Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Our Hope Matters Now

This past Sunday at our church our study through 1 John took us into chapter three. There John writes about the significance of us becoming God's children. This is due to the lavish love of God toward us: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

It was quite a humbling experience for us to meditate for a while on how deep the Father's love for us must be to not just atone for our sins but also to make us his children. We observed six things that are true for all believers thanks to God's adoption of us whereby he makes us his children.

One of those observations came from the astounding words of verse three. John writes, "And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." I struggled for some time to understand John's logic. Why does our hope in being made like Christ at his appearing cause us to "purify ourselves" right now? How is it that our hope for this future transformation makes a practical difference in our lives now?

I think the answer is indicated by those final four words: “as he is pure.” That’s the connection to verse two, where our final salvation is achieved by seeing him “as he is.” We will miss the entire force of this passage if we don’t follow John’s assumption here, namely, that those who are born of God and have his nature will yearn to become just like Jesus. And knowing that the only way we will become like Jesus is by seeing him, we, who have this hope of becoming like him, will now be purifying ourselves in order to become just as he is pure.

In other words, those who are born again are the kind of people who are moving toward perfection, though they will not be there until Christ appears. Conversely, those who are not God’s children are moving away from the purity of Christ.

The way to become like Christ, according to the implication of verse two, is by seeing him. But in verse three John refers to this process as an act of purifying. Interestingly, that word in the Bible means "to cleanse and so make acceptable for religious use." Purification, then, is what one does as preparation. So what John is saying is that those who have this hope in Jesus, the hope that his appearing will be our final salvation as we become like him, will pursue the typical Christian behavior of striving to become like him now by striving to see him. That’s what perseverance is all about. It’s about wanting to become like Christ and so striving to see him and to know him. And all of that becomes a sort of “prerequisite” to seeing him on that final day as one of his children.

Let me remind us all that our only hope of seeing Jesus now is by looking where he has revealed himself. We ignore the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, service to others, and Christian community to our peril. Let us take up these disciplines and the others so that we might catch a glimpse of Jesus and there find the full and everlasting joy of communion with him.

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