“And That Is What We Are!”


A Study of 1 John 2:28 – 3:3

Introduction

Whenever you handle a set of papers, you’re probably going to come across one of the world’s greatest and most lowly inventions—a paper clip. It was invented by a Norwegian man who just twisted some wire together so it would secure papers. He never imagined that other people would come up with hundreds and hundreds of ways to use his paper clip. How many criminals have we seen on television or the movies who escaped because they picked their handcuffs with a paper clip? How many of us have hung Christmas ornaments on the tree with a paper clip? Or used one as a key ring? Or stuck one in our glasses when the screw came out. I was doing that one day when I met a man who looked at me and said, “I see you have a screw loose.”

But there’s one thing it is very hard to do with a paper clip—and that is to unfold it and untwist it to make a perfectly straight piece of wire—perfectly straight, horizontal, linear piece of wire. But when the Lord helps you, you can keep working at it for as long as it takes.

We’ll talk about that today as we continue our studies into the small letter of 1 John, near the end of the Bible. Today we’re coming to the ending of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3.

Scripture

28 And now, dear children, continue [abide] in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Abide In Him

Here again the apostle John brings up the concept of abiding in Christ. He is very attached to this idea, which Jesus introduced in John 15 in His parable of the vine and the branches. He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear fruit.” That analogy has three parts.

First, it tells us we must be attached to Christ, devoted to Him in unbroken fellowship. The vine is the trunk of the plant that is connected to the roots and emerges strong and upright from the ground. The branch is ancillary, a limb or offshoot. Jesus could have used the idea of the human body and an arm. Here I am, and the core of my physical self runs from my head to my feet, and between my head and my feet God has placed my heart and lungs and the organs that keep me alive. I have two arms, one on my left and one on my right. My core body can live without my right arm, but my right arm cannot live without my core body.

My arm needs to remain in unbroken connection to my body, just as a branch needs to remain in unbroken fellowship with the vine. When we are abiding in Jesus Christ it means that we are enjoying unbroken fellowship with Him. He is our everything.

Second, if that’s true, then we are supplied with everything we need, especially on a spiritual and emotional level. Just as sap flows continually between the branch and the vine, so the Holy Spirit flows continually from Jesus Christ to us, and we are always receiving the spiritual resources we need—such as God’s truth in the Scripture and His power and His grace—by means of the circulating Holy Spirit.

Third, if we are abiding in Christ and are being supplied with all the spiritual resources we need, we bear fruit. We are fruitful. We develop an agape-type dimension of divine love that brings with it joy and peace and good works. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and I abide in you, you will bring forth much fruit.”

So the idea of abiding implies being attached to Christ, supplied by Christ, and fruitful for Christ. That isn’t true in its fullest sense for every Christian, for some Christians are living sub-Christian lives. They are attached to Christ, but they aren’t spiritually healthy. There are habits or attitudes that grieve the Holy Spirit and reduce the flow of His circulation, just as you may have circulation problems with your arm.

That’s why John told these Christians in Western Turkey to Abide in Christ, as Jesus had taught us in John 15.

Anticipate His Return

How do you know if you’re abiding in Christ? One way is by how often you think about His return, His Second Coming. Let’s go back to our paragraph in chapter 2:

28 And now, dear children, continue [abide] in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

We want to live in such a way that we’ll have no regrets when He comes, when we see Him and stand before Him and give an account of our lives. And now John is going to expound on this and go further into it.

28 And now, dear children, continue [abide] in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

God doesn’t just love us. He lavishes His love on us, and He doesn’t just lavish His love on us—He lavishes His great love on us. See what great love the Father has lavished on us…!

Think of a marriage. It’s wonderful if a husband and wife love each other, but what would it be like if they lavished great love on each other? What would it be like if parents lavished their children with love, and children their parents?

Lavish means occurring in profusion, with great amounts, amounts without limit, given with expression. That’s how much God loves you. He loves you. He lavishes you with love. He lavishes you with His great love. And He lavishes you with His great love to such an extent that He calls you His son or His daughter.

John couldn’t get over that. Look at his emphatic language. He repeats this three times: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God….

John is an old man who had served Jesus since he was a teenager, had known Jesus personally, and had been one of the original apostles. But he couldn’t get over this incredible truth—that we are children of God. He has lavished His great love on us and called us children of God, and that is what we are—we are children of God. 

Now, he says the world doesn’t understand that. In the context of our studies, he is saying that the deserters who are leaving the churches and proclaiming a false narrative about Christ do not know what they are missing. They do not know what they are leaving. They think they are superior and smarter and shrewder; but they are simply worldlings, while we are truly the eternal children of a loving Heavenly Father.

And that’s why we can anticipate the future. Jesus is coming back for us! 

And what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

In other words, when Jesus comes again He will rapture or resurrect us, He will transform us, and He will make us like Himself. We can’t imagine all that means, but we do have some ideas about it.

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, 

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

He continued:

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 …the perishable (will be) clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality,

The British Broadcasting Company did a program on what the human body will be like after a million more years of evolution. They suggest we’ll have brain implants just like we now have implants like pacemakers or new hips. For example, we might have a brain implant that will help us remember everyone’s name. Or we might have implants in our eyes that allow us to take pictures or see things far away. We will have designer babies, just like we now have designer pets. 

Interesting, none of that has anything to do with evolution. It’s all advances in technology, which, to me, have very ominous undertones. I don’t doubt that if the human race survives another hundred years and if Christ doesn’t return, the advances in medicine will be amazing. But in the end, every human being will still die—because it is appointed unto man once to die. The wages of sin is death.

But when Christ comes again—well, that will be the true revolution in human development. We will be resurrected with bodies patterned after His own glorified, resurrected body which will never again age, feel pain, suffer diseases, and which will be capable of things we can’t even imagine. That’s what John is saying:

And what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

Adopt His Purity as Your Own

So we’re to abide in Christ and anticipate His coming. And there’s one more thing. If we do that, we will also adopt His standard of purity as our own. Look at the passage again:

28 And now, dear children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

John has already told us in chapter 1 that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. But now he says we have a part to play in it too. We must work on purifying ourselves.

Basically that means we must keep working all our lives on correcting our bad habits. Think of a piece of wire that is all twisted and bent and crushed and contorted. You take that wire and go through it inch by inch, trying to straighten it out. That’s what we’re to do. We’ve got to keep working on personal holiness and maturity. We’ve got to keep working on our twisted habits and attitudes, straightening them out.

And when Christ comes, we’ll give him the wire and He will in an instant turn it into a cable that is straight and true and capable of transmitting a trillion watts of power every second. 

What do you need to straighten out in your life? If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and purify you from all unrighteous. And He will give you the motivation and ability to keep purifying yourself from all sin. Because we are children of God. That is what we are! We are the recipients of God’s saving love. The world doesn’t know us, but He does. And we have three great imperatives in life.

To Abide in Him.

To Anticipate His coming.

And to adopt His purity as our own.