“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; and the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (I Jn 2:23). If you have embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, God is now your father. And if God is your father, you share a family resemblance with Him. This is not a physical similarity, but a resemblance of character. You have a moral resemblance to the Father and the Son.
The apostle John spells this out in his first letter found near the end of the New Testament. Let’s review the highlights of this key passage from I John 2:29 to 3:9. “Since you know that He [God] is righteous, you know that every one also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (I Jn 2:29). This “since…then” sounds a little backward to our English grammar. What the apostle is saying is that because God is righteous, it is natural for His children, those “born of Him”, to also practice righteousness. When we do this, we are showing our family resemblance to God.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God…and every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn 3:2-3). Because we are children of God, we are to emulate our Father by purifying ourselves; by living out the new life He has given us. Just as God is pure in His moral character, we should practice purity in our moral character.
“And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He [God] is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in Him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I Jn 3:5-9).
When “Jesus appeared in order to take away sins”, He not only took away the penalty of our sin, but defeated the power of sin in our lives as well. One of the “works of the devil” that Christ destroyed was the power of sin. And the New Testament makes clear, over and over, that the way God accomplished this was to nail our sin nature to the cross with Christ and to raise us with Christ to live a resurrected life; to live into a new nature, Christ’s nature, a divine nature infused with the righteousness of God.
The key word in this passage is practice. The believer, because of his new identity as God’s child, does not practice sin on a regular basis. Sin is not our regular habit. Do Christians commit sins? Yes, and when we do, we have an advocate in Jesus who forgives our sins. What these verses emphasize is that sin is not our natural course as a child of God.
So yes, you do have a moral resemblance to God by virtue of your new identity in Christ. But what about the times we fail? What about when sin does seem to be our practice? What about when, quite frankly, we see no family resemblance? We will answer these questions next time.