[1 John 3: 4]
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
This is the 19th session of the 1 John Lecture series.
1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”
To commit a sin is to violate the law of God.
Those who violate the law in this world will pay for what they have done and receive punishment accordingly.
In spiritual sense, those who practice lawlessness will receive retribution accordingly.
But even though they practice lawlessness, they don’t receive punishment immediately.
Some worldly people commit very evil works, but it might seem that they enjoy wealth and honor without having any disease or problems.
So, some people complain over such things saying that, “If God is alive, why wouldn’t He punish such people?”
But Psalm 37:1-2 says, “Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.”
In the eyes of men, it might seem that evil ones are living a life of prosperity, but God is taking their deeds into account.
Punishments might come immediately after an evil act is committed, but many times punishments come after a series of evil deeds have been accumulated.
In some other cases, the punishment does not happen in that generation but in the following generation. It falls on their descendants.
The punishments are inflicted taking into account the sins of their ancestors, too.
For example, Genesis 15:16 says, “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
This is the word of promise that God gave to Abraham.
The sons of Abraham will take the Canaan Land, but for this to happen, they would have to drive out the ones who lived there.
God would not just drive out the people of that land for the sons of Israel.
The sins of those people would have to be accumulated to a certain measure and when that measure was met for the punishment to come, then they would be driven out by the sons of Israel.
Exodus 34:7 says, “[God] keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
As written, we can see that if the ancestors committed many grave sins, then there will be many members of the same family line who commit suicide, who have mental disorders or alcoholism and who become demon-possessed.
But that does not mean if ancestors are evil their descendants have to receive the retribution unconditionally because of their ancestors.
In the word of God there are scriptural pairs or counterparts that join for full meaning.
Ezekiel chapter 18 explains about the cases where the children suffer retribution for the evil of their fathers and the cases where they don’t.
Ezekiel 18:19 says, “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity?’ When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.”
Those descendants who fear God and live good and righteous lives will not be affected by the sins of their ancestors.
Sometimes, they might be affected by the evil deeds of their ancestors, but if they lead a good Christian life, they can still be protected by God.
If they go into spirit, furthermore, then they will have nothing to do with such things at all.
But then, if the punishment did not come upon the generation of the sinners but on their later generations, does that mean it is good for the sinners?
Even if they do not receive any retribution on this earth, they cannot escape the punishment of Hell.
Even if they enjoyed such great wealth and honor, what is the meaning of such things once they go to Hell?
They cannot even argue that they were once among the great men on this earth.
But rather, because of the things that they enjoyed on this earth, they will receive more mockeries and pains.
If we understand this justice, we would understand that it is more blessed to receive punishment and repent rather than not receiving any punishment even after practicing lawlessness.
It is even truer for those who believe in God.
Even if there is no punishment after you committed sins, you should not just feel fortunate and think it’s OK.
Hebrews 12:8 says, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
If you seem to have peace in your life even though you continue to dwell in darkness and commit sins, rather than feeling secure you should fear that you might have been forsaken by God.
Of course, I am not saying you will face great disasters every time you commit sins.
Sometimes the retribution does not appear on the outside; you might go through some afflictions in heart or some minor things in your life to pay for your sins.
Also, even though you committed sins, if you thoroughly repented and turned back completely, you can live in peace.
Brothers and sisters, the justice of God is in fact so complex that human beings cannot understand it entirely.
For example, when you weave a piece of cloth, many threads are bound together to form a strong textile weave.
Likewise, the justice of God is a combination of so many different elements.
The almighty God counts all the different elements more accurately than the most delicate measure of this world.
He directs the lives of every person according to His justice without a single error.
But men cannot always understand His justice.
So, sometimes, they have questions or doubt Him thinking, “Why would God of justice do this?”
For example, concerning receiving blessings, sometimes you do one good deed in the truth and receive the answer to that same extent.
But at other times, it seems that the answer is delayed even though you did many good deeds, but later you receive a great blessing at one time.
The time and methods of the blessings given will be decided by the rules of God’s justice, so that the best of everything will be given to each one.
Through many sermons I have explained and you must have realized that there are many rules of justice that are applied when you want to receive healing or blessings.
If you ask God with faith, you can receive healing of any disease and answer to any difficult problem.
But people go through different steps and processes.
Some people receive the answer immediately if they repent of their past sins.
But in other cases, the answers are delayed even after they realize their sins which were the causes of their calamities and repented of them completely.
In this kind of case, they have to store up enough deeds of truth so that God can acknowledge they have borne the fruit of repentance.
The answer will come only when they pass the trials with humbleness and heart-felt thanks until the end.
In some cases, those who ask for God’s mercy to solve their problems build up more walls of sin.
They repeatedly demolish the walls of sin, but then create more walls.
For example, suppose there is a person who suffers from serious illness or infirmity.
He made a wall of sin before God with arrogant words and he did many evil things to people.
Therefore, in order to receive an answer from God he has to make his heart humble and good.
He has to serve others and store up deeds of goodness in his daily life.
He should not just pray to receive healing, but break down the walls of sin by changing his heart and deeds.
But he is so preoccupied with receiving the healing that he doesn’t pay attention to changing his heart. So, he complains when he doesn’t receive the answer as quickly as he wants.
He disappoints God by saying something like, “I repented my wrongdoings, and I’ve been praying hard. I’ve been giving offerings and insuring my faithfulness, so why isn’t there any answer for me yet? God is not fair.”
Or, he may even resent his fellow believers saying, “I am suffering because of this illness, and why aren’t the cell group members helping me? It’s not right!”
He may even get angry and frustrated.
He is supposed to demolish the walls of sin and store up goodness, but in fact he is building up more walls of sin.
He just keeps on demolishing and building up, and that is why he cannot prepare the vessel to receive the answer, even though he prays for a long time.
He can receive the answer more quickly when he thoroughly repents and stores up goodness before God, and without creating more walls of sin with his words, mindset, and actions.