First John chapter 3, reading from verse 1 and going down through verse 10. And as I said, we've called this message today, "The Pretenders." And it's dealing with fake Christians. Now before we read that Scripture, you may wonder as we develop the message today how we got this name, "The Pretenders," or why we called it that when you'll see as we go through that we don't spend a lot of time talking about "The Pretenders." But it works like this, I've read about it and I'm sure it's true that the treasury agents in the United States and the FBI agents who specialize in dealing with the problem of counterfeit money and counterfeit bonds and things of this sort, they don't spend any time much studying the counterfeit itself. What they spend their time studying is they study the real thing. They study the real one dollar bills and the five dollar bills and then ten dollar bills. The fifty dollar bills, the twenty dollar bills, the hundred dollar bills. And they get so good at studying these that they can just pick up a fake and they automatically know that's a fake because it doesn't match the real thing.
And that's the approach we're taking today on this business of dealing with the problem of the pretenders, the fake Christians. And there're lots of them around. There are millions of them all over the world, some of them sincere, some of them not sincere, but they're still fake. If they're not true Christians, if they're not truly born again, then they're fake. No matter whether they're sincere or insincere doesn't really make any difference about the fact that they are pretenders.
Let's turn now to this reference I gave you in I John 3:1 through 10. We'll read it quickly and then we'll come back and talk about it a little bit at a time. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever 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 the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
Now as we begin to think of this, let's go back and think about it a verse or two at a time. A free translation of this first verse here could very well be read this way, "Behold, what peculiar, out of this world kind of love the Father has bestowed upon us." Now that's what it really means there, isn't it? In our modern, everyday language. "Even that while we were His enemies," and we were before we were saved, "even while we were His enemies, the love of the Father was so great, He loved us and He sent His Son to die for us." So this is a very peculiar, out of this world kind of love, isn't it? We can't understand this. We can't comprehend this, how He would send His Son to die for us when we were His enemies at the time. And it all goes back to the old song, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see." There's just not any other answer for it, is there?
And then we could go on to that song, "He loves me, He loves me, He loves me this I know. He gave Himself to die for me, because He loved me so." And that's the only explanation, isn't it? There's not any other explanation for it, for this first verse where it says, "what peculiar, what marvelous, what wonderful, what out of this world kind of love that He had for us in that He sent His Son to die for us even while we were His enemies."
This wonderful plan of salvation that God has made for us, it begins with one thing and that's with God's love, doesn't it? There's no other beginning for it. It begins only with God's love. "And it says," remember in this verse, "that we should be called the sons of God." And we are called that, aren't we? We truly are the children of God. True Christians really and truly and honestly are children of God. They're born children of God. Unless you've been born a child of God, then you're not truly a Christian. Oh, you can say, "Well, I was born in a Christian country and my parents were Christians, therefore I'm a Christian." But that doesn't really make you a Christian, does it? The only thing that makes you really and truly honest-to-goodness a real Christian and not a fake Christian is if you've been born again. Then you really are a child of God.
In other words, there's a real family relationship if you've truly been born, if you've truly been born again. We are in His family. We are literally His children and He is literally our Father. Verse 1 tells us in this verse that I've just been speaking to you about, what we are. It tells us what we are. And that is, we're God's children, aren't we? If we've truly been born again.
Now verse 2 tells us what we shall be. Let's look at that one together. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God," he's repeating what he's already told us there in verse 1, "and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Now he's fixing to tell us what we shall be. "But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." So this verse tells us what we shall be.
First Corinthians chapter 2, verse 9 has more to say about this where it says these words, First Corinthians 2:9, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Aren't you glad it's that way? We can't see the fullness of it, but we can see a part of what we shall be now, can't we from the Scriptures? From this verse 2 here that we just read to you. And then, from this reference in I Corinthians that I also read to you, even though, "eye hath not seen, nor heard, neither has it even entered into the heart of man the great things that God's prepared for them that love him," yet we can still read in the Scriptures and find and learn some of these things about what we shall be. And we should and ought to do this.
The reference to what we shall be refers to the time of His coming at the Rapture. It's obvious if you study the context, both here in I John and in the rest of the Scriptures, that this reference to what we shall be is referring to the time of His coming at the Rapture. But remember, over here in verse 28 of chapter 2, He also tells us a little bit about this when he said this, "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." So over there in that reference, we find that we should be ready and waiting and eager and living a proper Christian life when He does come so that we won't be ashamed when He does come.
God's love for us, we find, does not stop with the new birth. You know, some Christians act like they think that's the way it works that He loves us when we're sinners and He gets us saved and then He forgets all about us and just leaves us alone. And that's not the way it works at all, is it? It isn't that way at all. His love does not stop with the new birth. But it takes us as we can see from the study of this chapter that we're le—looking at today, it takes us right on up to the time of His appearing in the clouds to take us away to be with Him and beyond, doesn't it? It takes us all the way, His love.
When He appears, all true believers will see Him and not only will they see Him, but they will become like Him. It tells us that in Philippians chapter 3, verses 20 and 21. We'll be like Him then when He comes and takes us away. We'll get all new, glorified bodies suited for heaven. Won't be any of these scars and broken bones and short legs, blind eyes, weak ears, bald heads and all these things. They'll all be gone. We'll have a perfect, a glorified body suited to dance all over that golden street when He comes and takes us away with Him.
First John chapter 3, verse 3 tells us another important thing. Remember we've talked about already in these first two verses, we've talked about what we are, that is, God's children. Then we've talked about in verse 2 what we shall be. And now in verse 3, John tells us what we should be. And this is important, too, isn't it? What we should be. It says in verse 3, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." That is, in view of the return of Christ, we should live clean lives. We should live Christian lives. We should live proper lives that would bring honor and glory to Him. So, as He told us in verse 28 of chapter 2, that we won't be ashamed at His appearing so that we can go forth to meet Him, making an abundance entrance into that glorified body in that glorious place that He's going to take us to that He's prepared for us.
What we are, what we shall be and what we should be all remind us of the Father's love. Because He loved us, and sent His Son to die for us, we're children of God. Because He loves us He wants us to live with Him one day. Salvation from start to finish is an expression of God's love for us, as we've already said. Even the very initiation of the idea of salvation is a result or a product of God's love.
We're saved by the grace of God, as it tells us in Ephesians 2:8 and 9, where it says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." It also repeats words somewhat similar to that in Titus 2:11 where it tells us that the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. So, as we think of this, the fact that we are saved by the grace of God, we also recognize that the provision for our salvation originated solely and wholly in God's love for us.
When we've experienced the love of the Father, we should not desire to live in sin. We should not desire to live in sin. Remember we're thinking a little bit now about what we should be. If we've really experience the love of the Father and we've truly been saved, then we should not desire to live in sin. The unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator. This is bad but it's not nearly as bad as the Christian who sins because he is a child sinning against his Father, and that's much worse, isn't it? Worse than a creature sinning against his Creator. The unbeliever, contrasting again, sins against law. But the true believer sins against love, doesn't he? And that's even worse.
It reminds us of the phrase that's found often in the Scripture, the phrase which says or refers to the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord. We find a similar expression to that many places in Scripture. This does not mean that we're to live in terror of God. It doesn't mean that at all. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear," Second Timothy 1:17 says, so it clearly doesn't mean that we're to live in terror. Rather, it means that we hold God our Father in reverence and we do not easily or willingly disobey Him.
There's a little illustration about this that I read about one time, a story of a group of teenagers who were out, several teenagers out on dates together and one of the teenagers suggested that they go to a bad place that they knew they shouldn't go to. And Jan, one of the teenage girls said, "No." She said to her date, she said, "No," says, "I don't want to go to this place. I just want you to just take me home, since you all are going to this place that we shouldn't go to." So one of the other girls in the group sneered at Jan and said, "Oh, you're afraid your Father will hurt you, aren't you?" And she said, "No, I'm not afraid my father will hurt me." But she said, "I'm afraid I'll hurt my father." And that should be our attitude about this business of worshipping and loving and serving God, shouldn't it? If we have the right attitude about it, that will be our attitude, won't it? Not that we're afraid He'll hurt us, but that we're afraid that we'll hurt Him. We'll offend Him, we'll insult Him, we'll trample His love underfoot. And if we take that attitude, it'll make a lot of difference in the way we live, won't it?
Now the next thing we want to think about is shown to us in verses 4 through 8, where it teaches us that God the Son died for us. God the Son died for us. Let's read those verses and then we'll speak about them in particular for the next few minutes. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
Now in this section of the chapter we find that John turns from the future appearing of Jesus that he's been speaking about, especially there in verse 2, he spoke very clearly of this. He turns from this future appearing of Christ to His past appearing and begins to speak of it here, especially clearly in verse 5, where it says or uses the word manifested. Manifested. And this word manifested, of course, in our modern language would be similar to the word appeared. Appeared. John gives two reasons why Jesus came and died in this passage. First He came to take away our sins. He came and died to take away our sins. We find that in verses 4 through 6. And secondly, He came to destroy the works of the devil. And we find that in verses 7 and 8.
Now as we think about this first of these two things that He came for or came and died for, Christ appeared to take away our sins. We perhaps need to get a definition of sin here from the Bible. There are many definitions that we could give, all of them or many of them quite similar, of course. But a lot of people have a very poor conception in their mind of what sin is. They—they think, "Oh, sin is committing adultery. Sin is murder. Sin is stealing. Sin is lying." But that's not really a—a sufficient definition of sin, is it?
Romans 14:23 tells us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Now that's a much broader definition of sin, isn't it? Proverbs 24:9 tells us this, "The thought of foolishness is sin." That's a much broader definition than what most people have today, isn't it? James chapter 4, verse 17 tells us this as far as a definition of sin, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Now that's not enough clearly from these definitions just to avoid fornication, to avoid adultery, to avoid uh, stealing and lying and murder and these other things that we think of as great sins. But it says here in James that to one that knows to do good and he doesn't do it, then even that's a sin to him because he didn't do it; not because he did do something but because he didn't do something that he should do. And then we find in I John chapter 5, verse 17, another definition of sin. And all of these fit together very well. He says there that all unrighteousness is sin.
So John's epistle, we could say basically defines sin as lawlessness. You find that in verse 4 of this chapter we're looking at today. And also if you look over in chapter 1, verse 9; and in chapter 2, verse 2, you find that he refers to or compares sin to defilement or uncleanness. But now here in these latest verses that we've read, he wants to compare it or think of it as defiance. Defiance. John's emphasis is not on sins, S-I-N-S, which is what man's emphasis is always upon, but his emphasis is upon S-I-N, no plural. Sin. That is, when he says, "sin," John here, when he speaks of sin, S-I-N, he's referring to the habitual practice of sin. He's not referring specifically to adultery or murder or lying or stealing, but he's referring to the habitual practice of sin when he uses this word sin here in this epistle.
That God is love does not mean that He has no rules for His family. And if you listen to a lot of Christians and look at their lives and—and even listen to some of the preaching that goes on, you'd think that that's the case, wouldn't you? You'd think that because God is love, then He has no rules for His family and you can just—the skies the limit, do anything you want to and God still loves you and God won't punish you and that's it. But that's not really the way the Scripture teaches it, is it?
First John chapter 2, verse 3 says this, remember we're thinking about the fact that God does have rules for His family. First John 2:3 says, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." If we go on down to chapter 3, verse 22, we read these words, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." And then if we skip on down to chapter 5 of this same epistle and read verse 2, we find these words, "But this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments."
Galatians 5, verses 1 through 6 teaches us that we're not in bondage to the Old Testament law. It very clearly teaches that in that place. But if we read over in I Corinthians chapter 9, verse 21, it also teaches that we are not lawless but we are under the law to Christ. That is, under the law of Christ. And therefore we should obey and serve under that law, not under the Old Testament law of bondage but under the New Testament law of love for God and His Son who saved—who died to save us.
Rebellion or asserting our will against God's will is the very root of sin. It's the very beginning of sin, isn't it? The very essence of sin is lawlessness or rebellion. The illustration that comes to mind here and it's a little bit funny but it's also a very true-to-life illustration of what we're trying to say here about this question of sin or lawlessness or rebellion or spirit of rebellion. I read about a little girl one time who was riding in the car with her father. And she was standing up on the front seat. And the daddy said to her, "Now, Judy, sit down. You'll fall and get hurt." She just kept standing. In a minute, Daddy said to her again, "Judy, sit down. You're liable to fall and get hurt." She just kept standing and in a moment he said to her, "Now, Judy, you sit down this minute or I'm going to stop and give you a spanking." So, she sat down. But then she turned to her daddy and said this, "Daddy, I'm still standing up inside. I'm still standing up inside." Now that's almost a perfect illustration of what we're talking about about this spirit of rebellion, isn't it? "Daddy, I'm still standing up inside." And it shouldn't be that way with a Christian, should it? It shouldn't be that way at all.
Remember a proper paraphrase of I John chapter 3, verse 6 is this, "Whosoever abideth in him does not practice sin." Now we find this word abide is one of John's favorite words, don't we? He uses it repeatedly in this epistle, so perhaps we should look for just a minute at this word abide. To abide in Christ means to be in fellowship with Him, doesn't it? To abide in Him means to have communion with Him. And if we are in communion with Him, we will not deliberately disobey His Word and His will. And, of course, His will is revealed to us in His Word. A person who deliberately and habitually sins is proving to everyone that he does not know Christ and cannot be abiding in Him. In other words, he's one of these pretenders that we're talking about today. He's a pretender, not a real born again Christian. If he just habitually and deliberately sins, then he proves that he's a pretender, not the real thing.
Through His death, Christ broke the power of the sin principle in our lives. He broke this principle of—or the power of this principle in our lives and therefore sin should not have any more dominion over us and will not if we yield ourselves truly to Him.
As we go on a little further, we notice that Christ appeared, and I mentioned this to you earlier, Christ appeared not only to save us, but He appeared to destroy the works of the devil. We read that to you in verses 7 and 8 of chapter 3 here in I John. John's logic here is very clear if you read those two verses. You'll find that his logic is something like this, if a man knows God, he will obey God. If he belongs to the devil, he will obey the devil. Now that's perfectly logical, isn't it?
Notice that John accepts the reality of a personal devil. He clearly shows that in this writing and in others. This personal devil has many names in the Bible. And men have given him many other names in addition. But some of the more common ones from the Scripture are Satan, which means adversary or enemy. The devil, which is usually used in connection with being the accuser. Then Abaddon or Apollyon, meaning destroyer. He's also called the prince of this world, the dragon and various other names in Scripture. But whatever name we call him, his main aim is to oppose Christ and the Christians. And he is a personal devil.
The contrast here is between Christ who has no sin, as we see in verse 5, and Satan or the devil who can do nothing but sin. Satan's origin is somewhat of a mystery but not totally so. He seems to have been one of the highest angels or archangels, if you read over in Isaiah 14:9 through 17, and Ezekiel 28:12 through 14, you'll find some Scriptures in connection with that which seem to indicate that.
The Scriptures also clearly teach that he is a created being. His present nature is the result of his past rebellion. It also teaches us, the Scriptures do, that he is not all-powerful, all-knowing, even though sometimes to us feeble men he seems almost as if he is that way. But he is not truly all-powerful and all-knowing. Although, as I said, he does seem that way sometimes to we feeble men.
He's assisted, the Scriptures teach us, by an army of demons making it possible to work through them in many places at one time. You'll find reference to this in Ephesians chapter 6, verses 10 through 12. And as you study about Satan in the Scriptures you find that Satan is a rebel. But by contrast Christ is the obedient Son of God. You find another contrast that's important to think about in connection with this obedience of Christ, we find that Christ was obedient unto death, even the death on the cross, as it tells us in Philippians 2:8. This is a complete contrast to the rebellious attitude of Satan, isn't it?
Now another contrast, Christ is God but willing to become a servant; Satan was a servant but wanted to become God. First John 3:8 tells us this, the last part, "that he might destroy the works of the devil." Now the meaning of destroy here is not annihilate or obliterate totally but rather, it means surrender inoperative or to rob of power. And this fits very well with the rest of the Scriptures relative to Christ's work in coming to destroy the work of Satan.
There's an illustration over in Luke chapter 11, if you read the story there, we won't read it together now but it's a good one to read sometime in chapter 11 of Luke, verses 14 through 23. You'll find there the story that Jesus told about the binding of the strong man. He said that when a man comes to plunder the castle or the home or the house of a strong man, before he can plunder the house, he must first bind the strong man. You'll remember that if you've read that passage recently. And Jesus did come to bind the strong man and to release the captives, that is, the lost souls of men and women from the dominion and domination of Satan. And every time a sinner is saved, more spoils are taken from the house of the strong man, Satan.
There's another illustration that we might give from history. You remember perhaps the Japanese stragglers on the Pacific Islands after the war was over. Many of them were still struggling to fight on. They didn't know that the war was over. Not knowing that the war was finished, they still struggled to fight on. But Christians need to know this, they need to know that Satan is a defeated enemy. He way—he may win a few battles here and there, but he's already lost the war. Aren't you glad it's that way? He's already lost the war though he may win a few little battles here and there.
"Little children, let no man deceive you." This fits in with what we're thinking about particularly today. Counterfeit Christians trying to convince true believers that one can be saved and still habitually practice and enjoy sin. And this is not true, of course. John admits Christians can sin, of course, obviously we do but he denies that they can live in sin and habitually practice sin.
God the Holy Spirit lives in us, and this is the last main thought of our message today. We find this in verses 9 and 10 of this third chapter. "Whosoever is born of God does—doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
Now the question here, remember what we're saying here in verses 9 and 10 basically the message is this. Whatsoever or whosoever is born of God does not practice sin. Now the big question is this: "Why, why, why does he not practice or live habitually in sin?" Why is this true of the truly born again child of God? And the answer to that why is this, because he has a new nature within him. He's got a new nature and this inner nature, this inner man cannot sin. It's impossible because this inner nature is born of God and cannot sin. This inner man.
John calls this new nature, God's seed, within the born again. And this seed of God remains in the saved person. It remains there. Great spiritual changes occur within a believer when the person is saved. Oh, it may not give you that hair back on your bald head, it may not fix that broken finger but it makes big changes on the inside. A lot of things happen. Great changes occur within a believer when the person is saved.
In the first place, he's given a new standing before God. A real believer is given a new standing before God. This is usually called justification. It never changes and it is never lost. Justification. That is, made as if we are righteous before God. And the way we are made as if we are righteous before God is not because of our righteousness because we have none. But because every time He looks at us He sees the righteousness of the spotless Lamb of God that died and gave us this justification that we have because of Him.
Now not only is the believer given a new standing before God called justification but he's given a new position before God as well. This is one of those changes that takes place. This is usually called sanctification. And it doesn't mean what some people make it mean at all. This sanctification means set apart for God's own purposes to live for His glory. That's exactly what it means, no more and no less.
Now this position, we said that he's given a new standing called justification which never changes and is never lost, but this position that we're given before God does change as we draw near or wander away from Him. This position of sanctification, that is, of being set apart for God's own purposes to live for His glory.
Now the most dramatic change that takes place in a believer, of course, is regeneration. Regeneration. In other words, he's born again into the family of God. And this is shown in the definition of the two parts of this word regeneration. Re means again and generation means birth. So it's a new birth or a rebirth, isn't it?
Remember, as we conclude, these thoughts: justification means a new standing before God, this is something that never changes and is never lost; sanctification means being set apart to live for God's glory, and this position does change as we draw near or wander away from closeness to Him and His will in our lives; but the most remarkable and dramatic change that takes place is summed up in the word regeneration which means a new birth or God's nature by the new birth given to the believer.
The only way to enter God's family is by trusting Christ and experiencing this new birth. There's not any other way. No matter what anyone tells you, if you were christened when you were a child and you were raised up in some church and then you were "confirmed" and all the other things that you say you've done or have been done to you or for you, that makes no difference. There's only one way to enter God's family and that's by trusting Christ and by experiencing this new birth. And if you haven't done this, if you haven't experienced this new birth, then you've not been saved.
First John 5:1 remember says this, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him." So what he's saying there is that the one who really believes that Christ is the—that Jesus is the Christ is truly born of God, that is, he becomes a child of God. And not only does it affect him that way but he also loves the others who have been begotten of God as well. He loves the brethren in other words, as John teaches us repeatedly in his epistle.
The physical life begets only physical life, doesn't it? But spiritual life produces spiritual life. This is true in any way that you want to look at it. Both statements. John 3:6 adds on to that when it says this, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." And I Peter 1:23 says that the Christians have to be or have been born again when he said this, that we were born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by what? "By the word of God," it says, "which liveth and abideth for ever." So this Word that we're preaching to you today, this Word of God that we're talking about that we're expounding to you today, this is what leads men to come to the new birth and be born again, isn't it? Nothing else does. The Scripture is very clear about that.
Remember we are saved by grace through faith, as it tells us in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 that I've already quoted to you today. And then we need to remember also that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, as it tells us in Romans 10:17. The new birth, in other words, is a miracle in which the Holy Spirit imparts new life to a man. God's life, that is, to a believing sinner. And as a result, the believer, the individual believer is born into the family of God. There's not any other means by which this can occur or does occur. God's children bear His nature like natural children bear that nature of their parents. And John's emphasizing that all the way through our message for today.
If you're here today and you haven't experienced this new birth, you can. Remember what we said from Romans 10:17, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." You've heard it today. You can experience the new birth by trusting Christ as your Savior. When you do that, then a miracle takes place and you're reborn spiritually. You're made anew spiritually. And if you truly are made anew spiritually, then you're going to want to confess Him before men. If you're not willing to confess Him before men then that's a sign that you just—He says those that refuse to confess Him before men, them will He—uh, fail to confess before the Father. Jesus Himself says that. Those that are ashamed to confess Him before men, that He'll be ashamed to confess them before the Father. But if you've truly been saved, you're going to want to let—let others know about it. If you're here today and you will trust the Lord, or you have trusted the Lord . . . come tell us about it!