We live in a world that endorses and produces “news,” which is opinions, political commentaries, and whatever is trending more than reporting on actual events. It’s no wonder that we feel manipulated so much of the time. We must discern these influences if we want to maintain a correct view of the world. Have you ever been personally manipulated? I don’t mean people forceful about their opinions, who outwardly disagree with you, or have even shunned you because you hold different values or beliefs. Manipulation is subtle. It is “the action of manipulating something in a skillful manner” or “influencing or controlling someone or something to your advantage, often without anyone knowing it.” (1) Someone once convinced me that I was a particular kind of person and I believed it for about five years. My lifestyle, conduct, values, and personal choices all reflected my wrong belief about myself. I have no doubt this was one way that the devil tried to keep me from coming to faith in Christ since it was someone who had had a kind of faith that I thought was real at the time. But I was liberated from the relationship and false view of myself. Years later, Christ brought me into his glorious family. Those five years were enslavement to a lie, with continuous sin at work. I value confession and repentance so much because I have been forgiven so much.
Sinners Don’t Make a Practice of Sinning.
In the second and third chapters of 1 John, the apostle expounds on the theme of overcoming the antichrist by confession of the Son and no longer practicing sin regularly as we did when we were children of the devil. “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. Little children, let no one deceive you. 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. 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. 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.” (1 John 3:4-10) Of course, we still sin, but hopefully only occasionally. Believers repent rather than allow sin to become a practice as we did before or as others do, who are under the devil’s control. “When all the basics of faith are in operation, we not only know joy but can live a holy life and be assured of salvation even though we are still far from perfect.” (2)
In Lewis’s brilliant satirical book, “The Screwtape Letters,” the demon Screwtape mentors his nephew Wormwood to keep his “patients” (earthly folk) from God. “The only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (3) But we who have been freed from Satan’s domination and overwhelming influence may confess and repent regularly to break the cycle of sin from the devil, the world, and our flesh. Sometimes Satan does his work by making our sins seem overwhelming, so we can’t imagine that God will forgive us. Other times, the devil wants us to compare ourselves to others who are more sinful to manipulate us into thinking there’s nothing we have done so wrong. “The devil himself takes great delight in assisting you in thinking that you have never done anything worthy of God’s punishment (if indeed there is a God) and in helping you to suppose that repentance is a very radical matter needed only by sinners much worse than yourself.” (4) We repent because we have not been glorified yet and are continually being sanctified—to be more holy as we mature in our Christian walk.
Christians Handle Sin Differently
“Not everyone that sins, or commits acts of sin…is of the devil, because no man lives without the commission of sin; but he who makes sin his constant business, and the employment of his life, whose life is a continued series of sinning, he is of the devil…by imitation, being like him, and so of him their father, doing his lusts, living continually in sin, as he does, and so resemble him, as children do their parents; and hereby also appear to be under his government and influence, to be led captive by him at his will, and so to belong to him.” (5) Would my family and neighbors agree that they are under the devil’s influence “just because” they don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Absolutely not—and that is partly because of the devil’s expert manipulation. However, we know that all those who don’t belong to Christ and are not in God’s family are under the power of Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). We know that Christ will forgive our sins. “’I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-48)
Christian Faith: Repentance for Peace
Regular repentance for our tendencies to sin protects us when God cleanses our hearts and minds and helps us turn to Him. Coming closer to the Lord, we are influenced more by His grace, mercy, and love. “A person is saved by faith in Jesus Christ…In itself this act does not destroy the works of the devil, which are many. But it is the first step. Indeed, it is as Christians come to Christ and are united to him by faith that they receive the power to turn from sin and the devil’s works and thus begin to live a holy life before God. The devil’s works are not yet totally destroyed…[But] now the Christian can live in that knowledge and can escape from sin’s tyranny.” (6) “Renewing grace is an abiding principle…the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought.” (7) We don’t practice sin as others do who are under the devil’s control. Instead, we are to pray for our attentiveness to sin, confess, and repent, to receive the peace that comes from our liberation through Christ.
The Holy Spirit Opposes Satan’s Influence.
The Believer does not commit a sinful act “as to be the servant of it, a slave unto it, or to continue in it; and that for this reason: for [Christ’s] seed remains in him…the grace of the Spirit, the internal principle of grace in the soul, the new nature, or new man formed in the soul, is meant; which seminally contains all grace in it, and which, like seed, springs up and gradually increases, and always abides; and is pure and incorruptible, and neither sins itself, nor encourages sin, but opposes, checks, and prevents it…it is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God; it is a good work, and well pleasing: in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin with delight.” (8) “The hearts of genuine Christians (those who are truly children of God) have been so transformed that they cannot live in a pattern of continual sin.” (9) Christ has freed us to enjoy his holiness. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2a)
Related Scripture: Psalms 40:17; 55:22 Matthew 6:25-34; 24:42-45; Ephesians 4:26-27; Timothy 2:24-26; James 4:7-10; 1 John 1:7; 2:18.
- English Standard Version The Holy Bible, Introduction to 1 John, ESV Text Edition: 2016, Crossway Bibles.
- Lewis, C. S., “The Screwtape Letters,” pp. 60-61, HarperOne, Kindle Edition.
- Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance-The First Word of the Gospel,” Crossway, 2002.
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 1 John 3:1-10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/1-john-3.html
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 John 3:8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-john-3.html
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” 1 John 3:4-10, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Gill, Ibid, 1 John 3:9.
- Boice, Ibid.
May 27, 2021