We saw yesterday that the mark of a child of God is righteousness. That true children of God seek to be pure as the One they love is pure.
And that when they sin, they can’t do so without feeling remorse for it and repenting.
I remember the one and only time I ever swore in my life. I was just a kid at the time, and I remember making a very deliberate decision to do it. I felt so awful about it afterward that I never did it again. I think that was a sign that I truly was a child of God. No Christian can make a practice of deliberate sin and not eventually repent of it.
It is possible for them to sin, however. So John encourages us,
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (2:28)
How do we “continue in him?” He tells us at the end of chapter 3.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (3:23-24)
The words “continue” and “live” are actually the same word in Greek. And John is saying, “If you want to be confident and unashamed when Jesus comes back, obey God. Do what he says.”
What has God told us to do? First and foremost, to believe in Jesus. To put our trust in him for salvation.
That actually is the first mark of a Christian. The whole problem with the human race is that we have turned our backs on God and said, “I’m living for myself. I’m doing things my way.”
The first thing a Christian does is to turn their back on that way of thinking. To say, “Not my way, any longer, Lord. But Your way.” And the first step to doing that is to embrace the gift of salvation that God offers in Jesus Christ. To stop trying to earn your salvation through your own efforts or through other religions. But to put your faith in Jesus and his work on the cross alone.
But the second part of his command is to love one another. John makes it crystal clear:
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)
Why is John so strong on this point of loving our brother?
For one thing, it is part of the very core of the Christian message. He says,
This is the message that you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (3:10)
This is not advanced Christianity. This is Christianity 101.
For another, if we truly know the love of Christ in our lives, it should naturally flow out from us.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (3:16)
So a sure mark of a Christian is the love they have for others.
John tells us,
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. (3:15)
How about you? Do you have the marks of a child of God?