1 John 3:6, 9-10 – No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. . . . No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
It is very wise for those of us who claim to know Christ to make occasional self-examinations to see if we truly find ourselves in the faith. This is not to say that we ought to look for opportunities to doubt our salvation or the completeness of the grace of God. However, it is possible, and seems likely in many churches, that those who claim Christianity may actually have no genuine saving faith. Many people rely on their memory of an emotional experience as the bedrock of their assurance of salvation. But if we look to the scriptures, we will see a very different test.
John writes for us in 1 John 3 a very simple way to check ourselves, to examine ourselves, to see if we are in the faith. John asks if our lives have been changed from those which practice sin to those which practice righteousness. In 1 John 3:6, John writes for us an incredibly simple statement that many Christians do not want to hear. No person who continues in or practices sin is a believer. In verse 9, he expands the discussion to explain that, because all believers have been converted and have the abiding Spirit of God within them, it is impossible for genuine believers to keep on practicing sin. And John takes this point farther in verse 10, where he makes it plain that he is giving us criteria whereby we may test ourselves. Failing to practice righteousness and to love fellow Christians are also marks of a lack of salvation.
Notice two things here. First, see that John only gives for us in this section negative tests. Just because a person does good deeds does not make them a believer. Too many people in this world believe that their good behaviors are what will get them into heaven. They feel that their goodness will make God be kind to them and let them into his heaven when they die. Such a view is not that revealed to us by God in the scriptures. No person will ever be made right with God by doing good deeds (Romans 3:20). The only way to be made right with God and forgiven of your sins is to come to Jesus and receive salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Second, Notice that God shows us that behavior is a fair indicator of a lack of salvation. If your life is marked by continual practices of sin, you have cause to question your salvation. If your life is not marked by righteousness, you have reason to be concerned. If you do not have in yourself a love for the church of God—the people of God with all their flaws and good points—, you need to really check your soul to see if it truly has been changed. It is impossible to have Christ and to not be changed. Once you have salvation, one way that your life will give evidence of salvation is that you will no longer continually practice sin. You will be changed because you are saved, but you can never be saved because you change.
Whether you are a brand new believer or someone who has walked long in the faith, you would be wise to ask if you have truly changed. Has your life become different in a significant way since you met Christ? Is your life marked by righteousness and love for God and his people, or is it marked by continuing practices of sin? Of course, all of us will struggle against sin until the day we die or Christ returns. John even points to this issue throughout chapters 1 and 2. But, our lives must not be marked by continual practices of the same sin. To continue in sin with no hint of repentance is a sign that you are not truly a believer. So, ask yourself if your life is marked by a fight against sin—a fight that includes victory. Or, is your life marked by an intentional practice of sinful behavior. The former is the life of a believer. The latter is the life of a lost person, regardless of how emotional an experience you recall.
Dear Lord, I pray that you will help me to look into my own life and see the true evidence of the state of my soul. I recognize that none who are changed by you will continue in sinful practices. I certainly do not want to be continuing in sinful practices. I long to please you. I want to do your will. I pray that you will challenge me in my spirit to please you in all that I do. I also pray for anyone who reads this, that they would have open spiritual eyes to see what you have truly done or not done in their hearts. Let us all examine ourselves to see if we are truly your children.