If you can read through 1John chapter 3 and still believe that repentance and obedience is not evidence of being born-again then the Holy Spirit has not unveiled your eyes to the Truth. Six times in six verses John either uses the word “practicing” or “keep on” (which is saying the same thing). With all that being said, let’s work through this amazing chapter.
One, many preachers will either deceive you on purpose; or they are deceived themselves in to saying that “we are all children of God”. If that were true, why would John say, “we are NOW children of God”?1John 3:1-2 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (NKJ)
1John 3:1-2 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV)
Further evidence of this is in Paul’s writings where he says we are “adopted” in to God’s family. Before we look at those verses we need to ask ourselves a question. If we are already a child of God, why would He need to adopt us? Wouldn’t my son be confused if I approached him and said, “son, today we are going to start the paperwork because I want to adopt you.” That wouldn’t make any sense, he is already my son.
Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Not only does He adopt us, but He makes us a new creation:
2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
He makes it clear that when we are born-again we are a new creation, born of the Spirit and no longer slaves to sin. Evidence of this is that we can no longer PRACTICE sin:
1John 3:4-6 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
I love the way John IMMEDIATELY follows this up. God, (who knows all things), knew there would be those that would have all kinds of “yea but” questions and comments to this Truth. Such as, “are you saying you never sin” OR “have you ever heard of a carnal Christian” OR “you are talking about works righteousness” OR any other smoke screen that keeps them from facing the Truth head on. Take a look at John’s immediate follow up to these verses:
1John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
John warns people, DON’T LET ANYONE DECEIEVE YOU! But he gets even more hardcore in when he says that anyone that practices sin is a child of the devil:
1John 3:8 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.
Then, true to John’s form, he repeats himself for emphasis:
1John 3:9 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.
Did you catch that? Why CAN’T a person that belongs to Christ keep on sinning? Because he is born of God, he is Spirit led and it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to practice sin. Please don’t mis-understand, there IS a difference between practicing sin and stumbling, just as John said in chapter 2:
1John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
For the born again believer, sin is NOT deliberate and willful, but when we stumble Our Lord is there to defend and vindicate us because we have put our complete surrender, faith and trust in Him and we covered by His Blood! Is that license to sin?...Paul made that clear:
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
I heard a preacher say one time, “if your attitude toward sin has not changed, neither has your relationship with God.” In essence, that is exactly what John is saying in verse 10. The evidence of who your father (or Father) is, is made clear by whether you are a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness:
1John 3:10 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.
That’s not the first time the Word talks about someone being “of their father the devil”; Jesus used this same term in addressing the most religious people of the day in John 8:
John 8:42-44 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
When you practice righteousness, when you preach righteousness….in other words, when you are Spirit led, the world will hate you, Jesus warned us of this and John reminds us of this warning in chapter 3:
1John 3:12-13 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
So, the eternal question, are you led by the flesh or by the Spirit?
1John 3:23-24 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Romans 8:8-10 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.