Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Spot the Difference! (1 John 3:4-10)

See if you can spot the differences in the two pictures below...
How long before you gave up? It wasn't long for me. I think I found one before I couldn't be bothered with it.

Today John talks about spotting the difference, only it's much more important than the one shown above and it's far easier than people think too!

1 John 3:4-10

How do you spot the difference between someone who's a real Christian (forgiven, accepted, etc) and someone who isn't? Surely faith is a personal and private matter that doesn't involve others - wrong! Or at least according to John it's wrong. He seems to think that faith makes a BIG difference to our lives and others around us too. He says 'No-one who continues to sin has either seen Jesus or known him' (v6).

We need to be careful with this one. It's awful when people start judging everyone else about whether they're actually saved by God or not. We'd be wrong to judge other people's relationship with God because...
  1. We can't know for sure. All we can do is have a pretty good guess at where someone's at with God based on the way they live their lives. This can't be fool proof because even the most mature Christian will make selfish mistakes and even the most humanist person will do excellent Godly things for others. People's actions are clues of where they might be at with God and they do add up to quite a clear picture but they don't settle the case! That's between them and God - and even then, it's not about how good they are (because no-one's good enough for God!), it's about whether they've asked for forgivenes or not!
  2. Our motives would probably be wrong. John isn't writing about this because he wants his readers to start playing spot the difference with everyone they meet. He's concerned about people who might try and teach them wrong things about Jesus to trick them into following things that didn't come from Jesus himself (v7). He's saying the best way to spot these fake teachers is not by the eloquence of what they say but by the message of their lives.

It's impossible to have a relationship with God and not to have your whole life changed. Sure, we're not there yet, but if we've really encountered the living God, then the direction, reason and reality of our lives must be completely different from anyone who's living life for themselves or for the here and now.

In my school there's a poster with an old cliche question on it. It's cheesy if you've heard it before but a great question to consider if you're someone who claims to follow Jesus...

'If you were arrested with the charge of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?'

Remember John started this chapter talking about the amazing love of God that has been lavished on us? After meeting a God like that, how can we go on living the way we did before? It must be impossible for our old habits to continue the way they did. In the last bit of the chapter (which we'll look at tomorrow), John talks about what it looks like to live for Jesus and how people will know for sure that we belong to him.