1 John 2:3-6 (NIV)
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
I have often made the statement that 1 John is not a book to read if you are squeamish.
John is uncompromising in his stand for the standards of the kingdom of Heaven in the lives of Christians. Way too many Christians have bought into the theology that says that a sinful, stumbling Christianity, where we are continually falling into sin, having to repent, and gaining forgiveness, over and over again, sometimes several times each day, is the NORMAL Christian life that is written about in the Bible. Many of these people point to Romans 7, with Paul’s description of his struggle to do the right thing as the lynchpin in their argument, because if Paul was trapped in that kind of life, then it must be the way that Christianity is supposed to be lived out.
But John in his first letter actually paints a much different picture of what the normal Christian life is supposed to look like. (A picture which Paul would agree with wholeheartedly. Romans chapter 7 is about Paul’s life as a Pharisee, trying to be righteous in his own strength. His description of the victorious Christian life is in chapter 8!) But, once again, he is totally uncompromising. Some excerpts that speak about a “sinning” Christianity:
1 John 1:5b-7 (NIV)
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
1 John 2:11 (NIV)
But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
1 John 2:22-23 (NIV)
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He 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. No 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. This 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 3:14-15 (NIV)
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
1 John 4:19-21 (NIV)
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
And some excerpts that show what real Christianity is supposed to look like:
1 John 1:7 (NIV)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 2:3 (NIV)
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
1 John 2:24-25 (NIV)
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us–even eternal life.
1 John 2:29 (NIV)
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
1 John 3:2-3 (NIV)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:21-24 (NIV)
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 4:4 (NIV)
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:16-17 (NIV)
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
1 John 5:2-5 (NIV)
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
John points out that the life of a Christian, the Kingdom of Heaven life that Jesus died to make possible for us to live here and now in this world, is a life that is free from the power of sin. It is a life of love lived out. It is a truly blessed life. It is a life of victory and confidence in our future because we live day by day, and even minute by minute in obedience to the Word of God. In short, it is a life in which we walk as Jesus did.
Of course, the only way to live the normal Christian life as depicted by John is by the power of the Holy Spirit working unhindered in us to mold us, and shape us, and purify us so that we are actually transformed into the image of Jesus. This is the key difference that Paul discovered between his Pharasaic life of striving for perfection (Romans 7) and his genuinely holy life (Romans 8). Only by the Holy Spirit’s reordering of our insides can we hope to live a life like Jesus lived.
Only the genuine normal Christian life, a life defined by the life and character of Jesus and enabled by the Holy Spirit, will provide such a powerful testimony of what God can do in a person that it will inspire people to ask the reason for the hope that we have. Only the genuine normal Christian life will equip us to be a clear and effective channel of God’s grace to a dark and dying world around us. Only the genuine normal Christian life will enable us to be a powerful witness to the love of God and help us to make disciples of all nations.