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The Real Deal

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(1/25) Here is our kick off question. What is one of the most awe-inspiring, jaw dropping, wonder-beholding things you have ever seen?

  • The Grand Canyon
  • The Birth of a Baby
  • The Making of a Single Cell (The Truth Project)
  • A Sunrise or Sunset
  • The first hand witness of Katrinaís destruction
  • Other

When John begins this little letter known as 1 John, he spends the first two chapters focusing on God being light. That is; both that God is both Holy and revealing, or illuminating. This is much like the way he begins his gospel. In chapters 3-5, with the Holiness of God in mind, John reminds us that God is love; in fact, he will describe Him as such in 4:8; and 16. John is a very old man when he writes his gospel and these letters, probably in his 90ís. Notice that he likes to address his readers as children.

Remember in our introduction, we noticed that John had been a loud, boisterous man. He and his brother James were known as the thunder brothers. They were ambitious, arrogant, and could be angry. They once wanted to ask God to burn up a town because they refused to allow Jesus to go through there.

But John was probably the first of the apostles to grasp that Jesus rose from the dead. And Mr. thunder-man, became known as the Apostle of love. Understanding the gospel changed Johnís life forever. I hope it has changed yours.

As he addresses the people (probably in Ephesus and Asia Minor), about the errors of the Gnostic cult, he reminds them that the evidence of whether a person is a child of God is not by some special, secret knowledge, but by a changed life. The central verse of 1 John is 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." And remember, for we are about to see it again, that John is a black or white kind of guy. There is no room for gray. You either follow truth or you follow a lie. You are either a saint or a sinner. You are either a child of God or a child of the devil. You are either the real deal or you are a fraud.

As we look at 1 John 3:1-10, notice 3 main points. The Marvel of Godís Love; The Marks of Godís Children; and The Manifestation of the Deceived.

I. The Marvel of Godís Love (vv. 1-2)

A. The Marvel of Godís Love. He begins this section with the word, Behold, meaning, to gaze intently at, focus your attention on this. Pilate used it when he wanted the people to see that he had beaten Jesus to a bloody pulp. "Behold I am bringing Him out to you," and, "Behold, the man!" (John 19:4-5) John wants us to stop and focus our attention on this.

B. The Manner of Godís Love. What manner of Love! John wants us to grasp Godís love. It is so different than anything you can imagine. It is beyond description. It is beyond any human comprehension. In modern lingo, John is asking us to try and wrap our minds around this thought. This is truly awe-inspiring. It is the same kind language that was used when Jesus calmed the storm at sea (Matt. 8 Luke 8, Mark 4). The disciples asked, "Who is this man that can command the weather (my paraphrase)?" This is mind blowing. We have spoken a lot about this over the years, but letís do what John says, and stop to marvel at this awesome love.

Letís look at how Paul describes it. He also thought it is awesome. When he wrote to this same church (Ephesus) he said that he prayed that they, "may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and heightó 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Literally, Paul wants them to experience a love that is beyond description. To the Romans, Paul wrote (Rom. 5:5-8), Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We have no trouble understanding that a person would give his all, and his possessions, even his very life for those he cares about; such as, fellow soldiers, close family members, or a close friend. Our military, police and firefighters, sign up for jobs that they know could cost them their lives on behalf of their country or their community. Our Lord Jesus even said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down oneís life for his friends."

But Paul says, Jesus gave His life for the ungodly, sinners; people who were living contrary to the way God has designed for us to live. In fact, Paul says our sins made us enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). Elsewhere, Paul says we were strangers, and aliens from the promises of God (Eph. 2:12). And again, he says, as our Lord Jesus says, we were slaves to sin (John 8:34; Romans 6). God loved those who didnít love Him; those who deliberately knew what was right but still did wrong.

Jesus didnít just give His life, He suffered the horrors of hell for us. Thatís how He demonstrated His love for us. There is a song that says, I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe-for you and me. What "Wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul, what wondrous love is this."

C. The Magnitude of Godís Love. John wants us to marvel the fact that Godís love is not limited to the reconciliation of former adversaries. It goes for beyond that. This love; this agape love, is defined as, seeking the highest good for the object of oneís affection without thought of what you will get out of it, or of being paid back. Our God determined that the highest good for us was more than reconciliation. It is adoption. When anyone repents of sin and receives the person and work of Jesus Christ, that person is adopted into Godís family as a child of God. Do you remember John 1:11-12, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

Debbie and I often grieve at the sad fact that there are in the United States 400,000 children in foster care. A lot of these are awaiting adoption. Sadly, in the state of Pa. alone, 25,000 teens will graduate from the foster program without any permanent family or place to call home. No place to go to for Thanksgiving or Christmas. No one to call mom and dad or grandpap. The problem is that these kids usually come with a lot of baggage that we donít want to deal with. And they are not our problem. Like Scrooge, we ask, "Are there no prisons, no work houses? The poor need to go there. Yet God took us in to his family with all our baggage; that is, all of our addictions, our anger, our self-centeredness, our prejudices and more. He bestowed on us love, grace, and adoption, He honored us, He gave it to us. He laid this on us. Sinful people, adulterers, murderers, thieves, liars, blasphemers, rebellious, jealous, drunks, addicts, etc., He has conferred on us, the honor of being a child of God. God our Father, Christ our Brother, Heaven our home, and an inheritance to share with Jesus for eternity. What wondrous love is this o my soul?

D. The Misunderstanding of the World. The world cannot understand us, just as they could not understand Him (John 1:10; 14:17). They may think we are off our rockers, out of our mind, beside ourselves, or even possessed. Why would we risk our lives to care for HIV, or Ebola patients? Why would we give a tenth or more of our income away? Why would we spend vacation time to care for people in a 3rd world country? Why would we tell the truth when it would seem logical to lie? Why would we humble ourselves and give others credit? Why would we rather die that deny Jesus? The world has a hard time comprehending the love of God. There is no other benevolent, grace giving God worshipped in the world but our God. Allah is vengeful and aloof. The gods of Rome and Greece, Babylon, and Egypt were demanding. Only Yahweh, is graceful.

The world will also be hostile to us, hate us, and persecute us because we represent Him, and it hates Him (John 15:18-20).

E. The Mystery of Godís Children. Our transformation to glory is something that we know is going to happen. What it will really be like we donít know for sure. We just know it will be glorious. And we know, we will see Him. Not some artistís portrayal, and not the Jesus that walked the earth 200 years ago. We will see the Lord of Glory. Scars? Yes, but in all His glory as John saw Him in Revelation 1. (Cp. Jn. 17:24). And we are going to be like Him.

God is at work even now, to conform our character and conduct to be like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-30). "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." To us, this is a fantastic future. To our Lord, it is a done deal. You will be glorified like Jesus. To help us to be like Jesus now, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God uses the events of our lives, with His word, and His Holy Spirit to make us like Jesus. Listen to 2 Cor. 3:18, "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." And God bestows this on us. We are, right now, Children of God. The Creator, of the universe; the All-Powerful Sovereign of Eternity is our Father. Try to wrap your mind around that John says. And our Lord wants us to tell others, that God would like them to be part of His family. No matter who they are or what they have done. They can be forgiven, given new life and adopted into Godís family. What Wondrous love is this, O my Soul?

But a lot of people claim to be children of God. You will hear some say that we are all Godís children. Is that so? You already know that that is not so. So, how can we know if someone is a child of God or not? How can we identify the real deal?

II. The Marks of Godís Children (vv. 3-10). John gives us at least 4 in this section of Scripture. This section answers the question, "If once I am saved I canít lose my salvation, then canít I do whatever I want because I am saved? That answer is, No! Being born again, you now have the very nature of God in you by His Holy Spirit. Notice that a Child of God:

A. He Purifies Himself (v.3). When He comes again we will be like Him. This is a sure hope. A promised and guaranteed event. When we meet Him we donít want to be contaminated by the things He died to redeem us from. We are going to be like Him, and verse 5 reminds us that there is no sin in Him. Now, there is the sense in which He has washed us white as snow. We are clean before Him. Our sins have been esponged.

God is conforming us to be like Him now and our part is to get rid of the dirt in our lives now. Peter says it this way, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; (2 Peter 3:11-14)

The Child of God knows what he or she is guilty of. He or she knows what Jesus died to forgive them of. And they do not want any of that to be part of their lives. Therefore without rationalizing or justifying, the child of God will seek to make amends to people that he or she has offended, and make restitution when applicable. He takes the time on a daily basis to ask God to search his or her heart and forgive any trespass or debt occurred that day. He or she knows that Jesus is Holy, without sin, pure in heart, and we want to be like Jesus. (Matt. 6:12; Ps. 139:21).

Some think that because they prayed a prayer, go to church, have secret knowledge, been baptized, or had some religious experience, they are a child of God and can sin because they are just human and God understands. Notice John says everyone, with this hope purifies himself as He is pure. There are no exceptions in Johnís mind. This is a mark of being Godís Child.

B. He Sins less (vv. 4-6) The Language in the KJV or the NKJV implies that Children of God reach a state of sinless-ness. But that is not so and we dealt with that in 1:7-2:2. There are two types of verbs in the Greek that you need to understand in order to know what John is saying. There is a verb that is a point action. Like I hit or I threw or I ran or I stopped or I said, it's all direct point action. Then there are verbs that are called linear, they are continuous action. The idea of I was running or I was hitting or I was doing. And here you have this linear verb, although it is not translated that way, it should be translated like this in v.9. "Whosoever is born of God does not continue to practice sinning." That is exactly how the NIV translates it. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devilís work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Godís seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God." The point is that sin stops being a habitual part of the child of Godís life. He or she cannot continue to practice sin for his or her conscience, prompted by the Holy Spirit, wonít allow it. Things like lying, anger, un-forgiveness, cheating, sexual impurity, selfishness, hatred, and more cannot continue. The reason is that you have been born again. Verse 10 says Godís seed is in you. His nature by His Holy Spirit resides in you and you cannot continue to sin arbitrarily.

But when you do sin we have an advocate with the Father. We have forgiveness in confession and repentance because of the blood of Jesus (1:7-2:2) keeps on cleansing us.

C. He Practices Righteousness (2:29; 3:7) "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of HimÖ.He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous." The same point is here. The one who is truly born again wants to do what is right. It becomes the rule of his or her life. The guiding question will always be, "What is the right thing to do here?" It was Jesusí nature to always do what was right. You find a wallet, you return it in tack. The check-out clerk gives you wrong change, you give it back. You forget to take an item out of your cart, you go back and pay for it. You see someone in need, you give to meet that need. And so on and so on. That is what being righteous is. It is doing what is right. Otherwise, it is sin. Our new born again nature is driven to always do what is right.

D. He Loves His Brother (2:29; 3:7). This will be the theme of next weekís sermon, but for now I want you to remember that the Gnostics only loved those who had been initiated. The poor and ignorant were ignored and or hated, much like the Pharisees and scribes hated tax-collectors and sinners. Born again Christians are marked by how they love one another and the lost, like Jesus did. Always remember, that our Lord said this would be your Identification. How did you love others? If you have received the love of Jesus, you want to give the love of the Jesus!

These four marks become the traits of the truly born again follower of Jesus, because the Holy Spirit, the very life of God lives in them. They purify themselves, they sin-less, the practice righteousness, and they love others as Christ loved them.

III. The Marks of the Deceived (vv. 8-10). These are sobering words. Again, John does not give us gray, just black or white. If you are not truly born again, evidenced by these marks you are not a child of God. Your father is the devil. John is echoing the words of Jesus from John 8:40-44, where our Lord says, "You are of your Father the devil." Matthew quotes our Lord as describing those who profess godliness but were never born again as children of the wicked one (Matt. 13:38). John says in 1 John 3:7-10, that the one who continues to habitually sin and not habitually do what is right is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

IV. Jesus was manifested (vv. 5, 8), that is, He came in the flesh to us, to:

A. Take away our sins, and free us from their penalty (v. 5). John the Baptist says He takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

B. He came to destroy the works of the devil means to break the power off (v.8). It is as if Satan has his children in chains and Jesus breaks the chains. Or that Satan is the power source of sin and Jesus pulls the plug. He frees His children from Satanís power and sets us free.

Those who claim to be Godís children but still practice un-righteousness and still habitually sin, and have no compassion on their brothers or the lost does not know Jesus and is not a child of God. This is very sobering.

Probably more than anything else, this section of scripture is both marvelous and awe-inspiring and at the same time very sobering. It is a place, in which we are forced to be honest with ourselves and with God. We see the marvelous love of God that would take enemies, strangers, slaves, and sinners, and forgive them and adopt them as His own children.

We see the awesome changes that God makes in those who truly receive Him. But there are pretenders among us, deceived people, who claim to be Godís children because they go to church, believe in God or have had a religious experience or initiation like baptism. Which are you?

  • Do you make every effort to keep your mind, body and soul clean and pure?
  • Do you make every effort to avoid sin in your mind, and body?
  • Do you habitually try to do what is right, no matter what the circumstances are?
  • Do you love others the way Jesus loved you?

Today is the day to make sure. Maybe it is time to be honest with God and confess some sin that you have been carrying? Maybe it is a day to make a wrong, right? Maybe it is time to demonstrate love to your brother, a neighbor, or an enemy?

Maybe itís a day to invite the Spirit of God to come in and change you as you repent of sin and accept the forgiveness of Jesus and adoption of God. Itís your day!

Letís pray about it

If this life lesson has challenged, encouraged or helped you, let me know, or if you have any questions, write to me at I would love to hear from you. (p.s. I wonít put you on a mailing list or ask you for money). It would encourage me to know that you were encouraged.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman