1 John teaches us much about the love of God and how his grace works on behalf of his children. “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us.” We all stumble in many ways and fall short of the glory of God. But once we are adopted into the family of God, the blood of Jesus constantly washes us from our failings and sins. As long as we are walking in the light, this blessing gives us the confidence that we can live without fear, trusting in the grace and love of our Father. But since we all stumble and sin, else why would there be any need for a constant cleansing, how do we know that we are walking in the light? I hear the phrase, nearly always describing someone other than the one using the phrase, describing someone as “living in sin”. Every time I hear it is used exclusively for one particular sin. But why apply it to only one? The gossip, the liar, the resentful, the thief, the cheat, tax evader (or tax corner-cutter), the lustful, the covetous, and on and on are all living in sin. How can anyone trust themselves as walking in the light and therefore receiving the cleansing power and sonship of God? I believe the answer is in the context of 1 John itself. John does not introduce the idea and then abandon it, but rather develops it throughout his letter. In the midst of this development, he identifies who is walking in the light and who is not. in 3:7, 8 John warns against being deceived and then contrasts two different lifestyles. Using the ESV John says there are the children of God who “practice righteousness” and there are those serving the devil who “make a practice of sinning.” John is not talking about a single sin but a overall lifestyle. Through the years I have seen people struggle with a particular sin, perhaps drunkenness, yet overall they lived a life serving the Lord. I am not the judge of such folks, nor will I condemn them off-hand. I will encourage them to continue to work on those areas they fall short, as I hope I continue to work on the areas I fall short. But the very fact that they are living lives “practicing righteousness” gives me hope that God’s grace will cover their shortcomings.
Through nearly 50 years of preaching I have met and grieved over scores and hundreds of former Christians who were offered no hope and therefore gave up. I remember one deacon’s son who had been told he might as well give up since his situation, a mess he had made for himself, made it impossible for him to be saved. Believing what he was told, he no longer tried. He had children and they were not taken to church nor introduced to the Lord. They now have teenage children who were never taken to church and never introduced to the Lord. So there is Oscar himself and his wife, four children and 12 grandchildren, 18 in all: all with no hope and all altogether away from the Lord. Why? Some folks “living in sin” are never told “you might as well quit”, others, liars, gossips, etc. are ignored. Oscar is one of hundreds I have come across. How many more could be multiplied if we only could somehow know? There will always be tares among the wheat and the Lord has the wisdom to separate the two when it is time. Think how much greater the kingdom could be, if we left it to Him. These are just some thoughts I choose to share that cause me to grieve. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before and I am sure I will be again. But maybe I’m not. This is Just-A-Minute or two or three.