MASCHIL TRUTH Series 2008—Part 3
Jesus Came To Straighten the Tangled Mess in My Life
by Ed Corley
About sixty years ago when I was first starting to know Jesus, not only as my Savior, but also as my Lord, I came upon I John 3. Verses 6 through 9 took my attention. They disturbed me. If you will look at them with me now, I think you will see what took my attention, and why I was disturbed. I was only using the King James Version, and have continued doing so, but with much help from the Greek New Testament. This is the language in which the New Testament was preserved for us. That’s why I wanted to learn it.
Reading these verses really shook my hope. It was what came through about sin. I couldn’t grasp whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not. Even though I truly believed I had been born again, I did not feel I had come to the place of never more sinning. And that was back when I thought “sin” meant not doing certain things, like going to dances, getting drunk, doing things with girls I shouldn’t do, etc. There were a lot more “don’t’s” that were heaped upon us. I had very little concept of what sin was, but these verses caught me right in the depth of my stomach and made me—well, to put it clearly—they made me afraid.
I had a good Pastor who preached good sermons about knowing you’re saved and about not doing wrong things. In the deep part of my heart, I wanted to do the right things and I wanted to stay saved.
One day I was walking down the street on the way with my girl friend, who went to the same church I did, to see “Gone With the Wind.” We happened to meet our Pastor. She said, “You know, he knows where we’re going and he believes it’s a sin.”
Let me tell you, that was the last picture show I went to for decades. I finally did go to see “My Fair Lady” with my wife, but felt I should hide my face when I came out into the light lest someone I knew might see me. I would do whatever I could to stay in favor with the Lord, and that meant not letting anyone I knew see me do something wrong. That’s strange!
I also read, He that committeth sin is of the devil. That really threw me. For sure, I did not want to fall back into the camp of the devil. To keep from doing this, I became more and more religious. As soon as I became aware of any outward thing that might be considered sin, I became determined never to do it—that is, never to let anyone know I did it.
I was in high school when all this started. After two years I enrolled in college. My family couldn’t afford that, but one day my tenth grade history teacher said, “Anyone who wants to go to college can go. The important thing is that you must want to.” I didn’t know all she meant, but it stuck in my mind. From the moment I heard her, it never occurred to me that I might not go to college.
In all the years of my going to college, followed by three years of graduate school, my father helped me with $100. I just got a job and paid my own way, never borrowing a penny. I graduated owing nothing.
As for that, the most important thing I gained from all my schooling was an ability to study the Greek New Testament, along with some Hebrew for the Old Testament. The first thing I wanted to see was what I John 3 really had to say. I remember my first “deep” study into that passage. What a relief! I saw it meant, “Whoever abides in Him does not continue in sin.”
Let’s go back now and pick up from what we began seeing in our last article on I John. There’s too much to see for us to get stuck on whether it’s all right to go to a movie. After over sixty years, I’m still finding more amazing revelation and truth in the little Epistle of I John than I ever dreamed might be there when I first started. All the Word of God is like a fountain that never ceases flowing with new Life.
In our last article, we took note that I John covers three points—Christ, anti-Christ and Love. If you recall, the third chapter comes under the heading of Love. So it might seem a little strange that this matter of sin should be so prominent under that heading. But, that’s the way it is.
Let’s get to the matter. It all starts with the love of God. We see it in the first three verses: 1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. “Behold what quality of agape love the Father has given to us. It is never to be revoked so we can live always as His offspring.” The word translated sons in this verse is from the Greek tekna, meaning those born into one’s family. I interpreted is as “offspring” in our notation. It points to the basic quality of who—or perhaps we should say “what”—God has given us to be. The very word itself implies potential for development in God’s family. And note this: It develops out of the love He has given us. Therefore we may well expect that as we grow in relation to our Heavenly Father and His entire family, a maturity will evolve in us that gives expression to His love.
Because we have been born into God’s family, there is an instinctive knowing within us that enables us to know that when He, the Lord Jesus, appears—whenever that may be—we shall be a reflection of all He is for we shall see Him just as He is.
The word purifieth is from the Greek agnizo. It signifies living like one under a vow of abstinence. While this would not mean extreme forbearance or self-denial, it certainly means the removal from our lives of anything that would defile our body and make us unfit to be His Temple.
Even though I John 3:1-8 deals first with sin, we will soon see love coming through when God’s ways triumph over the ways of anti-Christ. Continuing on in the passage, we begin seeing the ways of the Lord emerging out of the Word having to do with sin. His grace will work in us who are sinners to bring forth what is right in us. We were once so messed up by sin there seemed to be no hope for us ever being fit for God’s Kingdom.
In the words that follow let’s see what treasure lies beneath them. First we find definitions of two kinds of sin. 4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the Law: for sin is the transgression of the Law. “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is practicing lawlessness.” In the Greek of the above, two different words carry the meaning of “sin.” First is sin from hamarti’a. Then there is transgression from anomi’a.
The word hamarti’a generally relates to man in his departure from the ways of the Lord. Its most literal meaning is “the missing of a mark.” It could relate to the skill of archery. If an arrow is only a slight fraction of one degree off mark, then it misses its target. This is so even if to the natural eye it appears directed straight toward its mark. Likewise, a religious person with an appearance of being saved, but who doesn’t know Jesus, is only a lost soul.
The word transgression is from the Greek anomi’a. It shows the hatred anti-Christ holds for God’s Law. A form of this word appears in II Thes 2:8 with reference to the lawless one whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. The anti-Christ holds no regard for any righteousness belonging to the Kingdom of God. Lawlessness defines all his actions. We find this word anomi’a in I John and we begin seeing how it reaches for us to draw us into the camp of anti-Christ.
Continuing on in I John, we see the following about Jesus. 5And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. “And you know for certain that He became manifest to bear away our sins; and in Him there is no sin at all.” Christ and anti-Christ are opposite one to the other. So will be those in the camps of the two.
In Christ’s last hour camp we will see the dawning of His purity in those belonging to Him. 6Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. “All who are living in Him begin making it their practice not to continue in sin. Whoever continues in sin has never seen Him, neither have they known Him.”
If a person says he, or she, knows Christ and continues living a lawless life, or, so to speak, a life that is off His track, it means they have never come to know Him as Savior. Paul confirms this in II Cor 5:17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Some time ago I heard of a Pastor’s sermon entitled “John’s Seven Little Children.” Seven times in his Epistle John addressed the people to whom he was writing as his “little children.” This reveals that John was a tender man, yet firm, making no allowance for his dear ones to fall short of the calling of the Lord upon their lives.
Take note of the following verses. He was clear and to the point, allowing for no space into which the enemy might stick his fingers to meddle in the lives of the believers to whom he was writing. His was a stern warning from a spiritual father to spiritual children for whom he held concern because the hour was late. He set a pattern for true Pastors today.
Note these verses: 7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. 8aHe that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. “Little children, as a teacher to his disciples, I beseech you, let no one seduce you away from Truth. Let no one entice you away from the path of what is right. Whoever is doing right in the eyes of God is righteous just as He is righteous. On the other hand, whoever remains involved with sin is of the devil, because from the beginning, the devil has made it his practice to keep on sinning.”
These verses have in them some hard-to-swallow words. They are part of what threw me when I was a young believer. But, the longer I have lived with the Lord the more corrupting I have seen how sin can be in my own life. I have come to the place where I want no property left in me belonging to the devil. You can come to this place too. If he has legal right to one little corner, he will maintain that hold right there till the end. He intends to call in the seducing spirits associated with him to possess that corner—and more. God is calling us to leave him no room at all.
The fact is this: the closer we draw to the Lord Jesus, the more repulsive sin—any sin—becomes to us. We realize that Jesus went to the Cross with the heavy burden of our sins upon Him. That means every sin of every person who ever lived, or will live. The greater our love for Him, the greater will be our hatred for sin. It ceases to be: “Can I get by with just a little sin?” Instead, it becomes, “Let me get rid of everything that could cause Him grief.”
The latter part of verse 8 lays out our hope as far as sin is concerned. John said, 8bFor this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. As I looked at this verse in the Greek, I discovered in it the first word I ever learned in Greek vocabulary. It’s the word translated destroy. It comes from the Greek word luo, which means, “to loose.” This did not make any sense to me. How could God’s Word be saying the Son of God was manifested to “loose” the works of the devil?
I couldn’t grasp that. But, after a little study I came to understand that the word luo means, “to loose” in the sense of “undoing.” As I mused on that understanding, it came through with a meaning that took hold of my heart. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might undo the works of the devil.” This brought a picture to my mind.
Years ago I had a grandmother who went to be with the Lord when I was a little five-year old boy. She’s the one who used to pray for me as she rocked me when I was a baby. I remember one day when I was about four years old, she asked me to hold in both my hands a skein of knitting yarn so she could wind it into a ball. She said to me, “Now, Sonny, don’t drop that or I’ll never be able to undo it.”
For years I carried in my mind the picture of that yarn dropped on the floor in a hopeless tangle that she could never undo. When I discovered the meaning of the word translated destroy in I John 3:8, that picture came back to my mind. I could imagine a tangled mess into which some person’s life had fallen. Many, oh, so many, lives are a tangled mess. Only the Lord Jesus can “undo” the mess anyone of us has gotten ourselves into. That is the reason He was manifested. I’m so glad I found that out! You can find out the same thing for your mess.
Oh, but there’s more! See what awaits us in the next verse. 9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
In this brief section of I John 3 we’ve seen little more than an introduction to one of the most important revelations for the last hour. We are beginning to learn about a love that will prevail in behalf of those who have been born into God’s end-time family. In this time, so close to the brim of eternity, His children will be known by the holiness and love in their lives, while the children of the devil will be known by their sinfulness and hatred.
An increasing contrast will evolve as we become more and more aware that he who hateth his brother is a murderer. In contrast, we shall discover that as Christ laid down his life for us, we may be called to lay down our lives for our fellow believers. Love will be known in our actions, not in our words only.
It is understood that we cannot cover so profound a revelation in so short an article, but we are gaining an introduction. I trust that the problem confronting me as a young believer will become resolved in you. Every serious believer will at some time face the issue of his, or her, own sinfulness. Paul faced his. He discovered the resolution of his sinfulness came about through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:24,25).
Not long after I discovered the meaning of what John said in I John 3—those words bringing distress to my heart about my salvation—I discovered the following verse near the end of I John. It brought me more comfort and light. It has continued through over half a century to draw me on in a continuing quest for the Truth that comes from the Word of God.
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