Small Sin & Sin Fighting
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 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. 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
Check out last week’s sermon here.
How small minded can we be about sin and sin fighting? Our view of sin is dreadfully too small, otherwise we would fight it as if Hell itself were at our heals. Meanwhile, serious sin fighting is negatively shrouded with words like “legalism” by those inside churches.
What is John’s response to these errors?
Whoever Practices Sin is of the Devil
With sin so small you will never see Jesus rightly. With sin so small you forget that, “…the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8). Sin is not small, for it was paid for at the cost of one death of the Son of God.
There is a well-known book that, though intent on helping us understand the grace of God in Christ, gets sin completely wrong as the authors imagine a light hearted conversation between Jesus and a sinner about that sinner’s sin.
“[Jesus] …directs my sight to that mound of filth [the sinner’s sin] now in front of us. After several moments , with a straight face [Jesus] says, “That is a lot of sin. A whole lot of sin. Don’t you ever sleep?” He starts laughing. I start laughing.”*
With respect to those authors, sin is never a laughing matter, for Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the Devil at the cost of His life. Sin is not merely ‘faults’, ‘brokenness’, or something worth a joke and a laugh.
“Sin is cosmic treason.” -Pastor Mike
Take heed of John’s warning the next time you are tempted to make a mockery of God’s grace and His Son by indulging your sin. As Pastor Mike said, “Jesus legally killed your sin,” through perfect obedience to God’s standard of payment. “For the [cost] of [your] sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord [, because Jesus paid for your sin with His body].” (Romans 6:23 with added emphasis and commentary). To indulge in sin is to partake of that which Jesus came to destroy. To be in sin is to be of the Devil and his works. Jesus came to destroy and one day will finally destroy the works of the Devil. Be terrified if you are not in Christ at the foot of the cross.
Whoever Practices Righteousness is Righteous
Serious sin fighting falls prey to a misunderstanding of what legalism is.
True legalism would say, “I am made righteous when I practice righteousness.”
True Christianity says, “I practice righteousness because Jesus is righteous and has made me righteous.” True Christianity embodies a heart that is transformed in pursuit of One who has done a transforming work, defeat the works of sinful rebellion against God in those who trust in Christ. Following after Jesus with serious vigor to sin fight is not legalism, it’s Christian through and through.
Sin and Sin Fighting Seen Rightly
Misunderstood Christianity, which see its sin as small and sin fighting as legalistic, creates a false Jesus who said and did little more than the human focused mantra, “Be excellent to each other.”** True Christianity sees both sin’s cosmic rebellion, and the goodness and loving kindness of God in Christ. As Pastor Mike shared, “Jesus came to destroy your hate and my hate.” His work is truly transformational; He truly changes hearts and draws us in to Himself. See your sin for what it is, and run from the works of the Devil. See the righteous perfection of Christ, and run after Him because He is and has made you righteous if you are trusting in Jesus.
When the thought from Satan enters your mind that your sin is small and your warring against it is legalistic, fight that fire with sword of the Spirit.
“Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.” -1 John 3:9 CSB
*Quote taken from The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall.
Note, though this book has many great images in it that may help a young believer understand the grace of God, I believe it forgets the seriousness of sin. Sin in the book has more personal understanding of its effects on the sinner than a cosmic understanding of its rebellion against the nature and character of God.
**Thank you to the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for this quote.