NOTE: Welcome to “My Journey”! I’ve recently moved my blog from WordPress to Patheos, and I’m glad that you’ve found it. My plan is to post my reflections from daily Scripture readings 2-3 times each week. I will also do occasional posts on the weekend; those posts will be my observations on subjects that I consider important from a Christian perspective. Please feel free to comment on anything that I post!
Scripture: Jeremiah, chapters 28-30; 1 John, chapter 3
1 John 3:1-10 (NASB) – See how great a love the Father has given us, that we would be called children of God; and in fact we are. For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know Him.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him sins continually; no one who sins continually has seen Him or knows Him.
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in Him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother and sister.
Observations: What does it mean to practice righteousness? That question comes to mind this morning as I read this passage. We have to remember that this passage is within the overall context of the entire letter, and one of the themes of the letter is set forth in 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous” (emphasis added).
In our passage for today, John makes the following statements that relate to practicing righteousness:
* Everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure
* The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous
* Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God
So what does it mean to practice righteousness?
At its core, “righteousness” means that we are in a right relationship with God. We demonstrate that – we practice righteousness – by avoiding sin, obeying God’s commands, and loving God and others. John gives us a stark contrast between righteousness and lawlessness; there is no gray area between them. If we live the way Jesus lived – obeying God’s commands and loving others – then we demonstrate that we are children of God. However, if we practice sin – if we continually choose our own way rather than God’s way – then we are of the devil.
The message of this passage is that God calls us to live above sin. John’s exhortations are clearly based on the belief that Jesus’ victory over sin makes it possible to live above sin. That doesn’t mean that we never make mistakes, that we never stumble along the way. It simply means that we don’t continue to live in the rebellion against God’s sovereignty that marked our lives prior to being born of God. God’s work is the ongoing development of Christ’s character in us, until the day that He appears, [when] we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
Application: As I read this passage today, I was struck by the connection between John’s message and the story of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called by God to prophesy the downfall of Judah and the exile to Babylon – a message that no one in Judah wanted to hear. In today’s reading from Jeremiah, false prophets are telling the people that God would break the yoke of Babylon within two years, and that he would restore the nation. The false prophets who proclaimed those messages soon died – but the people kept believing them instead of listening to what God was saying through Jeremiah.
I fear that too many people today are falling into the same trap – listening to those who tell them what they want to hear, rather than listening to what God’s Word actually says. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be like Him, not to presume upon God’s grace by continuing to make the same sinful choices. Instead of “gathering teachers who tell us what our itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3), we need to strive to purify ourselves, just as He is pure. That means we need to be willing to obey God when He directs us to talk to one another, and we need to thank those who have the courage to do so.
Prayer: Father, we know that this world is still under the power of its prince. Sinful choices abound all around us. Help us to practice righteousness each day. Help us not to fall into the trap of telling each other what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear. Give us the spirit of Jeremiah, who obeyed You even when no one wanted to hear what he was saying. As we pray each day, help us to recognize if we have failed You, and forgive us. Help us to know Your will by reading Your word and listening to Your Holy Spirit; help us to do Your will, that Your kingdom may come in ever greater measure. Amen.