Once as our class transitioned up and away from its pleasant, pre-lesson chatter one of the group requested prayer. Some years back one of their employees displayed a particular disinterest in things spiritual. At this point, that business is long closed and everyone has moved on. That spiritually inattentive person, however, has discovered how the deck of life is stacked up against them: advanced, metastatic cancer. With that as the given background next came the prayer request: “I want to go meet with them this week. Can you pray that now they may be open to the gospel?”
This motivation is like John’s. Our class member has been telling people of Jesus all along the ways of life. Not all respond to the tellings. Many don’t join a body of believers as this experience relays. Truth is known, and people have all responded to it in different ways. John’s letter is really to those who have joined a Christian grouping, even though some were spurious members. Jump on over to the verses preceding this lesson beginning with 1 John 2:28 and read up through 1 John 3:6. Here is a link to that passage as well as the verses of this lesson.
“You are in a great family,” he wrote to them. The father of this family is God himself, and God lavished love there. These people have found themselves part of something bigger. The blessings of being in the family are just the beginning. When God appears rewards will further bloom with evidence beyond magnificent.
When verse 4 arrived, though, the language darkened. Sin is serious business. It was our business, but Jesus came making it his and paying most dearly for it. The sin-price had to be paid for people the world over to enable this adoption of God into his family. Transfers like this are always costly, but God so loved the world that he sent his only son to effect that transfer.
John and his fellow apostles had been sharing this good news and from Jerusalem to Judea and the other regions of the known world people responded. Groupings arose called churches, lives were transformed, and blessings went from sprout to bloom and full fruit. Some people, though, loved their sins and ran off to brew a craft-religion of their own. The founding principles they fermented permitted the very behaviors that sank humanity in the first place. What? Yeah, that is what John thought. How could things get so twisted?
John has been twisting these false teachings so much that they are about to break apart. In today’s lesson, they will twist-and-turn all the way to another family. He pulls out all the stops; he draws back the curtains. Walla! What do they see behind door number three? Satan.
Everyone is in a family. In fact, we all start off in the same one: Satan’s. Is allegiance with Satan family-like? Maybe you can answer that in your best manner. It seems like the goodness implied by family is not applicable to life in Satan’s house. Jesus came to rescue us from that dark place. “Live rescued,” has been the message.
In verses 7 and following John takes his readers back to truths probably unpleasant.
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. (1 John 3:7-8–ESV)
Here is your answer: the false teachers, the religion brewers, the my-way-is-just-fine-men. In came these people preaching more than tolerance of unrighteous behavior. Those whose habitual way of life is like that of Christ are righteous. When one sees unrighteousness, one knows it, and living like that is its own witness.
Others with smooth tongues and a crafty intent had been coming along leading people back toward their natural inclinations. These enticers were not practicing righteousness. That was obvious, and so John says that they are not righteous like Christ.
The curtain is really pulled back
The opposite of practicing righteousness is practicing sin. Sin has a father too: the Devil. John is speaking in very robust terms at this point. Toes are being stepped on as John calls out the men tampering with the souls of the churches. Those cajoling the righteous in the church to depart from Christ-like ways to again indulging their lust of the flesh, eyes and the pride of life are Devil fathered.
Recall that the new religion peddlers are men and women who had been among them. That is what made their offerings so compelling. To have John come along and say that the departees were of the Devil must have come as a shock. Sure they were not godly or righteous, but “of the devil?”
The tie-in was the style and manner. Satan’s styles and manners? Well, they were natural; just naturally flawed.
God as a destroyer?
Yep, the works of the devil are not to have their long-term place on the earth. They will be destroyed. Jesus came and launched the offensive to destroy Satan’s works.
I think it is interesting to see that Jesus did not come to destroy Satan, but the things he goes about and does. We may be inclined toward the unhealthy, but the doing of it is where the crucial part of this begins.
Satan will eventually be destroyed, but in the meantime, God matures people through lifelong battles and struggles over sin and temptation.
God’s seed abides
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. 10 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. (1 John 3:9-10–ESV)
We are told to abide in Christ, but there is another abiding that makes this practicable. That is God in us. God’s seed, his way, his Holy Spirit abides in us. When that is present the life is altered. You cannot keep touching a hot stove without experiencing the repetitive burns that come with it. If you sin and the Holy Spirit is in you the sin is like touching the stove. It hurts and leaves a mark. There is an odor of unpleasantness in the soul over it.
I frequently do not take the presence of the Holy Spirit, God’s seed, into account. That is, the business of practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, is my task. “God saved me now it is my job to live well,” go my instincts.
Honeybees and Pac-dots
I also have the instinct to be task oriented. That will come as no surprise to those who sit in my class or read these lessons. I intrinsically seek to accomplish deed after deed. The doing of the thing is less important than the done of the thing.
Imagine a honeybee flying from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen for the hive. After they leave a flower I imagine that their task with that flower is done. Why would they fly back to an already collected flower1?
Or, consider video games like Pac-Man World or Super Mario Galaxy series. In games like these, the player is presented with a series of levels. The main goal is to accomplish the level, but all along the way are other collecting-type tasks. For instance, in Pac Man World one must collect fruit, and Pac-dots, coins and do other things. The 100% complete only comes when everything is collected, all levels are complete and the boss is destroyed.
People tend to extrapolate their ways back to God. I think that deep inside me someplace I view my salvation as a task God had to check off. That done he has flown on to other people much like a honeybee having passed by. At this point, the sanctification part of it all falls to me though he has watchers taking down notes on how well I am doing so that I can be rewarded or punished.
Probably when things get put down as starkly as this few are confused, but it is so natural to spread one’s moments into one’s eternity. Life-completion and Heaven-arrival is important, but the living also is. To some, this is obvious while to others it motivates, drives, pushes on, but does so almost invisibly, not just from the sidelines, but more likely from behind the bleachers.
The Holy Spirit remains
The Holy Spirit works with us and does so continuously. He does not just rush along trying to meet a quota of “salvations” today. He patiently works and when the lost soul opens the door and lets God into their lives the Holy Spirit moves in to stay. He does not just give us the U-Verse manual, tell us an email will come followed by the installer. He moves in immediately and begins his work.
That is what verse 9 really means. When we are born of God his seed, the Holy Spirit remains. Having agreed to the cleanup the Holy Spirit goes on about it. God disciplines those he loves and once the contract is entered (a.k.a. salvation) sinful behaviors will not result in happy times. The Christian may try to dabble in bad behavior, but there is the bitterness of conviction that comes.
Some say that Monarch butterflies are not eaten by birds because they spend their caterpillar-days feeding on milkweed. Supposedly there are bitter chemicals2 in the milkweed that sticks around in their butterfly bodies causing birds that have eaten them to have a memorable bad experience. I think that this has been disproven, but being science-lore we are taught it as children. Researchers now seem to say that birds confuse the colors of the Monarch with plants or just cannot catch them due to their flight patterns. I don’t know or have enough time to dig to the bottom of it just now. Just collect the analogy and use it to understand conviction, the conscience and the role of the Holy Spirit in this.
Christians do not have a pleasant time sinning so as verse 9 says they don’t go on doing it and doing it.
Does sinning sting?
That is a question for each of us. If we can do those things which God says are unrighteous without impunity then it is likely the Holy Spirit is not present. This is not the whole story for sometimes the Holy Spirit or our cultural cues cause certain behaviors to bite, but it is the aspect of things that John says we should employ as a test, at least as far as those who claim Jesus in their lives.