Simon Bowkett's Podcast

1 John 3:1-3 And we will be CHANGED!

April 30, 2022 Simon Bowkett
Show Notes Transcript

         •        Introduction

What determines the sort of person you become?

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘Who do you WANT to be?’

Two pretty basic questions addressed in what is actually an aside in this letter of John’s from his banishment in exile to a bunch of believers also under pressure and in danger of getting distracted so that they would not keep the main things the main things.

Two questions that will actually have a profound effect on how you behave and therefore on the person you become.

What are your core values?

Who do you ASPIRE to be?

John is saying here that actually you can want it all you like, but who you become is far more influenced by your actual identity NOW (and the person you know you are going to be) by the hope at the very end of your earthly journey.

The New English Translation is really helpful here and I’m focusing on that translation of these verses today:

“(See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are!

 For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him. 

2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.

3 And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure).”

There’s our present identity in Christ, our future identity with Christ, and there’s the effect having your mind focused on these two things will have on who we are.

It comes from focusing on this hope.

         •        1. Our present identity in Christ, v. 1

“(See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are! 

For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him …”

 


            •          Unpopularity & identity

So here’s the thing.

You don’t find yourself being made very popular in this world for being a Christian.

Jesus Himself made that very clear to His first disciples when He said in Matthew 10:36

“a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

That was almost a quote of Micah 7:6 where the prophet laments the awful state of the world he was then living in and spelled out how bad it was in these words: “a son dishonours his father,

    a daughter rises up against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

    a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.”

This world we live in, John seems to be saying, is alienated from God.

So when the love of God is focused through the Gospel and the individual’s call from God onto particular people, and as a result they become God’s children, those individuals also become alienated from the world the way God also is.

·       It’s because God (with Whom His children are united) is eternal that His children have eternal life.

·       It is because God is righteous that His children live righteously.

·       It is because God is love that His children feel the compulsion to all love.

·       And it is because God is unpopular in the culture of this world we live in that His children are unpopular too, and the tendency of that is to give us the idea we’re doing something wrong.

Not so, John is saying.

Not so at ALL!

God’s people are God’s children and like Father, like offspring: “For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him …”


            •          God’s children

And this is not a sign of God’s disfavour either:

“See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are!”

Here is, if you like, the CONTENT of God’s love … God’s love is expressed in allowing us to become His children and providing a way to make that happen through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and doing all that even though we have repeatedly rejected Him and sinned against Him.


            •          Adoption - the sign and the seal of His love

So, John is really describing the sign and seal of His love for His people as being in this thing we call ‘adoption’

·       the fact of it (the transaction is done in the Heavenly adoption records) and 

·       the experience of it.

The Apostle Paul speaks about this experience of adoption in Romans 8:14-16 where He says: “ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. 

And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

So, Paul is saying that we experience this precious absolute truth in Heaven’s adoption records as we relate to God and He to us as father to son or daughter.

But what does that look like?

It looks like being LED by the Spirit and it looks like crying out for our needs and requirements to Him habitually and in the normal course of events as a son or daughter would … if they had a good relationship with their father.


            •          Adoption - no guarantee of this world’s love

But this adoption is no guarantee of the love of this world around us.

None at all!

Christians, having been born of God, are no longer OF the world … and when this fact shows up about you in your normal interactions with the folks around you, it causes alienation from them.

Now that is NO excuse for being odd or angular or awkward.

John IS saying that the world cannot appreciate or understand Christians because what makes them tick is something the world can’t understand.

Just as this world didn’t recognise or appreciate Jesus because He didn’t meet their aspirations or expectations of being the Messiah (see John 1:11), so the people of this  world will misunderstand and reject those who are born of God as well.

They rejected Jesus as God’s Son so they will reject us in the same way because we follow Him and are His sons and daughters too.

We share a terrific sort of identity.

But it is the attitude of the world around us to that identity which God’s people possess in the here and now that authenticates the reality of our adoption.

If this world were all there was that’d be a BAD thing.

But John got straight on having dealt with our present identity to dealing with our future identity in Christ.

         •        2. Our future identity with Christ, v. 2a

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and 

what we will be has not yet been revealed. 

We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is”

There are three important ideas there …

1. We ARE God’s children now

2. What we WILL be is not yet revealed

3. But when it IS revealed the whole thing will be transformational, because at THAT point we will see Him as He is.


            •          NOW

OK - we haven’t inherited everything in the here and now, but we know we are definitely in the will.

We ARE God’s children now, but we haven’t inherited the full benefits yet.

But we ARE God’s children already now and there’s no doubt about it.

The choice by the new adoptive parent’s made.

The paperwork’s done and the adoption has been completed.

It is a PRESENT benefit, and Paul in Romans 8 described for us a few of the ways we know that. … in the experience we have as God’s people in the here and now.

That word ‘now’ in v. 2 actually works out to be quite truly precious.

Oh yes, God’s children often seem not that great … still a work in progress!

That is true, the reality of our adoption is there, in the here and now.

But the fact is (says John) we are NOW God’s children in spite of everything … with all our faults and flaws … and yes sins … all on FAR too open, glaring, clear display.

And yet God isn’t going to leave our state like that.

There’s going to come a big transforming moment.


            •          Then

V. 2 “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and 

what we will be has not yet been revealed. 

We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is”

There’s a BIG day coming.

But it IS in the future, and it remains to be revealed exactly what it’s going to be like.

God really doesn’t want to leave His children the way we ARE at the moment.

Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that this stuff the Lord has prepared for us is going to be beyond what any human mind could at all imagine.

You can try but you can’t imagine it fully.

No, it has to be REVEALED.

Now, you can think of this situation by analogy with the Lord’s first disciples.

THEY couldn’t fully understand the truth about Him until after His death and resurrection. … they had no categories for understanding something that God had never before done.

Similarly, then, the full effect of being a child of the Father in Glory is something no child of God can fully comprehend in the here and now.

It’s a glorious and wonderful thing that is coming but it is currently way out beyond human imagination or understanding.

It is GLORIOUS, and yet … and yet.

But please notice that John isn’t telling us this to simply cheer us up!

It’s to transform our hearts.


            •          Transforming truth

“what we will be has not yet been revealed. 

We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him …”

John’s big concern in telling us all this is that we get the message about getting to be LIKE Him … like HIM you see, not John of course but Jesus.

John is not concerned here for fanciful speculation about a human afterlife.

He is concerned about ethical living, viewed as REFLECTING the character of our adoptive Heavenly Father.

As Karen Jobes puts it in her commentary: “It is about the children bearing a family resemblance to the Father.”

How does that work out?

         •        3. The effect that focusing on Him has upon our character, vv. 2b-3

“We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, 

because we will see him just as he is. 

3 And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure).”

The triune God is the One Who to see is to be TRANSFORMED by.


            •          Whenever it is REVEALED

“whenever it is revealed we will be like him”

So here’s the implicit recognition of the obvious truth … we have a Father Who is love and light and truth.

But as things stand we have to say that we are not those things.

We are NOT like Him in the way we wish we were.

But having seen a glimpse of the eternal future in His post-resurrection encounters with the Lord Jesus, John has had a glimpse of his destined future, and having been present at the Transfiguration, John has glimpsed its Glory!

And so John says with confidence that when the Lord returns in Glory, “we will be like Him”

United with Christ?

Then whatever He became as to His human nature as a resurrected human, we ourselves will also become … and having had the glimpses of the future that he did have, John looks forward to a believer’s future with great eagerness.

But … and we need to notice this … John’s concern here really IS NOT about speculating around the afterlife.

It IS about ethical living as a reflection of our Father.


            •          Seeing Jesus as He IS transforms a person

It is about the children bearing a family resemblance to the Father when He is revealed to us as we then see Him as He is.

Exactly HOW seeing Christ on that day is the cause of our transformation, we are not told here.

At the moment we only have our mind’s eye to ‘see’ Him.

And that can be a wonderful thing in and of itself … inspiring, uplifting, encouraging and life transforming in its way in this current evil age.

But it is partial.

As Jobes writes in her commentary: “But surely when He returns, the full impact of His identity, of which humanity can now have only a feeble glimpse, will transform every desire, every motivation, every impulse.”

And the anticipation of that motivates the daily living of all God’s children in the here-and-now.

And it starts changing us in the here and now in a lesser but nonetheless real sense, while we wait for the greater revelation of Him on that famous coming day.


            •          This hope in Him PURIFIES

“we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

v. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

That Greek for ‘hope’ is the word ἐλπίδα (hope) has so much more certainty in it than the English word commands.

So when John speaks here of the believer’s future outside this fallen world, there is no uncertainty.

And there is no uncertainty because it is based on what Christ the Lord has actually already DONE.

The only reason this firm expectation gets referred to here as ‘hope’ is that the realisation of it still lies out there in the future.

That word ‘purifies’ (ἁγνίζω) is to ceremonially make pure, purify, cleanse  and it can also mean to clean up morally.

The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the word several times of the ritual purification set out in the Old Testament laws.

It’s used a number of times in the New Testament (e.g. John 11:55 or Acts 21:24) to do the same.

But John uses the word here to refer to the moral transformation of the believer that results in the here and now from the sure and certain hope of seeing Jesus on that day.

That hope inaugurates the transformation process even in the here and now.

         •        Conclusion

What John does here for the hope-conscious Christian believer is to highlight the transformation of the believer that will take place when we see Jesus and the power of that future hope to inaugurate the full future transformation when we see Him on that day.

What John set out was our present identity in Christ, our future identity with Christ, and the effect having your mind focused on these two things will have on who you are and WHO you will become.

Whatever your particular Christian values are, and whatever you aspire to be, His programme for changing your values arises here.

It comes into being from focusing on this future hope of seeing Jesus with something more than just your mind’s eye.

It comes from focusing your mind therapeutically on this future hope … we do NOT know how it works, but we have certain hope that it shall be.

Do NOT despair of yourself or of any fellow believer for that matter.

We shall see Him in reality, and we’ll be transformed.