by Mike Ratliff
This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:11-16 ESV)
For the past week I have been listening to John MacArthur’s series on the doctrine of Election and the Sovereignty of God. I planned to write this evening on that topic, but as I started my research I could not solidify my text, my sources, my focus, nothing. I then backed away from that and asked God to show me why John’s topic was so vibrant in my heart, but I could not write what I wanted about it. He then guided me to see that I should write about one the main benefits of our salvation. After all, those who don’t grasp the veracity of election…yet, are still saved who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. All in Christ have much in common no matter what doctrines they hold. Therefore, this post’s focus is on the marvelous outcome of our salvation that we are Children of God and because of that we have a “purifying hope” in Christ.
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)
We will focus on in 1 John 2:28-29 through 1 John 3:1-3. This section of 1 John follows a section of chapter 2, v24-27, that is focused on a call for Christians to let truth abide in them in order to discern what is truth and what is false and deceiving in this world. Then John moves into a call to not only let the truth abide in them, but for them to abide in Christ Himself. The word abide is translated from a Greek word that means to “dwell in” or “remain with.” This is the same word Jesus used in John 15 when He spoke of Himself as the Vine and His disciples as the branches. He said that those who abide in Him prove their genuineness by doing so and are enabled to serve Him in His power because His strengthening Joy becomes manifest in their hearts. In fact, Christians can do nothing good unless Christ empowers them to do so.
Immediately before John commands his readers to abide in Christ, he calls them “little children.” This is a term of endearment that was common for disciplers to use when talking with their students. All of God’s children are Christ’s disciples. There are none of God’s children who do not qualify as disciples. There are no pretenders. All of Christ’s disciples are God’s children. Those who are not genuine Christians, but are part of the visible church will fail the test of love and obedience that John will elaborate for us in this passage.
Why are God’s Children to abide in Christ? They must so they will not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming. Part of the test of genuineness is a growth in righteousness. The genuine Christian will continue to grow in virtue as they mature. This will cause such character change in them that when they appear before Christ they will not be ashamed, but will rejoice with Him because they passed the test.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
1 John 3:1-3 is one of my life passages. It is important to me. God used this to reveal to me how vital it is for His Children to turn their hearts back to Him. When my wife and I were still members of the church we left earlier this year, I used this passage as a test with a few of those who were insinuating that I was not an authentic leader while they were. They were trying to move the church into a pragmatic form of doing Church and I opposed them. I used scripture to compare to what they were trying to implement. Whenever I used this passage with a “leader” in that movement, I would ask them what it meant to them. Very few saw how vital it is in our walk and our approach to God and how we serve Him. I used this passage with these people so that God would verify in my heart those who were deceived and those who weren’t. I could always tell by their reaction. Sadly, those whose heart was pricked by these words were few in number. Those who shrugged it off were the majority.
What is so important about this passage? It is the focus. First we are to value the love the Father has given to His people as the most valuable of treasures. We are to see it as totally undeserved. We should marvel that God chose us at all. However, those who did not pass my little test would always shrug this off. They would just skim over these verses then give me a quizzical look. The fact that God saves us is amazing. We should never take our salvation for granted. These people were. Of course their theology was still geared towards what men do not what God does. They were attempting to secularize the church with worldly music, a weak gospel, etc. This passage tells us that the miracle of salvation should always be a mystery to us and we are to be different from the world, not part of it. The fact that God adopted us to be Jesus’ siblings is an amazing thing. But, that fact didn’t even phase those people. It was like a big so-what? to them. We should see our salvation as a miracle and we should never get over that. These people had gotten over it or they saw their salvation as something they accomplished themselves. If they had the proper focus they would read this passage and would rejoice with me. But that rarely happened.
The last part of this passage tells us what we are to do since we see how important it is to abide in Christ as He matures us. Those who see their salvation culminating in a glorious homecoming in Heaven to be with their saviour forever, will devote themselves to living a virtuous and pure life.
I have often pondered on the difference in reaction to 1 John 3:1-3. The ones who saw little in it of value were believers still chasing after the wind in church. They worked hard. They were faithful in church stuff, but their devotion to God Himself, walking in repentance, and walking by faith was next to nothing. Those who responded with joy as they read this passage were those whose faith was alive and growing deeper and more vibrant. Does this mean those others were not really Children of God? No, I don’t think it means that, even though that is a possibility. God has to break them down. He must break their hearts and draw them to repent as they learn to walk close to Him. They must become Spirit-led, but God has to do His good work in their hearts to accomplish this.
Do you know anyone like I was describing? They look at those who are all excited about being Spirit-led as either crazy or too serious about their faith. I know many like that. It breaks my heart, but what can we do? All we can do is live obedient lives and pray for them to learn how to repent and abide in Christ. Again, it must start by us drawing near to God. God will then draw near to us. He will then perform His wonderful work of Heart reconstruction in us. We must forsake the attractions the world has in favor of walking closer to God. Our devotion to God must come first. This is how we abide in Christ. This is how we start down the narrow way of the cross. This is how we become Spirit-led. I fear that those “believers” who refuse to do this are not Children of God at all.
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