Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:7-8 NET
Sin is an ever-present reality for every human being – including Christians. Ever since Adam and Eve listened to the lies of Satan in the garden, and put their own self-interests ahead of God’s will, mankind has been enslaved to the enemy’s wishes, acting according to his rebellious, anti-God agenda. And yet, John would have us remember that the reason Jesus came into the world, lived a sinless life, died on the cross in man’s place, and rose again from the grave, was to put an end to Satan’s rebellion and sin’s dominion in our lives once and for all. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). Then why do we still struggle with sin? Why do we, as believers, still have to put up with our old sin nature that makes life so difficult and living righteously so seemingly impossible? The answer lies in the now-not-yet nature of our current status. John makes it clear that we are “called children of God, and so we are” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Just in case we didn’t get his point, he repeats it. “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2 ESV). We have been born of God and have His seed abiding in us (1 John 3:9 ESV). According to John, this is a present reality. We are God’s children right here, right now. It is not something that is reserved for us at some future date. But there is a “not yet” nature to our status as God’s children. We are citizens of heaven living in a strange place. We are not where we belong. We are strangers and aliens living in a place that is foreign and hostile to us. John even tells us, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1 ESV). Not only does the world not know us, it hates us. Because it is under the dominion and control of Satan, the world despises anything and anyone who represents God’s Kingdom. So he has us in his sights and constantly seeks to attack us and defeat us. And to make matters worse, we still have our old natures, what Paul refers to as the flesh, living within us and causing us all kinds of problems. We have our new righteous nature, provided for us by Christ. And we have our old sinful nature, inherited from Adam. But John wants us to remember that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). Part of the process in which we find ourselves is the ongoing mortification or putting to death of our old nature. This will continue until the Lord returns and we receive our glorified, sinless bodies. “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 ESV). There is a day coming when we shall be completely sinless just as He is sinless. But in the meantime, we must do battle with our old natures. and “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13 ESV). God has given us His Spirit to make it all possible. We have the strength to resist the enemy, and do what is right and righteous.
What we need to constantly realize is that Jesus, through the Spirit of God, is constantly seeking out those areas of our lives that remain in rebellion against the Kingdom of God. He is out to seek and destroy the vestiges of our rebellions sin nature and put them to death. Through exposure to the Word of God and with the help of the Spirit of God, we can have the remaining darkness in our lives exposed by the light. We can have the falsehood and lies that still linger in our hearts destroyed by the truth of God’s Word. The presence of sin should not surprise us. But John would warn us that a Christian who sins is still living in subjection to the enemy. He has been set free, but is willingly allowing himself to be enslaved again. As Christians, when we sin, we are not living in the reality of who we are. We are hiding our true nature. “A sinning Christian conceals his true character when he sins and reveals it only through holiness. On the other hand, a child of Satan reveals his true character by sin” (Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John). Christians can and do sin. But it is NOT our nature. It is not who we are. Our capacity to live righteously is what shows that we are His children. Claiming to be a child of God, but living like a slave of Satan, hides our true character. But because we know who we are and what we will one day be, we purity ourselves as He is pure. We seek to be like Him who died so that we might live. John knows we will sin. Which is why he reminded us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Sin is inevitable, but it is not irresistible. We can say no to sin. We can live righteously, even in this life. And when we do, it proves the reality of who we are. It gives evidence to the world that we are children of God and that Jesus Christ is still actively destroying the works of the devil, in our lives and in this world.