1 John 3:6-9. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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. 9 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.
No one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning,
whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,
he cannot keep on sinning.
Statements like these have led to some really stressed out Christians. Some have even taken this to mean that true Christians don’t ever sin again. But that conclusion would seem to contradict almost everything else in the New Testament including things in this very letter:
1 John 2:1. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
These verses can be so difficult to wrap our minds around that most English translations try to soften the language by writing no Christian “makes a practice of sinning.” But in the Greek it literally says “does not sin.” Period.
OK, so how is it possible that a Christian does not sin? Does John mean that we don’t commit individual sins, like cheating, lusting, gossiping, or coveting? Gee let’s hope not. Because if he does, then I’ve never known a real Christian.
Or might John mean that as Christians we don’t habitually sin? We don’t make a practice of sinning or keep on sinning in the same way, over and over. Then there no addicted Christians? Every Christian with any kind of sin habit is not actually a Christian?
OK, so before we all lose our eternal security and doubt our own salvation because of our ongoing sinful condition, let’s be reminded of what John says about our position in Christ. We abide in him (verse 6). We are righteous (verse 7). The work of the Devil against us is destroyed (verse 8). We are born of God and his seed is in us (verse 9).
Now, if all of this is true about us (and it is) then what sort of trajectory are we on? Will we slowly and progressively move deeper and deeper into the sin of unbelief? Or will we slowly and progressively, as a baby grows, move deeper and deeper into faith and love?
Christian, if you can take hope in who and what you ARE in Christ, while remembering that Christ’s life in you is a seed, not a tree. That the Devil is defeated but still prowling. That you are righteous yet still need a righteous advocate each and every day for when you sin (1 Jn. 2:1). That you are God’s child, but won’t be like your big brother until you see him face to face (1 Jn. 3:2). That you have a new nature, but it must be nurtured. If you can see yourself as God’s child, born of God, participating in his own nature, then, you might just find that your doing has begun to match your being.
You might just find that your “to live” looks like it “is Christ.”
Have you ever thought you should be sinless by now? Or, have you ever thought that what you do doesn’t matter since you’re saved? Why are both of these wrong?
You in Christ
Why can John say that if we are in Christ we will not embrace a trajectory of sinning?
Christ in you
Christ in you is a seed. What are some of the implications of this truth?
Playlist: Overcoming Sin.
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