Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.1 John 3:1-3 NKJV
This passage has been a favorite of mine for years. It is full of life-changing gems. It comes right in the middle of some really tough texts. 1 John is interesting in that it teaches powerfully on the assurance of salvation, while also pounding on the need to live in holiness. Walk in the light, walk like Jesus, and don’t love the world are major themes in the first two chapters. These three verses are followed by a passionate statement concerning sin: “If you’re really saved, you won’t!” Then comes a teaching on love that many read and feel the standard is too high: Love like Jesus loved, or else.
Intermingled with these seemingly unreachable goals, John tells us not to worry about it. Walk in the light and the blood will cleanse you. If you fail, you have Jesus as your Advocate. You have an anointing on the inside that teaches you. You know you’re saved because you love the brethren, you have the Holy Spirit in you, you believe in the Son, and even if your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart! “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 NKJV)”
One list leaves me feeling hopeless, the other like I cannot fail. It seems clear that this letter is not intended to teach sinless perfection, or condemnation for every mistake, or a phony freedom that condones immorality. It was written to counter a group of people who were teaching that it doesn’t matter what we do in the body but only the spiritual man counts. That’s just not true. In these three verses, John gives a beautiful summary of the Christian life, this exciting place between the already and the not yet. I’m His without reservation, I will be like Him one day, and I am currently in process.
- I am a child of God. The love of God bestowed sonship upon me. I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, He just did it and I took it. Getting this straight in my heart and head is imperative if I want to live in the quiet confidence that I’m saved even when I fail. I’m a son by birth, by grace, and not by accomplishment. Period. End of discussion. He said it, I believe it. Galatians 4:6-7
- I’m gonna be like Him. There will be a day when He appears. I will be able to see His face clearly. No more dark glasses and distorted images. Until then, I do the best I can by looking at the mirror of His Word and listening to the Teacher on the inside. When I see Him face-to-face. I will be transformed into His image. This is my hope. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
- I am under construction. This limbo between believing what He has done and becoming what He will fashion is a place of transformation by degrees. Because I have the confidence of a son and the hope of His return, I spend my days making myself ready to see Him. (The word purifies in verse 3 specifically refers to the preparations necessary to enter the Temple) I am OK just like I am, but only until the next breath. I am not content to stay where I am. There is more. His Word shows me His nature, my heart yearns to be like Him, His Spirit teaches and corrects. Breathe. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Here’s the Point: Salvation is both an event and a process. If you have “punched your ticket” by confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but you don’t have at least a passing desire to grow in His image, take a moment to check your heart. If you struggle with your own personal failure and weaknesses, feeling condemned and hopeless, behold the love until you believe it! The beginning of our salvation is sure, the culmination is near. My job: engage in the process. Love is at work.