Abiding in Christ/Living with Sin

What gives?

1 John 3:1-7

April 25th & 26th, 2009


          The hymn “Abide with me” is a favorite of many.     The lyrics were written by Henry Lyte, an Englishmen who served as a Pastor in an English seaside village in the early 1800’s.  He wrote this hymn in the midst of deteriorating health, and following his final service in the little village.”    In this hymn, we pray that the Lord will continue to abide with us, especially  when life gets difficult and death draws near.   The word abide is not a term we often use in every day life.  It is a religious, scriptura, relationship term .  It is the same term Jesus uses in John 15 when he says “I am the vine ; you are the branches a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”.    The assumption here is that through the gift of the holy Spirit, as believers in Jesus  we “remain or abide” in Jesus.  The problem is that there is much which  is out there which can sever this relationship, and our reading today in very blunt terms shows us one of those dangers.  “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”  Lets be honest, there is no one here who is not infected with sin “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  What does he mean here that those who abide in him will not “keep on sinning”.

          In order to help understand this verse it is important that we grasp the issues which were at stake.  There were some back then, and some today that believe that they are beyond sin, beyond rebellion against God and neighbor.    In other words they are believers in Jesus, but sin at least the real bad stuff really isn’t part of their lives.     This is the pharisaic view that likes to look down on others,  and say well I may not be perfect, but my rebellion isn’t quite as bad as “someone else”.  To this John responds to earlier in th chapter “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and that truth is not in us, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives”.  Even if we don’t feel it or sense it, it probably is quite obvious to others, rebellion against God and lack of love toward our neighbor is much a part of us as our DNA.  This is important, because only sinners get the Savior who saves from sin.  No sinner, no Savior.  John writes quickly to assure us in 1 John 2:1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the righteous one. “    While we are holy in Jesus sight as believers, sin will remain with us until we breath our last.

          Yet, there was another issue at stake and that was those who believed that sin , even if it was there didn’t really matter.  In other words, as long as you confess Jesus, whatever one does cannot really affect ones faith.   This view in effect says the  Christian life, is one without the need for repentance, and without the need for transformation.   Here is how the view played out in Jesus day.  The body is not the real you, therefore if you used your body to be someone outside of a marital covenant, spritiually you are fine.  Why?  Because the real you is the soul, and what you do within your body, cannot affect the spiritual you.   How might this translate to today.  One may tell oneself that so called vices may not be the best, but they can’t really affect ones life with Christ.  I can despise even hate my neighbor, when he or she has truly wronged me, and I have every right to hold on to this.   I can cheat the government, and even those employees under me, because frankly it is the only way I can make a living.  How about this, one can view pornographic images or dare one say even be intimate with someone outside of the marital covenant , and somehow this doesn’t  to affect my relationship with Jesus.      I can overdue the alcohol thing, and it is not big deal, especially going through High School and college.  After all, this is a right of passage, and I still believe in Jesus.   I can flaunt choose to stay away from word and sacrament, and basically say that the third commandment “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”, doesn’t need to be followed.  It’s no big deal, yea I’m a sinner, but I still believe in Jesus.   It is this sort of lie, which John brings forth a very harsh and strong wording.  “Don’t be fooled”, no one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known by him”.   Notice, the issue here isn’t necessarily sin, remember “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves”, the issue here is repentance.  A turning away and a turning toward him.  

          What does John do, first of all he reminds us who we are.   In Christ Jesus, redeemed by the blood of the lamb, we are children of God.   We are not just children because we have been created by God, but because we have been born anew in Christ Jesus   “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent not of human decision or a husbands’ will, but born of God.”  Sometime I will hear people say that because they are born in small communities, they have to watch how they live.  Due to the fact that they are part of a family, they have a reputation to uphold.  However, here being a child of God is not just to keep us in line, but a tremendous privilege.    That’s who we are, and the text also goes on to say what we will be.  We have an inheritance,  that is great when we die, but even better when Christ comes again.  Why, we shall see him as he is.  1 Peter 1:4 says “We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. 

          So as children of God, with an inheritance that is ours free of charge, our lives are to reflect this reality.   When sin rears its ugly head, we are called not to look for excuses, but rather to the Savior Jesus in repentance.   We look to him because of his desire to stay connected to us.   His desire to help his dear children, to cleanse his dear children, and to give life to his dear children.    Sin certainly remains with us to the very end, but the consequences of that sin are absorbed in Jesus.  Yet, don’t be fooled, a life of non repentance is not the life of a Christian.    While abiding in him doesn’t mean sin flees us,   it does mean that death which sin brings doesn’t have the final say over us.   What gives when it comes to Abiding in him, and to the reality of sin, as always with Jesus in the picture it sin, it just has to give way.  The key is having Jesus in the picture.  Amen.