In seeking God, to know Him and walk with Him, we face an immediate obstacle: He’s holy (1Jn 1:5) and we’re sinful. (1Jn 1:8) Rather than facing our sin, it’s tempting to try to disassociate ourselves from it, to pretend that our actions don’t define us, that our bad actions don’t reveal that we’re bad people … as if just any kind of tree can produce apples, not just an apple tree.
But God tells us that we are, in fact, known by what we do: our behavior reveals the kind of people we are (Lk 6:44), whether we’re good or evil. (Lk 6:45) This isn’t like saying a tree is an apple tree because it produces apples; but rather that a tree produces apples because it’s an apple tree.
In this analogy, there are only two kinds of fruit: edible and inedible (Mt 12:33), analogous to two sorts of behavior: love (keeping God’s Law 2Jn 1:6) and sin (breaking God’s law 1Jn 3:4), revealing two kinds of people: good and evil. (Jn 5:28-29) As we are in the core of our being, obedient or disobedient, holy or sinful, so we do. Our motives don’t make us what we are, they reveal who we are: we live in love or sin, obedience or rebellion, because of our inner nature.
So, if God identifies and classifies us by our behavior, God’s redemptive plan, to redeem from fallen Man a people for Himself (Tit 2:14), cannot merely be theoretical, it must be practical. In other words, salvation cannot merely be the bestowal of a positional righteousness, there must also be fundamental change in our nature (Ga 6:15), from evil to good. To walk with God we must be transformed, regenerated, born again.
As we are made new creatures in Christ, our inward behavior invariably begins to reflect Christ’s nature. (2Co 5:17) As God delivers His elect from sin’s penalty, He frees us as well from sin’s dominion. (Ro 6:14) Regeneration is thus always accompanied by a growing, practical holiness. (He 6:9) This is a miracle; only God can do this in us. (Je 13:23)
In other words, since we are what we do, to redeem us, God deals not merely with our actions, He deals directly with us; He does not merely forgive our sinful ways, He becomes our sinful selves (2Co 5:21), not only by suffering the penalty we deserve, but also in becoming what we are.
God has never sinned, and He never will; but JEHOVAH so identifies with us as sinners that He treats Himself as if He has, as if He has committed all our sins. God, the perfectly holy one, doing this for us, becoming our sin … this is infinite love. (Ep 3:19)
But God doesn’t stop here; as He becomes our sin, He makes us His righteousness. (2Co 5:21) As He becomes who we are, He is also making us as He is. He does not merely atone for our sinful behavior, He also replaces our old carnal nature with His own holy nature. He does not just forgive our sin, He begins to eradicate it, making us who were born desperately wicked, holy and righteous in thought, word and deed … this is infinite power.
The sacrifice of God, as He gives Himself for us (Ga 2:20), is real and personal: it costs Him everything … to give us everything. (Ro 8:32)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1Jn 4:11)