SERIES: 1 John
SERMON: Fighting Sin
TEXT: 1 John 3:4-10 (ESV)
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
Today we’ll be in First John chapter three — looking at verses four through ten. And while you’re finding First John chapter three — let me remind you why we’re studying this letter. Our reason is the same as John — the author — who wrote this letter so that Those who believe in God can know that they have eternal life.
In First John chapter five — verse thirteen — we read, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. - 1 John 5:13 (ESV)
John wants the audience he’s writing to to know with certainty whether or not they have eternal life. John’s goal isn’t to make the Christians doubt their faith — he’s not writing to make true believers confused — John wants the true Christians to know with certainty that they have eternal life. However, John knows that the pretenders will begin to doubt, be confused, and will wonder why his message seems so radically different from what they believe.
And if I’m preaching this letter well, it will ensure Christians that your faith is real, your beliefs are genuine, and that your life has been transformed by the gospel — while also challenging those who are simply going through religious motions.
And — with that — here are the words found in First John chapter three — beginning in verse four.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 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. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 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. - 1 John 3:4-10 (ESV)
Satan is ready to use anyone who’s willing to cooperate with him for his glory — including you — including me. He doesn’t show favoritism. He doesn’t care if you’re a man, woman, or child. He has no preference if you’re Black, White, or Hispanic. He doesn’t care whether you’re a Boomer, Gen-Xer, Millennial, or Gen Z. He shows no favoritism — you see — Satan is ready to use anyone who’s willing to submit to him for his glory.
The good news — however — is that God is also ready to use anyone who’s willing to cooperate with him for his glory. And God doesn’t care if you’re a man, woman, or child. He has no preference if you’re Black, White, or Hispanic. He doesn’t care whether you’re a Boomer, Gen-Xer, Millennial, or part of Gen Z. God shows no favoritism and is ready to use anyone who’s willing to submit to him for his glory.
The question for us — then — is: Who are we cooperating with? Satan or God? Who’s using your life for their glory? The Devil or Jesus Christ?
You see — every person is giving glory to either the Devil or Jesus Christ. How we live and the choices we make demonstrate an allegiance we have with either the prince of darkness or the Prince of light. And what we see in our text today is that Christ’s perfect work enables his followers to fight against sin for the glory of God. And the people — whose lives glorify God — meaning their lives magnify the infinite value of God’s worth — the people whose lives glorify God fight against sin by trusting in Christ’s perfect work on their behalf. We see this in our text by asking three questions. What is sin? What’s the purpose of Christ’s work in light of sin? And what’s the implication of Christ’s work for the Christian life?
Now I know that in mentioning God, the Devil, and — particularly the topic of sin — some of you will immediately want to dismiss the rest of my sermon. Maybe you don’t believe in God or you think the Devil is a mythological figure. And — even if those two don’t bother you — in our culture it’s quite common to have a prejudice against the subject of sin.
And maybe that’s you — you don’t like the word sin or the idea of sin — I mean — who is God to tell you what’s right and wrong? For you the Bible has no authority and so you see no reason why to live by its commands. And I understand why you’d think this way if you’re not a Christian. And — if that’s you — let me caution you in your judgment of whether or not sin is real because I bet you have certain things that you believe are morally wrong — like the molestation of a child or forcing teenage girls to be sexual slaves. Or maybe you believe it’s morally wrong for the world’s wealth to be in the hands of so few while many people die because their basic life needs aren’t met. You see, all of us have things we believe to be morally wrong.
So the non-Christian and the Christian both believe in absolutes — in moral right and wrong. The non-Christian may not call the moral wrongs “sin” but — at some level — you still believe in what the word sin represents — which leads us to our first question.
WHAT IS SIN?
What is sin? The Bible has much to say about the subject of sin, but we’re going to stick with our verses in First John where we find three ideas that will help us understand what sin is.
Look with me in verse four. John writes, Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. - 1 John 3:4 (ESV)
What is sin? Here we see that Sin is lawlessness. You may have heard sin defined as “missing the mark” or to fall short of a standard expected of you — these definitions come from Classical Greek.
In the New Testament — though — there’s a nuance to the definition of sin. The word no longer means just “missing a mark” — it now means “missing God’s moral mark.” So what? Well this means that — biblically — sin is direct rebellion against God’s will for you — it’s to do something in violation of God’s law — and when you do something in violation of God’s law you’re practicing lawlessness — you’re living as if God’s universal moral law doesn’t exist.
Which leads us to our second observation about sin, which is that Sin is practiced. In verses four and eight we read, Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness…(And…) Whoever makes a practice of sinning… - 1 John 3:4a, 8a (ESV)
First, notice how inclusive John is — he uses the words “everyone” and “whoever.” Now the word “practice” — used three times — means to “behave in a certain manner.” So the person who practices sin is someone who consistently lives in opposition to God’s law. This isn’t a one time slip up — this is a consistent behavior of breaking God’s law and it’s a lifestyle.
Finally, we see that Sin is of the devil. In verse eight John writes, Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. - 1 John 3:8a (ESV)
There’s not enough time to cover what John means by the phrase “the devil has been sinning from the beginning” — just know that John isn’t saying that Satan was created as a sinful being — he’s telling us that Satan was the first to rebel against God — thus sin comes from the devil.
You see, instead of living for God’s glory — the devil decided to live for his own glory. And as God’s creatures — you and I either live for God’s glory or Satan’s glory. For — as we’ve seen in this letter — you’re either a child of God and do what your Heavenly Father desires — or you’re a child of the devil and do what your demonic father desires. And everyone of us needs to understand that when we practice sin — when breaking God’s law is our lifestyle — we participate in the works of the devil instead of doing the works of God.
At the age of fourteen, Philo T. Farnsworth theorized the basic principles to create the television. That’s right — when most of us were worried about the pimples on our face — Philo invented the TV — and he had great aspirations for his creation. It was the 1920s and he imagined the TV being used to educate people — that it would even solve world problems — like war. He imagined world leaders settling their differences via TV conferences instead of on the battlefield. But — he was a realist — and consented that his creation might be used for entertainment purposes.
So imagine how Philo felt when he quickly saw his creation being used — not for education or the eradication of war — but mainly for what? Entertainment. He was devastated — why? Because his creation wasn’t being used the way he intended.
It’s said there was a brief moment when Philo regained hope for his creation — it was when he saw the images of the moon landing on TV. Until — as the story goes — the next day — when he accidentally viewed the show Hee Haw.
The point isn’t to debate the value of the show Hee Haw — which some of you are now going to search for on YouTube — because you’ve never heard of it. The point is that Philo’s creation wasn’t being used for the purpose that he — the creator — intended — and it broke the creator’s heart. The TV was being used to glorify things that Philo never intended.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with this question: What’s the chief end of man? That’s another way of asking what’s the purpose of life? The answer: To glorify God and enjoy him forever. John Piper famously changed the “and” to “by” — meaning you and I exist to glorify God by enjoying him forever. Thus — biblically speaking — to live for the glory of anyone or anything else is to not fulfill your purpose.
- This could be the businessman who’s working hard to climb the corporate ladder and — due to his commitment to climb the corporate ladder — he practices the habit of sacrificing his family for work — sacrificing his spiritual life for the almighty pay raise.
- Or the stay-at-home mom who has high aspirations for her child and — she may not realize it — but she’s trying to fulfill her long lost dreams through her child — running her kids around from this activity to that activity. And her children — in trying to please mom — put on a happy face all while secretly wishing they could have a break from it all.
- And the frightening thing is that both the businessman and the stay-at-home mom are — most likely unknowingly — living for the glory of something or someone other than their Creator.
You see, just like the TV show Hee Haw, a person who practices sin — the person who practices breaking God’s law — isn’t fulfilling the purpose their Creator intends for them. Instead of pleasing God — they’re pleasing Satan — instead of being used by God for his glory — they’re being used by Satan for his glory.
Which leads us to our next question.
CHRIST’S WORK WITH SIN IN VIEW
What’s the purpose of Christ’s work in view of sin? Now that we understand what sin is — what did Christ accomplish regarding sin? Look with me in verse five. You know that he (Jesus) appeared in order to (do what? To…) take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
And in the last half of verse eight John writes, The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. - 1 John 3:5, 8b (ESV)
What’s the purpose of Christ’s work in view of sin?
First we see that Christ’s work takes away sin. We see this in verse five where John tells us that ”he appeared in order to take away sins.” (1 John 3:5a ESV) So Jesus came to earth with one goal in mind: to live a perfect life, to die as our substitute on a cross, and to rise from the grave by the power of the Spirit of God in order to give us rebellious humans eternal hope. Jesus came to take away the sins of those who would believe in him.
- All of the moral standards that you and I have failed to meet can be forgiven because of Christ’s work for us.
- All of the injustices we see in this world can be overcome because of what Christ has done.
- All of the sorrow, and pain, and hurt, and agony — due to God’s moral standards not being kept by us — have a remedy in the work of Christ.
And John reminds us of this aspect of Jesus’ work throughout his letter.
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 cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:7 (ESV)
He is the propitiation for our sins (propitiation means a sacrifice for sins), and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. — 1 John 2:2 (ESV)
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. — 1 John 4:10 (ESV)
Christ’s work takes away sin.
Additionally we see that…Christ’s work destroyed the work of the devil. We see this in the last half of verse eight where John writes, The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. - 1 John 3:8b (ESV)
Throughout the Bible the devil’s desire is to destroy the work of God. It began in the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God. And throughout the Bible we see over and over again Satan trying to thwart God’s plan of peace and perfection and prosperity for his people and creation. And — when Jesus came to earth — Satan quickly began scheming to defeat Jesus.
- He began by tempting Jesus in the same way he tempted Adam and Eve. Yet Jesus prevailed.
- Satan tried to have Jesus killed many times by stirring up people who hated Jesus and yet believed they were following God.
- Satan thought he was victorious when he finally persuaded Judas to betray Christ for thirty silver coins.
- And — at the crucifixion — one can imagine the ecstasy of Satan as he saw God’s Son being murdered as a criminal though he was innocent.
- Yet the cross was not a moment of triumph for Satan — it was the final nail in his eternal coffin.
- For at the cross Satan was eternally defeated by the Great Rescuer from Heaven — for three days after being murdered — Jesus demonstrated his power to destroy the works of Satan, sin, death, and Hell.
- Thus God’s creation and his people are now guaranteed eternal life because Christ has won them victory over the devil.
Finally, we see that…Christ’s work was accomplished because of his sinless life. We see this in verse five where John writes, You know that he (Jesus) appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. - 1 John 3:5 (ESV)
Jesus kept his Father’s will and purpose and mission at the forefront and center of everything he did. And this devotion to his Father led him to live a perfect and sinless life. And believing in Jesus’ sinlessness is one of the major doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s what our hope is based upon — because his work on our behalf is credited to those who believe in him.
You see, nothing less than perfect obedience will save us from the judgment we deserve because of our rebellion. And — because we’ve all sinned — in love Christ came to our world to fulfill a glorious work on behalf of his people. And — through his work — sin has been taken away from God’s children and the work of the devil has been destroyed. All because Christ completed his work without rebelling against his Father’s moral standards and law. Jesus completed his work perfectly — without sin.
There’s a story in the Old Testament in which God’s people found themselves on the verge of being rescued from their enemy Pharaoh, King of Egypt. God had already displayed his power in bringing nine plagues on the land of Egypt, but this night would bring the culmination of God’s judgment upon Pharaoh — for the tenth plague would include the angel of death.
But God’s people — the Israelites — were not to be spared from this plague unless they killed a perfect, spotless lamb as a sacrifice on their behalf. And they were to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on the door frames of their homes as a sign that a perfect lamb was slain as a substitute for their family. And as God’s judgment went out that night over the land of Egypt, there was much weeping, sorrow, and grief among the Egyptians — yet there was rejoicing for God’s people who put their faith in the shed blood of God’s Lamb.
Centuries later, a man named John the baptist came out of the wilderness to prepare the way for God’s coming Savior. And one day — while John was baptizing people in the Jordan River — he saw Jesus. And when he saw Jesus, John said, “There’s the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.”
The lamb’s blood — that the Israelites covered their doorways with in order to have God’s judgment pass over their homes — was a foreshadow of Lamb of God’s blood — Jesus Christ — who through his spotless, sinless, perfect sacrifice made it possible for God’s eternal judgment of death to pass over all who believe in his work.
Do you see how Jesus has demonstrated his love for you? He died to take away your sins. As the Lamb of God — he sacrificed his blood so that God’s judgment might pass over you — if you believe in him. Out of his great love for you — Christ died for you even when you were in rebellion against your Creator. And just like he did for the people in the crowd — who watched him be murdered on the cross — Christ calls out to his Father on your behalf, “Father forgive him. Father forgive her. Father forgive them — they don’t know what they are doing.”
THE IMPLICATION OF TRUSTING IN JESUS’ WORK
But there’s a response required for all who hear of God’s love in sending his Son to be the sinless sacrifice in our place — you must respond with faith in Christ. To hear this wonderful news and reject the sacrifice that Jesus has made on your behalf is to welcome the angel of death upon your life. To reject Christ’s love is to invite eternal judgment upon your soul. In a world where everyone is in search of being loved unconditionally — why would you reject Jesus — the only person who’s ever perfectly loved you?
And — this is why — for those who receive this gift of grace and love — the Christian faith demands a change in how we live. Which leads us to our last question: What is the implication of Christ’s work for the Christian life? How does Christ’s life, death, and resurrection actually affect the way a Christian lives?
In verse six John writes, No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
And now skip to verse nine. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 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. - 1 John 3:6-7, 9-10 (ESV)
Six implications for the Christian life from these verses — which may freak some of you out as you were thinking I was about to wrap things up. We’re wrapping things up — I promise — these six implications can be put in two groups.
Group 1: A Christian is made by God. This is the first implication of Christ’s work: A person is made a Christian by God. Now — some of you may not like this statement — theologically — but follow me in the text. In verse six we read, No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. And in verse nine we read, No one who is born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God. - 1 John 3:6, 9-10a (ESV)
For a person to see God — God must first reveal himself to them. For a person to know God — God must first make himself known. You see, a person is made a Christian by God because God opens their spiritual eyes to see, know, and believe the truth that’s found in the gospel. And their eyes are opened because they’ve been called a child of God. And they’re called a child of God because they’ve been born of God. And this is all possible because the Spirit of God has used the seed of God — the gospel — to give them new life.
As one pastor and theologian said, Christ came to destroy the devil’s work in us, so that we might live lives that are distinctively different, lives that are not given to sin, but which become increasingly like Jesus. That potential is in Christ and is available to everyone who has been born of God. As a father’s seed is within his child, so, when a person is born again, the life of God is implanted within that life…and this is the power by which Satan’s work in our lives will be undone and ultimately abolished. The new birth involves such a radical change at the heart of our experience that, whereas sin used to come naturally to us, now it is unnatural to continue to sin. - John Stott
A Christian is made by God as his glorious gospel gives them new life as they’re born again into God’s family — becoming his child who can now see the beauty of Christ’s work done on their behalf and on behalf of all of God’s people.
The second group of implications can be summarized this way: A Christian lives for God’s glory. In verse six John writes, No one who abides in him keeps on sinning. And in verse ten, 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. - 1 John 3:6a, 10 (ESV)
Here we see that a Christian abides — or lives — in and for Christ. And — it’s by abiding in Christ — that a true believer does not keep on practicing sin as their lifestyle — that’s what John means in verse six. We also see — in verse ten — that a true Christian practices righteousness. If “to not practice righteousness is to not be of God” — then those who are of God do practice righteousness. After all — earlier in this letter — John did tell us that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. - 1 John 2:29b (ESV)
So a Christian practices righteousness — or right living — which is living according to God’s standard, his commands, and his will as clearly written to us in his Word.
And — once again — we see that a genuine follower of Christ loves their fellow Christians. A person who doesn't love his brother — meaning their fellow Christian — does not love God. For — as Christ has loved you — you’re to love other people — and John’s been emphasizing the love we’re especially to have for those who are part of the family of God.
Today we’ve seen wonderful implications that are found in Christ’s work on behalf of sinners.
- We’ve been reminded that it’s through his work that people are made to be genuine Christians by God, are born again — adopted as children into his family — and are given new hearts with a desire to respond to the wonderful news that’s found in the gospel.
- We’ve been reminded that — it’s through Christ’s work — that Christians find their mandate for how to live while on this earth: To live for Christ alone, to practice righteousness and obedience of God’s commands — particularly the command of loving your fellow Christians as you’ve been first loved by God. And these implications — given to us by Christ’s work — lead us to live lives for God’s glory as we find deep soul satisfying joy in the work of his Son.
So — for all of us — the question we must now answer is this: How seriously do I take my own sin and rebellion against God’s law?
Now — if you’re here today and you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian — on what grounds are you determining what’s right and wrong — based on what authority do you decide such things? And — be honest with yourself — do you live perfectly according to your own standards? If you’re honest — you know the answer is no.
For instance, you may think that it’s morally wrong to be a bigot or to be prejudiced against other people — it makes you angry when you see racism or bigotry directed at certain people groups — you think judgment should come on those who are bigots. Yet have you ever noticed how our society has justified that being a bigot towards bigots is OK? You have to love everyone but the bigots — you have to accept everyone but the bigots. Can’t you see how insincere this is — how inauthentic it is to hold such a double standard? Take some time to question the foundation of your moral absolutes — what’s the basis for what you believe to be right and wrong?
For the Christians — if this is you — the authenticity test of our profession of faith is our behavior. Your relationship with God — and the very fact that God’s Spirit lives in you — should stir in you a desire to fight against sin. For — to indulge in sin — as God defines sin — while claiming to have fellowship with him is a contradiction. It’s not possible. You’re fooling yourself into believing you’ve received forgiveness and eternal life all while finding ongoing pleasure in the very things God’s sinless Lamb shed his blood for on your behalf.
And this self-deception isn’t anything new. Many think this is the very reason why John wrote this section of his letter. There were people in the church who believed they had fellowship with God while they made practicing sin a way of life. They foolishly believed that God would overlook their continual practice of sin because of what they claimed to believe — all while how they were living demonstrated who they were really following — for their lives were not glorifying God — but were glorifying Satan.
And we must remember that Satan is ready to use anyone who’s willing to cooperate with him for his glory. He doesn’t show favoritism. He doesn’t care if you’re a man, a woman, or a child. He has no preference if you’re Black, White, or Hispanic. He doesn’t care whether you’re a Boomer, Gen-Xer, Millennial, or Gen Z. Satan shows no favoritism — and he’s ready to use anyone who’s willing to submit to him for his glory.
But — today — we’ve all heard better news — good news that demands a response. What news? That God is ready to use anyone who’s willing to cooperate with him for his glory. And he doesn’t care if you’re a man, a woman, or a child. He has no preference if you’re Black, White, or Hispanic. He doesn’t care whether you’re a Boomer, Gen-Xer, Millennial, or Gen Z — for God shows no favoritism. And he’s ready to use anyone — including you — if you’ll submit yourself to him and his purpose for your life — and do so for his glory. Let’s pray.
Father, may every person who’s heard your Word respond today. May those who are not Christians wrestle with how they determine what’s right and wrong. Open their hearts and minds — by your Spirit — so they see that the only foundation for absolute morals comes not from this world — but from the Creator of this world. Give them eyes to see how much you have loved them by sending your Son — Jesus Christ — to die as a sacrifice on their behalf — for he is the sinless, perfect Lamb of God whose blood was shed for their sins. May they trust in you for salvation — turning from the will of Satan — and turning to your will.
Spirit of God, help those of us who are Christians to reflect on how we are — or are not — fighting against sin for your glory. Give us eyes to see how Christ’s work on our behalf is the power by which we can defeat the temptations of the Devil. May we glorify you in all that we do because our feet are planted on the firm foundation of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your gospel really does change lives. For it is a seed planted deep within us sprouting forth grace and love, hope and mercy, gentleness and kindness, patience and joy, good works and righteousness, and all kinds of God glorifying and Christ exalting fruit in our lives — including our fight against sin. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
May you go glorifying God as you fight against sin. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.