All God's Children (1 John 3)

1 John 3

A friend sent me an email telling about a question posed to her by a co-worker.  Here is the exact text of the question:

How is a Christian defined?  It used to be that if you were not Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist, you were a Christian, whether Catholic or Lutheran or Episcopal or Baptist.  But it seems now that the word means something more specific.  Is it considered to be an actual religion other than Catholic or Lutheran or Episcopal or Baptist or whatever.  If so, what makes it different?

Now that’s a very good question.  It shows that the person has been doing some seriously thinking about spiritual issues.  It also reveals that she has penetrated to a core issue that has long confused millions of people:  What is the difference between being a Christian and a church member?
How would you answer that question? 1 John 3 offers some very practical advice on how to spot the children of God. The true children of God reject sin and obey God's command to love one another.

I. Who We Are--the Children of God       1-3

1. The children of God are recognized by God but not by the world. 1

2. The children of God will be clearly revealed when we see Christ and become like him. 2

3. The children of God experience inward purification as we await that day. 3

II. How to Recognize the Children of God 4-10

1. All sin is serious because it is a form of lawlessness. 4

2. Sin is serious because Jesus came to remove sin. 5

3. Sin is ultimately inconsistent with who we really are. 6

4. Our actions spring from our nature, whether good or evil. 7-8

5. We share in God's nature and that nature does not sin. 9

6. Because we have God’s nature in us, we cannot continue in sin. 9

7. Our basic nature is revealed by the way we live. 10

A) Unbelievers through disobedience and hatred.

B) Believers through obedience and love.

III. How the Children of God Love   11-18

1. Love is the chief mark of new life. 11

2. Just as Cain hated Abel, so the world will hate us. 12-13

3. Hatred is a form of murder and a sign of spiritual death. 14-15

4. The model for our love is Jesus who laid down his life for us. 16

5. Real love goes beyond mere talk to meet the practical needs of others. 17-18

IV. How the Children of God Pray       19-24

1. We can pray with confidence when we show love to others. 19-21

2. We receive answers when God is pleased with us. 22

3. Genuine love for others brings us assurance by the Spirit that we are truly God’s children. 23-24

Note how John weaves obedience and love together again and again. We cannot talk about obeying God without also talking about loving our brothers. We cannot pick and choose. According to John, love is the chief way our new nature expresses itself. Love is also the practical assurance that we are keeping God's commandments.

Extra: Comparing 1 John 1 and 1 John 3

1) Sin is a daily reality for the believer. He must admit it and confess it so that he may be cleansed from unrighteousness. Chapter 1
2) For the believer sin is abnormal and unnatural. His whole bent of life is away from sin. Chapter 3
3) Sin keeps me from fellowship with God, and fellowship with God keeps me from sin.
4) Traced back to its roots, all sin is devilish and all righteousness is godlike.
5) Even the slightest bit of sin contradicts my new nature and pulls me away from fellowship with God.
6) Only through the Holy Spirit can I win the ongoing battle between sin and my new nature.
7) Though sin remains a daily reality for the believer, I must never make light of sin because every sin is a betrayal of who I am in Christ.
Here is one final thought: When Christians sin, we hide our true identity. When unbelievers sin, they reveal their true identity.


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