Worldview Bible
Christian DNA

1 John 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.

The Story: Our new birth as children of God was one of John’s great themes. John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel, “But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12). In this text, John added an image from human reproduction. Those who are born of God have God’s seed. The Greek word is sperma. Just as in human seed there is DNA that bestows, so there is in this spiritual seed a spiritual DNA that bestows. Those born of God have God’s spiritual DNA in them. And that spiritual DNA carries with it an abhorrence of sin and a desire for righteousness. Again, those who are born of God are not sinless. John and his readers (and we) are still sinners, but by the rebirth John addressed, Christians “cannot keep sinning.” It’s contrary to the nature of those whose nature contains God’s spiritual DNA.

The Structure: Our third grandchild was born on October 2. Relatives and friends meeting the little guy for the first time invariably engage in the age-old debate: “Who does he look like? Which side of the family does he favor? Is he more like Dad’s family—and if so which side of Dad’s family? Or more like Mom’s?” The answer, of course, is that while he may favor one side or the other in appearance, personality, and other traits, he’s a combination of Mom’s and Dad’s DNA and carries the new family’s likeness. When we are born of God through Christ, we become new creations. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” wrote Paul (2 Corinthians 5:17). We repeat those words glibly, but Paul and John are talking about a radical change and a radical break from the life and values of this world. Our Christian worldview must reflect the radical nature of this change. We do not simply have a new identity as children of God; we share God’s spiritual DNA, His eternal life in our entirely new lives.

Does your Christian faith change everything in your life or is it a pleasant add-on that includes a bus trip to Heaven when you die? How does your way of life reflect the fact that you have God’s DNA?

The Works of the Devil

1 John 3:8b

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

The Story: John, in this short letter, mentions the devil often, calling him “the devil” here and in verse 10 and “the evil one” in 2:13-14, 3:12, 5:18-19. The Greek word translated “devil” means one who unjustly accuses and slanders. This is precisely what the devil did in the Garden of Eden, beginning his temptation with the slanderous words, “Did God actually say. . . ” He then capped off his argument by unjustly accusing God of withholding good things—in this case being like God—from His creatures (Genesis 3: 1-5). Jesus by His crucifixion and resurrection destroyed the devil’s work of slander and false unjust accusations against the nature and goodness of God. The cross proves once and for all the love God has for His people. Through that love, we become “children of God” (3:1; John 1:12-13). The works of the devil are being destroyed now, and when the time is right, they will come to utter ruin (Revelation 20:10).  

The Structure: C. S. Lewis wrote in the introduction to “The Screwtape Letters,” “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Christians are called to walk wisely between the two extremes. There is a devil, there are demons, and they have the ability to tempt (Matthew 4:1-11), sow confusion (John 8:44), and harm (2 Corinthians 12:7). They do this with great power (5:19). On the other hand, the angels protect God’s people from these enemies with greater power, and the final victory over sin and Satan has already been won. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works; in every struggle, we can count on it.

What is your outlook on the devil and demons? Do you ignore them or “feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them”? How does Christ’s victory that destroys the work of the devil encourage you?

Let No One Deceive You

1 John 3:7-8a

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

The Story: How would John’s “little children” be deceived? John was thinking of the Gnostic split mind. On the one hand, Gnostics believed that because the material world was evil, the body should be treated harshly, ignoring physical needs. On the other hand, Gnostics believed that the material world was unimportant and that only the spirit mattered. Thus, what someone did with his or her body was of no importance at all. The temptation was either to fanatical rigorism or libertine hedonism. Either came with a sense of being deeply spiritual (though not religious?). John warned his readers of both errors, but here, his emphasis was the easy road of ignoring or indulging sinful habits while claiming a higher spirituality than the average Christian. That road, he tells them, is the devil’s road, the road of rebellion against God, and a clear indication that someone does not belong to God.

The Structure: In his research into the spiritual lives of emerging adults (ages 19-29), sociologist Christian Smith discovered that morality for that age group is almost purely individualistic. Every person decides for himself or herself what is good and what is bad. For example, Smith asked if it is good to help others. The answer was yes, if that’s what you want to do, but no one has a moral obligation to help others if he or she feels like it. Morality is what you say it is. And if you’re over 29, don’t think you’re off the hook. Smith makes it clear that emerging adults learned their morality at home from their parents. When John talked about practicing righteousness, he did not have in mind some right to define righteousness as you pleased. He had in mind the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17), and the rest of the Scriptures as the definition of what it is to be righteous. We are called to practice what God has commended.

What is your attitude toward moral decision-making? Do you see morality as something clearly communicated in Scripture and Church teaching or do you pick and choose based on your private judgment? What are you teaching your children about morality?

Law and Lawlessness

1 John 3:4-6

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

The Story: John, having talked about future purity (verse 3), goes on to apply what he said to the present moment. Purity from sin begins now, and the Law, while it does not justify (Ephesians 2:8-9), defines moral and spiritual purity. John realized that even though his readers were “children of God now,” they (and he) were still sinners and would remain sinners until Christ appears and “we shall be like him” (verse 2). In the meantime, John made clear, Christians struggle against sin. Children of God know the Law and its demands and, with an eye toward the hope of future glory, struggle against the inborn human habits of sin. Making “a practice of sinning” is keeping on sinning as if sin didn’t matter. This, for John, was an indication of someone who did not know Christ and who thus did not have the hope of seeing Him, being like Him, and sharing in His glory. Encountering Jesus, John knew from his own experience, changes everything.

The Structure: Because Christ frees us from our sins and from the demands of the Mosaic Law, Christians have often been tempted to antinomianism (“anti”—against, “nomos”—law). Since we are justified by faith, not by observing the Law (Romans 3:28), the thinking goes, the Law no longer matters and we can do as we will. Wrong. While observing the Law does not ingratiate us with God, the child of God does everything he or she can to reflect the family character, which is holiness. God’s Law tells us what holiness looks and acts like. Without the Law to guide us, we would make arbitrary decisions about holiness based on our sinful nature, our incomplete knowledge of God, and our idiosyncratic assumptions about good and evil. The result would be justification neither by the Law nor by faith, but by smug self-righteousness. In contrast, while keeping the Law does not justify us, the Law tells us what is pleasing to God. As Jesus made clear, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

What is your attitude toward sin and sinning? How are you breaking the habits of sin in your life? How can God’s Law help you? Spend a few minutes meditating on Psalm 119:9-16.

We Shall Be like Him

1 John 3:2-3

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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

The Story: We are already children of God, John told his readers. This carries with it every blessing of this life as well as all the suffering of this life. Yet there is more to it. When Jesus appears in glory, children of God will see Him. This must have astounded John’s readers. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, He allowed Moses to see His goodness. “‘But, he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’” (Exodus 33:18-20). And so it was throughout the Old Testament. With rare exceptions (Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:25-28 for example), God and His glory remained hidden. Now children of God live in the hope of seeing God face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and that vision will be utterly transformative. Children of God, John wrote, will be like Him. We will be like Him in glory (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:1). We will be like Him by sharing in His divine nature that is by definition eternal (2 Peter 1:4). And we will be like Him in moral and spiritual purity. This is our hope and inspiration, John writes, as we struggle for purity today.

The Structure: At the end of the “Divine Comedy,” Dante, the pilgrim who has journeyed through the depths of Hell, up the mountain of sanctification, and into Heaven, finally stands before the face of God. While the poem is fictional, Dante the poet imagined what it might be like to stand before God and to see Him as He is:

Before that Light one’s will to turn is spent:
one is so changed, it is impossible
to shift the glance, for one would not consent,
Because all good—the object of the will—
is summed up in it, for it alone is best:
beyond, defective; there, whole, perfect, still.

(Dante Alighieri, “Paradise,” Canto 33, Lines 100-105. Translation by Anthony Esolen. © 2004 by Random House).

Dante then added that his words were wholly inadequate. They were like the babblings of an infant. That, of course, makes perfect sense since he attempted to describe the indescribable that will occupy our vision, our wonder, and our praise forever (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In his book “The Saints’ Everlasting Rest,” Puritan Richard Baxter urged his readers to meditate every day on the glories of Heaven. How can you incorporate his advice into your devotions?

The Father's Love

1 John 3:1

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.

The Story: Christians are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Our adoption is arguably the most profound, unexpected, and glorious doctrine of the faith. This doctrine thrilled John and he filled his writings with reminders. “But to all who did receive him,” he wrote at the beginning of his Gospel, “who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). That last part is critical. Just as we did not will ourselves to be born to our earthly parents, we cannot will ourselves to be born of God. This is entirely His gift, brought about by His will. As children of God, John went on, you have changed your allegiance from this world to God. Love for this passing world should wane (2:15-17), while love for God and our inheritance with Him should grow. This is why the world is as confused about Christ’s followers as it was about Christ (see John 7-9).

The Structure: After human beings fell into sin, God could have wiped out the entire race. He would have been justified in doing that, but he didn’t (Genesis 6-9). He could have made us servile slaves doing His bidding forever, and that would have been grace far beyond our merit, but he didn’t. Instead God calls us His children. We are loved, welcomed, honored. We share Jesus’ inheritance, divine life, and glory. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” wrote Paul, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Then Paul added a proviso, the same one John added: “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17). In a world full of men and women who are utterly confused about their identities, the Christian knows that his or her identity is clear, settled, and sure. It is an identity that never grows old, that is straightforward and true: child of God. This is the key building block for a Christian spirituality and for a Christian worldview.

How is your identity as child of God the most important and most central truth about you? How does it make a difference today and every day? If you have not memorized 1 John 3:1-3, begin now.

Confident and Unashamed

1 John 2:28-29

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

The Story: “Children,” John wrote (2:18), “it is the last hour.” If that is true, if Jesus’ return is imminent, then God’s people need to be prepared. We prepare, John wrote, by abiding in Him. He did not add anything about bearing much fruit (John 15:5), but we can hear it in the background when John told them to “practice righteousness.” John understood the words of the psalmist who asked, “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” The answer is a long list, but the first item of that list reinforces John’s point: “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” “He who does these things,” the psalm concludes, “shall never be moved” (Psalm 15:1-2, 5b). If we abide in Christ, John taught, we will practice righteousness and, when Jesus returns, we will be confident and unashamed in the light of His searing judgment.

The Structure: A standard scene in books and movies aimed at children is the scene where, after being alone all day without their parents, the children rush to clean up the mess they’ve made before Mom and Dad walk in the door. Judgment is coming. They know that once their parents arrive, all will be revealed as it is, for good or for ill, so they had better hurry up and clean. How much simpler it would have been (though I admit, it would not have made such good stories) if the children avoided trashing the house to begin with. There would be no need for last-minute panic out of shame and the fear of judgment and consequences. John tells us not to be like the children who trashed the house and need to panic. As Christians our way of life should reflect the goodness and righteousness God every moment of every day. That way, when Jesus comes again, we too will be confident and unashamed without the need for last-minute cleaning up.

How do you practice righteousness in your daily life? What difference does your devotional life (abiding in Him) make in that practice of righteousness?

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