Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011 … A Decreasing Frequency of Sin

Passage of the Day: 1st John 3: 5-10 (primarily verses 6 and 9 – in bold and underlined below) … 5 But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. … 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in Him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

My Journal for Today: I truly believe that one of the obvious signs of a “saved life,” especially one who has been converted later in life, is a life which exhibits a decreasing pattern of sin. The statements in verses 6 and 9 of 1st John 3 are rather stark, especially when the Apostle says “no one (Christian)” will “go on sinning.” This might seem to imply that those calling themselves “Christian” who sin are not really Christians. Yet, we know from all of scripture that this is a blatant overstatement, given the remaining sin-nature of all humans, including Christians [see Romans 3: 23].

The understanding of these verses, providing us with this signal of the Christian life, is the word picture the Apostle John uses in verse 9. He says, “… because God’s seed remains (i.e., abides) in him (i.e., the believer) …;” and this word picture gives us clarity in the interpretation of 1st John 3: 6 and 9. The “seed” of the Holy Spirit is planted in the heart of new believers (i.e., the born-again or saved person); and over time it takes root and grows, especially when it is properly nourished. This growing process (i.e., sanctification) produces fruit (that which the Apostle Paul wrote about in Gal. 5: 22, 23) with a corresponding dying out of the old fruit of the flesh (which was listed in Gal. 5: 19 – 21).

So, what John is referring to in this passage is a process of growth seen in the true Christian … a process where, as He says, the true-Christian, “…cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” In other words, if a born-again Christian chooses to sin (and he/she will, of course, at times – again, see Rom. 3: 23), the deeper the roots have grown into the heart of that believer from the seed of God’s Spirit, the stronger will be the recognition and the repentance from that sin. However, the counterpart of that is also true. The deeper are the roots of habitual sin in the lifestyle and habit patterns of the saved/redeemed sinner, the more difficult it will be to uproot those patterns and to live a life that reflects Christlikeness. The premise, therefore, from today’s passage is simple and is worthy of restatement for emphasis: The true, born-again Christian will be convicted to become what is written by Paul in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, a “new creation;” and therefore, over time, this will yield a decreasing pattern of sinful living in the part of the Christian.

As we saw in another devotional this month, the Christian’s sensitivity for his or her own sin grows with the depth of the abiding relationship he/she has with Christ. Therefore, the true-Christian, who develops a deep and close relationship with Christ, will not (no, actually CANNOT) sin habitually or consciously without experiencing deep pangs of conviction, guilt, and remorse. And who, with a right mind [i.e., without the complications of deep-seated pre-Christian mental disorder], would continue to live in such agony over the long haul of life? Hence, just the avoidance of the pain of convicted sin will yield a decreased pattern of open defiance and habitual sin in the life of the true, born-again believer. It is the working out – in the life of a true believer – of the truth which Paul also wrote about in Gal. 2: 20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So, that is why the Apostle Paul also wrote that a believer, who was once a slave to sin, becomes, with salvation, a sanctifying captive of God’s purpose of righteousness (see Romans 6: 14 – 18); and with that process, the Christian, abiding in Christ and becoming more sensitive to sin from the conviction/direction of the Holy Spirit (see again 1st John 1: 5 – 10), this one, who is truly born-again, will begin to pursue righteousness in order to grow in Christlikeness, which, in turn, produces the fruitfulness John also wrote about in John 15 or Paul in Gal. 5: 22 – 23. It’s a pattern of growth that, when experienced in the life of the Christian, gives that believer a growing confidence in his salvation. It is what King David desired when he wrote, with a repentant heart in Psalm 51: 12, of wanting to be restored to the joy of his salvation … after he had been so convicted of his sin choices with Bathsheba and Uriah. And like David, no saved Christian will live out a life of sin, knowing that his/her choices are blatantly sinful.

Thusly, if you are reading this and you note a growing transformation of your spirit, mind, and behavior (as written about in Rom. 12: 1-2), you can be assured that it is the true seed of Godliness growing in your heart and life. Water it with God’s word. Feed it with your obedience. And let it flourish in the light of God’s presence; and over time you’ll see the reduction in sin promised and proclaimed by God’s word in today’s reading.

My Prayer Today: Grow in me, Lord! Amen

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