The Four Traits

With 1 John 2 last week, we were given three challenges: turn away, obey and abide. This week we explore four traits present in the hearts and lives of every believer.

Trait #1: Purity
“See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” – 1 John 3.1-3 (NLT)
Purity is a major theme throughout the entire history of the Bible. Israel was called to remain pure through various commands and rituals. The early church was called to remain pure in a world stained with impurities. The point is: God desires for His people to be pure, and this is what John tells us here. Do you desire purity in an impure world? So often we rationalize impure things to seem pure when they truly aren’t. Are you compromising your purity? Last week we illustrated this with the “poop in the brownies” analogy. A little bit of junk ruins the entire batch! As a believer, we should have the desire for purity. This is not to say that we are perfect, but we should be constantly convicted in our walk towards purity and strive to remove any of the “poop” in the mix. This trait, shining forth in the believer’s life, will point the way to Christ. Even though we mess up, the desire to remain pure will show others that we are striving for a greater goal than just temporary satisfaction in this life.

Trait #2: Love
“If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.  Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion-how can God’s love be in that person?” – 1 John 3.14-17 (NLT)
The call for the Christian is love. Jesus gives us that emphatic call in Mark 12:29-32 as well as in John 15. We are called to love one another in order that Christ’s love will shine through. The RidgeStudents focus verse, John 13:35, challenges us as a group to do this on a daily basis. We should have love, and this trait of love gives us assurance of salvation according to John! Do you love your brothers and sisters? This doesn’t mean being everyone’s best friend all the time, but do you care for one another and do you desire the best for your fellow believer? Or, do you simply tolerate them? This is a tough challenge and a hard trait to exhibit at times. Sometimes we just decide to put up with people because we feel like we have to, but our calling is so much more deeper! Love is a commitment; love is a daily reliance on God’s grace and strength rather than our own. Love tests our faith. Again, this is not a call to fake excitement and cheap niceness towards one another, this is a deep and sacred calling to care for and see one another grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Trait #3: Obedience
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God….And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with Him, and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” – 1 John 3.18-18, 23-24 (NLT)
Speaking to the love trait, we are called to act! Talking is one thing, doing is another! James 1 speaks to the action of simply hearing and not doing. James says if we hear and do not do, we are simply fooling ourselves. The calling is to do, or obey. Obedience equals love, and Jesus speaks to this in John 15.10. Love is a command from God that is meant to be obeyed. God doesn’t give commands so that we stand around and say, “Thanks! I’ll think about that one, God.” He gives commands in order that we follow them, and John 15.11 says that our joy will overflow when we do. Obedience equals joy, maybe not in the moment, but it is a promise that we can rely on. If we choose to obey, our joy will overflow, not in a way that makes ourselves look great, but in a way that Christ is glorified. It’s in that respect that we find joy! Trait #3 for a believer is obedience. Do you have a desire to obey, or does God’s commands look more like suggestions? Is it your joy or your chore to obey?

Trait #4: Righteousness
“Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” – 1 John 3.7-10 (NLT)
Our last trait is righteousness, and I see this as the sumation of the other three traits. If we are faithful to do and live out the first three, then the fourth will be natural. Righteousness is a hard thing to pin down. At The Gathering last night, many students had questions about what exactly righteousness is and looks like. Here are a couple things to know when it comes to righteouesness:

> When we believe and put our faith in Christ as the subsitution for our rightful place in death because of our sins, then God grants us the righteousness of Christ and we are justified before Him. (Romans 3.21-22, 4.5, 10.4, 2 Cor. 5.21, Phill. 3.9)
> Those who live by faith, trusting in the righteousness of Christ, are called to live out a daily life of righteousness by showing Christ in their lives through love, obedience, purity, wisdom and faith. (Prov. 8.20, 21.21, 1 Tim. 6.11, Gal. 5.22)

So righteousness is granted us upon belief, and is a continual pursuit for the believer. The purposeful pursuit of righteousness is only possible by the strength and grace of God. Without faith in Christ and a regenerated heart, the pursuit of God-honoring righteousness is impossible. Also, the pursuit of righteousness is not a calling to be perfect at every moment, but rather a calling to live by faith, trusting in the promises of God through Scripture and allowing Him to work through you. The men and women of the Bible were far from perfect. They were liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers and cowards yet God granted these men and women with righteousness by their faith. This gives us assurance that God will give us strength in our weakness and look upon us with grace despite our failings. What an awesome thought!

So what!?
Pursue these traits! Every believer should have them, and we all are to be constantly growing in them as well. Some we may be stronger in than others, but that does not deny the fact that we are called to exhibit all of them in our lives. Pursue these will all your heart! Be passionate about purity. Be longing for love. Obey with a cheerful heart, and seek righteous living. These traits, exhibited in our lives, draw others to Christ and even if we fail at times, God’s grace is sufficient and we have assurance in salvation despite our failings! I pray your family will take time to read over 1 John 3 and talk about these traits, and encourage each other to pursue them. Talk about things in your life that are hindering you from pursuing these to a greater degree, and pray for one another and hold each other accountable. Jesus says we will have overflowing joy if we remain faithful to do so! Take care this week and have a great week in the Lord.

Pursuing these by His Grace alone,

Coleman

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