A Hope that Purifies (I John 3:2, 3)
Topic: I John Passage: 1 John 3:2–3:3
A Hope That Purifies
I John 3:2, 3
(One Mission: Until He Comes)
November 27th, 2016
I. Like the Christmas Story
Advent. As we've already been reminded, today is the first Sunday of Advent; the first Sunday of the Christmas season.
Whatever your feelings about Christmas and everything that's become important in terms of celebrating Christmas in the 21st century, I think you would agree the most important thing remains focusing on what happened in the 1st century. But when we think carefully about the true, the original Christmas Story, we know the story, but yet, it is still foreign. Shepherds? Mangers? Romans?
There is no escaping the fact that the Christmas Story took place long ago in a place and culture far, far away.
But as you think about all the characters of the Christmas Story, have you ever considered how we now are still very much like them then. Yes, we too have found new birth in the birth of the Messiah, Jesus. But we too, like them, are also...waiting for His appearing. Like so many in the 1st century, many of us in the 21st century are also eager for His coming. Are you?
Let's look at God's word together this morning and consider this idea more carefully. Turn over to I John 3:2, 3.
II. The Passage: “When He Appears” (3:2, 3)
Let's once again hear those two verses from the first letter of the Apostle John, two verses that speak to us about the 'other' coming of Jesus Christ. John writes:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
These are amazing verses in terms of their 'density'. There is so much here, I'm not sure ten messages could exhaust the riches of these verses. But we only have one message. So let's do this. Let's divide these two verses up into three parts. First, we will look at what “we are...now” in light of the first phrase from verse 2. Next, we will think about “what we will be” from the remainder of verse 2. Finally, looking at verse 3, we need to talk about what is happening to us now in terms of becoming “as he is”.
So let's jump into this by looking again at the opening phrase of verse 2.
1. “We Are...Now” (v. 2a)
John, a man who followed Jesus as a disciple, and was appointed an apostle by Jesus himself, John reassures his readers with these words: Beloved, we are God's children now...
John does not want to talk about the future without first being firmly planted in the present. And there is no firmer footing a person can have than standing as a child of God. The present tense of the verb and the word “now” are John's double emphasis on this stunning truth that should dominant the way we see ourselves: Beloved, we are God's children now...
Why is this so wonderful? Because being God's children means beings the objects of His wonderful love. Look at how John began chapter 3:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
It's one thing for the world to talk about the love of God. It's like a person talking about their next door neighbor. “My neighbor? Oh, sure, he's very kind to his children. I'd say he's a loving father.” But how would the child himself talk about that same father's love? The subject may be the same, but it would be a very different conversation, right?
That's what John is saying in verse 1: “If you really want to understand the kind of love, the quality of love, the depth of love that God has given to us, just think about the outcome.” John argues, “It isn't love that simply brings us in for a hot meal or gives a lift to the store. It's love that brings us into the family. It's love that gives us a name. It's the eternal love by which we eternally belong.”
This is the difference in terms of waiting for Christ's appearing. We wait as children through the New Covenant. In the Christmas Story, they waited under the Old Covenant. But it was through the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, that now, we too can be born into the family of God. And so, if our faith is Jesus, we wait as those reassured of the Father's love.
This is who “we are...now”. But look at where John goes in verse 2. He moves on to...
2. “What We Will Be” (v. 2b)
Listen for a minute to what Paul tells us is in Romans 8 about that amazing reality of being “God's children” through faith in Jesus. Paul writes...
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...[jumping to verse 23] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul presents us here with the same tension, the same two-sided coin we find in our main passage, in I John 3:2.
Both Paul and John provide us with a clear description of the “now/not yet” tension we find throughout the NT. Paul says, “we are children of God”. That's the “now” But at the same time, we are waiting for “adoption as sons”. That's the “not yet”
In talking about this same “now/not yet” tension, John actually uses those exact words:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared...
But notice how the two are related in what John is saying. He tells us this is who we are now, but what we see now is not everything. There is a “not yet” in terms of who we will be. God has more that has “not yet appeared”. Listen to how the French pastor and theologian John Calvin explains John's words here:
...though the ungodly may not entice us to give up our hope, yet our present condition is very short of the glow of God’s children; for as to our body we are dust and a shadow, and death is always before our eyes; we are also subject to a thousand miseries, and the soul is exposed to innumerable evils; so that we find always a hell within us. The more necessary it is that all our thoughts should be withdrawn from the present view of things, lest the miseries by which we are on every side surrounded and almost overwhelmed, should shake our faith in that felicity [that intense happiness] which as yet lies hid. For the Apostle’s meaning is this, that we act very foolishly when we estimate what God has bestowed on us according to the present state of things, but that we ought with undoubting faith to hold to that which does not yet appear.
But there's more that John says about this more to come. He tells us in the second half of verse 2... but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
If you belong to Christ through faith, if you belong to God as His precious child, who you will be is inextricably connected to the both the coming of Jesus and the identity of Jesus. Jesus Christ is returning to our world. He came before at Christmas. But He will come again.
But as we wait, we have to remember that the great goal of every Christian's life should be conformity to Christ; to be like Jesus; to follow in His steps; to imitate Christ. And so John's word are stunning: when he appears we shall be like him.
Paul speaks about this fact in many place in his letters. Here are just a few:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3-4)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (I Corinthians 15:48-49)
And why will we be like Him when He appears? What does John tell us ...because we shall see him as he is.
Again, Paul speaks about this same truth regarding our transformation. He wrote...
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12 )
When Jesus returns to our world (and He will), we will see Him in all his glory. We “shall know fully”. And God will use Christ's revelation and Christ's fullness to reveal the fullness of who we are in Him. When we see Jesus, we will know that day has come.
Listen to how Paul summarizes these same themes in Romans 8:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19)
3. “As He Is” (v. 3)
But there's more. Look at verse 3. If we had to sum up what we've talking about up to this point this morning, I think we would have to use the word “hope”. John is talking about our hope in these verses. That's why he is able to say in verse 3:
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
If your hope is in Jesus Christ and in His appearing, if your hope for fullness of life is fixed on the fullness of His revelation, if your hope of being like Him is reaching for that day when you will be like him, then something remarkable is happening inside of you. God tells us through John that you are being purified. In fact, you are purifying ourselves. In fact, you are purifying yourself “as he [as Jesus] is pure.”
That sounds wonderful, doesn't it. But what does it mean? What exactly does John mean? Again Calvin helps us with his thoughts:
The meaning then is, that though we have not Christ now present before our eyes, yet if we hope in him, it cannot be but that this hope will excite and stimulate us to follow purity, for it leads us straight to Christ, whom we know to be a perfect pattern of purity.
Brothers and sisters, think about this for a minute. If my boss is coming back from a work trip, and when he does, will give me a promised and much needed raise, then I will be looking toward that day, and sticking with my job, even on the most difficult days. His return and his promise will give me hope. And that hope will drive me to a deeper commitment to my duties.
I love how Hebrews 12:1, 2 describe this same forward-looking faith, in both the believer and in our Lord. Listen to what it tells us about purity in the face of great adversity and how Jesus has led the way. Again, the process of becoming like Jesus has already become. Listen to what it tells us about purifying myself as He is pure...
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
III. Helping Hope Grow
Like those in the Christmas Story, God's call to you and me is to look for the appearing of Jesus. This morning He is calling us to real, genuine, powerful, biblically-grounded, Christ-centered hope. Do you want hope like this to grow within you? If you do, then let me suggest a couple things to help this purifying hope grow in your heart.
First, strive to become more and more disillusioned with the world. (2x) When we are comfortable in the world and with the world, there is no need for hope. Who hopes to be at home with God when he or she feels at home in the world? But if we do, if we do feel at home in the world, then it means we are not seeing the world for what it truly is. John wrote these words in chapter 2:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
(1 John 2:15-17)
This is why between the two declarations in 3:1, 2, that we are God's children, we read this: The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1) We are strangers and aliens in this world. And as we strive to become more and more disillusioned with the world, our eyes will be looking above us instead of around us.
Second, we help hope grow by feeding on His faithful promise to come again. John wrote in order to give his readers confidence. He said in 5:13...I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
In the same way this letter, along with the rest of Scripture, can grow your confident hope, your hopeful confidence in the fact that Jesus Christ will come again. God is faithful. Let the word of God and the gospel of grace deepen your appreciation of His faithfulness. He keeps His promises. As you grow more and more disillusioned with the world, God wants you to grow more and more hopeful in the world to come.
The culmination of our One Mission is the coming of Jesus. It is only finished when He returns. May God help us, as children of God, to yearn for that day. And may we abide in Jesus. If we treat these words lightly, John also gives us a warning in I John2:28:
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
Let's ask Him now to help us help hope grow, this hope that truly does purify.
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