How can we know we are truly children of God? That we are truly saved? I remember having that question when I was a kid. I had received Jesus when I was about 7 years old, but for a long time, I was never quite sure if I was truly saved.
Here in this passage, we find the answer.
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (2:29)
The ESV puts it,
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
In other words, if you are truly saved, righteousness will mark your life. This is not to say that you will ever be perfect, but when people look at you, they will see someone who makes a practice of doing what is right.
This is in sharp contrast to how the rest of the world lives. And so John says,
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (3:1)
When we live as children of God, practicing righteousness, the world has a hard time figuring us out. They can’t understand why we don’t live like they do. Why? Because they don’t know God. And if they don’t know him, they won’t understand us.
John then tells us,
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as [Jesus] is pure. (3:2)
What is our motivation for righteousness as children of God? Is it that we are trying to earn our way into heaven? Is it that we’re trying to impress other people?
Not at all. Rather John tells us that our motivation is our love for God. He has lavished his great love upon us and called us his children.
Not only that, we have the hope that we will one day be like the One we love. When Jesus returns, we will receive new bodies that will reflect the glory of Jesus himself and we will be like him, perfectly righteous in every way.
Some people think, “Why bother fighting sin? I will never overcome it.”
But if you are a Christian, that’s not true. The day will come when we will be made perfect. There is hope. And John tells us that because true believers have that hope, they desire even now to be pure as Jesus is pure.
So all true Christians long to be pure as the Lord they love.
If you don’t have that longing, can you truly call yourself a Christian?
John tells us that Jesus came to take away our sins. That in Jesus himself there is no sin (3:5)
More, Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work. (3:8)
How then can anyone who claims to be a Christian just sin without conscience, promoting the very work that Jesus came to destroy? They can’t. If anyone does, you have to seriously question if they are saved or not.
Do you think I’m being judgmental? Look at what John says.
No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. (3:6-8)
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (9)
Again, this is not to say that true Christians will never sin. This is saying a true Christian cannot just sin and feel no remorse over it. They will repent and seek to turn from that sin.
So John concludes,
This is how we know who the children of God are, and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (10)
Whose child are you?