Keeping away from anything that might take God’s place in our hearts

I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. 14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

16 If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. 17 All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.

18 We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. 19 We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
– 1 John 5:13-21 [NLT]

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I have a love/hate relationship with the New Living Translation of the Bible. I’ve been using it for several days now for the simple purpose of slowing me down as I read these texts. I am so used to the NIV or ESV that when the word order is different in the NLT, or the translations are different, and in other words than I am used to reading in a particular text, I slow down and look more closely at that text, and think more carefully about the ideas that are being offered.

In the case of these verses, I was struck particularly by verse 18, “We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.” This offers a more accessible translation than the ESV, even though the ESV is more accurate in word-for-word translation: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

The idea that God protects his own from the power of the Devil is a teaching found elsewhere in the Bible, and a real comfort to anyone who would wish to resist the Devil, and who realizes that the Devil is, in fact, a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (cf 1 Peter 5:8). The idea that we do not go on sinning has to do with sin not having the final say in our lives. We may falter, fail, and fall into sin of many kinds. But those who are willing to bring us back to God gently, preserve us from Satan’s and sin’s full destructive power. Even our return to God by our own recognizance through the influence of the Holy Spirit thwarts Satan’s desires to steal, kill, and destroy. Thanks be to God.

In the end, we can know we have the gift of eternal life; not because we never sin – we do; but because we have God’s word and promise: we who believe in the name of the Son of God (read “Jesus”) have eternal life. He promises to hear and answer our prayers. He provides people who help us walk the way of life. Jesus gives us fellowship with God.

And what a great closing thought:  “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” May it be so in our lives!

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