Christ Came to Destroy the Works of the Devil
Topic: Advent Season Passage: 1 John 3:4–3:9
Christ came in all the humility and weakness of a baby, but he did not come on a child's mission. John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the Devil”. His birth in Bethlehem was an invasion into the Devil’s territory to liberate us from our bondage to his works and influence over us. And it’s personal; he came to free you from the devil!
He came as our Savior, but he saves us by destroying something. He came into the world to destroy the works of the Devil.
We all are probably for the Devil and his works being destroyed! But just what are the devil's works? Vs 7 says the work of the Devil is sinning, “The Devil has been sinning from the beginning”. The Devil has damaged us in many ways, but primarily he wreaks havoc and sorrow in our lives through sin, through pulling us into various kinds of disobedience to God.
The very first time we see the Devil in human history is in the garden of Eden. He seduced Eve and through her, Adam, into eating the fruit from the tree, about which God said, “Do not eat from this one tree”. He INCITED them to sin. Sin began as the work of the Devil and according to John, all sin is a work of the Devil. He is behind it, inciting it, stirring it up in hearts, putting the thought of it in people’s minds, cleverly scheming to pull men and women into sin. The Devil incited David to number his soldiers that he might glory in the size of his army. Peter said Satan filled the heart of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit.
From the beginning the Devil rebelled against God and his plans. He incites human beings to respond to God in the same way: to rebel, to say “I will run my own life”. The work of the devil is to sin and to keep the whole world in sin.
The Bible does not describe sin as merely a series of mistakes we make, or individual acts of disobedience to God. Being a sinner, is not viewed as merely a human option that any man or woman can freely choose to walk away from. But the Bible talks about the “power of sin”. It talks about being under “the dominion of sin”. It talks about sin as a master, about being a slave to sin, and sin reigning over you. AND in this passage in John says, sin is of the devil, and the one who practices sin is OF the devil, or belongs to the devil.
If sin is a power, that power needs to be broken! If sin is a master, we need to be freed from that master. If sin is a work of the devil, then the works of the devil need to be destroyed! And that is what Christ came to do. It is what he did. He was born into this world to destroy sin, or the root cause of our sin.
Not only do we need to be freed from the practice of sinning because it is of the devil, but because it brings such damage into our lives. It is popular to make jokes about the pleasures of sin, “that was sinfully delicious”. And there are pleasures in sin. But when the cost of sinning is seen, it is hardly funny. The eternal cost is unspeakably horrible, and the personal cost of pain and misery and heartache, in THIS lifetime is enormous - the woman living in guilt and depression over aborting her baby earlier in life, the marriages destroyed by adultery, the inner shame and guilt from all kinds of sexual sins, the corrosive effects of bitterness, and jealousy, the lives and careers and homes destroyed by alcohol and drugs, and on and on.
The grief and loss and misery sin brought into Adam and Eve’s lives and into the life of every person who has ever been born, is astounding. Adam and Eve were real people, with real feelings, just like you! Think of them, experiencing the serenity, and joy and beauty and fulfillment of living in God’s perfect garden, doing God’s perfect will, enjoying incredible beauty and harmony, enjoying daily communion with God, and then, being cast out of the garden, into a world of conflict, death, loneliness, hardship, pain, disappointment.
Adam and Eve’s feelings of grief over what they lost must have been profound. Many times they must have said to each other, “Oh, that we had never listened to the Devil! The cost was, SO GREAT, SO DAMAGING!”. And we have all reaped the same consequences. Our lives have been marred, broken, scarred.
But God looked down from heaven, grieved at the destruction the Devil had brought about in the world, in human lives. He saw us living in the misery of our sin, tempted and pulled into sin by the Devil. And He sent his Son to destroy what the Devil had been doing.
Verse 5 “But you know that he appeared (or was revealed) in order that he might take away our sins.”
In what sense does Christ take away our sins? Well we know he forgives them! He bore our sins in his body so that we bear them no more! He became sin for us! That is at the very heart of what Jesus came to do! In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We are declared innocent, not guilty, our sin taken from us and placed onto Christ. We rejoice in that! The guilt of sin and the condemnation for our sin has been taken from us! This taking away of our sins is of first and utmost importance! And we should always glory in this and sing about this “taking away of our sins”.
But in these verses, he is talking about a “removal” of sin in our daily lives. Verse 4 and 5, “Everyone who keeps living in sin also practices disobedience. In fact sin is disobedience. (But) You know that THE MESSIAH WAS REVEALED TO TAKE AWAY sins”. He takes away the penalty of sin, and he also takes away the practice of sin.
As you stand in the safety of the grace of God, in the safety of being declared just, and righteous, the practice of living in sin is taken from you. You may occasionally sin, but John says this work of Jesus is so powerful that you CANNOT continue sinning. Jesus struck a death blow, to your connection with the devil and to actual sinning in daily life.
Jesus saves you not only from the guilt of sin, but from the darkness and the misery of continuing to live in sin! Jesus Christ was born into this world to undo and to destroy this work of the devil, to break this stranglehold of sin and sinning. His very mission is to take away sin!
Many places in the New Testament tell us what these specific sins are the that Christ takes away: all kinds of sexual immorality, impurity, drunkenness, slander, gossip, outbursts of anger, bitterness, quarreling, envy, hating, pride, selfish ambition. Titus 2:14 sums it up and says, Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.”
This is cause for great joy!! It is the ultimate liberation! We were created to live in righteousness, indwelt by God, and in fellowship with God. We were not made for sin. Sin is like putting sand in your gas tank. It is like putting cancer in your body. It is like breathing carbon monoxide instead of pure fresh air. As John Wesley used to say holiness and happiness go together! To have the works of the Devil destroyed in us is great news!
It is to be on the road to wholeness, to repair, to be. Peter put it this way, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”. Dying to sin and living to righteousness, is health and healing! Don’t discount the physical healing here, but ultimate healing is the death of sin and living in righteousness! Jesus came to destroy sin in your life so that you might be healed!
Jesus did not come just to tell us that we are bad people, and that we need to be better people. He did not come to primarily to TELL us to stop sinning. Jesus did not come to condemn us for being sinners. The Law did that. Jesus came to LIBERATE us FROM sin, by going to the root of sin, which was the Devil, working upon us and in us. He came to sever our ties with the kingdom of darkness, AND bring us into union with himself which intrinsically leads to righteousness, because he is righteous.
End of verse 5 and 6, “There is not any sin in him. No one who remains in union with him KEEPS ON sinning. The one who keeps on sinning hasn’t seen him or known him. John says, If we see him we cannot keep on sinning! John Calvin said, “(Christ) puts sin to flight,...as the sun drives away darkness by its brightness”. Christ is such a person that seeing him and knowing him puts a stop to living in sin.
We know from other passages that we have not fully arrived or reached a state of perfect sinlessness. We still occasionally sin and fall. But the idea here is that basically we ARE done with sin. Francis Schaeffer said “there is not perfection but there is substantial healing”. John says the practice of sinning as a way of life has come to an end.
Vs 7 “Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, just as the Messiah is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning, is of the devil, for the Devil has been sinning from the beginning”.
The logic of this passage is VERY clear. There is no sin in Christ. Therefore those who abide in him, associate with Christ, or are of Christ and in union with Christ will NOT keep on sinning. Because we are of Christ! And HIS very MISSION IS TO TAKE AWAY SIN!
On the other hand the Devil is full on sin. He has sinned from the beginning. So those who are of the devil will continue on in some kind of sinning. It may be gross sexual immorality, or it may be more socially acceptable sins like arrogance, despising other people, tearing down others, quarreling, greed, and self righteousness. Sinning flows out of that basic spiritual connection to the devil that people don’t even know they have. So John says, Everyone who continues to practice sin is therefore of the devil.
Sin or righteousness flows out of WHO we are “OF”, who we belong to, WHO we live IN! Whoever you are OF will determine the way you live! Merely by being in Christ and him being in you, WILL cause sin to be destroyed in your life and righteousness and love to dominate. It has to. It is the only way it can work. Verse 8 “THE REASON THE SON OF GOD WAS REVEALED WAS TO DESTROY WHAT THE DEVIL HAS BEEN DOING.”
This is great news for those who want their sins to be taken away - not just forgiven but taken away! The message is that the Power of Christ is so great that once he indwells you, you cannot go on sinning.
I certainly would not encourage any kind of passive acceptance of what you know to be sinful. But there is a real sense, in which you just TRUST this work to be done by Jesus Christ! It is HIS work to take away your sin! HE came, HE was born into this world, to do that! You RESPOND to him, but it is HIS work. By your union with Christ, sin HAS to go! It has to diminish in your life.
Christ came to destroy the bondage, the darkness, the rebellion, the corruption of our heart! What could we do against the utter corruption of our own hearts? What could we do against such a power as the devil had over us? Nothing! -
Only Christ could destroy such a hold as the devil and sin had on us! “O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray; cast our our sin and enter in, be born in us today.” Salvation is nothing less than that!
Christ comes in and destroys your propensity to sin, your inclination to sin, your love of sinning, your sinful ways of living. Matthew Henry said, “As a justified believer, he is taught and disposed to righteousness by the Holy Spirit. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts”.
Why can't you go on sinning? Or to put it another way: How is sin destroyed in me.. The answer is the new life placed in you. Vs 9 “No one who has been born of God practices sin, because God’s seed abides in him. He cannot go on sinning because he is born of God”. Those who turn to Christ for salvation are “born of God”. God’s “seed” is the nature of God, or the Holy Spirit. The whole plan and purpose of the new birth is to destroy sin! God’s work IN YOU through the new birth, is too powerful to let you stay in bondage to sin, the devil or the world!
This purpose of this passage is not really to say Christians SHOULD not sin. (There are passages that say that 1 John 2:1 for ex. I write this to you so that you will not sin) The purpose of this passage is to say Christians CANNOT sin! - or at least cannot practice sin. When Christ comes in darkness must go. Jesus Christ comes to you by the Holy Spirit and inhabits you and gives you life! And he destroys sins and generates righteousness!
Being born of God is a work, powerful enough to destroy sin in your life!
If you are born of God there has been a deep, radical transformation within you and there is an INTERNAL PRESSURE created by God within your heart towards holiness and righteousness. You can fall but the bent of your life is towards righteousness and love. You have received a new nature that abhors sin. A new nature to live righteously and in love.
Jack Arnold said, “It is this new nature from God that gives the Christian the desire, leaning, propensity to live a holy life. A Christian cannot sin without a struggle or without a sense of grief so powerful that ultimately, despite his struggles, he will be brought to repentance and a forsaking of sin. Sin is no longer natural to the believer. Though for a time he may slip into it…., nevertheless it is now contrary to his new nature from God”.
What difference does this make?
*You are not fighting sin and striving for righteousness on your own! There is a work of Jesus Christ going on inside of you so powerful that you must practice righteousness! Yes, we choose to follow, we make choices to obey, we are not robots, but it is overwhelmingly the grace of God equipping, teaching, empowering.
*You are to have great confidence in the work of the Spirit in you to destroy sin and to produce righteous living by you. Calvin, “For wherever Christ puts forth his own power, he puts the Devil to flight as well as sin”.
*You are to view yourself as one who is inclined to righteousness. No, you are not perfectly sinless, yet because you are born of God you practice righteousness. John Calvin said, “Let us know that our own hearts are so ruled by God’s Spirit that they constantly cleave to righteousness”. The power of the Spirit is so effective in you that you must live in righteousness. Sinning as a way of life, has been defeated in your life, destroyed. The devil wants you to believe differently. But your relationship with sin is now dramatically altered!
It is wrong to go around in some sort of false humility saying, “I never do anything but sin, fail and mess things up”. That is to discredit the power of God, the work of God in causing you to be born again. It is not biblical thinking.
*You are not in bondage to whatever sin it is that, that you think has you in its grip, anger, sexual sin, some other addictive behavior. Sin and sins do not have the power over you, you think they do. Christ did not come to “hinder” the works of the devil, or to “slow them down” a little bit, but to destroy them!!
*You are not under the grip of the devil. The devil does not have you under his thumb! He is not wrecking your life! He is not keeping you locked up in sinful habits. 1 John 5:18 says, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who is born of God (Christ) keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him.” “We know that we are children of God and the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The whole world is under the power of the evil one. WE ARE NOT! The whole world is his – but you are NOT!
*It is clear that Christ not only delivers us from sinning but he puts into us the practice of righteousness and love. We become people who love! That becomes the focus and primary mark of our lives!
The joy of the incarnation, our joy over the birth of Christ, is rooted in this redemption and deliverance from sin. This is WHY we rejoice. “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, remember Christ our savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray. Oh tidings of comfort and joy....” We rejoice because our partnership in the works of the devil was destroyed by Christ.
For this purpose the Son of God (came into the world) that he might destroy the works of the devil, in me, in you.