Let’s be honest. There are things we struggle with as followers of Christ. Drugs, alcohol, anger, porn, gambling, cursing, and the greatest of them all, dancing.
Don’t let it ever be said that I struggle with dancing. I don’t even try. But as many could tell you, I do have a very short fuse, my mouth can turn vile in an instant, and I am a classic codependent. Hi! I fail! Right here! [Waves flag] And you know what? I do some of it deliberately. Of course I’m hard on myself. Sometimes Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes, “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) can get a little loud in my head. Every verse before it in Matthew 5 can poke me pretty hard, too.
But what about those things we do over and over and over and over and over and over that we know are wrong, we do them deliberately, and we end up feeling absolutely terrible every time? For the sake of it, let’s just call it addiction in order to name it. This is NOT a cop-out! My addiction is my responsibility. My behaviors are mine. The sin is mine.
As if having to be perfect isn’t enough, I John 3: 4-10 floats into my head and tries to beat the tar out of me. I’ve deliberately not linked to it because if you go there and read it first you’ll beat yourself up just like I do. Let’s start out with some concrete statements.
- Those in Christ have been declared righteous. Romans 5: 8-10,19
- Those in Christ are free from Sin (capital S, the curse of, as in the entity of Sin). Romans 6: 5-7
Now let’s go take a look at the crux of I John 3 that likes to beat on me.
1 John 3:7-9 NASB Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices (G4160) righteousness (G1343) is righteous (G1342), just as He is righteous (G1342); (8) the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (9) No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
English and Greek don’t get along some days. Here’s one of those passages that my mind has to re-translate. Hold onto your hats and let’s break out the heavy artillery and look at v.7.
Righteousness and Righteous are two different words. The root word is G1342 which describes Christ’s character: equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively): – just, meet, right (-eous) (From G1349: lit. declared right as to justice’s needs). Then we have what we practice, G1343, equity of character or action (as Christlike), and specifically Christian justification through Christ.
Now here comes the key to this whole passage: Practices. If you want to get technical, ποιέω. This word covers a lot of ground, but it can be literally said to be exactly like football practice; you practice to get better at it.
Repeat offenders, are we practicing to become better at sin or are we practicing to become more like our redeemer?
My translation of that clause in vv. 7 and 8 would read, “the one who wants to be like Christ is justified with Christ because He is justified. The one who does not want to be like Jesus is of the Enemy.”
Never let the Bible beat you over the head. It’s your heart where the Word works. You didn’t get a new head, you got a new heart- one that can hear Him. Remember, Enemy is expert in the Law and the whole text of the Bible. He will use it as a weapon. Who is your accuser if you stand hidden in Christ?
As to those struggles we all wrestle with, practice makes perfect. Just be on the winning team. Wrestle against them. Repeat offender, offend the enemy. If you do mess up and give in, step back into Victory through Grace and offend him all the more.
And that last clause in v.9? Translate that as, he cannot fail because he is born (again) of God.
Lord, please let this be my last football analogy. And please let Baseball last all year.