The Believer's Hope

As most of you know, I’ve been preaching through 1 John for a while. And if the Lord tarries I’ll continue preaching it for a while. Today we’re going to begin at the end of chapter 2, and go through the beginning of chapter 3.

1 John 2-3
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

I hope you all remember that John is someone who desperately wants all believers to stand firm on the gospel and not be swayed in their faith. He is going to give us some additional truth on how we can stand firm on the gospel by abiding in Christ because that is where our hope lies.

But before we start highlighting these new truths, I think it would be very beneficial to review where John has brought us from because this is all leading up to where John says “now” starting in verse 28.

John starts chapter 2 with a reminder on how to help us avoid sin, seek after God, and seek holy, righteous living. He reminded us that God’s provision for the sinning Christian is found in Jesus Christ, for He alone possesses these unique qualifications: 1) He is righteous, 2) His propitiatory death is accepted by God, and 3) He is our heavenly Advocate. That’s where he started in chapter 2, and it just gets better.

John also helped us understand that through obedience to God’s commands, we demonstrate that we know Him. We can have assurance that we know Him if we obey His commandments, because obedience is evidence of true salvation.

John encouraged us to live and abide in Christ. However, in order to live, or abide in Christ, we must know God and have an intimate knowledge of Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ. But none of this can be accomplished on our own – we must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

John also helped us understand what living in the light looks like as we love God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. When it comes to an individual’s relationship with God, there is no room for gray; you are either living in the light or living in the darkness. John showed us that Jesus Christ, the True Light, is also the light of love, and therefore to live or to walk in the light is to walk in love.

John specifically pointed out that our expression of love is a test of the authenticity of our conversion and an essential part of submitting to Jesus Christ. Therefore the true Christian, who knows God and walks in the light, obeys God and loves his brother.

John’s description of the stages of spiritual growth should challenge all believers to strive in our spiritual growth as we are being transformed into the image of God. All believers should seek to live in daily obedience to God’s Word. Just as Peter highlights in 2 Peter 3:18, all believers while alive on this earth are bound to obey the command to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

John charged us to love neither the world in general nor the things of the world in particular. Our faithfulness must be undivided. Our love must be singularly and totally focused on God – total commitment to Him and Him alone, which means we are to avoid three avenues by which mankind is especially prone to pervert the goodness of God’s creation: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.

John also warned us not to be deceived. He helped us to see that there is a very powerful antichrist who will rise up in the last hour and that there are antichrists who are here now and who have and will continue to reject Jesus Christ. He gave us several principles to recognize the antichrists. First, they “went out from us.” The antichrists come into a local fellowship of believers and subtly spread their lies and deceit and sow general discord among the body. They go out because “they did not really belong to us” – thus they did not belong to God’s family. The second principle is that the basis for their lies is that they deny Jesus is the Christ. By rejecting the Son, they also reject the Father.

One of the characteristics of these antichrists is that they will try to deceive believers. The antichrists are relentless at attacking God’s children with one thing in mind: take them down. But all believers in Jesus Christ have been anointed and the Holy Spirit guards and guides the true believer into the truth.

John provided such great encouragement regarding the truth of the gospel and eternal life. It is the story of how the one true God loved us so much that He provided a plan of salvation to save us from our sins – how He sent His own Son from heaven to earth to be born from a virgin, to live a perfectly sinless life, and ultimately to die on a cross for all who would believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is the unchangeable gospel!

John drew our attention to the two safeguards which will protect us from being led astray. If we are to be guarded against error, two things must ‘remain’ in us: first the gospel message, the Word which ‘you have heard from the beginning,’ and secondly ‘the anointing you received from the Holy Spirit.’ It is these priceless and eternal possessions that will help us to remain in the truth.

And most recently, John reminded us of our need to remain steadfast in the gospel message and fervently seek to have a living faith that relies upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance and guards us to keep us abiding in the truth.

All of that is just in one chapter! And here we are today. After hearing all of this incredible truth, John is now going to remind us of the great hope we have as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s start by re-reading the passage for today.

1 John 2-3
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

He starts out by calling us to abide in Christ, for our hope is in Him.

1 John 2
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

John once again uses one of his favorite terms: “little children.” This term specifically expresses John’s continuing care and concern for the original beneficiaries of this letter.

John is encouraging these believers to “abide” which means “to stay” or “to remain.” As you may be aware, John used this term frequently in his New Testament writings; in fact, he used it nearly a dozen times. In John chapter 15, Jesus instructs the remaining eleven apostles to “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (Jn. 15:4). In the Gospel of John chapter 2, John focused on the general significance of abiding in Christ when he said: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (referring to Jesus) (Jn. 2:6).

John’s teaching that true Christians “abide in Him” reinforces Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:13, “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” John’s words are also consistent with Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians to continue in the faith in Colossians 1:21-23: “Although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”

Abiding in Christ requires a steadfast belief in the Gospel. Therefore, those who profess to believe the Gospel, but later abandon the faith, cannot possibly possess eternal life. You may recall earlier in this letter John wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (Jn. 2:19). So only those who remain faithful to the Lord and His Word, and give evidence of the fruits of righteousness by the indwelling power and presence of the Spirit, are truly saved. John also wrote: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life” (Jn. 2:23-25).

The Bible teaches that true Christians will persevere in their faith, and that God will keep them eternally secure. There is no doubt that the Lord securely holds His children and Jesus highlights this fact in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Although this is incredibly wonderful news, it does not relieve believers from our responsibility to persevere in our faith and abide in Christ. But we also need to realize that is it God who provides us with the power and strength to remain steadfast in our faith. If it were totally up to us, we would so easily wander.

John ends this verse with the contrast of what some so-called “Christians” will do. Those who claim to be Christians, but are really unbelievers, will “shrink away from Him in shame,” because they are not genuine children; they are unregenerate. Matthew 13:20–22 says, “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Scripture makes it clear that the unbeliever’s hypocrisy will be evidenced by their lack of perseverance in the faith.

It is only by God’s amazing, sovereign grace that believers have been saved, justified, and are being sanctified. It is that same amazing grace that will at the resurrection bring us into full eternal reward “at His coming” and keep us from shrinking away. Titus 2:11–14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” We are to remain faithful to the end of this life when Jesus returns.

Hope is manifested by righteousness.

1 John 2
29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

Righteousness is absolutely and necessarily the result of the new birth. Paul in Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” However, all who claim to be believers but do not demonstrate any concrete fruit of righteousness demonstrate that they are actually not God’s children. James 2:26 says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Unbelievers have no legitimate claim to God’s eternal promises since their lives exemplify an unregenerate heart and no fruit of righteousness.

John uses the word “know” twice in this verse and it is important to understand the different meanings. The first occurrence is from a word which has the sense of perceiving an absolute truth. The second use comes from a word which conveys “to know by experience,” “recognize,” or “come to perceive.” John asserts first that true believers know that God is righteous; therefore, they can recognize those who practice righteousness. In 1 Peter 1:14–16 Scripture says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” John is reminding us that real believers are not validated by what they claim, but are confirmed by how they are following Jesus Christ as they are living life in accordance with God’s Word. We know what righteousness is because we have seen it and experienced it in Christ.

Calling believers to righteous living and personal holiness is not new. Although John is calling us to be holy and live righteous in this passage, it is God who set the standard of purity and righteousness way back in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. Paul’s letters in the New Testament also encourage believers to pursue holiness. For example, in his letter to the Romans Paul said, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1–2). Is there any doubt what type of life a believer is to live? God set the standard and John and Paul have reemphasized that standard of holy and righteous living. We can never truthfully say that we don’t know how we are to live. The hope of Christ’s return we discussed in verse 28 not only sustains faith because of abiding in Christ, but here in verse 29 it makes righteousness a habit in our daily living.

Those truly born again as God’s children have their heavenly Father’s righteous nature. As a result, we are to display characteristics of God’s righteousness. John makes it very clear that the new birth results in righteous living. So it is righteous living, not mere outward profession, that evidences the fact that a person has been born again. Regarding this point, James asks a challenging question: “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:20). In other words, it is not what we say we believe, it is the evidence of righteous daily living that demonstrates our belief.

Hope is established by love.

1 John 3
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Several Sundays ago Lyndon preached on purity of the heart in 2 Timothy 2:22, and one of the things we are to pursue is love. John’s opening of this verse, “see how great a love,” highlights his admiration of God and how He has shown His love for us. There is no doubt that God has showered believers with divine grace and love that we would be called His children.

God loves His children with a love that is impossible to express in human language and that is beyond complete human understanding. This is true agape love. It is God’s volitional love that He “has bestowed on us;” all whom He has called and who believe in Jesus Christ. In John 15:13 Jesus summarized it this way: “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” In John 4:9-10 John explains, “By this, the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is a love that only God possesses, but that we are called to model to a dying world.

When it comes to God’s love of mankind, it is expressed by either common grace or specific grace. Common grace is God’s love toward all mankind – believers and unbelievers. Matthew puts this truth this way, “…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45). Specific grace is God’s love directed to believers. Paul confirms this in Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). It is the latter specific and unique love of God for His children that gives all believers the steadfast foundation of eternal hope.

John continues; because we have been adopted into God’s family and are “called children of God,” we have hope because we have experienced God’s love in an eternal, personal, saving way. Paul also highlights this in Romans 8:16 when he says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Believers have become God’s children solely because He lavishly “bestowed on us” a gracious, unmerited, sovereign love which is completely undeserved and unmerited. Because God’s love is incomprehensible in terms that this world could understand, it isn’t really surprising that “the world does not know us” nor the nature of a believer’s relationship with God. It all stems from the fact that this world “did not know Him.”

Unbelievers cannot comprehend the true essence and character of believers, because believers now reflect the character of God and Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:15–16, Paul says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” And in Philippians 2:15 Paul says, “…so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Because Christians are so intrinsically different from the world around them, the New Testament appropriately describes them as “strangers and exiles” in Hebrews 11:13, “aliens” in 1 Peter 1:1, and “aliens and strangers” in 1 Peter 2:11. In other words, the real aliens in this world are not extra-terrestrials; it is Christians because the Christian lifestyle and nature are totally alien and foreign to this world. I need to remember that when someone questions my faith, when someone says, “What is this Christianity about?” Someone attacks you – you talk about the biggest bias in the world, say you’re a Christian and see what that looks like.

We are talking about those who, in hope, desire a heavenly home with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has gone to prepare a place for us. As we think about this eternal hope, we need to remember that God has declared all believers justified, is growing us through sanctification, and will ultimately perfect our hope through glorification. Now that is the great hope we have as believers!

Hope is fulfilled by Christlikeness.

1 John 3
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

You know, Heaven is attractive to all believers for many reasons, primarily because we will not only see the Lord Jesus Christ, but we will become like Him. John highlights this incredible truth here and Paul highlights it in 1 Corinthians 15:49-53: “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” As a believer, that is a day that I am looking forward to with great expectation and excitement and I hope you are as well. To not only be in the very presence of Jesus Christ but to be like Him, it staggers my mind.

John states that “now we are children of God,” for all believers have been saved with a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as a result, believers “will be like Him.” This isn’t just some minor modification or tune-up like young men do to their cars; God has promised to bring about a dramatic transformation. We will no longer have a sinful state; we will be made perfect in every way. I can’t speak for you, but as for me, that is going to be a change of biblical proportions. God has promised this change because, as Paul states, “those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). This eternal and amazing transformation will make the Christian perfectly holy and righteous, with a perfectly pure and unlimited capacity to worship and glorify God endlessly forever.

Lastly, hope is characterized by purity.

1 John 3
3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

A believer’s hope in Christ’s return should make a practical difference in their lifestyle and behavior. When our hope is “fixed on Him,” it should produce a continuously growing desire to be like Christ as we live each day in this world. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and He is the one who has provided us the ultimate pattern for holy living. He is the one whom we must follow with increasing desire and diligence just as the apostle Paul exemplified. It should be said that each believer “purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Before we allow our pride to puff up inside of us, the idea of purifying oneself does not mean believers can generate their own sanctification. Instead, it emphasizes that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit does not take place apart from the believer’s obedience and pursuit of purity. We have been called to obey Scripture in all things while the Holy Spirit continues His sanctifying work in us.

When we think about heaven, our primary focus should be on being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be preoccupied with speculations about what it might be like to float on clouds or walk down streets of gold, even though that does sound pretty spectacular. As we focus our hope on our perfectly holy Savior and yearn to be both with Him and fully like Him, our lives should be positively driven toward righteousness in our daily walk. For example, Paul told the Corinthians, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

There is no doubt that the gospel delivers to believers a message of hope. After all, the gospel itself is hope, a living hope that abides in us. Paul so perfectly articulates this hope in 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” This living hope results in purification. We are to purify ourselves just as He is pure.

All who are abiding in Christ will gratefully recognize God’s love toward them. They will be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ and pursue lives of purity. This will undoubtedly result in a confident hope. In fact, not even the trials of life should diminish our eternal confidence in the promises of God. This kind of hope is foundational to every redeemed sinner’s standing before God. Paul stated in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Of all people we are to be the most hopeful, for our hope is sure.

I know I flew through a lot there, but that’s what God put on my heart. In closing, I want to ask a few questions, and I want all of us to meditate on and contemplate these questions.

Is your hope truly in Jesus Christ and Him alone?
Is your hope being manifested by righteous living?
Is your hope being exemplified by love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
Is your hope such that you truly desire to see the day when you are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? I don’t know if it’s old age or what, but I’m really looking forward to that day. I hope I have the right motive for it, that it’s not just, “Well, my knee hurts!” I hope my motive is to be with Jesus Christ, and to be like Him.
And lastly, is your hope such that you desire to live a pure life before Him each and every day?

Maybe you are here today and you don’t really understand why this message is all about our hope in Jesus Christ; you’re wondering why you need to put your faith and hope in Him. If you have any questions at all, there are many people here who would be glad to talk to you about putting your faith in Christ.

Perhaps you are here and you couldn’t answer many of the questions I just asked in a positive manner, and you really want to make a change in your life. Again, there are people here to come alongside you and help you see that this hope is a sure hope.

Is our focus on Christ? Is that where our hope is at? Regardless of what you’re doing or where you’re at in this world, that’s the question you have to answer. Because that is the ultimate question in this life: where are you placing your hope?

Remember, none of us can say we are believers and not have our eternal hope rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

1 John 2-3
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.