CHILDREN OF GOD OR THE DEVIL?
January 4, 2012
Today’s reading: 1 John 3:7-10
There are no two ways for us. We are either children of God or we are children of the devil. Now that is quite stark. One could have thought of a relatively good person who did not have a personal relationship with God but who did not really do bad things, and never think of that person as being a child of the devil. But Jesus gives only two options: you are with me or you are against me; you gather or you scatter. There are no fence-sitters. Those who are neither hot nor cold he will spit out of his mouth (Rev 3:16).
The dichotomy begins to make sense when we realize that the whole world is under the dominion of the devil. If we do not make it a point to be with God, then, whether we have made a conscious decision or not, we automatically belong to the dominion of Satan. “We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19). There are only two options.
Whose children are we? Well, we look to how the fathers are. God “is righteous” (1 Jn 3:7c) while “the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 Jn 3:8b). Like father, like son, and now we have our criterion. “The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous” (1 Jn 3:7), thus becoming a child of God. On the other hand, “whoever sins belongs to the devil” (1 Jn 3:8a). The two are total opposites. As “the children of God and the children of the devil are made plain,” (1 Jn 3:10a), then we are given only those two choices.
But if the whole world belongs to the evil one, then what happens to us? Well, we have been set free by the saving action of God. “Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 Jn 3:8c). Jesus crushed the head of the serpent by his death and resurrection. We have been liberated from Satan’s dominion. We have been saved.
But we need to act on that salvation. Otherwise, we will go back to Satan’s dominion and be enslaved once again. How do we do that? We live pure. We avoid sin. We live righteous lives.
Now here is a startling revelation. “No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God.” (1 Jn 3:9). That makes sense, doesn’t it? If God created us to be like him, if Jesus has already demolished the dominion of Satan over us, if God’s grace is abundant, if we are His beloved children begotten by Him, if God’s seed remains in us, we should not commit sin. No, that is not what John says. We cannot sin!
But we know the reality: we do sin! Even John says that (see 1 John 1:8,10). That is why we need to repent. When we do, we are forgiven and cleansed (1 Jn 1:9). Once we are cleansed, we must resolve to live pure.
What John says that the child of God cannot sin is like a stern lecture a father might give to his son. “In this family we do not lie!” Or it might be a rousing exhortation in community, as an elder might say, “In this community we live out our covenant! We never fail to attend our meetings!”
Not sinning is God’s design for us, as it was for our first parents in paradise, where they started out sinless. Now Jesus has restored us to be God’s children. Now we are once again to be like our God, to be made perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. Thus we must never lose sight of the reality: “no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God” (1 Jn 3:10b).
We do belong to God. Then let us live pure.
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