Sometimes the bible presents us with disturbing truths. These truths serve as dire warnings of terrible things to come, and they should not be ignored. However, some teachers have relied too heavily on these dark truths as a means of scaring people into serving God, rather than inspiring them to serve God by illustrating his enormous love and overflowing grace. When this is the sole tactic used, people serve God because they don’t want to be punished, and not because they actually love him. This makes for fake service. Imagine a wife who supplies her husband with intimacy because she fears that if she doesn’t she’ll be beaten. Such intimacy is either cold, or fraudulent.
Because these ominous truths are so potentially terrible, they sometimes color how we read other parts of the bible. If we are not careful, we will misinterpret those other passages too darkly. One such place where that often happens is in 1 John 3. In that passage, the apostle whom Jesus loved tells us that “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning, and that no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6).” A truly saved person gets a gut check after reading that. Most people freak a bit because they realize that even though they’ve honestly submitted their lives to Jesus, they continue to have moments of sin. In fact, they may even continue to battle sinful desires. Their fear comes because they have focused on the second part of the verse, and forgotten the first. It also serves as evidence of their salvation. Whenever we are living in Jesus — that is whenever we are placing him as the highest priority in our lives, and following in his footsteps, and adopting his attitudes — we won’t keep sinning. We won’t make a practice of sinning. Because we can’t. Our lives will have a different pattern and a different proclivity. If we are living in Jesus, we will feel remorse for sin, and try to correct it. It’s actually a very positive message. A person who lives in Jesus does not keep sinning as a practice and lifestyle, because his new nature supernaturally compels him or her to separate from sin. This may play out in long, painful and difficult battles against the former patterns in our lives, but it will play out. On the other hand, a person who has never really known, or never really seen Jesus, will continue in a lifestyle of sin, will have no remorse for transgression, and will fight no painful battles against his or her former patterns of behavior. In fact, his or her sin will compel him or her to avoid holiness. If sin doesn’t bother you, then you might not have actually submitted yourself to Jesus. And if you didn’t, you are missing out on a life that’s way better than any fleeting (and corrosive) pleasures your sins currently bring you.