By Mike Ratliff
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)
My parents are in their 80′s and both have health issues that have become exacerbated at a seemingly increasing rate over the last few years. It is something I confess that I never thought would happen in that my sister, brother, and myself are having to make life changing decisions for them that I am not at all comfortable making. On the other hand, I have a 7-month-old grandson who is even more helpless and dependant on his parents and grandparents for everything. While that is expected and we all love taking care of him, it is quite another thing to have parents who, if they continue to go the direction they are going, will soon be nearly as helpless as my grandson. In light of this, let us contemplate our spiritual condition as Christians in the family of God.
In 1 John 2:28-3:1-10 we read of our spiritual identity as children of God and what that entails. The first thing he commands us to do is abide in Christ. What does that mean? This means that Christians must continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Trust, prayer, obedience, and joy characterize this relationship. In John 15:1-17, our Lord commands us to abide in Him for He is the True Vine and we are the branches. Our abiding in the True Vine is the source of our spiritual sustenance just as the grape vine feeds its branches, which bear the fruit. We cannot bear the spiritual fruit that God develops in His people unless we remain attached to our Lord in this level of relationship. If we become self-focused and indulge the flesh as a way of life then we are not abiding in our Lord as we should and we suffer spiritually for this. John tells us in 1 John 2:28-29 (above) that our abiding in our Lord as we should will enable us to have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. Our Lord tells us in John 15:1-17 that when we abide in Him as we should that He will give us His joy. Unless we have this joy through abiding in Him then we can do nothing “good.” The joy of the Lord is vital for us in this walk in order for us to remain as living sacrifices who are constantly being transformed (spiritually matured) having our minds renewed (Romans 12:1-2). From this we are able to be spirit-filled (Ephesians 5). The spirit-filled believer is one who walks through his or her day in prayer and submission to others because of their submission to Christ as they abide in Him. From this they practice righteousness because their focus is not on themselves, but on Christ and His will.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
I pray that all Christians reading this will examine how they walk through their days to see if they are doing so in light of this wonderful fact, that they are called children of God because the Father has given His love to us. Through this love, He has chosen or elected those who are His that they should be His children and the brothers and sisters of the Son (Ephesians 1). The world cannot conceive of this miracle and since they do not know God, they do not know us either. This is why so many professing Christians in the visible Church are convinced that their religion is what makes them Christian. Also, any teaching by us on the miraculous aspect of our faith and walk are regarded as things we do by our own efforts. In other words, they have no concept of the extent of Christian regeneration.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Yes, all genuine Christians are new creations, but it is God’s work that this is so, not according to any works or effort on their part. We are children of God because of the new birth in Christ. However, what awaits us in eternity has not been totally revealed to us yet. However, we do know that when our Lord does return, and He will soon, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. Because of this hope, through the power and by the grace of God we purify ourselves by walking in repentance.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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. 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. 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 3:4-10 ESV)
This is very clear my brethren. We are called to walk in repentance and we do so because this is what our new nature is all about. We cannot be at peace with our flesh ruling and reigning over us. I have been there and I know the misery of my own inability to repent of much of anything for very long. My victory came after several months of drawing closer and closer to God through prayer, devotion, and worship more and more until that was all I was doing in every part of my walk. It was at the end of about 8 or 9 months of this that that is all I was doing no matter whether I was driving or working or surfing the Internet or spending time with my wife. It was obedient to God in all parts of my walk and I found that repentance became natural. It was amazing. I still sin because my flesh is still here and I am not perfect. Some fleshly things in my heart are particularly stubborn and hard to kill. However, those days of being ruled by my flesh are hopefully gone forever.
This should be the desire of all in Christ. We still sin, but we do not make a practice of sinning. As we abide in Christ, we are given His joy and are able to selflessly wage war on those things in us that demand us to operate from the basis of pride. In other words, we are humble because we are closely abiding in Christ. We are spirit-filled because we put others ahead of ourselves as we walk in prayer and worship throughout each day. We mature in Christ as living sacrifices not by any actions that are based in the flesh and, therefore, pride.
Those who teach that the Christian can sin indiscriminately with a free pass from God must ignore passages like this one. All truly in Christ are children of God and He is working to mature and grow each of them up in Him so that they will have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming, which is going to be soon.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Addendum: Here is an older post on this same passage.