“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.“ 1 John 5.18-21
Happy Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a time of repentance, when we look at our mortality, and the life we have with Christ. It begins the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.
Our final entry on this Holy Ash Wednesday from 1 John is a solemn one. It is not a joyful exhortation for believers to press on or stay faithful. It’s rather a dire warning not to sin, that the whole world is controlled by the devil, and to stay away from idols. Thanks John for the encouragement!
But there is of course truth and good news in this message. The hope is this — “anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” How fantastic is this! It’s a promise, not just a dream, but a reality. Those who believe in Jesus, who are born again, do not have to keep on sinning. Why? Because “the One who was born of God keeps them (us) safe.” Jesus helps his followers and “the evil one cannot harm them” (us).
In addition, we are children of God. Even though “the whole world is under control of the evil one” we don’t have to be. We can repent and believe the Gospel. And this is the Gospel — we are overcomers through Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin, Paul writes, but to righteousness. The “Son of God has come” and what has he done? He has “given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.” We now know the Truth and have the ability to resist the devil and to stand firm. Lastly, John tells us that Jesus Christ is the “true God and eternal life.” And, by the way church “keep yourselves from idols.” Adios!
It’s rather funny how John ends this letter. Maybe there was more intended or the original ending was lost, or, that God wanted this final thought to be in our minds — turn to Jesus, turn away from false gods.
Yet for us who are battling evil, we have the victory through Jesus. We have the one who is born of God, who overcame the cross, who defeated death and now reigns with God on high. And what he did is available for us. As we face our own humanity we are reminded that we are his children. Just as I treat my children with grace, gifts and love, so our Heavenly Father does the same.
My take on John’s final words is to stay faithful, remain grounded in Jesus, cling to him, repent from your sins. The battle is real but so is the victory we have through the Son of God through the victorious Cross of Easter.
“Come Lord Jesus, I praise your name. We have an epidemic of sin that is rampant. But you, Jesus, have overcome sin and shame. You, Lord, have won the victory. Help us know the power of your love and the grace of your truth. Help us stay faithful in a world that is spiraling out of control and in the hands of the evil one. You are the overcomer, Lord Jesus. Your Spirit reigns within your people. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen