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1 John 3:4-10

It has been suggested that the "London Eye" makes a wonderful illustration of the apostle, John, writing his first letter. As you gradually move up and over in your "pod", you get a superb view of all the sights of London from different angles. In the same way, John returns to the points he is talking about several times throughout the whole book. This study comes back to the subject of sin, which he first mentioned in 1 John 1:8-2:2 and to which he will return again in the final chapter.

What is sin?

John likens sin to breaking the law, but he is not talking about the criminal law of the land so much as the law of God. The law of the land does not accuse us if we do not speak kindly to our neighbour or if we have a bad attitude to people or things (although "non-crime hate incidents" are now being recorded by police in the United Kingdom), but God’s law is very clear about these things and calls them sin. Sin is an incurable disease and we all have it! The law of God covers the whole plan of God for our lives: the way we do everything, including our work, our relationships, our money and how we relate to Him. Jesus sums this up as follows: ”'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So, we can understand that those who sin do not keep God’s perfect standards of love, thus breaking His law. If we could keep this standard, there would have been no need for Jesus to die but, because of humanity's general rebellion against God (known as the "Fall"), even the best people are lawbreakers in God’s eyes. We have no hope of putting things right ourselves. Jesus pointed out that sin actually begins in the attitudes and intentions that grow in our minds and hearts and that lead, inevitably, to sinful behaviour. “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:20-23) The apostle, Paul, reiterated this thought in his letter to believers at Rome, saying that, like every other human being, we stand guilty before God. (Romans 3:9-20) For this reason, we shall be without excuse when we stand before God on the day of judgement. (Romans 1:20-23)

It is good to recognise who we are as human beings in God’s sight. We should not deny that we are sinners but, instead, allow our desperate need to point us towards Christ. One day we shall have to stand, silent, before almighty God, with no excuses for our thoughts and actions. Now is the time to choose whether we can hold our heads up at that time (because we have been changed "to be like Him" - 1 John 3:2) or whether we shall bow the knee to Jesus and He will say: "I do not know you." The choice is ours today.

Where does sin begin?

Sin usually has its origin in a very attractive temptation, often looking harmless. Temptation begins when we see something that we want and it takes up our focus. We become more focused on what we want, especially when we think that we are not allowed to have it. ("Do not walk on the grass" - "Naughty... but nice"!) From just looking, we can slide down the slippery slope into the quicksand of sin, cutting us off from our loving Father and drawing others into our treachery. Remember King David, who was meant to be out at battle but had stayed at home. He saw Bathsheba, wanted her, went after her and took her. Then he lied about her to his staff, had her husband killed and suffered the consequences, which were severe. (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 2 Samuel 12:1-19)

How should we deal with sin?

Sin makes us feel guilty. This is actually a good sign because it means that our hearts are not so hardened that we don’t recognise the trouble that we have caused. We need to acknowledge this guilt and the sin behind it, then turn our backs on what we have done and be restored to full fellowship with our Father who loves us. What's more, we need to do this immediately. We need to keep open fellowship with the Father. This is what He longs for but, when we sin, our natural reaction is to run away from God and hide. The longer we stay away from God and allow things to fester, the more impossible it seems to us that we shall ever attain His standard. We must recognise His unconditional love which holds no record of wrongs. That makes it so much easier to turn back from sin (repent). Sin so often causes us to blame someone else or our circumstances. This is what happened in the "Garden of Eden" when Adam and Eve both blamed each other and the serpent. But God knows the truth and holds each of us responsible for what we do. (Genesis 3:8-13) Sin always has consequences. Some may last for generations; some are lifelong whilst others last just a few hours, but they cannot be avoided. Both the act of sin and the attitude of sin have to be dealt with. The ideal solution is to say a firm "NO" to the temptation as soon as it starts - as King David or Eve should have done!

In Old Testament times, Israel practised a ceremony that involved something called a "scapegoat". The priest would take two ordinary goats and separate them. One goat would be slaughtered and sacrificed as "sin offering". He would lay his hands on the head of the second goat and recite the sins of the people over it, thus transferring them to the goat. The goat would then be sent out into the wilderness, totally away from the people. (Leviticus 16:7-10) That is what Jesus did with our sin and sickness; He bore them away from us. He is the only person who has ever lived a perfect life in God's eyes, totally without sin in thought, word and deed. (1 John 3:5) Because of this, only Jesus is qualified to be God’s solution to our problem of sin. The alternative is that we pay the price ourselves and the results of that are unthinkable. (Do we really want to be separated from love for ever, suffering the consequences of our sinful nature?) In his letter to believers in Galatia, the apostle, Paul, said: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) Jesus' death was the punishment for our sin and His resurrection was the victory over that sin, so that it no longer has a hold over us. We must put our trust in Christ and receive His sacrifice (as the perfect "Lamb of God") to wash away our sin. (John 3:15)

What a battle!

In his letter to believers at Rome, Paul gives a brilliant description of the battle that goes on in all of us when we want to follow God. We know what He is telling us to do, but it goes against our old, fallen nature (the flesh) that has been in the habit of doing the opposite for years. "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25)

When we come to know Jesus personally, we will not suddenly be free from the temptations of sin. That state of affairs will continue whilst ever we are in our earthly bodies but, with the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can walk in victory and "keep short accounts" with God. The hold of sin has been broken over us and we have the power (in the Holy Spirit) to refuse the temptation. Nonetheless, it is always up to us to make a choice. Those who do not know Jesus often have no intention of resisting sin and may even enjoy what they are doing, not seeing it as "sin". But, those who wallow in activities that are contrary to the word of God and have no inclination to refuse any temptation, cannot know the transforming power of God in their lives. (Mark 4:13-20) We know that we have been "born again" when we deal with things that are against God’s law, rather than ignoring them or simply not bothering. Although we often repeat some sins and can feel disheartened, when we look back, we can see areas of our lives where there has been distinct progress.

We can liken our lives to a beautiful home with many rooms. When we come to Christ, Jesus becomes our new landlord. As He goes from room to room, He finds "stuff" in some rooms that we do not want to part with. It could be a group of friends we like to go out with; a regular activity we want to continue doing; a career move that we want for more money or the demands of our children. These are all great things but, if Jesus is going to be our landlord (and in complete control of our lives), we have to lay these things down and allow our own plans to "die". Ultimately, this will prove to be for our good, but it will mean walking by faith. We are not pure because the things we have done have left their mark on us outwardly. But, we become pure on the inside as Christ renews our minds and transform us into His image. As that gradual change takes place, our new nature begins to show itself outwardly more and more.

No condemnation!

As true Christians we will do what we can, not to continue in sin because God’s seed remains in us and we are working on being victorious. We cannot always prevent temptation, but there is always a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) The advice we have is to: "Run from things that produce evil thoughts as that is where all temptation starts." (2 Timothy 2:22)

The light of God's word will loosen Satan’s grip on our lives in every area of sin and suffering - if we will only let it. The truth sets us free from the enemy's dominion when we realize that our deliverance has already been purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus. Because God loved the world, He engineered the substitution of His only begotten Son to redeem humanity from the curse that came as the result of Adam’s rebellion. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, 'cursed is every one that hangs on a tree'.” (Galatians 3:13) Jesus was willing to take our curse so that we would not have to continue under the enemy's dominion.

Sickness and death

As sin is the outward sign of spiritual death in the heart of human beings, so sickness is a sign of spiritual death in our bodies. Not only did Jesus pay the price for new birth in our spirits and the healing of our bodies, He also bore the "chastisement of our peace" (the punishment that brought us peace). (Isaiah 53:4-5) Satan has no right to torment us mentally. We have been redeemed from fear, mental anxiety, depression and anything that keeps our minds from enjoying peace. So let's not allow Satan to steal our peace.

Jesus came to destroy all the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) Satan wields power by exploiting sin and sickness and the hold they have over us. Jesus has paid the ransom to set us free from this slavery and it means that we can be restored in body, mind and spirit - liberated from the chains of sin and the fear of death and sickness. “For you are bought with a price.” What a great price it was! “Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Let's stand up - in the name of Jesus - and command sin to leave us. Let's refuse to allow it any power over our bodies, minds, spirits, homes or families!

Salvation

The English word "salvation" is a translation of the Greek word "sozo" that was used in the New Testament section of our Bibles. Salvation is not just the new birth of our spirit. It is also peace for our mind and healing for our body. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that salvation denotes: “deliverance, preservation, material and temporal deliverance from danger and apprehension.” So the good news (gospel) is far more than just getting a ticket to heaven. The gospel is the good news for everyone: if we are guilty, it is forgiveness; if we are anxious, it is peace; if we are sick, it is healing; if we are poor, it is provision; if we have a bad habit, it is deliverance. Anything that we need can be found in what Jesus did in His sacrificial death. (Mark 16:15-16) There is no sin so great that Jesus’ sacrifice is unable to cancel it and wipe it away, as though that sin had never been. He bore our sins, so that we do not have to bear them. Now we can be forgiven! He did that for every sinner. The power of God cleanses and changes any who take hold of the gift of salvation. When we are born again, we become new people, new creatures. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Our new spirits are created in the righteousness of God. Let’s receive our freedom now! Sin is really a "no brainer"!

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because, through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear - hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." (Jude 1:20-23)

To sum up all that Jesus has done, read Isaiah 53:3-6 in "The Message":

"But the fact is, it was our pains He carried -
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought He brought it on Himself,
that God was punishing Him for His own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to Him,
That ripped and tore and crushed Him — our sins!
He took the punishment and that made us whole.
Through His bruises we were healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way,
And God has piled all our sins -
Everything we've done wrong - on Him... on Him."

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus! Thank you!


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