At first glance this is a very disturbing and discouraging statement. Is the Beloved Disciple saying that the person who is “born of God” won’t have anything bad in him and if there is something bad in him then that is an evidence that he is not born again? No, that’s not what John is saying. Taken in context this verse simply teaches that the new life will not be held responsible for the leftovers of the old. It is not that there are not remnants of the old life that will not seek to hang around, but that they are no longer imputed to the Believer.
When the dawn breaks and the new day’s sun begins to rise, it does so through the clouds of the old day. There is not darkness one moment and sudden brilliance the next. The dawn comes midst the shadows that gathered and lingered from the night before and it is through those, and with those shadows and clouds, that the sun walks at the beginning of a new day.
However, when we look at the shadows and the clouds, we don’t impute them to the new day’s sun, but rather to the night that has past. The sun carries no guilt of the night. There is no spot on its new birth. Sure, it inherits some of the corruptions of the past day, but it is the past day that bears the reproach – the new day goes free.
Such it is with the new day in my soul. It was born in the midst of yesterday’s clouds. It rises through the shadows – sins – of a day past. But it rises. It does not wait for the old shadows to die away, it comes before they die. But nonetheless, there is no guilt, no sin imputed to it. The old weaknesses and habits and vices that litter its path are no longer part of its wardrobe. They are nothing more than the clothes that the night left behind and they will not dim the dawn that has risen.
I’m so thankful that John teaches that even in the midst of my weakness and wickedness, there is a strong and sinless Christ within me. I no longer have to fear the clouds that come after conversion. In my walk with Jesus there have been those times when it seemed Heaven was so very near and earth was so far away. Yet, as the walk continued, it brought me off the mountain and after a while earth was a great deal nearer and Heaven appeared a million miles away. I have come to that point and I have cried in desperation, “Lord, why are you so far away?”
These are the times when I so need to be reminded of the Beloved’s words – that the clouds of yesterday do not dilute the dawning sun! These are the times when I need to hear the new man in me saying, “These are not my sins.” I need to hear him saying, “These are not the things that I have done, but the old man of yesterday.”
I must learn that even though Jesus was born in a manger, the manger is not part of Jesus. Even though His first night was spent with the animals, He lived His life apart from them. Yes, He comes with the clouds, but the clouds belong to yesterday, not to this day’s dawn. What a great lesson I must learn – that my new man is sinless, though he often wears the wardrobe of the old. I must not shrink from the shadows at the dawn. I must not worry over the gray in the reflection of the gold. I must not think that Christ is still dead though the stone remains unmoved, for the Savior’s rising comes before the stone’s removal. I will not worry or fret over sins that linger because my Lord tells me that there is already, in my soul, a new life without sin.