John doesn’t make it easy on us. He doesn’t talk in grey terms but speaks in black and white terms. Yet it feels like a grey area. Holy tension, Batman!
That’s what I’m feeling as I’m chewing on my reading in 1John 3:1-10 this morning.
No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. 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. 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.
(1John 3:6-10 ESV)
How clear is that? Pretty clear. You’re a believer? You cannot keep on sinning. Nope, can’t happen. Being born of God and practicing sin are mutually exclusive. End of discussion.
Okay. But what about 1 John?
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
(1John 1:8, 10 ESV)
Okay, maybe there’s a difference between “no sin” and “practicing sin.” But when does “some sin” cross the line and become “keeps on sinning?” How much sin is “acceptable” until we are in the “nope, not a believer” category? I’m thinking the answers to those two questions are: 1) it crosses the line when sin becomes unrepented of, unconfessed, and un-cleansed of sin; 2) none — no amount of sin is acceptable sin.
So, if that’s true, and given the weakness of the flesh and the battle that wages each day between the old man in us and the Spirit of God in us, wouldn’t we expect that we’d be frequent flyers to the foot of the cross? That because “God’s seed abides in us” we are so aware of being “tripped up in sin” and so adverse to again being “enslaved by sin” that we cast ourselves upon the finished work of Jesus and the filling power of Jesus to not “keep on sinning”? I’m thinking.
We don’t keep on sinning. And yet we sin. Not a grey matter. A black and white reality. A holy tension.
Thank you, Jesus, for your work on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your work in me. Thank you, that the work you’ve begun in me, you are completing in me.
By Your grace. For Your glory.
Interesting, I too, at times struggle with this tension; as well with Rom 7. I love your comment about flying to the foot of the cross. 🙂 I always end up landing on 1John 1:9 and repentance/confession. Final destination…(Rom 7:25–Rom 8:1-2). As Stott says, an unbeliever would never even consider this tension. (when addressing doubts)