God is not a spoilsport who wants to stop you from having a good time. Sin is not what you want to do…but can’t. Sin is what you shouldn’t do because it will hurt you…and hurt you badly.
What sin makes you blush in private? What you feel right now is the installment payment on sin. Sin is ruled unsafe. God is not a policeman. God is a Father concerned about his children. When a child picks up a snake and the father, in a panic, yells, “Put that down right this minute!” the child thinks he’s losing a toy. In reality, he’s losing a snake. God has told us the truth about the way the world works.
So when we talk about sin, we need to understand it from 1 John 3:4-10.
The cause of sin is lawlessness. God says to us, “Do it my way.” Satan says to us, “Do it your way.” Sin is no more or no less than a desire for autonomy. God has a way expressed in his law and you have a way expressed in your ego. When you choose your way over God’s way, it is lawlessness…sin against God himself.
I believe that all sin is willful and first degree. This is the teaching of Romans: “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law…” (Romans 5:13) and “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law…” (Romans 7:7-8). If you don’t know it, it doesn’t count. But if you do know it, sin stirs up in you the desire to go in the wrong direction…to do things your way.
It’s in 1 John 3:6, 9. In the Greek, it is referring to the person who continues to sin, who habitually sins or whose life is characterized by sin.
My brother Ron, early on in his career, was a trial lawyer for two years in criminal practice and won every case. The day Ron lost his first case, after all that time, some lawyer friends kidded him about it. Ron said, “I lost my virginity today, but I have no intention of becoming a prostitute.” In other words, he had no intention of having his life characterized by failure.
God is not a policeman. God is a Father concerned about his children.
That is what John is saying. Of course Christians sin. There are times when we fall and fall badly. There are times when we really mess it up. But although we may sin, we have absolutely no intention of being characterized by others as lawless, unfaithful and sinful.
Sin’s cure is Jesus Christ…the seed of God inside you. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It started on the day you received Christ. The seed is growing and it cannot be stopped. Eventually, you will be just like Christ.
In the area of sin, the enemy within depends on the one to whom you belong. If you belong to Satan, your struggle is with him. If you belong to God, your struggle is with him. So it follows that when an unbeliever gets tired of fighting, he or she gives up to Satan. When a Christian gets tired of fighting, he or she gives up to God.
As Christians, we are constantly trying to ignore God. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Don’t look for demons under every bed. Your fight is with God. You will be unfaithful as long as you ignore God…but you can’t do that forever. He is a growing seed inside.
As a Christian, what you are on the inside is manifested in what happens on the outside. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.
We used to have three lime trees in our backyard. They produced more limes than we knew what to do with. I’ve never been big on limes. I love cherries instead. But as hard as they tried, those lime trees could never grow cherries for me. Lime trees produce limes. It is only natural.
Christians act like Christians and unbelievers act like unbelievers. It is that simple. Don’t let anyone fool you. Given enough time, actors will always remove their costumes. You are your heavenly Father’s son or daughter. For that reason, you naturally act like your Father.
God’s commandment is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to love one another.
When John talks about righteousness, his illustration is love. Sometimes we, as Christians, get so caught up talking about what people shouldn’t do that we forget what it’s all about…love.
One of the most radical accounts in the Bible is Luke 7. Jesus is eating with the Pharisees when a prostitute comes in. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and anoints them with fragrant oil. This causes quite a stir. In response, Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
The principle is this: You can’t love until you’ve been loved and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. When John talks about sin, he expresses it in the terms of love.
And as a Christian, you are characterized by love.
Time to Draw Away
Read Romans 8:1 & 1 Corinthians 13
When you run to Jesus, you’re loved and forgiven beyond your imagination and hope. The Gospel is good news for sinners and sufferers (and that includes all of us). While our sin runs deep, God’s grace runs even deeper. And once you know—really know—that you’re loved and forgiven, you can’t help but pass that on.