One of the big problems in the Christian life is the presence of sin in believers. When we think about the great change that occurs at conversion it is important that we judge it from biblical statements and not merely on a personal assessment of how we feel about our sins. Judging it according to the latter does cause problems because we can be selective about sin, sensitive to some sins and scared of what sin can do in us.
With regard to being selective about sin, it is a fact that we are liable to excuse or tolerate some sins. Those type of sins may belong to our character traits and we may be inclined not to regard them as sinful. But sin does affect our character traits. Also there may be sins connected to our interests and we may imagine that such sins do not affect us, yet they do. So I may tolerate sins that you may not because I have convinced myself that they are harmless. But there are no harmless sins.
The issue of being sensitive concerning sin is connected to the light we now have on ourselves. Before we were converted, we were totally depraved. That does not mean we were as sinful as we could be. Instead it means that sin had affected every part of our human nature – our minds, our affections and our actions. After conversion, it still does. No Christian has an area of life in which sin is not found. Even their holy actions are contaminated by their sin. The one big difference, in this regard, is that they now see sin differently than from how they regarded it before they were converted. The healthy Christian is appalled by the sight of sin and can imagine that his current sinfulness is a lot worse than what it was before he became a believer. This is because he sees sin with new light.
One of the devil’s tactics in such circumstances is to use them to frighten believers into inactivity regarding their spiritual walk. He may suggest to them that since they are such great sinners God will be highly offended with them and not forgive them. Or he may suggest that such sins will make them useless in his service. Instead of talking to God about their sins they talk to themselves and that is never a wise path. If we probe our sins it is inevitable that we shall see more details. It is fair to conclude that the difference between the conviction of sin that the Spirit causes and the conviction of sin from other sources is that the Spirit always points us to the blood of Christ as the ongoing means of cleansing.
John here in this verse reminds his readers about certain truths about sin that we should remember when we sin. He mentions three details. First, we should remember the reality of regeneration – we have been born of God. Second, we should remember the activity of Jesus, referred to here in a rather cryptic way as ‘he who was born of God’. Third, we should remember the limitations of the devil in regard to God’s people – the devil does not touch them – which is very different from the grip that he has on the world; in the next verse John reminds his readers that the unconverted are all under the control of the evil one.
So what we have here is a reminder that in order to have a successful Christian life we must know what our doctrines are. We might assume that God will keep us despite our ignorance. This might be the case when we are first converted, but discipleship requires that we know what we believe. None of the three doctrines that John mentions here is difficult to understand. We will think about them in coming readings.