“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us…By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 1:6-2:6)
Some take these verses, and others like them, and teach we are just hopeless sinners incapable of sniffing perfection until we somehow endure this sinful world, our sinful selves, and the devil’s merciless attacks, die, and get to heaven. Others use them to proclaim we are to be perfect, “like God,” and there is no excuse for sinning if we do in fact know Him. These two polar-opposite interpretations miss the critical characteristic that divides the sinner from the saint. How can we, as John seems to indicate here, be sinners and yet not sinners at the same time?
The key to understanding this conundrum is found in understanding the concept of “practice”. John uses three words here to describe it: “practice, walk, and keep.” We in fact do sin, but do we practice, walk, and keep sin? That is the question. These three words share a common characteristic of consistency, for what we practice, how we walk day to day, and what truths we keep consistently define who we are. Moments of weakness, if not practiced, do not define who we are and are quickly forgiven through our repentance and God’s grace. John states affirmatively we do sin, yet over and over again states this concept of practice defines whether or not we are truly in Christ, or “liars”. What makes a liar is the one who says he has come to know Jesus, yet fails to practice, walk in, and keep His commandments. A disciple is one who, yea though he has sinful moments, “practices, walks in, and keeps” Jesus Christ as the apple of his eye! He is holy. He is righteous. He is “a royal priest and citizen of God’s holy nation:” the kingdom of heaven on earth. Such a man does not have to wait until death to enjoy heaven’s fruits.