SERMON TITLE: Children of Hope
TEXT: 1 John 2:28-3:3 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this evening. And one thing I always want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
When Christ returns, many of us — in this room — will be confident as we stand before him in all of his radiance and glory. A concern I have — though — is that there will be some among us — who will shrink away from Jesus — in shame — when he returns. Which will you be?
Our text for this evening will help us to know — with certainty — whether or not Christ’s return will be a day of reward or a day of shame for us.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to First John chapter 2. We’ll be looking at verse 28 through verse 3 of chapter 3.
And as you’re finding First John chapter 2 — here’s why John wrote this letter. In First John chapter 5 — verse 13 — John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 ESV)
So John’s purpose is for those who believe in God to know they have eternal life. He wants the people he’s writing to — to know with certainty — whether or not they have eternal life. And my prayer is that God will use his Word so that you — if you believe — will be assured that your faith is real — your beliefs are genuine — so that you would know that you have eternal life.
And — if you’re here and you don’t believe — that you would realize what it means to reject Jesus.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
So let’s turn to our text. First John chapter 2. Beginning in verse 28.
“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. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 3:1 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. 2 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. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28-3:3 ESV)
Christ is returning. After his death and resurrection, Jesus spoke to his disciples on a mountainside and told them to take the Good News about him the ends of the earth. We’ve been learning about this in our series in the book of Acts.
But we can’t forget — because it can feel like things are just going to keep on going as always — so we can’t forget that Jesus will return. And when he returns...
He’ll separate the wicked from the godly.
His enemies from his friends.
The children of Satan from the children of God.
And because these things will take place, we must know what it means to be a follower of Jesus because — as our text tells us — on the day of his return — some will stand before Jesus in confidence and others will shrink away in shame.
And today is a gift — a day for us to wrestle with truths about our eternity. A day to know whether we’ll have confidence or shame when Jesus returns. Because the day of his return is coming. And…
CHRIST IS RETURNING
Since Christ is returning, we must have confidence that we are children of God.
So, how do we know that we’re children of God — children of hope — and not deceiving ourselves with false assurance?
In our text we find three things that give us confidence in knowing that we’re children of God. First, we must be born again. Second, our hope must be in Jesus. And — third — we must abide in him.
We must be born again. Our hope must be in Jesus. And we must abide in him.
First…Since Christ is returning, we must be born again.
In verse 29 we read, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. ” (1 John 2:29-3:1a ESV)
We must be born again. So what does it mean — to be born again?
To be born again is to be called a child of God. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1a ESV)
So there’s a cause and effect happening here. God calls us his children — that’s the cause — and the effect? Those God calls his children become his children. Before anyone becomes a child of God — God first calls them into his family.
Now the word “call” — has the idea of “initiating a relationship with someone.” And the fact that God calls us — tells us — that we didn’t first seek God out — no — he first sought us out. God initiates the relationship. Later in this letter — John writes — “We love because he (God) first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 ESV)
It’s not our love for God that initiates the relationship — it’s his love for us that initiates the relationship.
It’s not our seeking of God that begins our relationship — but his seeking of us.
And this is important for us to understand — because this truth — that God initiates the relationship between he and his children — is found everywhere in the Bible.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)
It’s God’s love for us — which was displayed most fully on the cross of Jesus Christ — that came first. For God acted on his love for us while we were still in rebellion against him. And this should both humble us — and stir joy in us — as we come to experience the depth of the love our Heavenly Father has for us — and for all of his children.
Or as the well-known verse tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
God’s love — his giving of his Son — comes before our “whoever believes in him” part of our relationship.
Just prior to John 3:16, a man named Nicodemus has a conversation with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee — which meant he was very educated in the Bible — he knew theology better than most of us — but he had some questions for Jesus.
And the first thing Jesus says to him is, “"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (Nicodemus thought Jesus meant a physical birth, but Jesus was meaning a spiritual birth.) 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3-6 ESV)
Again, God initiates the relationship between he and his children. It’s God’s love — as demonstrated in him sending Jesus who died for our sins — that comes first. God’s Spirit first gives life to our spirit. God chose us first — then in response to being given life by his Spirit — we freely and joyfully choose God. Let me say that again. Do we choose to believe? Yes! But our choice is in response to God having chosen us.
So our being born again isn’t a result of our desire, or our seeking, or our will, or our power, or our love initiating the relationship we have with God. Our being born again is a result of God’s desire, his seeking, his will, his power, and his love initiating our relationship with him.
Why is this important? Well it means the love your Heavenly Father has for you is more precious than you dare to believe. Think about it. In a new relationship, who says “I love you” first is a big deal, right? Well in our relationship with God, he’s the One who said, “I love you” first — not us. In fact, he kept telling us he loved us while we were yelling “I hate you” back at him.
Additionally, one who is born again knows that Jesus is righteous. We see this in verse 29. “If you know that he is righteous…” (1 John 2:29a ESV)
The word “know” — here — means you have a deep awareness of who Jesus is compared to people who aren’t born again. And part of what a Christian understands is that Jesus is righteous. The word righteous means that Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of the expectations God has for his people.
Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s people failing to fulfill to meet the expectations God has for them.
They grumble and complain instead of trust in his provision.
They commit spiritual adultery by worshipping idols instead of God.
They fail at being God’s faithful servant, his holy people — even — his children of hope.
So God sent his Son — Jesus — to be hope for us.
To be faithful for us.
To be committed to obeying God’s commands perfectly for us.
And to trust God in life’s most difficult circumstances all so that the righteousness of the Righteous One would cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.
In the Bible, everyone fails to live a righteous life except Jesus — that’s why Jesus is the hero of the Bible. And a person who is born again sees Jesus for who he is and sees themself for who they are — a person desperately in need of the righteousness of the Righteous One.
Finally…one who is born again practices righteousness. “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:29 ESV)
So how do we practice righteousness? Especially given the fact the Bible says that, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
Well — Paul — who wrote these words gives us the answer to our question — how do we practice righteousness — when he writes, “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (is) for (or “is given to”) all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 ESV)
Because we are God’s children, we have both privileges and responsibilities.
The privileges of being a child of God include having assurance that he loves us and that we’ll not need shrink away when Jesus returns.
Privileges include Jesus’ perfection in place of our imperfection.
His holiness in place of our unholiness.
His obedience in place of our disobedience.
“For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we (those who are born again) might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
We practice righteousness because we’ve been given Christ’s righteousness.
But we can’t forget the responsibilities we have as children of God. We’ve received wonderful privileges, but they come with great responsibility. We must practice righteousness so others see the redeeming, life-giving, hope-inspiring power of the gospel of Jesus Christ at work in us.
There’s no way to be made alive by God — to experience his great love for you — and sit idly by as if nothing short of a miracle has taken place in your life.
Jesus told us to, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” (Luke 12:35-38 ESV)
The servants who are blessed are the ones who are dressed for action — and the implication is pretty obvious for the Christian.
Are you dressed for action?
Are you waiting for your Master to return?
Are you living for God or for something or for someone else?
Have you obligated yourself to live for the One who created you for his glory or are you living under obligation to no one but yourself?
If you knew you only had a few more hours to live — would you be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV)
Notice that Paul’s confidence in his reward — “the crown of righteousness” — comes from him knowing how he’s lived — “I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.”
This reward and confidence is seen in Peter’s words to church leaders. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1-4 ESV)
An unfading crown of glory is the reward that pastors — who shepherd their church well — will be given on the day when Jesus returns.
What this means — for us — is that practicing righteousness is an indicator that you are a child of God — for the one who will stand — the one who will not shrink back when Christ returns — is the one who practices righteousness — the one who is born again.
Second...since Christ is returning, we must hope in him. We must hope in Jesus. Look with me in chapter 3 — verses 2 and 3. “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. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
Hope is an interesting word — especially the Bible’s definition of hope compared to how we use the word. In the Bible, the word hope doesn’t mean to “wish that something will happen.” Biblically speaking — to hope — means to have “a sure and confident expectation in God’s future faithfulness and in his presence with you.”
So to hope in Christ — as our text says — is to have “a sure and confident expectation in God’s future faithfulness to us and in his continual presence with us because of what Christ has done for us.”
Therefore…to have hope means you must look to Jesus. In verse 3 John tells us that, “And everyone who thus hopes in him...” (1 John 3:3a ESV)
The “him” — is Jesus. And if our hope is based on Jesus— if our confidence is to be built on him — then our eyes must be fixed on him.
In the verse prior, John tells us that one day, “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2b ESV)
And what will Jesus be like when he returns? Pure. Spotless. Perfect. And the promise to us is that — when Jesus returns — not only will we see him as he is — but we will be made just like him — pure, spotless, perfect.
On that day — the day of Jesus’ return — all eyes will be on him. But for the Christian — we have the privilege — and duty — to fix our eyes on him now. For if we really believe that he is pure, spotless, and perfect — then there’s nothing — and no one — more worthy of having the undivided attention of our eyes and hearts.
The author of Hebrews makes this clear to us. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
The saints who’ve gone before us — were able to finish their race and endure to the end of their lives — some even being killed because of their faith — because they were looking to Jesus.
He is the founder of our faith — the one who initiated it.
He is the perfecter of our faith — the one who began this work in us will bring it to its perfect completion.
He — the Righteous One — endured the cross with joy because of the reward that was set before him.
And when your eyes are fixed on Jesus, you can say with the Psalmist, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust.” (Psalm 71:5a ESV)
And — like Paul — with our eyes on Jesus — we’ll say that the life we’re living is by the “Command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Timothy 1:1b ESV)
Or with the Christians in Rome — with your eyes on Jesus — you’ll experience being filled “with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13b ESV)
We must look to Jesus.
Additionally…we must look towards eternity. The phrase “when he appears” leads us to this conclusion. This is a future-oriented focus. This is a gaze towards the reward that Christ has earned on our behalf — eternal life. And this hope of eternal life was “promised before the ages began.” (Titus 1:2b ESV)
And when we focus on our eternity — our lives are changed in the present. For example, we’ll love each other as God intends when we’re looking towards eternity. As Paul says, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 (and where did this love for each other come from?) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:4-5a ESV)
Our hope in Jesus keeps our eyes on him and on our eternity. And this changes how we live in the present as we await his return.
ABIDE IN HIM
Finally…Since Christ is returning, we must abide in Him. We must abide in Jesus. Verse 28.
“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.” And in chapter 3 — verse 1 — we read...“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.” And skip to verse 3. “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”(1 John 2:28, 3:1, 3 ESV)
To abide in him — means — to live in him — to live out of who Jesus is — where you live out of his identity, his perfection, his values, his obedience, his love, and so on.
And there are three implications of abiding in Jesus.
First…abiding in him means we’ll have troubles in this world. “The reason why the world does not know us is that it (the world...) did not know him.” (1 John 3:1b ESV)
If you’re familiar with the gospels, you know that most of the people who met Jesus didn’t understand who he was. Many were attracted to his miracles, some were interested in his teachings, but only a few understood who he was. And those few didn’t get it until he’d risen from the dead. And — as you know — Jesus died at the hands of people who were blinded by their hatred towards him.
Thus we should listen to his warning to his disciples. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20a ESV)
And later he prayed, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-18 ESV)
These troubles — are troubles we experience from the world — because we’re abiding in Jesus.
And to abide in him means the world won’t understand you.
The world will hate you.
The world may persecute you.
It may even kill you.
Because you’re abiding in him.
Additionally…abiding in Jesus means we’ll struggle against sin. “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3 ESV)
Did you know that unbelievers don’t struggle against sin — not like a believer does. They may want to rid themselves of the consequences for their sin, but a Christian struggles against their sin because they have a new focus in life — to live in a way that pleases their Heavenly Father. And — through faith in Christ — the Christian has been set free from the bondage of sin — meaning they’re no longer a slave to sin. For the Christian has been set free to choose to sin or to choose to follow God’s commands.
Now the lure of sin is still there. In fact, the lure isn’t just out there somewhere — the temptation to sin comes from within. And until we receive our glorified bodies — which will be untainted by sin — in these sin stained bodies of ours — there will be a constant struggle against sin.
But abiding in Christ — means we can fight our sinful nature and the desires that sin arouses in us.
This may be a fight against pornography or alcohol addiction.
A fight against overspending or laziness.
Or a fight against selfishness and greed.
But as Paul tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25 ESV)
Abiding in Jesus means we’ll struggle against sin as we crucify our flesh and its passions and desires — and live by the Spirit of God.
Finally…abiding in him means we’ll have confidence in the end. This is the answer to the question I asked at the beginning — how can we know if we’ll have confidence when Jesus returns? The answer — abide in him now. John writes, “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.” (1 John 2:28 ESV)
Abide in him — that’s a command — in fact — it’s the only command in our verses. John says we must — there’s no exception — we must abide in Jesus in order to have confidence when he returns.
And this confidence means you’ll have no shame as you stand before him to give an account of your life.
You won’t have lived a perfect life.
You’ll have stumbled many times for sure.
But you’ll stand before Jesus and say, “By your grace, I am what I am. And your grace has been sufficient for me.”
And it’s your hope in Jesus — your hope in his return as King — your hope in his promise that his followers will be like him when he returns — your hope in Jesus fuels you to live for him now.
Your hope in him compels you to be committed to keep yourself from sin.
And your hope in Jesus empowers you to live a life of purity because your Savior and Lord is pure.
And there’s no mistaking if this is your heart’s desire or not.
My hope — is that your hope in Christ would far exceed everything else that’s fighting for your attention. That your heart would be set on fire with confidence — so you know you will not shrink away in shame when Jesus returns — but will step forward in confidence as a child of God — as a child of hope. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, it is in Christ alone that our hope is found. Our confidence — in knowing that we will stand and not shrink away — is based solely on Jesus’ work on our behalf. He — and he alone — is the reason for our hope.
God I pray that everyone who hears my voice — would know they have eternal life — a knowing that comes only by believing in your Son. However — God — I know there are some — who hear my voice — who don’t have faith in Christ and therefore do not have eternal life.
But there’s good news. If they believe in Jesus and repent of their sin — if they turn away from the desires of this world and turn toward you and your desires for them — you are faithful and will give them hope — you will give them life. And they will not be one who shrinks away in shame when Jesus returns but — as a child of God — as a child of hope — they will stand with confidence before him.
Help all of us — who are your children — to fix our eyes on Jesus — for he is where our hope is found. It’s in his name that we pray. Amen.
COMMUNION (JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE)
As we turn to the Lord’s Table, we’re reminded — once again — of the hope we have because of Jesus’ sacrifice. This meal is a time where we feast on God’s love for us as displayed in his Son.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory.
At this time, those who will be serving can take their places at the tables. Ushers will be dismissing you by rows to come forward to take the bread and the cup. You’ll take both before returning to your seat — and we have baskets for you to put your empty cups in. And remember our benevolence offering which you can give to as you come forward. Also, if you’re unable to come forward, let one of the ushers know and someone will serve you in your seat.
Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus. For his obedience and suffering during his life on earth, and for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through his blood and may your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Unite us with each other through your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Amen.
Come. Let’s feast on God’s grace together.
PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, in your wisdom, you have made all things and you sustain them by your power. You formed us in your image, setting us in this world to love and serve you, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against you — refusing to trust and obey you — you did not reject us, but still claimed us as your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of your great love for us, you sent your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, you call us your sons and daughters — your children of hope. In response to these great truths, we now praise you in song together. Amen.
May you go knowing that you will stand confidently before Christ when he returns — not because of anything you’ve done — but because of what Jesus has done for you. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.