Christmas destruction. The phrase doesn’t exactly give you all those warm holiday feelings inside. You’d probably rather think about other things at Christmas, things like pageants, presents, or peace on earth. That’s understandable. However, until we realize that there’s something in the world and something in us that needs to be destroyed, we will miss the meaning of Christmas.
The Reason for the Season
So how is Christmas about destruction? Here’s how the apostle John put it in 1 John 3:8:
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
To get a better idea of what John means by destroying the works of the devil, we need to consider the wider context of John’s words as well as some of the false teaching he was likely combatting:
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
John is clearly concerned that his readers avoid sin. He’s likely responding to false teachers who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (1 John 4:2–3). These teachers also denied the truth that belief in Christ ought to affect the Christian’s actions. They were claiming, in other words, that you could believe in Christ but not really live like Christ. In response, John says repeatedly that right beliefs produce right actions. For instance, 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever says he abides in him [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.” If you believe in Jesus, then you’ll walk like Jesus. Sounds simple, right?
The Extent of the Problem
Our own experience teaches us that the presence and power of sin prevents us from walking like Jesus. That’s why sin’s power had to be destroyed. In order to see just how critical Christ’s sin-destroying mission was, we need to get a better understanding of sin.
To understand what the Bible says about sin, we’re going to consider three different aspects of sin: (1) sin’s scope, (2) sin’s character, and (3) sin’s origin.
Sin influences the thoughts, desires, and actions of every person who has ever lived (with the exception of Christ). John has already made this point clear in 1 John 1:8, where he says that those who claim to be sinless are deceiving themselves. We’re reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The reason sin is universal is because we are all descendants of the first man, Adam, who rebelled against God in the garden (Genesis 3). Now, as a result of Adam’s sin, every man, woman, boy, and girl on the planet is born with Adam’s sin nature and his guilt (Romans 5:12–21).
John gives us a basic definition of sin in 1 John 3:4: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Sin is a defiant violation of God’s law. To live in sin is to live as if your ideas are superior to God’s ideas, as if you are outside of or above His law. Sin looks in the face of God and says, “Your law does not apply to me.” We tend to excuse sin as a personality or psychological problem, but sin is spiritual rebellion. It is lawlessness.
Having seen who’s affected by sin—everyone—and what sin is like—lawlessness—we now turn to consider where sin came from. Although we inherit our sin nature from Adam, we have to go further back to get to sin’s origin. John states it this way: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Jesus said something similar to the Jewish teachers who wanted to kill Him:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Talk about getting to the point! Sin originated with the devil, Jesus says, so everyone who sins shows that they are following the devil instead of God. Let that soak in: whenever you and I sin, we are like the devil, in active rebellion against God. This reality helps explain why Christ’s coming was necessary for our salvation.
It also helps us understand what needs to be destroyed at Christmas.
(This excerpt was adapted from “He Came,” a resource from Radical that highlights four reasons for Christ’s coming. Go HERE to download a free copy.)