nice, but “of the devil”

Image of woman caring for child

Read: I John 3:4-10

Reflect: This is a difficult passage of Scripture for me. It’s personal and hard to look out over very nice people (by our human standards) and lump them into John’s summary: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”  For instance, what about “Mrs. Krebs”, the church “saint”? (Name withheld to protect the non-innocent) Whenever the church puts out a plea for help in the kitchen, she is there. If they need a Sunday School teacher, she responds. No matter if they are toddlers or teens, she has a lesson and a pocket full of M&M’s that meets the needs of any age. When a young mother in the church is struggling and needs help, Mrs. Krebs is there.

what is a saint?

I call her a “saint” using the Google definition: “a very virtuous, kind, or patient person”. Mrs. Krebs has all three of these qualities. However, the Bible defines “saints” as a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom.  Holiness means set apart for God alone. Growing up in the church, I have met a lot of people who love to go to church. They participate in all the offered activities: Sunday worship, youth activities, baptisms, weddings, and yes, even funerals. We smile and serve year after year, but none of these things are the metric for evaluating an actual relationship with God. Remember the important part: saints have a genuine relationship with God and are set apart for Him alone.

the cultural christian

Mrs. Krebs is what is termed as a “cultural Christian”. John says, “No one who lives in him, keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him, or known him?” (I John 3:6).  Mrs. Krebs does good things but doesn’t know Christ. In secret, she sins and just shrugs it off. People may like a church, grow up in a church, and have an affinity for everything that the church approves of, but they may only be what are called “cultural Christians”. They don’t know Christ or have the heart of Christ. They just have religion, not a relationship.

he called them “lawbreakers”

Dean Inserra has written a book called “The Unsaved Christian”. He says, “Like their New Testament counterparts from Matthew 7, they know religion, but they don’t realize that their religion is the very thing from which they need to be saved. I tried to imagine the faces of those calling “Lord, Lord”, when Jesus told them, that they won’t be going to heaven. Their religious resumes were something to admire, yet Jesus wasn’t impressed–He was outraged. Rather than calling them good people, He called them lawbreakers.”

religion is the death knell

John’s warning is in the present tense. The phrase “continues to sin” refers to a habitual action of defiance and rebellion. People who become Christians will certainly sin, but they will not live as they once did because they know Him. They have His divine seed which is implanted in their lives the moment of belief. God’s new life gives both the desire and the power to live a holy life; a life set apart for Christ. We may serve in a lot of wonderful ways like Mrs. Krebs, but religion is the death knell for the Mrs. Krebs’ of the world. She doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

Please don’t use this as a tool for judging others (or even people like Mrs. Krebs), but as a mirror. Are you a cultural Christian or a genuine Christian, saved and preserved only by the working of Christ? Has God implanted in you not only His holiness, but also a desire to serve a life dedicated by love for Him? Have you been set apart for Him alone?

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