Bobby grew up in a dysfunctional home. He saw things take place in his home while he was growing up that no child should ever see. Because of the decisions of his parents, chaos filled every corner of the home and drained any hope of stability or sanity from the lives of those who lived in that little house on Flood Street. Bobby’s brothers and sisters saw the path that their parents had trod and followed in the footsteps of mom and dad. Bobby, on the other hand, saw the path of his parents and knew in his heart that this was not the way to walk, so he left. Bobby packed up his stuff while he was still in high school and headed out into the big world all by himself.
After Bobby had moved out of his home and living on his own, he would often think of his family and cry himself to sleep at night. He thought about all of the things that he had seen, the things he had heard, and how badly he missed seeing his family. As messed up as they were they were still his family. The thoughts broke his heart. Bobby resolved in his mind that he would never do what he had seen done. He would make a life for himself that was better than his parents if it killed him.
Bobby found stability in the home of a friend who allowed him to stay with his family. He got a job making an honest living. Even though his earnings were meager he knew that the money was clean.
One day Bobby fell in love. He got married, had children, and was on his way to making a great life, certainly better than the one his family had offered to him. He didn’t resort to the devilish schemes of hustling, stealing, conniving, and deceiving that he had seen his own parents use to make ends meet. He wasn’t strung out, hung over, or laid low because of living life on the dark side.
Bobby began to feel really good about his life and the way he was living until the day came when God broke through and began to reveal Himself to Bobby. Bobby began to see that his nobility was not as noble as he once thought, his honor was less than honorable, and his gleaming armor was rusting from the inside out. The Lord showed Bobby that even though he wasn’t slinging drugs, getting loaded, and robbing folks, he was still a sinner. Bobby was living life for himself, not for God. He harbored deep bitterness towards his father. He was jealous of other children who had grown up with a loving mom and dad. He would lie when it would help his cause. Bobby made quick judgments about folks, he was prejudiced. Worst of all, Bobby was robbing God of what was rightfully his…Bobby’s life. He saw for the very first time that he was suffering from the same deadly disease that those who had gone before him had suffered from…sin.
The Apostle John once said, ” the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Isn’t it amazing how we as a society are so quick to see Satan’s schemes in the life of a drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute, murderer, or thief, but we hardly even notice the more subtle schemes of Satan as he seeks to destroy our lives through gossip, bitterness, prejudice, deception, lying, rage, and much more.
There are many here this morning that Satan has convinced that we are all right. We are not bad people. We are not out robbing stores, we haven’t killed anyone, we’ve never blown up a building or shot up a school, and we try to do what is right. Neither have we gone to the other extreme. We are not religious fanatics; we don’t bother people with talking about Jesus all the time, and we make it to church whenever we can fit it into our schedule. We are living life right down the middle of the road. We are trying to do everything within our power to live a good life, tell the truth, and do what is right in living our lives.
My friend, I wish it were that clear-cut. I wish it were that easy. I wish that what we have deemed as living a “good life” was truly a good life, but the fact of the matter is this: One of Satan’s greatest ploys is to get us to settle into believing that we are living a “good life.”
Let’s take a look at the “good life” for a moment so that none of us can miss this central truth of God’s Word. When you think of living a “good life” what do you think about? Going to church? Being a “good” father or mother? Stopping at stop signs, driving the speed limit and signaling when you turn? Helping your neighbor when they are in need? Paying your taxes? Reading your Bible when you have the time? Praying at meals? Being kind to children? Is this what you think about when you think of someone who seeks to live a “good life?”
You do well to think of these things. You have just described the lives of the Pharisees of old. There was nobody who could abide by the laws of the land like the Pharisees. They lived by the law to the “nth degree.” They read the Bible. They went to the Temple every time the door was opened. They were good folks, as they understood “good” and yet Jesus said of them, 44″You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (John 8:44 NIV) The Pharisees would never have given the slightest thought to the possibility that their actions were inspired, motivated, and controlled by Satan! They were good folks! And we are good folks, right? That is a scary thought if you will truly consider the parallels between them and us.
John, in the final section of his letter to the churches that we have been studying for so long now, draws a line in the sand and says, “These are the children of God and all of the rest lie under the power of the Evil One.” Let’s take a look at our Scripture and study the specifics so that we can come to know the truth this morning. Turn in your Bibles to 1 John 5:18-21 and let’s begin.
18We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:18-21 NIV)
This section of Scripture is really a continuation of the study we started two weeks ago as John wrote so that we might know. We learned that we can know that we are saved and we can know that God hears us when we pray according to His will. This week John continues to solidify our security by teaching us added truths so that we can know.
* We can know that anyone born of God does not continue in habitual sin.
* We can know that Jesus keeps us safe from the Evil One’s harm.
* We can know that we are children of God.
* We can know that the whole world is under the control of the Evil One.
* We can know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding for the purpose of knowing Him who is true.
* We can know that we are in Him who is true.
These are such important truths for us to build our lives upon my friend. I will assure you that apart from these truths Satan will have a field day with you and me. We must know. It is not enough to think that we are on track or feel that what we believe is right, we must know the heart of God, the truth that He has revealed, and then walk in it, rest in it, and live in that truth. Today, we will take a look at the first of these great truths shared with us by John.
We can know that anyone born of God does not continue in sin. John writes to us and says, 18 “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin;” What does John mean? Is he saying that a Christian does not sin at all, that he or she has reached a state of sinless perfection? There are some today who believe that and they will even tell you that they’ve achieved this level of sinless perfection.
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon has seen his popularity grow by leaps and bounds across the face of the planet. Rev. Moon believes that he lives in the state of sinless perfection, accomplishing something that Jesus failed to complete while He was here on this earth. Rev. Moon has stated that Jesus failed in fulfilling what God had intended for Him. Rev. Moon states,
God intended him [Jesus] to bring forth upon this earth his own sinless children. Then Jesus and his bride would have become the True Parents for humankind, and all humankind would have found life by grafting onto them. (Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Warning”, p. 42.)
Rev. Moon, after asserting that Jesus failed, boldly claims that he is now doing what God desired of Jesus by setting up a sinless, perfect family here on the earth. Rev. Moon states,
I am now making a prototype of the perfect family, accomplishing what Jesus could not do. (Sun Myung Moon, from the Unification Church Magazine, Today’s World, May, 1995, p.12.)
The sinless perfection that Reverend Moon is supposedly experiencing is not limited in its scope to Reverend Moon alone. All of those who are Rev. Moon’s children will experience this same sinless perfection, according to Rev. Moon. Rev. Moon says,
All people will be made new through the True Parents. All people will be empowered to bring sinless children into the world …. This is the day when God’s original ideal will be realized for the first time….His own son as perfected third Adam will initiate an entirely new history upon the earth. On that day, we shall become living images of God. God will bring His kingdom to earth. (Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Warning”, p. 43.)
I know that this is not news to any of you, but I believe that the Enemy has deceived Rev. Moon. If he truly believes that he lives in sinless perfection then only one of two things can be true: First, Rev. Moon is absolutely correct. This can’t be true because God’s Word tells us “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” God’s Word declares that Jesus is the only sinless person who has ever lived and therefore Rev. Moon must be a sinner just like you and me. The writer of Hebrews tells us,
15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV)
The second option we have is that Rev. Moon has redefined “sin.” I say that he has redefined sin. If you devise a list of what people declare to be “sin,” then the possibility of achieving sinlessness from a human standard is present if you are moral enough. If the standard used is the standard set by Jesus then it will not take long to conclude that sinless perfection is so far out of our grasp that we have no hope of ever attaining it. Let me give you an example of how Jesus took morality to a new level. Have you ever been with someone who is married when a person of the opposite sex walks by? How many times have you heard the married person say, “Hey there is nothing wrong with looking!” Oh really? Jesus said,
27″You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV)
When we understand Jesus’ standard of goodness and holiness then all of us are left wringing our hands and knowing that we are sinners. The realization that we are sinners does not cleanse us from our sins or empower us to cease from sinning, it doesn’t even necessitate a sense of sorrow for our sin.
We are powerless to do anything about our sin before the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, confess our utter depravity and lack of ability to do anything about our sin, and cry out for God to save us, cleanse us, and live within us as Lord and King. Oh, I well remember, before Christ came to live in my heart, when I would feel guilty about something I had done and vow to change my ways. After a period of time the guilt would wear off and I would be back doing what I had always done…excel at sinning.
You have a totally different reality when Christ comes to take up residence in a person’s heart. When we die to ourselves and are resurrected as a new man or woman in Christ, then sin is repugnant and repulsive to us. We begin to view sin in the same way God sees sin…we hate it. I despise the sin I see in me. I do not want to harbor sin in my body, mind, or soul. I want to walk in God’s ways more than I want my next breath.
John says, 18 “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin;” Because of what John has taught us in the previous five chapters of his letter, we can know that this can not mean that a person who has been given new life in Christ never sins. John wrote in 1 John 1:8-10,
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10 NIV)
John also wrote in chapter two of his letter,
1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)
For the Rev. Moon’s of the world who believe that a person can attain sinless perfection John has something to say to them in 1 John 1:10,
10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:10 NIV)
The question has to then be asked, “What does John mean when he says that anyone born of God does not continue in sin?” Great question. Pastor Ray Stedman has written a great commentary on this very verse and he says,
What he means is, “We know that any one born of God cannot continue on in sin.” He simply cannot. That means that if there is a Christian profession there must be an accompanying change in the life. There is a basic change in the attitude toward wrongdoing. If that change is not there, then the person is only deceiving himself and others about being a Christian. That is what John is declaring. There may be occasional failure in practice, as there is in each of our lives from time to time, but there cannot be a continual, habitual practicing of sin. There must be a deep desire within to be changed which keeps this individual always pushing out against the inhibiting forces and habits of sin. This desire is the proof of the new birth.
Before we came to know Christ we were powerless. For those that are in Christ, for those who have been redeemed by the Lord, saved by His sinless life, death, and resurrection, and given a new nature – we no longer have that excuse. Christ has come to take up residence in our lives, to set us free from the captivity of sin, and to empower us to walk in His ways, by His Spirit who indwells us. Paul wrote to the Romans and said,
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4 NIV)
Paul said, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The answer to the question offered by any follower of Jesus is, “We can’t!” It doesn’t mean that we can’t find ourselves in sin, but it does mean that when the Spirit of God quickens us to the sin of our life that we become consumed with getting out of the sin we are in. If we find ourselves living in sin then you can bet that the Spirit of God will not let us rest until He so burdens our hearts so that allow Him to empower us to move out of sin and into God’s will.
Someone may say, “But I can’t help it.” That simply isn’t true my friend. The Spirit of God has been given to us to empower us to rid ourselves of the sin that seeks to entangle, ensnare, and enslave us. Peter wrote to the believers of his day and said,
1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV)
Paul wrote to the believers of his day and encouraged them set their minds on the things of God and to get rid of everything that belonged to their old nature. Paul says,
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.? 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:1-10 NIV)
Get rid of it. Is the Lord revealing to you aspects of your life that you have not submitted to His examination? Has the Spirit of God quickened your spirit to things in your life that you know are not of God? It is time to get rid of them. Offer them up in honesty to the Lord. Ask Him to cleanse you, fill you with His power, and watch them wash away in delivering power. John wrote to us in 1 John 4:4 and said, “Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.”
The world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson, tells the story of how God alerted him to the fact that he had an out-of-control temper when he was young. On one occasion, Ben’s anger had flared, and he was made so aware of his sin that he ran into the bathroom and fell on his knees before God. He cried as he confessed his sin to God. He said that he knew that either his anger was going to get worse and get the best of him or he was going to offer his anger to God and the Lord would remove his fits of anger from his life. Today, Ben sees this bathroom prayer session as one of the defining turning points in his life.
My friend, what God did for Dr. Ben Carson He will do for you and me as well. If we have truly been born again by God then our sin will cause us to run to His throne of grace just as it did Ben Carson. I pray that if God has been dealing with your heart this morning that you will run to the altar this morning and allow the Lord to touch your heart and cleanse you from your sin.