Hope and hopelessness are more than opposites. Their characteristics are more defined than night and day. Anyone who has ever experienced the depths of hopelessness can easily attest to how oppressive and soul-shattering hopelessness can be. On the other hand, those who have drank deeply from the well of hope know that no odds can hold back the waters of hope, no circumstances will ever be able to drown out the fire kindled by the bright light of hope!
It is hope that enabled a young slave girl who had been beaten, degraded, defiled, continually abused, and eventually had her own children sold — to become a great woman of God. A woman who was able to stand in the face of discrimination, ridicule, and threats and declare that “Jesus is the hope of the world – for all colors of people!” Such is the story of Sojourner Truth.
It is hope that enabled a poor inner-city kid from Detroit to rise above the clouds of circumstances and become a doctor. He was raised in a single-parent home. His mother only completed the fifth grade, but she challenged her son to turn the “F’s” on his report card into “A’s.” She worked three jobs to pay the bills and set an example for her son that he would always remember. He raised the “F’s” to “A’s” and became Dr. Benjamin Carson – who at age 33 became the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is Dr. Carson who performed the first successful separation of Siamese Twins joined at the head.
It is hope that enabled a vigilant young man who found himself in prison after serving in the White House as the so-called “Hatchet Man” for President Nixon to rise above his situation of despair and begin a world-wide ministry to others shackled in prison cells. Such is the story of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship.
It is hope that caused a woman injured in a diving accident and sentenced to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic for the remainder of her days to see her wheelchair as a pulpit instead of a prison. Such is the story of Joni Erickson Tada.
I could go on and on sharing stories with you of the hope experienced by multitudes of men, women, boys, and girls who found themselves rising above what appeared to be hopeless situations. There is a common thread running throughout each of these stories of hope, endurance, tenacity, and victory. The common thread is hope. Not hope in general. Not some nebulous “I hope things work out all right.” Not a Pollyanna wishful thinking. Not even a sheer determination to strive for a positive mental outlook. The hope of those who rise above hopelessness is found in the very specific hope found only in Jesus Christ – His arrival, His victory over the grave, and the hope He offers to all who are looking forward to His soon return. This is the hope that endures the tests of the ages and transforms lives!
Today we are continuing our study of 1 John. Last week, as we studied 1 John 2:18-28, we took time to understand things like the “last days,” the “Anti-Christ,” and “antichrists” that are presently seeking to lead people away from God by deceptive teachings and manipulation. This week our study turns to the transforming power of the hope we have as we look forward to the return of Jesus Christ. By “transforming power” I mean to say that those of us who look with expectation and enthusiasm to the return of our Lord and Savior will be transformed, changed, by that expectation as we live our lives to bring glory to our King. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today so that we can dig in.
28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
(3) 1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 2:28-3:3 NIV)
What an incredible section of God’s Word! These five little verses of Scripture can serve as a springboard for you and me to live a life full of hope, expectation, and holiness if we will drink deeply of God’s Word for us today. The key to appropriating God’s Truth and experiencing the transformation that God desires for your life and mine is our willingness to “continue” in Jesus. John says, 28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. John uses an interesting word in this verse. The Greek word, “me,nete” (menete) used in verse 28, means, “remain, stay, abide, live, dwell, last, endure, continue, await, or wait for.” The word is used six times in the New Testament and John uses the word “continue” or “abide” to encourage us to stay in step with Jesus. We are not to lag behind or get out ahead of the Lord, but we are to listen to His voice with diligence and intensity. We are to follow His leadership with passion, conviction, and confidence. We are to seek after His will, making God’s will priority over our own will.
John encourages us to stay in step with Jesus and not run ahead of the Lord in 2 John. He says that anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Jesus Christ does not belong to God. Let me read you John’s warning.
4It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 7Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 4-9 NIV)
There are times in our walk with the Lord when we know the Lord is leading us to do something that is different than what we are accustomed to doing and we simply don’t want to do it. We rebel against God’s will for our lives. It is too unfamiliar. God is calling us too far out of our comfort zone and it makes us uncomfortable. We lag behind God’s call upon our lives.
In 2 John we hear of running ahead of the Lord. This is an area of our walk that we don’t hear much about, but how important it is for us to be aware of this danger. We are too leisurely in our discussions of God. We are too casual in our conversations consisting of who God is, what He does and doesn’t do, and what He is doing in our day. We need to spend serious, extended periods of time in study, prayer, and seeking God’s heart and will before we speak.
We see examples of this line of thinking being lived out in our day. There are those who say that the teachings of Jesus are out-dated, obsolescent, and antiquated. These folks believe that we need to move on, catch up, and get on with growing up and moving forward in this modern age. We live in a new day. There are new ways of doing things. The folks who lived in Jesus’ day just didn’t understand, but we do because we are more educated, more sophisticated, and liberated. Please do not be deceived. If you and I run out ahead of Jesus we will run right off the edge of the cliff. We will run right into our own destruction.
We are to continue, to abide, in Jesus. We must have the faith to trust Jesus so that we do not lag behind. We should never become arrogant and run ahead of Him. We must stay in Jesus every moment of every day. Jesus said,
4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5″I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NKJV)
It is imperative that you and I seek with all of our hearts to remain in Jesus every moment of every day. We must discipline ourselves to study God’s Word daily. We must listen closely to the Lord’s leading as we go throughout our day. We must seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, at any cost. (Matthew 6:33)
The hope of Jesus’ return fuels our desire to remain in Him while we are living this life given to us as a gift from God. If you and I are constantly looking forward to Jesus’ return then we will want to be found by our Lord living in obedience, walking in faith, and living in Christ Jesus. Our expectant watching for the Lord’s return will transform our lives.
There is a remarkable, practical tie between this truth of the coming of the Lord and our appearing before Him, and the living of our daily life! Let me illustrate this connection by telling you the story of Martha Snell Nicholson who, for more than thirty-five years was triumphant through those many weary years of her life. During that difficult but triumphant time she wrote some of the finest Christian poetry which has ever been written. A number of years before she died she wrote about her hope of the coming of the Lord. This is what she says:
The best part is the blessed hope of his soon coming. How I ever lived before I grasped that wonderful truth, I do not know. How anyone lives without it these trying days I cannot imagine. Each morning I think, with a leap of the heart, “He may come today.” And each evening, “When I awake I may be in glory.” Each day must be lived as though it were to be my last, and there is so much to be done to purify myself and to set my house in order. I am on tiptoe with expectancy. There are no more grey days — for they’re all touched with color; no more dark days — for the radiance of His coming is on the horizon; no more dull days, with glory just around the corner; and no more lonely days, with His footsteps coming ever nearer, and the thought that soon, soon, I shall see His blessed face and be forever through with pain and tears.
John goes on to say in verse 29, 29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” The hope that is instilled in those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior brings about a practice of righteousness that is possible in no other way. The word “righteous” means to be rightly related in every sense of the word. If we are walking, abiding, and continuing in Jesus day-to-day then our souls will yearn for right relationships both in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. We will seek to live in obedience to God’s will and we will seek to live in harmony and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
John makes it clear that this manner of living is derived from being “born” of Jesus. John uses the same word here that Jesus used when He told Nicodemus, “you must be born again.” Nicodemus wondered what Jesus meant and so he asked, 4″How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4 NIV) Nicodemus couldn’t understand what Jesus was talking about so Jesus explained to him about the second birth.
5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-6 NIV)
Before you or I can ever abide in Jesus, we must first come to Jesus. It is in coming to Jesus, confessing our sin, receiving His forgiveness, and experiencing His coming to live in our hearts as Lord and Savior that we are born for the second time. At our first birth, as our mother delivers us into this world, we are born sinners according to God’s Word. At our second birth, we are born into the Kingdom of God, our sin is removed, and the Lord takes up residence in our lives to lead us and guide us into truth and holiness. It is the Lord who works His righteousness into our lives as we yield our wills to His and follow Him in obedience. His righteousness keeps us in relationship with the Father, His righteousness quickens our spirits when our relationships with others are fractured and vulnerable, His righteousness leads us to make things right with those with whom our relationship is tattered. The reconciliation we experience in every day life in our relationships that are broken for any reason are evidence of the Father’s reconciling work in us.
The hope that brings about change in our daily living is founded upon God’s great love for us, demonstrated in Jesus’ death on the cross that has won our salvation. John says, (3) 1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Here in verse 1 of chapter 3, John is overcome with a sense of awe as he considers the love of God. You can just feel his emotions rise as he says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” I want you to understand the depth of John’s statement so that you too can feel the overwhelming love the Father has for you my friend. When John says, “has lavished on us,” he uses a unique word in Greek that is translated “has lavished.” The word “dedwken” (dedoken) is the perfect active indicative of the Greek word “??????” which means a “state of completion.” Because of Jesus death and glorious resurrection those who trust in His atoning death are saved, it is a done deal. You and I don’t have to worry if we are being good enough. We don’t have to worry if we have attended church enough times to get into heaven. We don’t have to worry if we have sinned too much. We don’t have to worry if we are as good as the person sitting next to us on the pew. If we trust in Jesus’ completed work on the cross then we are saved, secure, and sealed by our Father who has lavished His love upon us and called us His children! That is good news!
This is not the only place in God’s Word where we are reminded of the how lavishly God has showered His blessings upon us. All throughout Scripture God is constantly seeking to remind us that His love for us is beyond amazing, His infinite love for us provides for us all that we need in this life, and that His love will sustain us when nothing else will. Paul reminded the Ephesians of God’s great love by saying,
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8 NIV)
Because of God’s great love for us He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In accordance with His pleasure and will He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Jesus His Son and what He has done for us on the cross. He has freely given us His grace, we didn’t earn it, but He has given it freely. We are redeemed, made right with God, and forgiven for our sins through Christ’s blood, shed on Calvary’s cross.
Not only have we received all of these wonderful benefits from God for this life, but we have much more to look forward to when this life is over. Paul told the Roman believers,
17Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17-18 NIV)
All of our trials, troubles, and tribulations that come with this life are nothing compared to what God has prepared, the glory that will be revealed in us at His coming! Some of the trials that come our way come when we choose to give our lives to Christ and seek to live in accordance with His will for us. Troubles of every sort may visit you my friend – simply because you have declared your love for the Savior. Your husband or wife may not understand why all of a sudden you have this new direction in life. They may not understand why things that use to matter and hold value to you no longer hold any value, and things that did not matter at all now matter immensely. The guys may not understand why you don’t laugh at the jokes you use to laugh at or why you no longer make crude remarks like you once did. The women you call friends may wonder what is going on with you and why you don’t join in their derogatory discussions about their husbands like you once did. The guys in the locker room may think you’ve gone crazy because you now say that you are saving yourself for marriage instead of trying to take advantage of every girl in school. The girls in your class may think your are strange because you would rather go to a youth group meeting on Saturday night instead of to a party. John says, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
When the world thinks you are odd because of your commitment to Jesus, know that they are right. We are called to be different from the standpoint that we are no longer living for ourselves as we once did. We are no longer seeking the things that will make us happy, the things that we want, or what we think is best for us – we are living only to please God. Peter wrote to his readers and said,
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1-2 NIV)
17Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:17-19 NIV)
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV)
The Bible makes it very clear for us that if we are fitting in then something is terribly wrong. We are not to try and fit in, we are to seek to walk in Christ and Him alone!
John goes on to say in verse 2, 2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We are not now all that we will be, but we are now children of God. We are not now all that God has created us to be, but one day we will see Him at His return and His full glory will be revealed through us.
So many people today are waiting for the right time to come to Jesus. The right time for many is when they finish having their fun or when they get their life cleaned up. The pressing need for us to come to Jesus today is that we can’t clean up our life, it is impossible. Only Jesus can clean up our life and it will take a lifetime for Him to do it. The beautiful truth of God’s Word is that the very moment a person takes the step of faith and receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior – he or she instantly becomes a child of God.
John wrote in His Gospel,
12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)
The worst sinner the world has ever seen, if he or she is willing to cry out to the Lord for the Savior’s forgiveness, will instantly become as a much a child of God as the greatest saint. There is no second team when it comes to God’s family! Those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are God’s favorite sons and daughters.
With that said we need to realize that we are not yet all that we shall be. In this life we still struggle with sin. We will continue to struggle with sin as the Spirit of God within us wars with our flesh. One day, and I can’t wait till that day, our struggle with sin will be over and we will be changed. The day that we go home to be with the Lord our struggle with sin will cease and we shall be changed. We shall be like Jesus!
John says in verse 3, 3 “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” If a person is truly looking forward to the Lord’s return then he or she will desire to conform their lives to the life of Jesus now. We’ve talked about how God purifies us through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, but now John says that we are to purify ourselves. Is this a contradiction? Absolutely not. Jesus’ blood washes away the sin that none of us could ever wash out. As Jesus has done this He has given us the power to live a life that is pleasing to God, to abstain from living the life we lived before we came to know Him.
My prayer for you today is that you would set your heart on the glorious Second Coming of Christ and that by harboring this hope you would allow Him to begin to change you into His image even now. The first step in this process is for you and me to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. Won’t you invite Him in?