As I read more of the Scriptures, one thing I become more sure of is this: John does not pull punches.
In the letter we know as 1 John, he tackles over and over the idea of love: the love that Jesus has for us, that we have received, should be reflected through our lives to those around us. And as we’ll see in this chapter, if we truly love Jesus, that will lead us to drastically change our view on life and how we behave.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that the gospel is not about behavior modification. If it were just about doing good things and behaving a certain way, it would be no different than any other major world religion or philosophy. What makes the gospel of Jesus different is that we serve a God who loves us and is accessible to us, and as we learn more about his nature and character and love for us, our behavior will naturally change to align more with the heart of Christ in response to the love we have received.
And, as we see in 1 John chapter 3, we still need to be reminded that we have received love more magnificent than anything we can imagine, and our response should be to turn away from our old lives. Like in verses 4 through 6, where he writes, “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.”
He continues by saying that when we sin, or go against what God desires for and has asked of us, we are showing our allegiance not to Christ, but to the enemy. If our actions betray what is regularly in our hearts, it will be easy to know if we have actually accepted the invitation to join God’s family. At the beginning of this chapter, John says that we are God’s children, and he repeats it again here in verse 9 when talking about sinful actions, saying, “So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.”
I know it may seem harsh or unreasonable to expect someone to never sin, but think about it this way: when you were growing up, you had a set of rules that your parents made for you, right? And you know (even if you didn’t in the moment) that, for the most part, those rules were probably for your long-term benefit. If you broke the rules, there were consequences, right? But your parents still loved you, and they desired that you don’t break the rules anymore so that they didn’t have to see you walk through the consequences.
It’s the same with God. He doesn’t want to punish us, but He can’t exist in the same space as sin. For us to be in relationship with Him, Jesus had to take our place and bear our punishment. That doesn’t mean that when we sin, we completely undo Jesus’ sacrifice forever, but it does mean that in order to be in God’s presence, we can not live a life of sin.
This is what John says in verses 19 and 20: “Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”
God wants us to be near to Him. He can’t be near sin. And that’s why it’s so important to make sure we are living according to what he deems acceptable, instead of following what the world or our society says is okay. If we follow Him, we will become closer to Him. If we follow the world, we will become farther from Him.
I’ve heard this saying a lot, that “confession begets healing.” Maybe there’s a habitual sin you can’t shake, or there’s something you’ve done or thought or didn’t do that you know you need to confess, but haven’t. I encourage you to bring that to the Lord today, and receive his forgiveness. As Jesus told those He healed in the gospel accounts, sit in His presence and allow him to change you from the inside out as he tells you to “go and sin no more.”