“So Lance I read your last post and I think you missed this scripture: 1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”
Ok, not a real question from a reader but I thought it might come up eventually so here we go!!
We have to see God in terms of relationship and not religion. Jesus came to replace religion. Religion came against Jesus. Our fallen nature tends to favor religion not relationship like Cain over Abel. It shouldn’t surprise you. When we ate the wrong fruit we were consumed with the knowledge of good and evil which makes us judges and list followers and rule makers and ritual participants. Our default mode as a fallen Adam is to choose a program over intimacy. We would rather know about God instead of just know God. So when we read about God in the Bible we tend to see and interpret like a lawyer. We see every passage as an opportunity for yet another rule. We “Christians” have our own oral codes and Mishnah (an authoritative collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law and forming the first part of the Talmud).
We may embrace “Grace” but most often it is seen as a solution to a legal problem based on our fallen interpretation of scripture. Grace is Jesus. Grace is God’s expression towards man. Grace is not a fill to a penal gap in punishment based on an angry God’s need for balance. Jesus came to set us free not be punished by an angry God. Jesus came to set us free from our fallen way of thinking. When we are born again we can “see” again the Kingdom as God intended. We can see a loving and caring and kind and good God. When we are stuck in a fallen nature we are stuck in a religious paradigm of legal substitution and human self effort. No matter how you slice it, it comes out “we need to do something to justify God doing something since He can’t possibly do something good just because He loves us since He is so repulsed by our behavior He needs someone to punish.” OK, that is a run-on but our fallen nature way of thinking is like jumping on a merry-go-round when we think we are moving on a straight line. ONLY JESUS sets us free from all that spiral to self-effort and self-seeking for answers in the wrong place. Like Jesus said we search and search the scriptures for God and He is standing right there in the form of Jesus.
As an example of Relationship not Religion lets look at the passage in the fictional question. Here it is again:
1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness (ESV)
If you are reading like a lawyer with a fallen Adam lens you will not see what John is trying to tell us. The Nation of Israel had taken the Law and turned it into religion. The law was actually intended for relationship but got distorted. When we finally see that the law was intended for one thing but used for another we move from dark to light. When we see that the law was intended for relationship but was idolized into religion we see fallen man’s dirty fingerprint on a perfect canvas. This is our tendency. This is our natural way of things. We take freedom to love and manufacture a bondage to rules. We can’t help it as fallen Adam. The way of Cain seems right to us. We believe paying back an angry God is the only purpose of mankind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our purpose is a relationship with love. Our goal is to become divine love. Our religion should be love. Our Faith is in God’s character to make it possible and make it happen when we surrender to His love.
If you look closely at the ten commandments you will see relational control measures. Imagine what this group of people were like after coming out of 400 years of bondage. They were no better than livestock to the Egyptians. The way they were treated by their masters was their only paradigm for relationship. They had no concept of freedom. They were in a bondage that none of us would understand. The also were acclimated to a certain lifestyle. Just like the inmate that spends most of their lives in prison, freedom brings anxiety not joy. The thought of freedom has motivated them while in bondage. When they step outside the fence they are now overwhelmed by the weight of the freedom that should be liberating. I think of the movie “Shawshank Redemption” when the Morgan Freeman character explains that when he has the need to go to the restroom physically, psychologically he can’t “go” until he asks permission. It is a behavior that has been ingrained as part of his very nature. These are the kinds of people who God is dealing with in the wilderness. He is trying to start a relationship with a people group that will bring Jesus. The relationship He established should point to the love of God that we see in Jesus on the cross. Still they are “children” when it comes to love. They know nothing of the freedom to love unconditionally. They are not only fallen Adam but slaves to being told when they can go to the bathroom. They need a set of control measures to keep the violence from escalating. They don’t know that hurting each other and taking from each other is not the way of love. They get a short list of guidelines to follow to show them the way to love. Sadly their fallen nature and desire for religion steps in.
Now fast forward to Jesus. He says that the “Law” is to love each other and love God. That is the same purpose as the Ten Commandments just without religion. It should be freedom not duty. It should be joy not burden. This is why we need to be born again. This is why we need a savior. This is why we need our eyes opened to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why we desperately need to be filled with God Himself, the Holy Spirit. Our fallen nature does not have the capacity, capability, aptitude, ability, desire or sufficiency to love unconditionally like Jesus. We need His life to have His love. We need to be infused with His love to have His life. We need to let go of our understanding to have the mind of Christ. We need to surrender to His salvation to be delivered from self. We need to die to our fallen nature and live in our new creation nature.
OK, now the verse finally. Whenever we act out of our fallen nature and selfishness we will likely fail relationally. We won’t live up to the standard of Jesus to love each other and love God with His divine love. So when we fail to love like Jesus we fail to “follow the law of Christ” which is to love. So we are living in “lawlessness” which is falling short of the goal or “sinning.” Can you see it now? When we look through the lens of relationship we begin to see God’s heart in the issue. When we see as a child of God we see His intention for love. Take a look at the entire passage in context. Remember to read with relationship in mind not penal law keeping religion:
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. 2 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. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 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. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (ESVST)
Once we begin to think with our “mind of Christ” we begin to see relationship over religion. Jesus sets us free from religion. Now a passage like this one makes so much sense. We don’t see a penal diatribe about poor behavior and moral absolutes. Instead we see a passage about love and relationship with God and mankind. Righteousness is a right relationship with God. Sinning is breaking the law of love. Jesus defeats the works of the devil which are to keep us from having this perfect relationship with God and mankind. Jesus makes it possible to love. Jesus defeats any opposition to love. Jesus rewires us as God’s children to have the capacity to love. We are becoming like Jesus in perfect love. It is our greatest joy to love each other and God. When we are stuck in a fallen nature, not born again, this is impossibly frustrating. When we chose to not love as a child of God, or don’t know how to love as a fallen Adam, we are living in the kingdom of satan not the Kingdom of Heaven.
Are you beginning to “see?” The revelation of relationship over religion will absolutely set you free from the debate that rages inside and out. Look for love and you will find God. Look for relationship and you will find Jesus. Live in love and walk with the Holy Spirit. Love each other and be free indeed. Jesus sets you free from the sin of lawlessness in His eternal life of unconditional love.