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If sinlessness is a hallmark of assurance of salvation, then it is self-evident we fail the test.

“Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:10, NKJV). 

How would you like it if your thoughts and deeds of the last 24 hours were projected as a slide show at a church gathering? We cringe at the notion because we know full well the pervasiveness and perverseness of our sin. The thoughts we entertain. The way we waste the time of which we are stewards. The tepidness of our love for God and neighbor. Our opinion and criticism of others. We can scarcely find any moment that we would be comfortable exhibiting in detail. 

That’s why we can break out in a cold sweat when we hear this pronouncement: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Not only can we sin, we do sin. We sin in thought, word, and deed; sins of omission, sins of commission; at times intentional, willful, defiant sins. 

If sinlessness is a hallmark of assurance of salvation, then it is self-evident we fail the test. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that by God’s grace, we have been born again into the family of God. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He is our atonement, our righteousness, our sanctification, our glorification. Christ did pass the test of God’s holy scrutiny and in Him we pass that test as well. 

That handiwork of God’s grace shows up in our lives and distinguishes us as children of God. John highlights the family characteristics of those born from above and those still dead in sin. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). 

What prompts us to be practitioners of righteousness? What spurs us on to love others? It is the Spirit who indwells us. He has written the law of God on our hearts so that it is no longer a burden to us but a blessing, as described by the psalmist in Psalm 1. As ones loved by God, we are enabled and stimulated to love others. 

If we are heartless toward others and thoughtless in regard to the presence of God in our lives, that likely speaks to lack of regeneration. But manifesting these evidences of grace and experiencing the work of the Spirit to bring us back in our wandering testifies that indeed we are alive to God. 

John emphasizes for us family resemblance as an indicator of grace now and glory to come. Those traits do not materialize by our efforts alone but by the workmanship of God to form Christ in us. 

What do you see in yourself that suggests you are alive to God in Christ?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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