A Child of God Lives a Transformed Life – 1 John 3:1-12

A Child of God Lives a Transformed Life

Intro: What is the most important question you will ever ask in your life? I think it is three simple words, “Am I saved?” The answer to this question will define where you spend eternity.

In our passage in 1 John, we will look at this question. “Am I saved?” Another way to put it, “How can you know if you are really a child of God?” And as we will see, the answer is that a “child of God lives a transformed life.”


I. Believers are made children of God. (1-3)

A. God showed His love to us by adopting us as His children.

John focuses a lot on our relationship to God in this chapter. And he describes this relationship as a child/father relationship. This relationship was not our birthright. We were not born as His children. We are His children because He loved us. John says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us.” He loved us so much that He made us His children. The love of parents for children is probably the most permanent and most self-sacrificing love there is in this world. It shows God’s protective care for us. It also shows His willingness to love us no matter what we do. A parent does not stop loving his child when the child sins or disobeys and neither does God stop loving us when we make mistakes.

It is interesting to note that in other Scriptures Jesus calls us friends. And Jesus’ love for the church is also described as a marriage, a love of husband to wife. Take all of the different aspects of the closest and most personal relationships in this world and that is how God loves us.

John says “that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” In other words, God starts calling us His children. At one point we were not His children, but after calling us His children, He makes it so. Our relationship with God is not “like” a Father and child. We are His children. He gives us all the rights, position, love, and care parents give their children.

About seventeen years ago, my parents decided to adopt a child from China. I had seven brothers and sisters counting myself. But I feel the same way toward her as I feel to all my siblings. She is a full-fledged Dexter with all the rights and all the love that comes with that.

Ephesians 1:5 – He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

If you are a believer, then that means God planned to adopt you into His family from before the world began. He always wanted you as part of His family. And He decided to come get you.

Application: Some people struggle with self-esteem. They think they don’t have any value. We see in this passage that God values us. Our sense of value comes from Him, not from ourselves.

B. One day the child will be like the Father.

When we become children of God, our lives our transformed. We start to become like our Father. Like father, like son. Think of your own parents for a moment. You are probably like them in many ways. Speech patterns, hobbies, or character may be be similar.

In verse one it says that the world does not know us because it doesn’t know Him. The world does not understand God. They do not have the same values that He does. Therefore they don’t understand us either. People around you may think that you are weird.

Recently I was playing basketball, and someone asked me how much money I make and then he told me about this other foreign friend that makes such and such amount. I told him I could make more money, but don’t fill my schedule with classes because I want to spend more time with family or doing other things. He thought that was weird. His philosophy is, “if you can make more money, then you should make more money.”

You become like your Father and less like the world.

In verse 2 we learn that we are God’s children. While we resemble Him in some ways, we are not as much like Him as we will be one day. John says, “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall him as he is.”

We often pray “Help us to be more like Jesus.” “Shape us into your image.” This is happening already, but… not its not finished yet. We already are His children. We are already like Him in some ways. But its still not complete. We know we should be holy. We know we should not give in to temptation. We know that we should glorify God above everything else. But we don’t always do it. One day we will.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 – When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

One day we will see God face to face. We will finally see our Father. Then all of the things we know to be true will be tangible reality. All the distractions will be taken away. We don’t know exactly what we will be, but we do know we will be different and better!

Application: Do you look forward to that day? Will you be like a child running into the arms of the father out of excitement for seeing Him? Or will you be like the guilty child hiding in shame?

Let us wait expectantly and become more like Him everyday.

C. Children fix their hope on the Father.

What are you hoping for? People hope for a lot of things. A promotion. A marriage. A house. A fat bank account. Early retirement. If you hope in things in this world there are two possible results.

#1 – You never get it. You don’t receive the promotion. You can’t retire early. And because you set your hope on it and didn’t get it, you are disappointed and unhappy.

#2 You get it. You get what you hope for. But you find that this too cannot satisfy. Your marriage is not as perfect as you hoped. Early retirement leaves you with altogether too much free time. Your house isn’t big enough. So you are disappointed and empty.

From verse 3 we learn that we must fix our hope on God. He alone can fulfill us. He alone can give us the joy we long for. Like an adopted child waiting for her father to take her home, we wait for our Father. We know that one day we will see Him face to face. We know that one day we will be given a new body and made perfect like Him.

But we see in this verse that this hope does not only effect our future, it effects our now. This hope acts as a purifying force on our lives. This hope helps us to “set our mind on things above and not on things on the earth.” As we do that, temptations in this world lose their power. Our love for the world fades as our hope in God increases. The lure of earthly riches will start to lose its luster. You will find yourself less interested in empty, worldly pursuits.

A child who knows his parent will soon be returning will be more likely to obey his parents’ instructions. Since we know we will face God, it effects our lives today. We want to be ready.

Application: So how can you increase your hope in the Father? Let’s imagine for a moment a parent promises his child they will go to Disney. The child is excited. So he reads Disney books, watches Disney moves, listens to Disney music, looks over Disney maps, and talks to his friends about Disney. The more he reads about, thinks about, and talks about Disney the more excited he becomes. The more hopeful he is.

If you want to increase your hope in the Father, it is fairly simple. Spend more time reading about Him. Spend more time meditating on Him. Spend more time talking about Him. As you do this your hope will grow. And this in turn will push you back into the Word and prayer as the place where you can get close to Him now.

II. Children of God do not practice sin. (4-9)

A. Jesus died to take away our sin.

In verse 5 John says, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” Brothers and sisters, Jesus died to take away your sins. He gave His life so that you wouldn’t be controlled by the power of sin anymore.

In this verse we see two things:

#1 – Knowing what Jesus did to set us free from sin is a strong MOTIVATOR for us to not sin anymore. Before you sin, remind yourself that Jesus sacrificed Himself for that sin. Not so that we could do it over and over and then look up and say “sorry” and receive forgiveness. But so that we could be cleansed. So that its power would not hold us. We should not take His sacrifice for granted. It should motivate us to live our lives in a worthy manner.

#2 – In Him there is no sin. He not only motivates us, but He strengthens us to say “no” to sin. If we rely on our own strength, we will fall. But when we abide in Him, when we decrease and He increases, when His Spirit fills us we can say “no” and we will say “no” to sin.

Jesus is like a magnet that repels sin. The closer you get to Him the stronger that repelling force will act in your favor and push sin away from you. When we do sin, it is not because He failed or His strength was not enough. It is because we were not abiding in Him.

B. When you abide in Christ, you will not practice sin.

Read verse 6: No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

On the surface, when you read this verse it could appear that John is saying, “If you are a believer, then you will not sin.” And in verse 9 John says, “he cannot sin.”

What does this mean? A believer won’t ever sin?

It can be a bit confusing. Two important rules of Bible interpretation can help when we get confused. One is to “look at context.” And the second is, “interpret Scripture in the light of the whole Bible.”

1 John 1:9-10- If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Here it is clear that everyone sins sometimes.

In the Bible when a person is called a “sinner” it often denotes their lifestyle, not the fact that they only sin. When a person is called “righteous” it means he is a good man, devoted to God, godly in character. It does not denote perfection. One can be called a saint who does not have a lifestyle of habitual sin and one could be called a sinner who loves, enjoys, and pursues sin. A sinner can do good things sometimes. And a righteous person may sin sometimes.

The first part of verse 9 gives us more context. In ESV it says: “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning.” And in NASB it says, “No one who is born of God practices sin.”

So when John says “no one who sins has seen him or known him,” it seems that he is saying that a child of God does not practice sin. It is not his lifestyle anymore.

In verse 9 the tense of “he cannot sin” is important. In Greek the present tense denotes more of a continuous action than it does in English, which fits with the first part of the verse that a believer does not practice sin.

I will note that there is another view of this verse and that is that a believer’s new nature never commits sin. When a child of God embraces his new nature and abides with Christ he will never sin. Only when he stumbles and allows his old nature to win, does he sin.

In either view, Biblical scholars agree on the point that a child of God does not live a lifestyle of habitual and unrepentant sin.

“He who is born again does not sin habitually, or is not habitually a sinner.” – Barnes

A child of God has been born again. He has been renewed. His mind, his heart, his soul, his thoughts, his desires, have been transformed. It does not mean instant perfection. But it does mean that a child of God does not delight in sin, and does not set his heart on it. When it entangles him, he will have a genuinely repentant attitude.

Quote from Ryle – “A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates.”

John is telling us, there is no excuse for sin. We should have no tolerance for sin in our lives. We cannot and must not live the same way as we did before. We are a new creation. He has poured His grace on us. This grace is not a license to sin. It motivates us to get rid of the old nature and completely conquer sin.

C. You are what you do (actions speak louder than words).

John’s point is clear. I think it could be summed up “Beware of self-deceit.”

William Henry says, “It is the hope of hypocrites, not the sons of God, to make allowance for [sin].”

A real believer does not say, “Jesus died for me, so I can sin as I like and He will forgive me.” You are what you do. A good tree bears good fruit. A bad tree bears bad fruit. Another way to put this is actions speak louder than words.

It is easy to say “I am a Christian.” It is easy to raise your hand when a preacher asks who wants to believer or walk the aisle at an alter call. But there are tens of millions of people around the world who think that they are Christians and they are not. Maybe they go to church. Maybe they pray. Maybe they talk like a Christian. Maybe they say, “I love God” or “Praise the Lord.” But John is telling us that not everyone who talks like a Christian is a Christian.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” And verse 23, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Those who practice lawlessness.

These words are remarkably similar to John’s. In 1 John 3:4 he said “Sin is lawlessness” and in verse 9 he says, “no one who is born of God practices sin.” John is repeating Jesus’ stark warning. A believer does not practice sin.

There are millions of people in the world who profess to be Christians but are self-deceived. They talk like a Christian and perhaps act like a Christian on Sunday, but their lifestyle is not transformed. A person living in unrepentant and willful sin over a period of time cannot have assurance of salvation because he is probably not saved!

Why does John say this? Ask your neighbor, “Is John trying to make us doubt our salvation?” Now answer “it depends.”

John has a two-fold goal.

Firstly, if you are not saved, he wants you to know this so that you will repent and be saved!

He does not want any of us to be self-deceived. He doesn’t want a person who is not saved to think they are. That is the worst possible mistake a person can make. On the day of judgment many church goers will be surprised. They will be shocked and horrified when Jesus says, “depart from me,” and then they are cast into hell. John is warning us NOW so that this does not happen THEN.

Brothers and sisters, the most important application for us from this passage is that we need to examine ourselves.

For my work every year I have to have a physical exam. A lot of people think it is not necessary. “I am healthy,” they say. But some people are sick and they don’t know it. If they don’t have a physical exam, it will not caught early. By the time it is caught, it is too late. We need to perform regular spiritual checkups on ourselves. Turn to your neighbor and ask, “Am I healthy?” Now answer, “I don’t know.” Other people cannot do this checkup for you. You have to examine yourself before the Lord. It may be the most important exam you ever take in this world.

Ask yourself, “Am I really saved? Am I practicing sin? Am I living a transformed life? Am I evidencing fruit?” If the answer is “no” then come before the Lord and confess. His grace is mighty to save.

Now remember I said John had a two-fold goal. The first part is that he doesn’t want a person who is not saved to think they are. The second part is he doesn’t want a person who is saved to think they aren’t. He wants us to know and see the truth about ourselves because the truth will set you free.

In 1 John 5:13 he tells us this is a key reason why he writes this book, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Throughout the book, John gives several ways we can have assurance of salvation. The one he gives in this passage is simple. The one who practices righteousness is righteous. He is a child of God and born again. If your life has been transformed, if your lifestyle and habits have changed, then this is evidence that you are saved.

III. Children of God love each other (10b-12).

Remember that a major reason John writes this letter is so that believers can have assurance of salvation. Throughout the book he gives several evidences of salvation. In this passage we have seen that practicing righteousness is an evidence of salvation. And here in verses 10-12 we also see that loving one another is another evidence of salvation.

John states this very strongly, in essence saying, “if you do not love your brother, you are not a child of God!” He remembers well what Jesus told His disciples, “by this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We love each other because God has commanded us to and as His children we obey Him. But it is also more than that. He has given us a new heart. He has transformed our minds and hearts.

Brothers and sisters, are you like Cain? Do you feel jealous of other believers’ success? Do you have a grudge or a bitterness you are holding against your brother or sister? This is not what children of God do. We are not rivals.

Do you keep track of the wrongs others have committed against you? 1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not take into account a wrong suffered.

If you are a believer, you are a child of God. That means you are in His family. I have four children and grew up with 7 siblings. There will be conflicts. When you put many sinful people together in one house, arguments break out. Look around you. Give each other a smile! Do you see the smiling sinners? We are surrounded by imperfect people in the church. How do we deal with these differences? How do we respond to conflicts? The answer is love.

1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Children of God love each other. Do you?


Have you had a medical checkup in the past year? How about in the past five years? Good. How many of you have had a spiritual checkup this year? You don’t have to raise your hand.

Today I want you to do a self-check on your spiritual condition. The below list is from John MacArthur:

7 Conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith:

Visible morality
Intellectual knowledge
Religious involvement
Active ministry
Conviction of sin
The feeling of assurance
A time of decision

9 conditions that prove genuine saving faith:

Love for God
Repentance from sin
Genuine humility
Devotion to God’s glory
Continual prayer
Selfless love
Separation from the world
Spiritual growth

The first and most important application from our passage today is to ask yourself “am I saved.” Evaluate your life. A child of God lives a transformed life. Is your life transformed?

The second application is to hate sin. If we identify as followers of Christ, then we must not practice sin. There is no sin in Him. When you are tempted, pray to Him for help, and He will help you. Let’s close in prayer now.

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