33. No Ongoing Sinning

Meditations in 1 John : 33 : No Ongoing Sinning

1 John  3:6  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

We’ve said it before – John is like the waves on the seashore – he comes in with one thought, it goes out and then comes back in a little later. If we weren’t sure in his earlier words, he comes with crystal clarity now. But let’s remind ourselves what he said before about the issue here, the issue of sin and the believer.

He starts out with the general truth: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8). That is the starting place; all people are sinners. But then he moves on with how to deal with sin: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9) Then, just in case anyone was arguing the point, he reinforced it: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 Jn 1:10). Then he states his desire for all believers: “I write this to you so that you will not sin.” (1 Jn 2:1a) but then he recognizes our frailty and God’s provision to meet that frailty: “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1b)

Now that summarizes John’s position but he expresses it in a variety of ways – through references to light and darkness, keeping God’s commands and revealing His love, and comments about the world and enemy deception. The message throughout is the same and it is encapsulated in this verse: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning” We saw this in the previous verses. First, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:3) because Jesus is pure and we are going to be like him, then we too must be pure, i.e. free from sin. Then he said, “you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” (1 Jn 3:5)

So there it is again and again: be like Jesus and you can’t sin. Yet we know that earlier he had indicated that “if anybody does sin…” clearly indicating that it was still a possibility. So how does the present teaching match that? The key lies in the words we underlined – “keep on”. That refers to a life where previously sin is usual, where sin is the norm, where sin is natural and ongoing. For us it is no longer like that – even though it had been before we came to Christ – now sin should be unusual in our lives, righteousness is the norm, sin is unnatural and only spasmodic, where we trip up by accident. Before sin had been on purpose; now our purpose is to live righteously.

But we must emphasize again some other key words – “in Him” – no one who lives ‘in him’. Living ‘in Christ’ means we share with his life and if his life is one of righteousness in purpose, thought, word and deed, then so will ours be. Whether we are aware of the Spirit “in here” or God “up there” we need to be ‘God aware’ Awareness of His presence is part of what John meant in his Gospel where Jesus spoke of “abiding in” or “remaining in” him (John 15:4-7) There he indicates that being ‘God aware’ or ‘remaining in’ him will not only keep us from sin, it will also make us fruitful and it will enable us to know the Father’s will so that when we pray we pray His will and can expect that he will give us what we ask for. Living in him means that the very thought of ongoing sin in our lives becomes alien.

As always, the good teacher John, gives us the opposite to think about to contrast with what he has just said, so now he continues, “No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”   Again the key word is ‘continues’ meaning ongoing, normal, natural lifestyle that includes sin. Such a person who does not bother about the nature of their behaviour – that it is godless and self-centred – is not someone who has encountered Christ or submitted to him. If you have a genuine encounter with Christ your life WILL be changed from self-centred to God-centred and you WILL cease to do things contrary to God’s word. If a person’s lifestyle does not change, then there is a big question mark over that person, especially in terms of their relationship to God!

19. Made One

Ephesians Meditations No.19

19. Made One

Eph 2:14,15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

In our previous meditation we noted how Paul was emphasising yet another wonder of our salvation that we, who are not Jews by birth, have nevertheless been ‘brought near’ so that we too enter into the wonder of being God’s children. When we come to verse 14 we note yet another link word making this just part of the ongoing flow of Paul’s thinking. For he himself is our peace.” linking up with But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (2:13). In that previous verse note that it is all because we are in Christ” (our position) and because of what Christ has done: through the blood of Christ.” Now, says Paul in our present verse, this is all because Christ is our means of peace with God. By dealing with our Sin, Jesus has taken away the cause of God’s anger (2:3c) and therefore we have peace with God.

Now Paul goes back an emphasizes the Jew and Gentile significance: “who has made the two one.” Previously there had been two sorts of people – Jew and Gentile, and the Jews were the ones with a relationship with the Lord. But now that is not the distinction as far as heaven is concerned. As far as God is concerned both people groups have been made one because salvation through Jesus comes to both and is the same for both. A Jew is not saved any differently. They still have the same problem (of Sin) and the means of dealing with it is just the same (Christ’s death). Put another way though, what is true for the Jew is now also true for the Gentile.

But see how Paul expands on this: “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Previously there had been a barrier between Jew and Gentile, but now that has been removed. There had been a dividing wall made up of the hostility of the two peoples. The Jews looked down on the rest of the world because they alone were the people of God, and the Gentiles were hostile against the Jews because of their claim to uniqueness. But now that claim to uniqueness has been removed because, as we’ve already said, what was true for Jew was now also true for Gentile.

Paul continues to explain why this is so: “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.” When he speaks of Jesus’ ‘flesh’ he means his body on the Cross. Prior to the Cross the Jews had relied upon keeping all of God’s commandments and regulations (the Law) for their righteousness. This was why the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were so intent at categorizing the Law and making sure everyone adhered to it. By doing their best at keeping this Law, they saw themselves as righteous, but yet they could still be godless and self-centred, even while they kept the rules, for the rules simply became a way to achieve self-righteousness but that is not real righteousness and so they were will guilty of Sin. No, keeping the rules did not make you righteous and so all men, Gentile and Jew were in fact still guilty before God. Thus the Cross came to deal with all Sin, whether in Gentile or Jew. Salvation was now through faith, through belief in Jesus atoning work on the Cross.

Paul continues this in the back part of verse 15: “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” (v.15b) God is concerned to make all men and women His children, to open the way for anyone from wherever they come, to enter into relationship with Him so. Although it seemed like there had been two ‘men’ or people – Jew and Gentile, those with a relationship and those without a relationship with God – now God had made just one ‘man’ or one people, all who come into relationship with Him from whatever background, so that, “in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (v.16). Yes, it doesn’t matter whether you come from a Jewish or Gentile background, salvation (reconciliation) comes to all peoples through the Cross, which means God has killed off any grounds for hostility between the two people groups, even though people today, Jew AND Gentile, still perpetuate this division, but this is because they, from either side, remain ungodly and refuse God’s means of salvation, His Son, Jesus.

Paul continues, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (v.17) God’s message of salvation came to declare peace to the Gentiles who seemed far away from any possibility of a relationship with God, AND to the Jews who appeared to have a form of relationship with Him already, although it was not a heart relationship but one of rule-following. Thus Paul concludes, “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (v.18) This is the end result: whether we are Jew or Gentile in background. Because of what Jesus has done on the Cross, we all have the same access to God as His children and we are all indwelt and live and are led by the same Holy Spirit.

So, we may see a distinct people living on the earth today called the Jews, many living in Israel, many living elsewhere, but as far as God is concerned, although He may yet use them to reveal Himself to the world, the reality is that they too have to come to God through Jesus Christ, just like Gentiles have to. The outward appearance is now irrelevant, even though many would try to perpetuate the difference. Every human being is to be saved the same way, God’s way, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Being religious, trying to keep the rules, always falls short and so all still have the same need of salvation. They and we may pretend otherwise but the Scriptural record is quite clear. We are one when it comes to our need and we are one when it comes to how we receive salvation.

17. A Job to do

Ephesians Meditations No.17

17.  A Job to do

Eph  2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You may become tired with me keep pointing this out, but this passage is one long continuous flow of Paul’s thinking and verse after verse starts with a link word, tying it in to what has gone before or showing what is the next logical thing to think about. See it again: As for you (v.1)… All of us also (v.3)… But because (v.4)… And God (v.6)… in order that (v.7)… For it is (v.8)… For we are (v.10). We have pointed this out because these are not individual points of doctrine but all different facets of the same thing – the wonder of our salvation. We need to see in today’s verse the individual components and then the thrust of the whole thing.

“For we are God’s workmanship.” We have seen this already a number of times in the preceding verses, that we are the outworking of God’s activity: God….made us alive” (v.4,5) and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (v.8) and “it is the gift of God.” (v.8). John stated it clearly at the beginning of his Gospel: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13). Hopefully you have been seeing it as we have gone through these meditations so that you are completely clear in your minds – we are a work of God!  Paul said it elsewhere as well, he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6). The good work was a work of transformation. He speaks of some of the components of that work to the church at Rome: “think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you ….. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Rom 12:4,6)

Yes, this is a wonderful truth that perhaps few of us can really comprehend: the work of making us new creations (2 Cor 5:17) was a pure act of God, but it wasn’t just a one-off thing involving Him forgiving us, adopting us and putting His Holy Spirit in us, it also meant that somehow (and this is purely a suggestion of how it might work), He by His Spirit emphasized the natural within us and made it so that the new ‘blown up’ characteristics of us were now seen as gifts to bless others and bring honour to Him.

But there is another component in this verse: created in Christ Jesus.” Again, without labouring the point too much, we’ve seen this a number of times so far in this letter: blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (1:3), then, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” (1:5), then, “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.” (1:9), then, “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (2:6) and “expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (2:7) and now “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (2:10) It’s ALL about Jesus! Everything that the Father has achieved has been through His Son Jesus coming to the earth and dying for us and then being raised to life and then ascending to heaven where he now reigns.  NOTHING but NOTHING about our faith exists without Christ. That is how significant the coming of Christ is to us!

But there is yet more:created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” God didn’t just make us anew for us to sit in isolation (up poles or out in the desert) as some of the strange Christians did in the past!  No, because God has put part of Himself in us, He energises us to continue doing what He has been doing ever since He created mankind. Ever since He created Adam and Eve, He has been seeking (despite their free will that led them into sin at Satan’s suggestion) to bring blessing into their lives. Indeed, the whole of the later ‘Israel experiment’ was to seek to lead a whole people into a way of life where they would live in the way God had originally designed mankind to work and thus be blessed and be a light or revelation to the rest of the world – yet sin kept on breaking through and that got it wrong.

But there is even more: good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This takes the onus off us because what it says, is that when God brought us through to Himself, He knew us completely and He knew how we would best ‘work’ and be more fulfilled and most successful. So, He knew how He could lead us into lives that were being totally fulfilled by doing the things He put before us, and in such a way blessing would follow. What is often so sad, is that in the same way that Israel allowed self and sin to rise up so they missed the target, so many of us start out this wonderful new experience of encounter and life with God, but allow the enemy to focus us on our own thinking and he raises up self-centred desires in us, and so we miss God’s desires for us and so live half-fulfilled lives. How tragic!

So let’s put all this together. We are to look back and see the people we were, and then see afresh the wonder of the work of God in us. Thus we will see that we are God’s workmanship, a new creation brought about by God through Jesus, designed to share our lives with Him and He with us, so that we live out His desires and plans for us which are designed to bless us and make us fruitful. What we achieve in life, then becomes that which He has designed us for, and we are most fulfilled – and this all through Jesus. How wonderful!