Hope Focused on Christ and His Return
(A short meditation on 1 John 3:3)
“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:3 ESV).
I’ve heard it said that your eschatology, that is, your doctrine of future things, determines your present conduct. What that means, I suppose, is that your view of the future shapes and forms your behavior and lifestyle now. So if you think that there’s no life after death, you wouldn’t care what kind of life you have now. It doesn’t matter anyway.
But if you believe that there is really life after death, and there is a God who will judge you according to your works, whether good or evil, then you would surely be careful and watchful with the way you live now. So how does your view of the future affect your life?
You see, some people are fascinated to study future things. They are interested to learn about the second coming of Christ, millennium, rapture, final judgment, etc. But for some reason their knowledge of these things doesn't move them to right action or holy living. Others avoid the study of them altogether because of fear or the perception that they are difficult to understand. Besides, some would say, they are not really important. So why bother yourself?
I don’t know if you can identify with these sentiments. But if you don’t seem to see the connection between your belief of the future and the quality of your present conduct, you really do not have the kind of hope that motivates believers to live godly lives.
Here in 1 John 3 we can learn that our hope of Christ’s appearing motivates us to live pure and holy lives. In many ways the conscious anticipation of Christ’s second coming drives us to holy living and faithful service. And 1 John 3:3 tells us that as children of our heavenly Father, forgiven and accepted in His Son, we must focus on the purity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the promise of His return.
As children of God, our hope is not in circumstances or in some optimistic wish for a better tomorrow. Our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ and in His promised return to take us home. He said that He was returning to heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). Then He added these wonderful words of hope, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John14:3).
He’s coming back for us, and when that happens, we will go to be with Him in the place that He has prepared for us! Shouldn't all of our hope be fixed on Him then?
The holiness of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ is a frequent theme in 1 John. In 1:5, John tells us that, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” In 2:1, he refers to Jesus as “the righteous.” In 2:20, he refers to Christ as “the Holy One.” In 2:29, he again affirms that “He is righteous.” In 1 John 3:3 he says, “He is pure.” This word 'pure' originally referred to ceremonial purity, but it came to mean that which is “pure in the highest sense.” It refers to freedom from all defilement of sin, especially moral sin. So this purity refers to our sanctification.
Clearly, that glorious future day when we see Jesus face to face, that vision transforms us. John says, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself.” The Biblical view on sanctification is that, on the one hand, God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). In that sense, it’s a done deal and clearly, God does it.
Yet on the other hand, God says that we must purify ourselves as we focus our hope in our pure and holy Lord. The Apostle Paul writes the same thing: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
You and I must actively pursue purity and holiness in the light of the appearing or return of the Lord. To actively confess the coming of Christ means to avoid any activity that distracts us from serving Him faithfully and living for His glory. For “everyone who has this hope fixed on him PURIFIES HIMSELF, just as he is pure” (emphasis mine).
So here we see that there is a definite sense in which we must be active in the process of sanctification in the light of Christ's second coming. The other side, however, is that only the blood of Christ can cleanse us (1 John 1:7, 9). We are cleansed through the washing of water with the Word (Eph. 5:26). So God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are like the soap and water. But we’ve got to apply it to the dirt of our sin.
The Word is also like a mirror, revealing to us the dirt on our faces. When it does that, rather than ignoring it, we must confess our sins to the Lord, appropriate by faith His shed blood as our source of cleansing, and take the necessary steps to avoid that sin in the future. That's part of purifying ourselves.
To summarize our point, if you are clear in your thinking who Jesus is and what pleases Him, you wouldn’t be doing something that would offend Him, would you? Rather you would seek to do what is right and pleasing in His sight. So by the power of the Holy Spirit keep on cleaning the dirt out of your life.
Begin with your mind. Resist every thought that is contrary to the Word of God. But dwell on thoughts that exalt your Sovereign Lord. Then keep on putting off your old self and its desires – sexual immorality, evil desire, greed, slander, lie, wrath, malice, unwholesome talk, etc. Likewise continue putting on your new self in Christ, even holiness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, self-control, and all the virtues becoming as a child of God. If you do these things, you know that you're fixing your hope in the Lord and in His coming. And truly that vision purifies you even now.