What You Need to Know about Sin

1 John 3:4   |   Sunday, April 1, 2007   |   Code: 2007-04-01-PJ


 By Phil Johnson

      I've been listening lately to Way of the Master Radio. Some of you are familiar with that ministry. I can only get it through their podcast, but I download it every day, whether I get to listen or not, so I'm always several days behind listening.

     And one of the things I really like about that broadcast is that they feature evangelism. Practically every day they will have the microphone out on the street or in a shopping mall or college campus or public arena somewhere, and they do live evangelism.

     One of their goals is to counteract the easy-believism that is so popular today by teaching people how to use the law in a way that reveals sin for what it is.

     Last week I listened to a bunch of broadcasts they did in Florida during Spring break. They were in this setting overrun by college students who had traveled to Florida for with an evil agenda: the students were all there to spend the week getting drunk and partying. So here was Todd Friel and the Way of the Master crew in the middle of that mess witnessing to students, and what amazed me was how many of these licentious young people professed to know the Lord. Student after student, in the midst of a week-long campaign devoted to outright debauchery, kept claiming to be Christians despite the fact that they were deliberately pursuing a lifestyle of sin. They'd say, "Oh I know I'm going to heaven because I've accepted Jesus as my personal savior."

     And Todd Friel, who always asks the right question, kept asking them, "Savior from what? If Jesus is your Savior, what is he saving you from?"

     And student after student failed to give any cogent answer to that question. Not one person mentioned the issue of sin. And when the subject was suggested to them, they all blew it off, saying sin doesn't really matter.

     Incidentally, that's why it's important to make sure people understand the demands of God's law before you can really talk to them about the good news of the gospel. How can anyone understand what it means to have a Savior if he doesn't have any concept of how lost he is?

     So this morning I want to look at the issue of sin from 1 John 3:4. This passage is one of the shortest, clearest statements in the whole Bible about sin and what it is. 1 John 3:4:1 "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." The New American Standard version translates that verse this way: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."

     By the way, I prefer the New American Standard translation of this verse because it faithfully renders the verb tenses and helps make the meaning of the text more clear and obvious. John is speaking specifically about people who practice sin—people whose lives and personal characters are dominated by sin; people who live in unbroken sin with no righteous desires and no genuine obedience to Christ. He calls them "lawless"—anomia in the Greek. It describes those who are without law; hostile to the intent of the law; rebels; spiritual anarchists—lawless ones. The typical picture you might have in your mind of out-of-control students on spring break makes a pretty good symbol for what John is talking about in this verse.

     And he contrasts such people with true believers, whom he has just described in verse 3, those who hope for the appearing of Jesus Christ. "And," he says (v. 3), "every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."

     So this is the context: he is contrasting believers and unbelievers. And notice the stark contrast. True believers purify themselves (v. 3); while unbelievers live lawless lives (v. 4). Those who abide in Christ do not live a lifestyle dominated and characterized by the wanton pursuit of sin (v. 6); but those who don't abide in Him practice sin as a way of life (v. 6b). Verse 7: True believers reflect the righteousness of their Lord. Verse 8: those who practice sin are of the devil.

     And he is drawing this hard-line contrast between true believers and unbelievers. The main difference, he says, is something that is visible in a person's character and behavior. It's really very simple and straightforward: Unbelievers practice sin as a way of life; believers are purifying themselves, becoming more like Christ. Look at verse 2: "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 if that is your hope, you ought to be moving toward that goal of perfect Christlikeness even now. If you are not moving toward that goal, its because you are living a life of sin and lawlessness. There's no safe middle ground between the two.

     Now, there's a difficult tension that runs throughout this epistle of first John. He's emphasizing two different truths, and at times he almost seems to be contradicting himself. On the one hand, he says you cannot be a true Christian unless you come to grips with the fact of your sin. This is the whole point of chapter 1. Look at chapter 1, verse 8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." And verse 10 says, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." And John's whole point in that first chapter is to get us to come to grips with the reality of our own sin. Because (v. 9) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." And so he refutes anyone who would claim to be sinless in any sense, and in effect, he says there is no one who is sinless.

     But there's a whole other set of statements in this epistle that emphasize a completely different fact about the believer and his relationship to sin. Chapter 3, verse 6: "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." And throughout the epistle, John makes statements like that. "whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." Verse 8: "He that committeth sin is of the devil." Verse 9: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." And over and over again he makes these and similar comments that sound like he's teaching a kind of perfectionism. He is saying that sin is contrary to what the Christian should be, and therefore if you are a true Christian you should not have sin in your life.

     And this is admittedly confusing. Because on the one hand, he seems to be saying Christians should be perfect. But on the other hand, he says if we say we are perfect, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Both things cannot be true, right?

     And this underscores why we must interpret Scripture in context. When you get to 1 John 3:6 and read "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him"—you have to read that in light of what he has already said in 1 John 1:8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." So he cannot be teaching any kind of perfectionism here, because that would contradict the whole point of his first chapter.

     So we look for a clue to the meaning in the Greek verb tenses. And you have to understand that Greek verb tenses sometimes have more specific meanings than their English counterparts. In Greek, the present tense of a verb speaks of continuous action. Let me show you what I mean with our verse: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law . . . " In English that sounds like simple present tense: "Whoever commits a sin." That could speak of a single, one-time sin. But the Greek present tense verb actually signifies continuous action. So the true sense of it is this: "Whoever keeps on committing sin . . . " And the same thing is true of verse 6. If you're using the New King James Version, you'll see that verse 6 reads like this: "Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." But the sense of the Greek present-tense verb should be read more like this: "Whoever abides in Him does not keep on sinning. Whoever keeps sinning has neither seen Him nor known Him."

     See, he's talking about the pattern and direction of your life. And the Greek verb tense makes that clear. He's talking about people who keep sinning—who sin continuously, as a pattern. He's making a clear contrast between the true Christian, whose life is a progression in holiness, because we keep purifying ourselves as Christ is pure. And he is contrasting that with the direction of an unregenerate person, whose life and direction is characterized by an unbroken continuance in the practice of sin. That's why I like the NASB translation of this passage. It captures the essence of what the apostle John is saying: "the one who practices sin is of the devil" (v. 8).

     Now we'll come back to this point, but I wanted to set the context and up front make it clear to you that he is not saying Christians will never sin. He's talking about the direction of your life and the inclination of your character. And everyone fits in one or the other of those two categories: either you are purifying yourself and moving toward Christlikeness, or sin is the rule and the defining characteristic of your life.

     So if you want a barometer by which you can measure whether your faith in Christ is genuine faith or merely a pretense, you can tell instantly by asking which of the two categories you fall into.

     And the apostle John is in the midst of making this very point when he writes the words of our verse: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

     That is a profound statement—one of the most important statements about sin in all the Bible. And I want to look at it this morning in three points. First, we'll consider what it means with regard to the nature of sin; then we'll consider what it means with regard to the wickedness of sin; and finally, we'll return to the actual point the apostle John is making here, and consider what this verse means with regard to the significance of sin. And be forewarned: This is easy, elementary stuff from a biblical and theological point of view. But it is hard truth to hear and receive from a moral point of view.

     First, let's see what this verse has to say about—


The Nature of Sin

     This is in my opinion the best and most comprehensive definition of sin found anywhere in Scripture. There are other verses that describe the nature of sin for us. Romans 14:23, for example, says, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Sin is at its very heart faithlessness. If you doubt and do something, what you are doing is sin, because it is a faithless act. Paul says, "He that doubteth is damned if he eat."

     If you're not convinced you can do something to the glory of God, it is a sin to do that thing, because whatever isn't done in faith is sin. And all sin has this element of unbelief in it.

     There's another biblical definition of sin in James 4:17: "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Not only is everything we do in unbelief sinful, but so is everything we don't do when we know we should. This brings sins of omission into the biblical definition of sin. You cannot avoid sin by inactivity, because God lays certain duties on all of us, and shirking those duties is sinful. Whenever you know of something good to do, and you neglect to do that good, you have sinned. And if you read the context of James's statement, he is specifically talking about people who are procrastinating. They are planning to do good at some time in the future, but they are putting it of for the pursuit of a selfish agenda. James says even if you mean to do good, if you put it off instead, that is sin.

     Here's another definition of sin in 1 John 5:17: "All unrighteousness is sin." Anything that falls short of the perfect standard of divine righteousness—that's sin.

     How do we know the standard of divine righteousness? It is revealed to us in the commandments God has given us. Disobey the standard of righteousness revealed in the commandments, and you have sinned.

     Someone says, "Well, that sounds a bit legalistic!"

     If you think that's legalistic, look at the definition of sin in our verse again: "Sin is the transgression of the law."

     Have you ever thought about all that statement implies? It very clearly teaches that there is a legal standard God holds us to. Contrary to those who think all legal standards are abolished in the New Testament, the apostle John, who is writing this epistle near the end of the apostolic era, says there is a legal standard that is binding on you, and if you transgress that standard, it is sin.

     In fact, the truth of what he is saying may be captured even more powerfully in the way this verse is translated in the New American Standard Bible: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."

     You think you're not under any law because you are under grace? You think the moral commandments of God are abrogated for you because of the grace that you have received through the gospel? You think you can live your life without regard for the moral law of God? That is lawlessness, and that is exactly what John says is the very epitome of sin.

     Listen, when the apostle Paul said we are not under the law but under grace, he was by no means suggesting that we are free from the moral demands of God's law. In fact, he anticipated that very misunderstanding, and for that very reason, when he wrote in Romans 6:14 that we "are not under the law, but under grace" he immediately in verse 15 followed that statement up with a rhetorical question, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."

     What then? shall we live lawless lives because we are not under the law? God forbid. May it never, ever be. When Paul said we are not under the law, he did not mean we have no obligation to the moral demands of the law. He was teaching that we are not under the law for our justification. We do not have to try to earn saving merit by the works of the law—which would be impossible for us anyway, because the law condemns those who fail even in one point. So we're not under the law as a means of justification. As believers we are out from under the threat of eternal condemnation of the law. We are relieved of the law's ceremonial requirements—the dietary laws, the priestly and sacrificial system, and all the types and shadows that were built into the law of Moses.

     But we are not placed in a realm of moral lawlessness. The law's moral demands, because they reflect the very character of God, define the moral state of perfection we are progressing toward as we are being conformed to the image of Christ, and therefore we will never be free from the moral requirements of the law. As Paul says in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

     Modern evangelicalism has been crippled by the notion that the law of God is in no sense binding on the Christian. There's a name for that kind of theology. It's antinomianism. Multitudes of Christians today imagine that the moral content of the Old Testament law and the Ten Commandments are merely relics of an outmoded dis­pen­sa­tion, which can be safely ignored. That is the very kind of lawlessness the apostle John says characterizes the unredeemed person.

     True Christianity establishes the law—not as a means of justification, but as a rule of life and conduct, as an ethical code, as a set of guidelines that define what it means to be Christlike. The law is not irrelevant for the Christian. In fact, only the Christian can truly appreciate the law's true relevance.

     The law points us to Christ, right? Galatians 3:24: "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." Before we were in Christ, there was a kind of bondage and servitude in our relationship to the law. It was like a child-guardian. It condemned us, and held us captive, and held over our heads the threat of condemnation.

     "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Galatians 3:25). We're released from the bondage. We're free from the threats. But that doesn't mean the law is now irrelevant. We have a new, friendly relationship to the law. It's something we love. It's something we can rejoice in. It's something we can delight in. Because its moral content is in perfect harmony with the character of Christ. It defines the perfection we are striving toward. Moreover, if you are truly redeemed, it is written by God himself in your heart. Listen to Hebrews 10:15-17:

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

16  This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

17  And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

So are we under the law or not? We are not under the law's threats of judgment; and we are not beholden to a list of legal works we need to perform for ourselves as a means of gaining our personal justification before God; but we are under the law's moral principles as a rule of life and behavior.

     Let me show you very clearly what Paul meant when he said we are not under the law. You can see it by comparing two parallel verses in Galatians. Remember that Paul wrote the book of Galatians to answer the error of the Judaizers who were teaching that obedience to the law is a prerequisite for justification. And in Galatians 4:21, He addresses the people who had fallen for that error, and he says, "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" And he goes on to point out that the law is full of condemnation for people who sin. In other words, if you heard what the law really says, you would know that you can never be justified by obeying it. It can offer a sinner nothing but condemnation.

     Then in Galatians 5:4, he addresses those same people again. Ad he writes, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Now, notice the parallelism in those two verses. In Galatians 4:21, he addresses these people as "you who desire to be under the law." A chapter later, he addresses the same people as "You who are seeking to be justified by the law."

     So it's a simple principle, really: To be "under the law" in the wrong sense is to seek your justification by the law. But to seek to obey the law's moral demands in the course of your sanctification is to be under the law in the right sense. And Paul himself says so in Galatians 5. He lists the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19):

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:

—and what are those? They are all violations of the moral demands of the law. "Sin is the transgression of the law."

     I like the definition of sin in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It sort of gathers up all the biblical statements about sin and incorporates them in one succinct statement: "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." That covers sins of omission and sins of commission. And it says exactly the same thing as our verse. "Sin is the transgression of the law."

     This is a good reminder. Although we are not under the law as a means of justification, we cannot avoid sin or progress toward ultimate Christlikeness unless we obey the moral precepts of the law. Antinomianism is not true Christianity. Lawlessness is sin.

     There's a second important principle implied in our verse this morning. It is—


The Wickedness of Sin

     Some of you might think this is a rather obvious point: sin is wicked. It is an affront to the holy standards of a righteous God, and therein lies its extreme wickedness.

     But that is not necessarily an obvious truth these days. Modern discussions about sin seem to focus mostly on the detrimental effects sin has on the sinner. We tend to think sin is evil because its consequences are hurtful to us. As if the evil in sin consisted in the harm it does to me.

     In other words, to borrow something Spurgeon once said, we tend to think of sin as if it were the same thing as crime—an offense against the good of society or the welfare of our fellow-man. We think something is bad only because it is bad for us. We have redefined the concept of sin in a very self-centered way. We tend to think of it mostly in terms of how it affects us. As if the evil of sin consisted in the pain it causes us, or the earthly harm that it does. We easily recognize sin in others when its effects are personally hurtful to us, or when its consequences are measurable in terms of human pain—especially when we are the victims of that pain.

     But those are all side effects of sin. Those are the consequences of sin. That is not where the extreme wickedness of sin lies. That is not what makes sin so exceedingly wicked. Sin is wicked because it is rebellion against the righteous standards of a holy God. And the affront to God is where the extreme wickedness of sin lies.

     People often try to justify their sin by saying things like, "Well, it doesn't really hurt anyone." "It's not like there's a victim of my misdeed." "So what if I my private thoughts are filled with lust and greed and lasciviousness? Who is going to be hurt by it?" Or we imagine that a sin is excusable if there's some apparent benefit to it. "The end justifies the means." "All's well that ends well." "Hey, after all, something good came out of it." As if we could measure the wickedness of a deed by its practical effects.

     Listen, those are all different ways of saying, "Let us do evil, that good may come." And in Romans 3:8, the apostle Paul says of those who advocate such a philosophy, "[Their] damnation is just." As Spurgeon said, "If you are doing wrong, even though you should feed a nation by your wrongdoing, I say that you would still be committing sin. If you get rich by an unholy trick, it is none the less trickery and deception, and there is a curse upon your wealth."

     The real wickedness of sin consists in the fact that it is an offense against a sovereign God. There is really no such thing as a petty sin. It's true that Scripture teaches some sins are worse than others. But there is enough wickedness in the smallest sin to fuel the flames of hell for eternity.

     In fact, consider the nature of the original sin. By most standards, Adam's sin would be considered a petty sin. He ate a piece of fruit God had told him not to eat. Who was hurt by that? By modern standards it would be deemed a victimless crime, worthy of a slap on the wrist. And yet that one little breach of God's law was enough to plunge the entire human race into a state of hopeless fallenness. It alienated all of humanity from God. It so offended the righteousness of God that He expelled Adam from the garden, cursed the earth, and required the death of His own Son as an atonement.

     Why was that such a great wrong? Because it represented rebellion against the sovereign ruler of the universe. It made Adam a traitor to His own maker. It impugned God's right to reign. In effect, a puny creature spat on the throne of God, challenged His right to rule, and attempted to set himself up as sovereign instead. Is that, in your mind, a small infraction?

     Every sin has the same spirit of rebellion and defiance at its heart. To sin is to pretend that we know better than God what we ought to do. Sin is a rebellion against the right of God to govern His own creatures. In fact, this is precisely the point of our verse: Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness says, "I reject God's right to command me. I don't want what God has promised me. I do not recognize His authority as my God. I want to be God in His place." "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13-14). Lawlessness replaces God's law with my own self-will. I become a law to myself. In that sense, there is no such thing as a petty sin.

     Jeremiah Burroughs, the puritan writer, wrote a book on the sinfulness of sin, titled The Evil of Evils. And he said there is more evil in the tiniest sin than there is in all the suffering and affliction the world has ever known. The things we normally think of in connection with evil—suffering, and sickness, and calamity—are not inherently evil. They are consequences of evil, but they are not evil in and of themselves.

     And here's the proof. Christ suffered. He bore pain, and sorrow, and affliction so grievous that he nearly died from sheer anguish of heart. Remember in the garden, the night before He was crucified, when His sweat was like great drops of blood? Yet in all that anguish and affliction, there was no evil. He suffered it all without compromising His perfect sinlessness in any degree.

     And the next day, as He hung on the cross, He bore an enormous reproach. He suffered mocking, and cruel, indescribable torments, and pains unimaginable to us. And although those who heaped such disgrace on His sinless head committed an unspeakable evil, He himself bore all that agony without being tainted by any evil.

     On top of all that, He bore an infinite measure of the righteous wrath of God, as the punishment for our sins was laid on Him. And there was no evil in that, either. In fact, the fruit of it for us was an infinite good.

     And here's the point: There is more evil in the most petty, insignificant sin than there is in all the affliction the world has ever known. Therefore, Jeremiah Burroughs wrote, it is better to choose affliction than sin. When you are faced with a choice between sinning and suffering—even if you could escape your affliction by committing a petty sin, telling a white lie, or compromising some principle of righteousness—don't do it. Remember the lesson of Moses, who chose "to suffer affliction with the people of God, [rather] than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" because "the reproach of Christ [is far] greater riches than [all] the treasures in Egypt" (Hebrews 11:25-26).

     If we really understood the extreme wickedness of sin, I am convinced it would change the way we live.

     Look at this definition of sin again: "Sin is the transgression of the law." Think about what is involved in that. Remember the definition I quoted from the Shorter Catechism: "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God."

     What is the first principle of the Law of God? What did Jesus say is the First and Great Commandment? (Matthew 22:37) "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Every sin begins at that point. It is a failure to love God the way we ought to love Him. And that is why sin is so extremely wicked. It an insult to the honor of God, but more than that, it shows contempt for the One who is most worthy of our love. Sin is an expression of hatred toward God. That's why Scripture says "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7).

     To indulge in sin is to refuse God the love He deserves. It is the same as deliberately treating Him with contempt. That's why every sin is full of extreme wickedness.

     To minimize sin, or to treat it as a petty or trifling thing, is to ignore the extreme wickedness of hating God instead of loving Him. To think of any sin as petty is to imagine that it is an insignificant thing whether we love God or hate Him. If we really understood the extreme wickedness of even the smallest sin, we would realize that there is nothing more wicked under the sun.

     Let's move on to our final point. I want you to see what this verse has to say about—


The Significance of Sin

     This brings us full circle to where we began. Remember that the apostle John's purpose in writing this passage is to make a clear distinction between believers and unbelievers. True believers purify themselves; unbelievers live lawless lives. It is as simple as that.

     Indulging in sin deliberately and as a pattern of life is a sign of unbelief. Look at the opening phrase of our verse. This time I'll read from the New American Standard Bible: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness." Now just to make clear what the implications of that are, John uses a parallel expression in verse 8: "the one who practices sin is of the devil."

     He is saying, as clearly as he can possibly say it, that if sin characterizes your life—if you practice an unbroken pattern of sin and lawlessness—you are not a true Christian. You are "of the devil."

     Look at verse 9: "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." Now, again, that is talking about the practice of sin—sin as a lifestyle. He is describing someone who sins and doesn't repent, someone who is totally abandoned to sin, someone whose life is totally devoid of any righteousness. Such a person is not a Christian, no matter what kind of profession he has made, no matter what kind of prayer he might have recited.

     And John says so explicitly in verse 10: "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God."

     He says the same thing in verses 6-7: "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."

     And again, he is talking about the practice of sin, sinning as a lifestyle. And he draws this very clear dichotomy and says no true Christian can practice lifestyle sinning.

     Now this is exactly contrary to the spirit of the current post-modern evangelical community. Most people think all that really matters is that you have made a profession of faith, or that you have been baptized, or that you attend church regularly, or that you have an interest in theology or Scripture.

     I have in my library a book that deals with the subject of Christians and sin. And I have to say it is one of the worst treatments of the subject I have ever read. It opens with a true story about a man who was an evangelical pastor by day and a bank-robber by night. And this guy, who by most appearances was a typical, mild-mannered Bible teacher, would occasionally don a ski mask and rob banks. And he did it to get cash to finance a sinful habit. It turns out he had a habit of visiting expensive prostitutes, and he couldn't fund it on a pastor's salary, so he turned to armed robbery.

     And the fellow who wrote the book said he knew this guy in Bible college, and he had heard his testimony, and he had heard what a good Bible teacher the fellow was, and he knew the guy had asked Jesus into his heart. So, he concluded, this man must be a true Christian despite his lifestyle.

     But that is the exact opposite of what John says here, isn't it? John says if he practices lawlessness as a lifestyle, he is of the devil. He is not a true believer.

     Now, I need to be clear: Does this mean that no Christian can fall into gross sins or even prolonged sins? No, it doesn't. David sinned with Bath-sheba, and righteous people have often fallen into serious sins. Christians do fall into grievous sins and may even continue sinning for a time. And when they do that, they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit and forfeit the assurance of their salvation.

     So that if you are living a pattern of sin, you frankly cannot know for certain whether you really have a saving interest in Christ. But Scripture says such a lifestyle is characteristic of unbelievers, not believers. And so the only way you can regain your assurance is to repent and forsake the sin, and begin to purify yourself, even as He is pure.

     The practice of sin is lawlessness. It is a devilish life, devoid of assurance or hope. It is not the kind of life that characterizes a true believer. And if you examine your life and see such a pattern, I pray that the spirit of God will prompt you to deal with it immediately. There is nothing more deadly than the delusion that you are safe, while you are practicing a life of wickedness. May God deliver us from that and fix our hopes on the coming of Christ, because (v. 3), "Every [person] that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."