google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Gems in the Letter of 1 John - Part 110
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Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 110 - 1 John 3:6
Sin and sinning!



At first sight it seems as though John contradicted himself. In chapter one he said, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” and now he says, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (3: 6). How can that be? He seems to say, first that everybody sins and now that if we sin we cannot be his disciples.

The difference is largely hidden in the different Greek tenses in the original. We can see what the difference is most easily if we replace the phrase ‘keep on sinning’ with the concept of idolatry. We, particularly in the West don’t think of ourselves as idolaters because we do not have any sort of idol, picture or statue that we relate to. But what is idolatry? It is when we place anything, anyone or any idea above the Creator God who made everything, everyone and every idea! And here there all sorts of possibilities. Some people place a football team above everything in all creation, chasing it round, watching it play, wearing its costume etc. Or their family, which although a good thing in general should not be allowed to be the only and most important thing in anyone’s life. Or having lots of money, so that all of life becomes a search for more. And a moment’s thought will let you add a lot of possibilities to the list, probably some of them from your own experience, if you think about it!

Most of us find getting it right a difficult matter. To succeed in life, or even just to survive, we need to concentrate on the things that we need. We need a satisfactory amount of money; we need to give time and energy and love to the family. And so on. But where do these things stand in relation to the Lord? He is to be first, and more important than anything else in our lives.

Hopefully you have said to yourself something like – yes, that’s right. But if so that is very worrying, is it not? Sin was a much smaller and much safer thing so long as we thought of it in terms of moral behaviour, in terms of even the Ten Commandments after Jesus had extended them. Most of us, most of the time, manage not to have any other gods, misuse the name of the Lord, say anything rude to our parents, commit any form of sexual misbehaviour, or say any lies about anyone else. (I have picked out every second of the Ten Commandments for that list).

I said ‘most of the time’. That is hopefully right but there are the other times when we slip up, are there not? So John’s analysis is exactly right. We all make mistakes; we all have a very strong tendency to have idols – not least because the one that I have not yet mentioned is ‘ourselves’, ‘me’, and we all like to have ourselves up on a pedestal above all else.

This is the challenge that John throws out to each one of us: yes, most of us will have a tendency to break the moral and ethical rules, which amounts to sin. But what about the more significant thing - do not keep on sinning; do not have an idol to which the Lord has to take second place. That is both a more difficult to thing to avoid and the one that – with the continual help of the Holy Spirit – it is much easier to identify and therefore endeavour to do something about.

Have you, perhaps as a result of this analysis, identified the things that are idols in your life? If you have you have taken a good first step to doing something about them. Now the battle is on for you to resist it or them, to knock them down, to stamp on them until there is next to nothing left. May all strength be yours to succeed.

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