I bought the Counting Crows’ new album first thing last Tuesday morning on iTunes. I was eagerly looking forward to it since they had not put out an album with new songs in 6 years. Also, I think Adam Duritz is one of the better song writers around today, easily making the Counting Crows one of the top 2 or 3 bands of the last 20 years. Duritz profoundly understands some things about the corky nature of our diligence to be happy that is directly connected to sensuous and immoral desires. Their new album, ‘Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings,’ intends to show that idea of living it up wildly on Saturday nights, but then waking up shameful and sorry on Sunday morning.
“The album’s emotional arc runs from a wild and raucous Saturday night of debauchery into a more somber Sunday morning filled with regret and longing, a structure which allows the group to flex a little rock muscle on the top half of the record, then settle down for a soak of emotional balladry that closes it” (from iTunes).
So after a while, I got to thinking. Isn’t that similar for so many ‘nominal’ Christians? Should not the idea of ‘nominal’ even be pushed onto those who come to church, offering some expression of repentance every weekend, but abide in the world as a mistress all week long? Should we put forward that a repentance like that is likely insincere? So, I pushed it further. There are whole so-called Christian-ly connected carnivals and parties that celebrate sin for a day or a week with a weird kind of intensity, only to stop abruptly the next day. Fat Tuesday is that kind of party before Lent. Halloween is that kind of celebration before All Saints Day. But even those are obviously disjointed and affected by pop culture. Still there remains Saturday nights, or it could even be said that the 6 day week banked by Sundays serves the same purpose.
So how do we deal with that kind of attitude biblically? 1 John 2:28-3:3 lays a special foundation for the answer, and that is what I intend to show in this post. John intentionally cautions us to avoid sinful behaviors and do the opposite—practice righteousness. I believe his caution in 2:28 is divine genius because it connects it to abiding in Christ and the all-satisfying love of God in 3:1. In the rest of this post, I will aim to show how believers should continually keep these few verses in mind while also keeping a proper view of Christian liberty in order to avoid adding to the Law.
The beginning of chapter 3, which will be the focus of this post, is actually a continuation of 2:28-29, which says, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
“I don’t want no religion because I’m not prepared to die. But I’ve been wrong, sometimes baby you can’t hide” (Counting Crows, ‘Sessions’ from Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, 2008).
John’s counsel in vv. 28-29 should not be taken to mean, “You better not do this or that on Saturday night just in case Jesus comes back before Sunday.” But that is how many take it. There is an alarming separation in our churches today on both sides of the coin. One audaciously says, “I don’t want no religion, because I’m not prepared to die.” The other sinfully tries to keep the Law in order to avoid shrinking away in shame from Christ at his return out of a love for survival rather than a love for their infinitely glorious and precious Savior. Do you see the problem here? Too many Christians separate their lives abiding in Christ on Sunday from their lives abiding in the world Monday through Saturday. But John gives a warning for that kind of behavior. If Jesus returns on Saturday night, abide in him always rather than the world. When he comes, you should want to be one who is attracted to him in joy, not one who shrinks away in shame. But the key to John’s counsel here is v. 29, which is later clarified by 3:3. “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” What does this mean? It means that those who have been born of Christ should love to practice righteousness because he is righteous. I will return to v. 29 in light of 3:2-3 later to show how abiding in Christ and practicing righteousness go together and are intimately related to being conformed to the image of Christ as a ‘what we are declared to be’ by the blood of Christ and ‘what we will be’ when we see Christ face to face.