The last rain soaked, numbed-out fan sloshed out of Max Yasgur’s muddy pasture more than 30 years ago. That was the day the Woodstock Music and Art Festival came to a close. What was billed as “three days of peace and music” turned into something altogether different for the 500,000 young people who made the trip to the serene pasture in Sullivan County. True believers who still reminisce about the beauty of Woodstock say that it was an era devoted to human advancement. Cynics and skeptics adamantly claim that it was a demonstration of the lawlessness and naivete of the day.
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 500,000 people to Sullivan County in New York. For four days, the site became a countercultural mini-nation in which minds were open, drugs were all but legal and love was “free”. The music began Friday afternoon at 5:07 pm on August 15 and continued until mid-morning Monday, August 18. The festival closed the New York State Thruway and created one of the nation’s worst traffic jams. The utter chaos and mayhem also brought about new local and state laws to ensure that nothing like it would ever happen again.
The four young men who put the festival together settled on the slogan, “Three Days of Peace and Music.” The promoters figured “peace” would link the anti-war sentiment to the rock concert. They also wanted to avoid any violence and figured that a slogan with “peace” in it would help keep order. What the promoters failed to consider was that the total abolition of laws and the overt indulgence in drugs, free sex, and rebellion would never stand a chance of bringing about peace in any way, shape, or form.
Woodstock, thirty years later, has become an instant adjective denoting youthful hedonism and 60’s excess. “What we had here was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence,” said Bethel town historian Bert Feldman. “Dickens said it first: ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times’. It’s an amalgam that will never be reproduced again.” If it would have only been true.
This past summer the children of the Woodstock generation gathered for another attempt to capture the utopian promises of “three days of peace and music,” but the Woodstock ’99 festival degenerated into mayhem and violence. By the end of the festival, teenagers faced off against the police, destroying trust, overturning cars, trashing equipment, looting, and setting fires-while chanting, “I won’t do what you tell me,” a line from a song played by one of the bands.
The commentators on MTV was stunned with what took place. The evening news programs broadcast grisly pictures of violence and anarchy and tried to convince us that this outbreak was newsworthy. Why should we have been surprised? Afterall, it was the parents of the crowd who first sloshed around in the mud, chanted expletives at the top of their lungs, and defiantly stood against everything that was good and decent some thirty years ago. It was the previous generation, the mom and dads, who sowed the seeds of discord and lawlessness that finally yielded their fruit this past summer.
Woodstock illustrates the complete failure of humanity’s attempt to achieve peace and love apart from God. Every time people seek to create a utopian setting apart from God, the end result is that it devolves into chaos and violence. The promise is that if we reform unjust social structures, natural human goodness will flourish. A utopian society can be created.
Utopianism, or the idea that man can create the perfect society or setting, has been among the most destructive deceptions of this century. It lies at the heart of the great “isms” of the twentieth century, from National Socialism to Marxism. Utopianism denies the biblical doctrine of sin, defining the human dilemma not as moral rebellion against God but as ignorance, poverty, or oppression. The proposed solution, then, is simply better education or income redistribution or political reform.
It simply isn’t true. It won’t work. The reason that utopianism will always fail is because it fails to take into account the very real problem of humanity’s sin. Each time people have set out to bring about the perfect society it has become something far less than perfect. Everywhere utopian schemes have been put into practice- from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to Cambodia- they have produced tyranny and famine, secret police and hard labor camps.
People of our day think that the doctrine of sin is pessimistic and negative. But in fact, this doctrine is precisely what gives us the firm footing we need to find release from sin’s stranglehold and find our freedom in Jesus Christ. The founding Fathers of our nation understood man’s propensity to sin, to take advantage of power, and therefore they set into place checks and balances within government to assure that none of the three branches of government would ever hold absolute power.
On the other hand, many today in our society have bought into the lie set forth by those who try and convince us of humanity’s innate goodness. They try and tell us that there is no such thing as evil, that sin is merely a construct of society, and not a reality. Because of their absolute belief in the goodness of humanity they have no need to set up safeguards against sins debilitating, destructive, and diabolical effects upon the lives of individuals and societies.
Chuck Colson wrote in a Breakpoint Commentary just a few months ago about this dangerous threat to our society by saying,
Nowhere does the clash of worldviews have greater social impact than in the denial of sin and the consequent loss of moral responsibility. As Christians we need to learn to detect false ideas and to show why they are wrong. For if we fail to recognize prevailing worldviews, the worst that may happen is that we ourselves will be sucked into false thinking unawares-and lose our distinctive message. And that would be disastrous, not only for ourselves but also for American society as a whole.
Chuck Colson is right on target. We must not be deceived into believing that we are getting better and more advanced with the passage of time simply because of technology, scientific discoveries, or educational opportunities. We must never give ourselves to one of the many utopian theories that denies the pervasive effects of sin in our lives when we choose to live apart from God and His will.
In our study for today we are going back to 1 John and John’s insightful exhortation to the brothers and sisters of the first century. John’s teaching will lead us to consider the question, “Who’s you daddy?” John says that we are either children of God or we are children of Satan, the Devil.
God’s nature is one of righteousness. God is rightly related to al of His creation. He is not devious, deceptive, or diabolical. He desires to bless His children, to lead them into righteousness, forgiveness, and reconciliation. God’s desire is for us to have our sin forgiven by the blood of the Lamb, have our minds renewed by the Truth, and to live life for His glory. His will is for us to love the people He has created, to bless the community of which we are a part, and to turn over the reigns of our lives to Him. John tells us that that if we are children of God then our character and conduct will reflect the heart of our Father.
On the other hand, the Enemy, Satan, is the father of lies. He is deceptive in every act he exercises. He seeks to lead us away from God, to deny God’s laws set forth in His creation and His Word. Satan will seek to convince us that we are our own lawmaker, that we can determine what is right and wrong, and we should do what feels “right” for us. John says that if we are children of the Devil then our character and conduct will reflect the heart of our father.
John says that the way we live our lives, the fruit of our lives, will lead us to the correct conclusion and supply us with the answer to the question, “Who’s your daddy?” Let’s take a look at John’s powerful teaching for us found in 1 John 3:4-10.
4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He 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. 9No 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. 10This 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. (1 John 3:4-10 NIV)
John is very concerned that the followers of Jesus know that obedience to God is incompatible with a life of sin. There was a growing number of teachers in John’s day who were seeking to convince the people that sin was really of no consequence. What people did was not nearly as important as what they believed. John wanted to leave no doubt in the minds of his readers that what one does is a direct reflection of what one believes. For Christians, the followers of Jesus who had committed their lives to living in accordance with God’s will, sin was absolutely incompatible with godliness. Sin and God are as incompatible as oil and water. They don’t mix and never will.
John is straightforward in letting us know that there are only two narrow categories of people groups in the world. The groups have nothing to do with ethnicity, geography, economics, or education. The groups are defined by paternity – “Who’s your daddy?” In these six little verses of Scripture we can see that there are certain character traits which are tell tale signs of who we belong to.
Fathers are very important for us. They give us a sense of identity. They are supposed to provide for us a sense of security. They are the ones who are to provide for us in every important matter. They are the ones whom God has called to teach us about the importance of the eternal over the temporal, spiritual over material, good over evil, and our need for Jesus as Lord and Savior. Fathers are very important. This is what fathers are supposed to do and be as set forth by God.
There is no earthly father that is flawless, no earthly father fully fulfills the job description that God has set forth, and no earthly father is without fault. With that said, the children who have had the benefit of growing up in a home where their father sought to be God’s man knows the long term benefits of that life-giving relationship.
On the other hand, the sad reality is that there is a group of fathers who do not seek to fulfill their job description. They have no desire to be who God has called them to be in the lives of their children. There are fathers who are predators in the fullest sense of the word. They prey upon their own children. They abuse their children physically, sexually, and emotionally. Some are devious in the way they go about taking advantage of their children, but at their core they desire nothing more than to use their children for their own benefit.
The children who have grown up in an environment of abuse, neglect, and fear know how horribly destructive fathers can be when they do not seek to be God’s man in the lives of their children. These children know all too well the long-term negative effects that a father can have upon the lives of his children.
In John’s important letter to us today we see that John understands all too well the impact of fathers upon the lives of their children. He points out for us that we are our father’s sons and daughters. We behave in a manner that reflects the heart of our father. I want us to look at the characteristics pointed out by John this morning with the hope that, by the time we are through with our study, we will be able to discern who our daddy is.
John says that there are two classifications of people based upon paternity. We are either of our Father, the holy, righteous, and glorious God of all creation, or we are of our father the Devil, the one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy.
John writes, 10 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are…” My desire is that by the time we leave here this morning, all of us will have a solid understanding of which family we belong to. First, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the children of God. In verses 4-10 we can see that there are very specific character traits, markings if you will, of the children of God. They are: 1) Their sins are taken away. 2) There is a habit of holiness evident in their lives. 3) There is a deep knowledge, or intimate relationship with God. 4) The children of God abide in God, they seek every day to walk in step with their Father. 5) The children of God have a deep love for others that supercedes their love for themselves.
There are also certain characteristics that mark the children of the Devil. Before I share these character traits with you let me say that there are very few people who would openly admit or take pride in the fact that their father is the Devil. I would say that there would be very few people who would admit or take pride in the fact that they were the son or daughter of Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, or Tim McViegh, but the truth is the truth.
The Pharisees certainly would not have classified themselves as children of the Devil, they saw themselves as the children of Abraham, the children of God. Yet, Jesus spoke to them and said that because of their behavior it is was evident who their father was. Jesus said in John 8,
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. 40As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:39-44 NIV)
The characteristics of those whose father is the Devil are as follows: 1) Sin is present and is acted upon in a habitual manner. 2) The children of the Devil live a lifestyle of lawlessness. 3) The children of the Devil do not know God, they have no intimate relationship with Him. 4) The children of the Devil place their own interests over the demonstration of love for others.
God’s Word teaches us that we were all born apart from God because of original sin. Sin comes naturally for us because of our sin nature. We do not have to try to sin, we don’t have to work at it, we don’t have to enroll in a class – if there is anything that we know from the time we are born it is sin.
John says that Jesus came to take away our sin. It is not God’s desire that we remain in our sins. God created us to live in relationship with Himself. God’s desire is for us to repent of our sin, renounce our former life, and receive Jesus as our Deliverer, the One who can free us from the prison cell of sin.
John begins by saying in verses 4-5, 4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” John says that everyone who sins breaks the law, that sin is lawlessness. John hits at the heart of the greatest problem any of us has every faced – sin. The Greek word for sin means, “To miss the mark.” Apart from Jesus Christ we have no defense to combat sin’s destructive effects upon our hearts and lives. Everyone of us, if we will get honest with ourselves, we know just how wide spread sin’s effects are in this world. How many times have you or I done something and said, “I can’t believe I did that.” “I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that.” We shrink in shame at the thought of our actions and how ungodly we have acted in the past. No matter how hard we try we can’t seem to control the sin that plagues us. General Carlos Romulo, for many years the Philippine Ambassador to the United States, stated the case precisely, “We have harnessed the atom, but we will never make war obsolete until we find a force to bridle the passions of men.”
This is the bad news. It is indeed bad news because, apart from Christ, we are powerless to combat the sin that plagues us. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We might choose to do what is right, but we do not have the power to carry it out. We can start over again and again, but we will find ourselves continually being reminded of just how incapable we are of maintaining the good.
Now for the good news. John says that when Jesus appeared He came to take away our sins. For the past two weeks we have taken a look at the cross and what has been accomplished through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary. We have learned that the works of Satan, sin, and death have been destroyed in the lives of all of those who will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives. This is the good news! There is no sin in Jesus and because of that fact He was able to accomplish for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Those who are the children of God, who have accepted Jesus as Lord of their life, have had their sin taken away and been given everything they need to live a life of godliness. Peter wrote,
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV)
The five character qualities of the children of God that I mentioned earlier are not manifest in the lives of God’s children because they are more sophisticated or mature than the other people of the world, they are present in their lives because God has birthed these qualities. Peter said, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…”
It is through the power of God that our sins are taken away! It is through the power of God that the pursuit of holiness becomes evident in our lives! It is because of the power of God that we gain a deep knowledge and possess a hunger for intimacy with God! It is through the power of God that we are able to abide in the Lord, to stay close to His side throughout the day. It is because of the power of God that we can have a deep love for others, even putting their best above what we might desire for ourselves!
Apart from God we naturally exhibit the character traits of Satan. We are still in sin, we have no intimacy with God, we live a lifestyle of lawlessness, and we seek what is best for us above all else.
You cannot change who your biological father is my friend. No matter how much you might want to deny the fact of family tree it is set in stone and you will forever be the son or daughter of the father who sired you. When we begin looking into the spiritual realm this fact can be overridden, you can gain a new birth, a new name. You and I were once children of darkness, the offspring of sin and Satan, but for those who will cry out to God, the Father, we can gain a new name, we can become a child of God. John tells us in the very first chapter of his Gospel,
12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)
Paul wrote in the book of Romans that we are eagerly awaiting the redemption of our bodies. Who are those who are eagerly awaiting this redemption? It is those who have been adopted as the sons and daughters of God. Paul writes,
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23 NIV)
Paul wrote to the Philippians and encouraged them to live a life worthy of their calling as sons and daughters of God. Just as John said that if we are children of God then our character and conduct will reflect the heart of our Father, so Paul says,
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 22:14-16 NIV)
God is desiring this morning for us to cry out to Him so that He can adopt us, deliver us from the family of sin, and through the new birth give us a new name – the children of God. Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart today?
1 John 3:4-10