Before I begin, we’re going to continue our study through 1 John. So open your Bibles. And why don’t you read on your own 1 John chapter 3. We covered chapter 1 and chapter 2 in the previous weeks. So read 1 John 3 and ask, try to answer two simple questions. One is, what is the heart of God that you see in 1 John chapter 3? What is the heart of God?
And then another question you may want to answer is, what are the marks of a Christian? So 1 John chapter 3, just spend a few minutes reading those two and then we’ll start.
From 1 John 3, we learn that God hates sin, but He loves sinners. That is his heart. The marks of a Christian. We believe in Jesus, that’s one, and the practical outworking of that is you live righteously if you believe in Jesus. And we love.
So we’re known for those two things: righteous living and we love. First John chapter 3 verse 1. We are God’s children and 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.
Did you know that in the moment that you see Jesus face to face whether it’s when the Lord takes you home or when Jesus comes in the flesh, the second coming of Christ, in that moment all believers will be fully changed in His presence.
Did you know that? That’s what will happen in a twinkling of an eye because you cannot stay the way you are when you come into the presence of Almighty God, Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. When you see Him in the fullness of His glory, all remnants of sin will melt away and you’ll be changed in the twinkling of an eye.
That is how powerful an encounter with Jesus Christ is. You don’t have to wait for some future event. It can happen now. As you fellowship with Him, as you abide in Him, as you meet Him even in little glimpses here and there, you’ll be changed. And even the hope that you put in Him, it says, even that hope makes us want to purify ourselves.
That’s how much meeting Jesus, your expectation that one day you will see him, it causes you to live differently. You want to purify yourself, you want to clean up your life in preparation that one day you will see Him. And then in a spiritual sense, you are meeting Him and you are changing.
And as we read on, verse four, everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order 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 sees 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.
We read chapter 1 and it leaves us a little bit unresolved because it says that if we want to fellowship with God, who is in a light, you also must walk in the light. But we all stumble. We all fall into darkness on occasion and there is grace for us and it kind of ends with that, well, are we supposed to walk in the light? Or are we okay walking in darkness on occasion?
And then in chapter 2 he gives the summary statement of chapter 1. Verse 1 – he says, my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous.
So one of the primary reasons John is writing this letter is to let us know that through Jesus the patterns of sin shall be broken. And you will sin less and less and less. You may fall and stumble on occasion. There is grace for you. Jesus is a propitiation for our sins. But he is writing this letter so that we can start living righteously. Start walking in the light. That is one of the reasons.
And then chapter 2 verse 26 which we covered last week. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.
We covered last week that there are many antichrists, many counterfeit christs. And one counterfeit christs preached on many churches on a Sunday tells you that you can keep on sinning. Don’t worry. There is grace for you. It is partially true. There is grace for occasionally falling into sin.
But we are supposed to grow from a spiritual infant, to a young man who overcomes the evil one, to a spiritual father and mother who knows the One who is from the beginning, Jesus Christ. And so there is this expectation for growth. And if you fellowship with the true Jesus and do not fall for a counterfeit Jesus, an antichrist spirit, then you will experience what he is going to explain in chapter 3.
Chapter 3. It says, everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness.
So we are not talking about occasional sin. We are talking about a practice of sinning. A pattern of sinning. A stronghold. Like you don’t want to do it, you repent, but you fall into the same sin tomorrow. And tomorrow you say, I don’t want to do it. You repent. Two days from now you fall again. And so this pattern of sinning, Jesus says through His word, that anybody who practices sinning, you are practicing lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.
And what does Jesus say about workers of lawlessness in Matthew chapter 7? He says, I never knew you. Depart from me. So if there is a pattern of lawlessness, a pattern of sinning, that could be excusable if you are a spiritual infant.
But if you have been walking with the Lord for year after year, decade after decade, these patterns of sin should be broken in Jesus’ name. Which then allows you to grow in righteousness.
And this is where theology, I think, messes us up. Because we know that we do not have any righteousness of our own. We know that nobody is righteous. And so believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed, credited to us because we are people of faith. And that’s true. That’s well and good.
And we have another theology of justification which says you are not guilty. And that’s when you just received Christ, you were declared, not guilty. And that is a true statement. You sinned for 10, 20, 30, 40 years of your life. But in that moment of first meeting Jesus, you were justified. You’re not guilty.
But are you innocent? No, you’re not innocent. Because the same sins that you’ve been doing for 20 or 30 years, you’re going to struggle with and you may continue to fall into for a season because you’re only a spiritual infant and there’s grace for you. But if that pattern of sin never gets broken and you’re in your 10th year of walking with Jesus, or your 20th year, 30th year, and the pattern of sinning, of lawlessness is still there, then I would say there’s something wrong with the Jesus that you’re fellowshiping with.
It says that Jesus came in order to take away sins, not just cover it, not just forgive it, but to take it away, to take it off of you, to cast it off of you. That’s the meaning here. And it also says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.
And is that true for you, believer? Could it be said of you that the works of the devil have been destroyed in your life and you are practicing righteousness? That’s one mark of a Christian. If you’re fellowshiping with Jesus, it says you cannot sin. You cannot sin if you’re fellowshiping with Jesus. And does that mean we’re sinless? No. But if you’re actively holding onto Jesus, it is impossible in that moment to sin.
That means we’re sinning all the time because we’re all the time letting go of Jesus. And we’re fighting on our own. And we haven’t understood the basics of Christianity, which is to abide in Christ. In that moment of abiding, it is impossible to sin. It says whoever makes it a practice, verse 8, of sinning is of the devil. For the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
And if we jump down to verse 11, for this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that you should love one another.
And so now he’s joining the two. The first mark of a Christian, you practice righteousness more and more. The second mark is you love one another.
And it says verse 12, we should not be like Cain, who is of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Justification is God’s declaration over you that you’re not guilty, but it doesn’t mean you’re innocent. But the proof, the proof of you saying you’re a disciple of Jesus, the proof of that is a growing sanctification.
Some people just rest in, I’m justified, I’m not guilty. It’s true. But if you stay there and this pattern of sin does not get broken, then I don’t know if you can have assurance that you are a disciple of Jesus. Because if you are, sanctification will come and there will be a practice of righteousness.
John talks about Cain, and so we might think, okay, that’s a low bar. I’m not a murderer. I didn’t murder anybody. And so we might get comforted by God using Cain as an example. Okay, I love people because I’m not murdering anybody. But if you read it more carefully, Genesis chapter four, I’ll read just a few of the verses. Genesis four, you could turn with me if you like.
Genesis four, verse three. And in the process of time, it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel in his offering, but he did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door and its desire is for you and you should rule over it.
It’s unclear why Cain’s offering was not accepted. Is it because it wasn’t a blood sacrifice? He didn’t give an animal sacrifice. He just gave something from the field, some fruit of his labor. Is that the reason, or is it the quality of the fruit, like the avocado he offered, did it have bruises on it? It’s just not the best one, whereas Abel gave the best, the firstborn of his flock.
It’s unclear, but one thing is clear. God expected Cain to know how and what to offer. He expected Cain to know. It’s not like Cain was blindsided because God hadn’t explained. No, God must have communicated to Cain and Abel, Cain must have known and deliberately did not obey. Something in his heart, something in his motivation, something is not right. And that’s why the offering was not accepted.
And then God calls him out and God is trying to restore Cain and saying, why is your countenance fallen? Why are you angry? And he says, if you do well, will you not be accepted? So Cain knew how to do well. He knew what the right thing to do was, but he did not do it and he was angry, his countenance fell.
And then the most interesting part about this is the part that says, if you do not do well, sin lies at the door and its desire is for you. It reminds me of 1 Peter 5, be sober, be vigilant because your adversary, the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Sin is almost personified. Somebody is coming after Cain. Sin is crouching at the door. I would say, Satan himself is crouching at Cain’s door.
And if Cain does not repent, this anger, this fallen countenance, this knowing what right thing to do and deliberately not doing it, if he doesn’t repent of that, this sin will master him and Satan will devour him like a lion.
It also reminds me of James 1 verse 14, but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full grown brings forth death.
Cain had a chance to repent. God came to Cain. He wanted Cain to repent. Cain chose to harden his heart. There was a desire in him that was not right. And you could say it’s Satan tempting him or it’s just, as it says in the book of James, it’s just Cain’s desire. It’s just his own desire. It’s just not right. And God is trying to deal with Cain’s heart, his desires. Instead of dealing with it, the desires just grew into sin. And he sinned when he chose not to repent and it led to murder. Now it is full blown sin. Now Cain is on the path to death.
It is exactly what we read in James chapter 1. The desires that were not dealt with properly, not given to Jesus, not redeemed, not restored, it gave birth to sin. Sin was fully grown, and eventually it led to death.
The heart of God is that He hates sin. You have to see it from this text. God hates sin. Because we confuse the fact that He loves sinners, we almost think, well, He gives a pass to sin, doesn’t he? Isn’t He gracious? Doesn’t He overlook sin? Isn’t He tolerant of sin? No. This text is crystal clear. Sin is of the devil. God hates it. God hates it. But He loves sinners. That is such good news.
That doesn’t give us an excuse to keep on sinning. This pattern of sinning must be broken. It’s okay if you’re an infant. But by the time, it says in chapter 2, by the time you’re a young man, young woman of faith, you’ve overcome the evil one, meaning these practices, these patterns of sin have been broken. So if you’re fellowshiping with the true Jesus, then every pattern of sin shall be broken in Jesus’ Name.
And John is writing this letter. One of the main reasons is so that you do not sin and I don’t sin. The patterns are broken. We can stumble, but it’s not a pattern. It’s not over and over the same thing where the patterns remain unbroken. So God hates sin. He loves sinners. He loves sinners. That is such good news.
The second mark of a Christian is we love. We love one another. It’s kind of odd for a church in mid to late February, we still don’t have a budget approved. Maybe only the members of our church would know that. It’s not because we’re lazy. The elders, you know, Jackie and I, the Parks, the Kims, we’ve been praying for God to give clarity on the budget.
But more important than the budget, I think it’s, to me, it’s not just about the line items. Like, I want God to be crystal clear. What does He have for us? Like, He’s moving us out of this place. But where is He moving us to? And shouldn’t the place we go to fit with whatever is going to happen in that place?
If it’s just once a week gathering on a Sunday, then maybe it doesn’t matter too much. If we have something more that He wants us to do in that place, then the location, the ambiance, the spacing, everything has to fit whatever the Lord has.
And I’m saying all this because I’m asking for prayer, because we want to love one another well. We’re not the boss. None of the elders are the boss. We’re waiting for the Boss to speak. And until He speaks, we just can’t approve anything. We don’t know what direction to go. We’re waiting on the Boss.
So just be patient with us. Please pray for us. Pray that God speaks. Pray that there’s unity of the spirit in the bond of peace so that there’s unanimous consensus among the elder couples of what the Lord has for us.
Because we want to be known for our love. If you are experiencing Christ deeply and you’re fully restored and the patterns of sin are broken, then I will love well. I will love Jackie well. I will love my boys well. I will love Hill Community well.
It goes in that order as it says in Acts chapter 1 verse 8. After the Holy Spirit fell, the gospel spread first in Jerusalem, one city, then Judea, the surrounding region, then the northern region, Samaria, then to the ends of the earth.
It’s the same, I think, today. God starts with an individual. The individual is blessed by the Lord. That blessing spills over if they’re married to their spouse. It spills over from the parents to the children. It spills over from Hill Community Church. It will spill over from this place, this location, to Torrance. It will spill over from Torrance to South Bay. It will go from South Bay to Southern Cal, and then it will reach Northern Cal, and then America, eventually the ends of the earth. The order is so important.
Would it make sense if we’re not thriving in Jesus? And we’re not even loving each other here well, and we’re thinking about missions. Does that even make sense? Or should we do it the way the Lord says? He says, first, make sure you’re doing well. Make sure your marriage is doing well. Make sure your family is doing well. Let’s make sure we love one another here well. And then if we love here well, then when we disperse, we’re going to love South Bay well.
We’re going to love Malibu and Torrance and Arcadia and all of Southern California well. And then from there, maybe we’re going to spread to Northern California and across America to the ends of the earth. Shouldn’t we do things according to God’s Word?
And so I’m asking, first, how do we love each other well? Like, what do we need to do to love each other well? And so it gets back to what I said at the beginning. There are those of us who are in a position to help because you’ve grown, because you’ve overcome the evil one, because this pattern of sinning has been broken, because you have matured to a young man, young woman, and maybe a spiritual father and mother. You’ve matured, you’ve grown.
You’re in the camp of those who are here to help. The others, you just need help. And so just let us know if you’re in that camp, you need help. Please tell me, please tell us how do you need help and what areas do you need help? Because we want to love well here.
And we don’t want to just come up with random programs top down and say, this is what we think we need. No, it should come from the Lord and it should come from those who need help, because we want to love one another well.
John gives an example here. It says in verse 16, by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Please let someone know, I’m in need. I need help. I can’t pay my bills. You can express that need. And then the brothers and sisters will come alongside you and ask, can I love you, brother or sister? Can I help you meet that need?
Or you can just hide and say, I have no needs. I don’t want to be embarrassed. I don’t want to share. And so then you’re not allowing the body of Christ to love on you because you’re too ashamed. You’re hidden. You’re prideful or whatever.
And so we just want to be a community where we’re here to love each other well. We want to love one another. We want to help one another. And so if you need help, please let someone know. We want to help you. We want to love you. We want to love in this place well. From here, it should spread. Eventually to the ends of the earth.
And I’ll end with verse 23. And this is his commandment. That we should believe on the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, thank you for sharing your heart with us today. You’re not like a senile grandfather who just looks the other way when we sin. You’re not cool with sin. You’re not okay with sin. You hate it. Sin is of the devil. Thank you, Lord, that you, while hating sin, you love sinners.
You came to set us free. You came to take away sin. You came to destroy the works of the evil one. You break every chain so that we can live righteously, live in a way that pleases you. It’s not just a doctrine. You expect us practically to live righteously.
But Lord, what’s the point of being a righteous man or woman if we have not love? We’re just a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal if we have not love. You warn us that the Pharisees, they are hypocrites. They practice lawlessness while trying to appear righteous, and they had no love.
Father, we ask that you would help us to love one another well. We don’t know what to do in this place in 2023, but we’re asking the Boss. We want to do the will of God. Jesus, You’re the Senior Pastor. We want to ask You, what would You have us do in 2023? Where would You have us worship? How should we love one another? What kind of weekly gatherings should we have? How should we reach our neighbors in the South Bay and beyond?
Lord, it’s all up to You. We’re waiting upon You, Lord, and if you’re silent, we want to sow thanks. We give thanksgiving for the ways you have spoken, but in this one area, we’re actively waiting upon You. We trust that You will speak in Your time and Your way. You’re teaching us lordship, to truly surrender everything. Thank you, Lord. It is a difficult training, but we want to go through it, Lord.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying on a cross, for allowing Your Body to be broken and Your blood shed. We pray that as we finish this service that You minister to us and meet us, while we proclaim the return of Christ. Wwe know in that moment we’ll be changed completely, but we ask that one degree of glory at a time you will begin changing us as we fellowship with You in a spiritual sense. Meet us now. We thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen