A psychologist, William Marston, once asked three thousand people, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to learn that 94 percent boldly asserted they were living only for the present while they waited for the future. His research showed a vast majority of people today wait -- wait for something to happen, either good or bad. They wait for tomorrow, for next year. They wait to be something and finally, wait to die. If a survey were taken in our community, how many of us would express similar feelings? To Christians, this should be a reprehensible disposition. Christian people live for the future, while enduring the present. That is what is called “hope” in this wonderful book, the Bible.
Please read 1 John 3:2-3. “Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” With those comforting words of assurance, every true believer may bask in the radiance of divine promises that provide stability during the rough winds of life.
The text for our study emphasizes the present condition of the faithful who serve the Lord. We are “now,” affirms John, “the children of God.” As God’s offspring, the love of God covers and blesses continually. Not all who claim membership in God’s family are really legitimate children. There is but one way to be in God’s family -- that comes through the new birth process. The new birth has been debated, discussed, and thoroughly dissected by theologians and denominational preachers. The best commentary on the new birth is simple. Look with me at two verses. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now turn with me to Matthew, chapter 7. Here, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
In our schools, teachers tell our children (and most of us can remember this) that things that equal the same thing are equal to each other. If 3 and 1 equals 4, and 2 and 2 also equals 4, then 3 and 1 equals 2 and 2. Now that may sound extremely simple -- and it is. But the gospel is not complex. Jesus did not intend for anyone to misunderstand the plain simple truth of the new birth. Since He said to Nicodemus that being born of water and the Spirit equals entrance into the kingdom of God, and also said that those who do the will of God enter the kingdom, it follows that the new birth is simply the process of obedience to the will of God.
We remember expressions such as obeying the gospel as found in 2 Thess. 1:8 and 1 Pet. 4:17. Obedience to the gospel is doing the will of God. But what does gospel obedience involve? Listen carefully: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). The believer is the one who believes what the Holy Spirit revealed -- that is the gospel. The believer who is baptized in water is born of water. Thus, being born of water and the Spirit is obedience to a command Christ gave, which His apostles and every other faithful minister of His has preached ever since, and that command was revealed by His Spirit. Those who do believe and are baptized are His beloved children. Those who disbelieve are not.
John moves to the next phase of being a believer. A believer is the object of love and has been promised something that is exclusive to the church. Having just laid down a premise that the world really does not know much about the children of God, because it knew nothing about Jesus, John now says that there are things God’s children don’t know. In fact, he seems to say that even himself, an inspired apostle, did not really know all that is included in the Lord’s promise. He said, “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Here is a very important message to all of us. What do we do when questions rise and we have no answer from God? In such an instance we should remain silent. It is foolhardy to answer questions for God without any divine revelation. But the real tragedy today is that so many people in religion inject their opinions, their doctrinal views, their philosophical concepts rather than wait to find what is revealed.
One can always be sure that a thing is one way or another if there is any revelation about it in the word of God. And be sure, there is no other revelation from God, other than the Bible. Other pseudo-revelations, such as the Book of Mormon, Science and Health and Keys to the Scripture, the visions, dreams, impressions, and feelings people claim to have received are all false. There is only one source of true revelation -- the Bible. But when the Bible does not reveal something now, but promises that in the future it will be revealed, we must simply wait in patient faith.
The thing John says is not yet revealed is what we will be like in the future. We are now God’s children in the flesh. We are in this world, told not to be of this world, and are to try to become more like the Lord all the while. Listen to some complementary verses. Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Paul says that we will be changed into something glorious at the end of our earthly journey. And by the term “conversation,” he meant the way we live.
Directions on how to live daily come from heaven. Paul also wrote, “If you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, and not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with God in Christ. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4). This is a promise for which every true child of God should be profoundly thankful.
The Bible tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). In that chapter, Paul also says, “As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (verse 49). Then he added, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (verses 51-53).
I respectfully notice something that may be a bit sensitive. We often hear these texts only at funerals. When a loved one is laid to rest, a preacher often goes to the comfort these words might offer the bereaved. While they are comforting to those who suffer the loss of someone they love, Paul intended them for living people with their future yet before them. He intended those words to give hope and assurance that at the end, our lives will take on the essence of immortality and forever be blessed. Gone will be the pain, the sickness, the heartaches, the fears, the dangers, the losses. The child of God will be raised to be like Jesus.
Now, the conclusion of this is from John again. “And everyone that has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” We have to be careful in our notice of the pronouns Him and He. When John says that everyone who has this hope in Him, the “in Him” refers to Christ. Christ is the only substance, the only One in whom a true child of God posits hope. You see, hope has direction. It focuses its pinpoint on Christ, the Son of God. Please allow me to pass along words from the great late scholar, A.T. Robertson. Robertson wrote: “But such a destiny of likeness to Christ with such a hope of certainty calls for constant purifying discipline on the part of those who are to appear in Christ’s likeness in the presence of God, ‘even as He is pure.’ Christlikeness includes this ideal of personal cleanness. The blood of Christ alone cleanses us from all sin, but the individual Christian alone can consecrate himself to a life of purity after the example of Christ.” Epochs in the Life of the Apostle John, The A.T. Robertson Library, Baker Book House, 1976, pages 131-132.
Why should there be in Christian people such a strong desire to live free from sin? Because they really hope to be with and like the Lord when life here is ended. They hope to be more like God -- there is no possibility of a mere man actually becoming God. As Jesus said, “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This perfection is not something for which Deity must exert even the slightest effort, but it is that which every mortal who wants to go to heaven must spend the last ounce of strength, through faith, to achieve. At the end, one who has obeyed the gospel of Christ, entered the heavenly family, lived faithfully by directions that come from heaven, can then join Paul and say, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
I urge everyone who may be reading this to examine yourself right now. If you are not truly a child of God, get somewhere where someone can explain the rudiments of faith to you, turn from sin through genuine repentance, and be baptized in obedience to Christ. If you are a Christian, think of what wonderful things lay in the future. Don’t wait for something to happen, realize with assurance that God will always providentially make right things happen for His family.
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