The Apostle John tells us that at His first appearing, Christ won a tremendous victory for God. This present victory has so many different aspects, but the two most important are these:
- “You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins” (1 John 3:5)
- “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8b)
Jesus is both the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the victorious conqueror over the powers of evil. Because of this great work in Christ, and our identity as God’s children, as disciples of Christ we can live now in freedom from sin and victory over the devil and his works.
John specifically calls the believers to not be led astray in this. If God is our Father, if we are born of God and children of God, then our lives—our everyday actions and words—should reflect this new identity. If we have been set free from sin, then we should not return to enslave ourselves to it.
If Jesus has the victory over the devil, then we should not put ourselves into his service again. Our way of life—our lifestyle – should reflect who we are. And so, we should not look like the devil:
- “No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (3:6)
- Such a person “does what is sinful” (3:8), “does not do what is right” (3:10), and “does not love their brother or sister” (3:10)
John says that’s not the way that children of God speak, act, or carry themselves. Instead, children of God look like God is their Father. Such a person:
- “Does what is righteous, just as [God] is righteous” (3:7)
- “Cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (3:9)
As the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Our spiritual lives are anchored in the love of God and our identity as children of God. This identity is at the core of our being. It is not intended to be an informational reality but a transformational reality. And our lives, based in that new reality, should reflect the character of God.
How do we do that? Well, there are several examples found in the Scripture, but one of the easiest to grasp is found in Ephesians 4, where Paul is instructing the believers on how to live their lives for and with God. Paul writes:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
We must choose to take off the old self—the self controlled by sin and deceitful desires—the self that looks more like the devil. We must daily, even moment by moment, choose to take that way of living off.
We must have the attitude of our minds renewed. Actually the Greek conveys the sense of a renewing of the mind by the Spirit. We must let the truth of God become an inwardly transforming truth by the Holy Spirit’s power. We must know who we are in a deep way and be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not by whatever changing winds tries to influence our spirit.
We must then put on the new self—the self that arises from knowing who we are and is sustained by the indwelling presence of God—and live by God’s power in God’s righteousness and holiness.
All in all, this journey of spiritual formation is a daily way of living that is centered in God’s truth and empowered by God’s presence as we moment-by-moment decide against sin and decide for God. The transformational knowledge that we are children of God practically changes how we live each day—we grow to look more like God our Father.