Look Into The Mirror
1 John 3:9 reads, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God”. This verse troubled me for some time. If John had said those who are born of God should not sin, that would have been challenging enough. But he states emphatically that a born again person does not sin, and in fact cannot sin.
How do you respond to that? If preachers were aiming for a large number of re-dedications in a meeting this would be a great verse to use! It’s just one small step to conclude, “Real Christians don’t sin. Therefore, if you do, you’re probably not a real Christian. So come and re-commit your life to the Lord.”
But, how many times can you re-dedicate your life to Christ? Can you be born again and again and again…? Some people’s theology would have us think that we can be in and out of the kingdom of God like a fiddler’s elbow!
We are one spirit with Christ
John, in fact, is referring to the supernatural work that takes place in our spirit when we are born again. We are joined with Christ and become a partaker of His divine nature. We are one spirit with Him (1 Cor.6:17). Thus, we have been perfected forever and our spirit is incapable of sin, (Heb.10:14; 12:23). We can no more sin than Christ can, for we are one with Him.
Do Christians still sin? Of course we do. John acknowledges this in other parts of his epistle, (e.g. 1 Jn.2:1). But when Paul speaks of his own experience of sin he is clear that it is something that is taking place in that unredeemed part of him, i.e. his body. He says, “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom.7:20).
Like John, Paul is aware that his new nature does not sin. As a new creation he is in complete harmony with God’s own nature. But, at the same time the relics of sin whic h remain in his body make their appeal to the flesh. And it is in the area of the flesh, not the spirit that we sin. Paul goes on to explain, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom.7:21-23).
Stop looking in the wrong place
The problem is that when we sin we tend to look to our behaviour to determine our identity. When we do this we are looking in the wrong place. If you think there is something wrong with your appearance – e.g. your hair is in a mess or you have some dirt on your face – where do you go to resolve the issue? You look in the mirror, of course. You trust the mirror because it accurately reflects what is true about your appearance.
In a similar way, we will only know the truth about ourselves when we look into the mirror of God’s Word. The Bible reveals the truth concerning our new creation identity. We will never know who we are in our spirit if we look anywhere else. We will become confused.
James speaks about the man who looks into the mirror of God’s Word, but then immediately forgets what he looks like. This is like so many Christians, who forget what the Bible says about them and, instead, look to their behaviour or listen to wrong teaching to try to understand themselves.
Our behaviour does not determine our identity. A Christian who sins is not a sinner. He is a saint who sometimes sins; but still a saint even when he does sin. I have a saying: “It’s not what you do that determines who you are, but knowing who you are will determine what you will do.”
Look into the mirror and be transformed into the image you see
Don’t fall into the trap of looking to your behaviour to find the truth about yourself. Look into the mirror of God’s Word. And, as with unveiled face you behold there the glory of who you are in Christ, you will be transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor.3:18). What is true of you in your spirit will eventually manifest itself in your behaviour. That’s God way of change.