to which it has become a practice, then we have this problem.
So many of us have sins that have become routines. Quite literally, we have certain circumstances that will trigger us to partake in a sin we know is wrong. We had conviction and fight against it when it first started, but now we just give in to it. The routine of practicing it is as routine as brushing our teeth. Do you have something like that? Is there a person that you get around and suddenly find yourself making decision with to do something that you know displeases the Lord? When your spouses leaves the house, do you have a routine practice of doing something that you really shouldn’t do, but you’ve done for so ling so you keep on doing? In the the quietness of your singleness have you excused certain sin because you feel like God didn’t keep up his end of the deal to give you the spouse you wanted or things didn’t go your way, so you have a tit-for-tat take on sin that moves you to make a decision you otherwise should avoid?
We are predictable people. We have patterns all over our life and we soon make excuses for why we do what we do. John is warning us—if you go on making a practice of sin, you are forsaking the very God you have fellowship with, as mentioned in chapter 1. You are forgetting the very one who came to take your sins and appease the wrath of God; a practice of sin makes grace disposable or cheap. Look how he continues in verse 5:
 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.
The very Jesus who appeared to take away your sins and was sinless himself, is the reason you can and should avoid the practice of sin. If you are IN HIM (abiding) then you will do whatever you can to avoid conscious decisions to keep on sinning. The propelling reason to get rid of sin is (1) you know what Jesus did for you (2) and once you have tasted of a relationship with Him, you don’t want to go back. 1 john 1:5 told us that God is light and we are to walk in the light. By doing so, we not only have Him but we have a life that strives for continual holiness – not perfection, but holiness or “Righteousness” which is right living with God.
Proverbs has that sick but true verse in chapter 26 verse 11 that says, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” So understanding this verse in the context of John’s writing—once you have tasted of the sweetness of Jesus and His grace, returning to the practice of sin – the same sin over and over – is like a dog returning to its vomit. It is repulsive; not good for you; so much less than what you are offered in Christ.
This passages says that Jesus appeared to take away our sins. We know this came through the Cross, but it was not a one-time “here is your get of jail free card” kind of action. Rather, he came to set us free on going of our sin. Yes, the punishment of our sin is relieved, but also the fight with our sin can be relieved. Galatians 5:1 says, “For FREEDOM he came to set us free.” Not just justification or right standing for our sins eternally, though that is true. He came to help you win the battle with in. He doesn’t want you to live in ongoing bondage.
Remember this verse, John wrote this in the Gospels, recording Jesus words, “ So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). To abide in His word is to live a life that strives to obey every known command and avoid every known sin.
The promise is this—by “Abiding” or obeying, we are considered Jesus’ disciples and the truth of Christ will set us free. We don’t have to live as a slave to sexual sin; we are not longer are in bondage of prideful pursuits or financial foolishness. When we have the truth of Christ, we have the freedom of Christ. The choice is ours if we will keep running back to our sin, like a dog’s vomit, or if we will run back to the peace, forgiveness and power of Christ.
Yeah, but how do I do that Josh? This sin seems so powerful and thick to break through, can I really be free? Let’s allow John to answer that question in verse 7:
 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
In love, John answers, oh little children as if he sees the desires of our hearts to live righteously and then says, don’t believe a lie – trust me when I tell you that Christ is enough! You can stop the practice of sin by believing the truth of Christ.
The world will tell you that (1) either nothing is wrong with you—this is the way you made; these cravings where taught to you; you were conditioned to your preferences, so it is not your fault. The world has a way of excusing our sin and convincing us “Well, this is just the way it is going to be.”
Or, if they can’t convince you that your predetermined condition is an excuse for your on going sin, they will (2) get you to believe that it is out of your control. Perhaps you need to move, need new medicine, need a new spouse, need a new lifestyle or any other set of things that can be changed in your life, all to say, you can’t control it, so either adapt your life by doing something drastic or just accept it.
But I say with John, don’t deceive yourself—Christ is enough. There is no sin to big for His forgiveness and no addiction to powerful for Him to overcome. You may need help to overcome it by having biblical counseling, some accountability, or even some chemical rewiring to say no to the temptation, but Christ is enough. The powers of the devil can and will be overcome by Christ. Look at verse 8:
 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.
Knowing Christ means becoming involved in an all-out war against the works of the devil, that is, the practice of sinning. We wage war on sin so we can be at home with Christ. There is no apathetic approach to sin if we are in a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Our love for Him fuels our hate for sin and the works of the devil.
Just as in war, you strive to be strategic and intentional with your fight with sin. There is no lazy approach—“man, I hope this sin doesn’t get me.” Rather, we work hard to eradicate sin from our life by avoiding patterns of repeated wrongdoing and replace them with righteous living. Write this down, we must:
Have discipline to seek righteousness and avoid practicing sin (vv. 4-10)
Jay Adams, the father of modern Biblical Counseling, wrote a book in the 70’s called “Disciplined for Godliness.” I remember coming across this book when I was on a trip to North Carolina. I couldn’t put the book down the whole flight back. It is a small book, but a profound truth, even just in the title—“Disciplined for godliness.” We can make choices that will drive us to godliness. We can work hard to godliness. We can and should be strategic to protect our sanctification (Christ in us and through us) by having disciplines and practices to be life Jesus so I can be with Jesus.
Some of you are very disciplined with you work out routine. You plan for it. You track it. You have apps for it, devises that monitor it. For some of you, it would be unimaginable to not keep a disciplined lifestyle of eating well. Some of you couldn’t imagine missing a week or two of going to the gym. You will discipline yourself in your physical life, but you are lazy in your sinning life. You don’t have routines to ensure that a lifestyle of lawlessness doesn’t exist. You have never worked as hard on your discipline for a daily time with God as you have you on your daily time in the gym.
Imagine if we took our spiritual life as seriously as took our physical life. Imagine of you were as strike to avoid sin as you are to avoid gluten. Imagine if you were as intentional to clean your life up as you are to clean your kitchen up. Imagine if your quiet time with God got the same kind of intentional care you give your car. To be disciplined for the sake of godliness is to strive to be more like Christ everyday. John wrote, in his 3rd letter:
“ Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11).
I want to see God—forever, but also now. I want the evidence of His power in my life now. When I imitate good, I am walking like Christ and allowing the evidence of God in my life to be seen (by myself and others) as He helps me overcome sin. The reward to disciple in my godliness is better than a six-pack of abs or a feeling of healthiness. The reward is holiness and right standing with God so I can have more of Him in my life.
This starts by you doing whatever you can do to fight temptation and give into the practice of sin. I heard a story of a guy that would carry around a box of matches. Whenever he was tempted to look at a woman lustfully, he would take outa match, light it and then put it out with his fingers. The stinging burn on his flesh was to teach him to avoid sinning.
Now we may laugh at his practice, but he did whatever it took to avoid sin. There are no points for style here. We do whatever we have to do to not give into practices of sin. We will sin in this life; none of us will be perfect this side of heaven, but we can strive to break patterns that lead to lawlessness and an attitude of anarchy toward God. John emphasizes his point one more time in verse 9 and 10:
 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.
Because we can’t be free from sin on our own strength—frankly we are too weak at times to fight our own desires—God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us. The Holy Spirit in the renewing and transforming presence of God within the believer. Because the Word is present in the believer’s heart through the work of the Spirit, the believer cannot keep on sinning. Thus the hearts of genuine Christians (those who are truly children of God) have been so transformed that they cannot live in a pattern of continual sin. Our promise is this, we can End the practice of sinning by relying on the power of Christ.
You can’t do this on your own. But the power of Christ in you can transform you. John reiterates this at the end of this letter, which we will look at more in a few weeks:
“ We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
Augustine’s talked about stages we go through when it comes to stopping the practice of sin in our life. He said there are 3:
- Lord make me good, but not yet.
- Lord make me good, but not entirely.
- Lord make me good.
It isn’t until we are broken enough and desiring Christ enough that we will finally wave the white flag of surrender and come ot Christ and say in your power, make me good.
When we are truly born again, the devil can’t touch us. We can conquer the battle of perpetual sin through the power and presence of our God. In closing, let me say to you, as you fight the war with sin, (1) get help if you need it, (2) there are no points for style, be (3) ever prayerful to tap into the power of Christ. You can only win against sin because you have Him.
[i] ESV Study Bible