April 29, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Easter
1 John 3:16-24

Years ago, a man came into my office and confessed he had a bad habit of lying and wanted to know how to quit. I gently explained repentance and how to live a life of pursuing Christ. Not sure a confessed liar was being truthful, I watched him with a degree of skepticism. After a few months, I began noticing fruit in his life and realized God had broken this man's habitual sin.

Do you have a habitual sin that seems to be conquering you? Maybe it is not something as noticeable as lying, cursing or drunkenness. Maybe you are in bondage to a secret sin such as pride, unforgiveness or Internet pornography. Those chains that hold you down can be broken, and you can experience liberty. Our passage shows us the path to liberation from habitual sin.

I. Look for ministry needs (vv. 3:17-19).
John equated loving God with meeting needs in the lives of others. Christians were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire; the Mideast was experiencing economic difficulties; and Jewish Christians were refused alms from the Old Testament requirements for looking after the poor. This was the perfect time for believers to look for ways to minister to others, especially in meeting life's most basic needs.

Every believer battles some kind of habitual sin inclination. When that temptation knocks on your heart, use that moment as a reminder to go out and look for ways to minister to others. You are significantly less likely to give into sin when you are busy pouring yourself into someone else.

II. Pray with His pleasure (vv. 3:21-23).
Praying frees me from the temptation. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute spent trying to justify sin. The enemy knows our weaknesses too well for us to think we can beat him at his game. Respond to temptation with intense and immediate prayer.

Expecting God to free us from habitual sin while we willingly continue in sinfulness is sheer folly. Obedience is the key that unlocks the floodgates of answered prayer. Rather than battling the sins that clutch at us, invest time in obedience to the things you know to do that are pleasing to God. When we do, we receive the smile of heaven, and God begins the slow work of releasing us from the prying grips of habitual sin.

III. Abide with Jesus (v. 3:24).
This past May, I had the bittersweet joy of giving away my eldest daughter in marriage. I am excited for her and her husband as they prepare for a life call to missions. It was comical to watch their courtship. They could not stand to be apart. Between texting, Facebooking and calling, it was as if they weren't apart even when they were! The Lord used that time to convict and remind me of the days when I sought to abide with Him with that same type of innocent love.

As believers, we have the benefit of His indwelling Spirit. With that benefit comes the blessing of being able to abide in Him continually and intimately. It is refreshing to remember Satan never can doubt a believer out of the presence of God.

So, what sin seems to have you in its clutches? You do not have stay there. Look for ministry needs, pray with God's pleasure, and abide in Jesus. Then others will not look at you with skepticism as I did with the young man who came in my office years ago. Instead, they will appraise you with approval; and more importantly, they will be drawn to the one who delivered you.

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