“See His Resurrection” (1 John 3:1-3) | 03.31.13
Brian Regan talks in one of his shows about going to the eye doctor. He goes back after six years and gets tested. He updates his prescription, puts in the contact lenses, and he can see again.
Man, I could have been seeing things! How can instantly improved vision not be at the top of your to-do list? Ah, I’ll see tomorrow. I don’t have time. I don’t have time to see clearly. No, I can’t do that. Can’t you see what’s on my desk?
This morning I want to put your eyesight back on your to-do list. I’m talking about your spiritual vision. We neglect that all the time. I want you to see two things that flow from the resurrection of Jesus: acceptance and change.
“You’re faster, but you’re still as slow as my grandmother!” That’s what my high school coach said at one of my first practices my junior year, after I had spent six hours a day working out that summer. He’s the same guy that looked at me one day in practice and said, in front of everyone, “You’ve got an NBA mind with junior high ability.” For a kid who idolized the sport and wanted nothing more than to excel in it, those words were hard blows that left deep wounds. I wanted him to help me get better, even if it meant him yelling at me a bit. But I also wanted him to accept me for who I was. I’d never be that fast. I would never jump that high. But I could do some things well. And I was willing to get better.
We want to be accepted. We want to be loved for who we are. We want to be affirmed. But we also want to be transformed. We want change. We don’t want to be left as we are, either. We know there are good things about us, but deep down, we also know we’re messed up. If our eyesight is bad, we can go the wrong direction, we can harm ourselves. We must see clearly. Then we can find the acceptance and change we long for. Today, we gather together to celebrate the fact that Christ was raised from the dead. Do you want to experience acceptance and change? Look to His resurrection. I want us to see that today in 1 John 3:1-3. Through Jesus and His resurrection, we can find the acceptance and change we all desire. We just have to see it. Let’s pray.
Accepted as His Children
What does today’s passage first teach us? It’s this: through Jesus, we’re accepted. We are accepted as His children. Look at verse 1: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” There is a “love” we must see, a kind that blows away all other loves. It has been “given to us”; we have in no way earned it. In Jesus, we are now “children of God.” We’re a part of God’s family. We’ve been born again. We’ve been adopted. This is reality for us. We’re “called” this by God, the verse says. But we are this by His grace. John says, “And so we are.” This is now our identity.
That may be hard for you to believe. Maybe you’ve never been accepted by anyone. You’ve never felt that through your parents. You don’t feel that from your husband. You feel as if you’ve been abandoned by every friend. You’ve never been loved just for who you are. No one has appreciated your good points. No one has tolerated your bad aspects. How could the Lord love you in that way? Do you know that kind of acceptance?
Most of us don’t, and here’s why: we think if we can somehow change, then we’ll be accepted. We bust our tails trying to earn that affirmation from God and others. Yet Christianity teaches the exact opposite. We can’t change enough to deserve God’s acceptance. There’s no way we can deserve His love. We can be accepted, but it’s not based on what we do but on what Jesus has done.
What has He done? He lived a perfect life while on earth. He never sinned. He died a cruel death on the cross - even though He was innocent. And He did it for us, if we repent and believe in Him. If we acknowledge and turn from our bad deeds and call out to Him, He’ll rescue us. But we also must own and forsake our good deeds - those things we’ve done to earn His acceptance. If we trust in what Christ has done, then we’ll be accepted by the Father. His obedient life will be counted as ours. His painful death will pay for our sins. He was forsaken that we might be accepted.
Yet He also rose from the grave for us. He didn’t stay in the tomb. His rising shows us that the payment was received. The check was cashed. That’s why I say that our acceptance comes through the resurrection and not just the cross. The Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice. Now He accepts us. Where we were once His enemies, now we’re His children. And it’s all by grace. Grace is “unmerited favor.” It’s where we get the name karis. His love is given to us. It’s lavished upon us. We don’t deserve it. Now we’re His children. Apart from anything we’ve done or could do, we find acceptance through Jesus.
But we’re also brought into a community of acceptance. We’re not only accepted by God but also by the people of God. Earning acceptance from people doesn’t work either. But God is refashioning a people in His image who will love each other through the gospel. If we truly get this gospel message, we’ll fight to extend this love to each other. We’ll truly believe we can receive acceptance from one another. We won’t be surprised by each other’s sins. We won’t give up on each other easily. We won’t hide who we are behind masks. We’ll live as a family of grace together.
Here is our identity if we are in Jesus. J.I. Packer says in Knowing God that we should remind ourselves of these truths all the time:
I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother, too.
Do you believe that? Through Jesus, we’re accepted.
Rejected as His Children
But here’s how we can take that truth in the wrong direction. We can think, if we’re accepted, then life will be easy. The second truth we see here is this: Through Jesus, we’ll be rejected. Look at the rest of verse 1: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Here John is talking about Jesus. The world didn’t know Him as the Son of God. They ended up killing him. Why should we expect them to recognize us as the children of God? We shouldn’t.
Now the Bible clearly teaches that people will be drawn to our good deeds. Jesus says, in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” People will come to our light. But light in the eyes also stings. People were drawn to Jesus’s works, but they were scattered by His words. Our city will come to us, too, if we’re living for Jesus. But if they completely accept us, we’re doing something wrong. We’ve compromised our beliefs or lifestyles out of fear. John, this letter’s author, ended up in exile and in prison. Jesus walked the earth, not only as the Son, but also as the suffering Son. He died on a cross. How can we expect more? When we suffer, when we’re rejected, we must remember our identity again. We are children of God! We’re accepted by Him.
Changed by His Appearing
Because we’re accepted, despite how things seem, our future’s bright. Third, through Jesus, we’ll be changed. John reiterates, in verse 2, that “we are God’s children now.” This is great news. John wants us to see this, but there are even greater things ahead for us - things he, the apostle, the writer of this letter, isn’t even sure about. He says, “And what we will be has not yet appeared.” He won’t speculate about what we’ll be like. Think today about all the crazies who want to pinpoint the hour and describe the details of the second coming of Jesus. John won’t touch any of that.
Yet he does know a few things, inspired by the Spirit. He writes, “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Who’s “He” here? It’s Jesus. We see an order here. He will appear. He’ll come again. He’ll stand before us - but this time not in suffering, but in glory. We’ll see Him. We’ll look at Him in the eyes, in all of that splendor. We’ll be like Him. No, it doesn’t mean that we’ll have His divine attributes like omnipotence or omnipresence or omniscience. We won’t be God. It means that we’ll look at His resurrected, perfect body and we’ll receive resurrected, perfect bodies ourselves. We’ll look at Him and be made like Him and dwell with Him in a new heavens and new earth forever. As His children, this is our inheritance.
This is why change flows from the resurrection of Jesus. His life and death bring change. He was broken that we could be repaired. But His resurrection assures that will one day take place. Because we’re sinners as part of a fallen creation, we’re going to die. Our bodies are breaking down. Jesus rose from death, reversing the fall. He’ll restore all of His creation, starting with us who believe. We’ll be changed. That’s our destiny.
But most of us will know nothing of that change. Why is that? We think if we’re accepted, there’s no need to change anything. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re acceptable. We go to inadequate sources of acceptance. We end up justifying our sin, saying God’s ok with us, fending off criticism, putting barriers between us and God and us and others. Therefore, we never repent of our sin. We never cry out for His grace. And we forfeit an eternity with Him in His glory. One of the biggest lies in our world today is that you can’t affirm someone while also desiring that person’s change. Jesus loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you as you are. He won’t stop until you’re changed.
Romans 8 talks about how God’s children groan along with all His creation for Christ’s coronation day, for our transformation day. We’re already His sons, His children now, but we wait until our bodies are redeemed, until that adoption is made perfect. This is our hope. As with our Lord, our suffering is followed by glory. We’ll be changed by His appearing.
Motivated by His Appearing
That leads to another way we can get confused. We can think because we’ll be changed, we can be lazy now. Fourth, see here that through Jesus, we’re motivated. We’re motivated by His appearing. Read verse 3: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” As we’ve seen, one day we’ll be changed. We’ll be resurrected. We’ll be transformed. That’s our destiny if we’re in Christ.
But we’re not there now, right? We’re still broken, sinful, foolish, and rebellious. Despite that fact, we’re accepted. But that doesn’t meant that we wait until that final day for change. John speaks of a “hope.” This isn’t a wish. This isn’t how we use the word hope today. “I hope we go to the Final Four. I hope we can go to Orange Leaf. I hope I pass that class.” Hope in the Bible is different. It’s deep longing for something certain that sustains us.
Our hope is here in verse 2 - that He’ll return, that we’ll look at Him, that we’ll be renewed. John says everyone who hopes that way will live a certain way. He says we’ll “purify [ourselves] as He is pure.” This doesn’t mean we can do it on our own. It’s not in our own strength. Yet we’ll pursue holiness, purity, in the power of the Spirit. Because we’ll see Him in His purity, because one day we’ll be made pure, we fight to grow in purity now. We’re motivated. Notice what our motivation is. It’s the gospel. It’s the good news. It’s this hope we have that we’re His children, that we’re accepted, and one day we’ll be changed! That makes us want to battle. Take it back to my old hoops coach again. If I just knew that He cared, that He wanted to help me grow, I would have run through walls for the guy. The love of Jesus motivates us to run for Him.
And this protects us from bad motivations. Think back to earlier. This isn’t, “I’ll make myself pure, I’ll change, so Jesus will accept me.” It’s, “because of this wonderful love, because of the fact that He’ll raise me from the dead, I’ll obey my Lord. I’ll change.” The resurrection motivates us to change. We know we’ll be with Him where He is, so we sure won’t stay right where we are.
But Jesus also brings us into a community of change. We’re accepted, but we’re also pushed to obey. The church is a place where we voluntarily surround ourselves with brothers and sisters who will cheer us on. At times they’ll whisper in our ear to keep going. Other times, they’ll shout in our faces to not be stupid. But it’s in the context of deep acceptance. We need that community to see change here and now. Ray Ortlund talks about how, in order for us to change, we need gospel plus safety plus time. We need all three. We need community to grow. And we must grow. Jesus resisted sin. He battled to obey His Father. Why would we not think that would be our calling, also? When we’re tempted to get lazy, we must remember our destiny. That must motivate us toward change.
See Acceptance and Change
There’s a key word in this passage that I’ve ignored. It’s the word “see” in verse 1. In older translations, it’s “behold.” There’s a difference between just seeing and beholding. God commands a deeper kind of seeing here. Your wife comes in and shows you a new dress, and she says, “Well, how do I look?” You say, “Nice,” and you keep on watching the game. Other times, you’ll see it and say, “Hubba hubba,” and shout out, “Awesome!” You can see her or behold her. Maybe you’re standing before the Grand Canyon. You’re standing there in awe, but a teen gets out of a minivan, takes a look, shrugs his shoulders, and gets back in. He’s seeing but not beholding. You’re overcome by wonder. The Lord wants us to behold this acceptance we have, this change that we’ll one day receive through the resurrection, and marvel and and sing!
Our friends in Rio this week got to visit a place called Cabo Frio. It’s a beach town located north of the city. I went there the first year. We walked down to the port and got on this boat. We then found ourselves riding around in the bay, going from island to island, stopping sometimes to swim, soaking up the sun the whole time. There were many times I thought, “Am I in some kind of movie? Is this real? Can this be happening? What kind of place is this?”
Scholars have pointed out that the word that’s translated as “what kind” here is a word that originally meant “of what country?” It’s like this love is so breathtaking, it’s as if it’s from another world. And maybe it is. Through the resurrection, a new world is breaking into ours. This one will be renewed. We’ll be changed along with it. John here bursts into worship at this love. He wants us to join in with him. Will you see? Will you sing along with him?
Believer, maybe you need your glasses adjusted. You’ve been gazing through murky lenses and have been running into stuff for too long. Unbeliever, maybe you need to consider Jesus for the first time. You’ve been going the wrong way. You’ve been hurting yourself. I plead with you. Open your Bible. Learn about Jesus. How can this not be among your biggest priorities? How can you keep putting it off? This love is so great. See it! Ask God to help you.
And consider what might be obstructing your view of glory. I took a buddy and his son to a Mizzou game this year. His son, who’s about Hadley’s age, brought along a Nintendo DS. Somehow he lost it for a time. I thought for a while, “Good, because there’s something so much more awesome going on here than that!” Last year, I was in that same gym when Mizzou played its final game there, it seems, against Kansas. The Tigers mounted this epic comeback being down eight points with three minutes left. I remember looking at my son and saying, “You’ve just seen history, kid.” It was glorious. Somewhere in that arena, there was a kid playing a DS, oblivious to the glory around him.
What other loves are you giving yourself to - things that just don’t match up, that aren’t in the same world, that obscure your vision? What gets in the way of you seeing this higher love? Sex, work, power, wealth, body image, relationships, whatever it is. We can’t see because we have lesser things shoved in our face - things that may not be bad, but they’re just not seen in relationship to this greater love that we have in Jesus. Those things won’t do it for you. Only He will. This love, this acceptance we have in Jesus. It’s glorious. See it. And one day we’ll see Him. We’ll be changed. Acceptance and change - what we all want - are found in Him. He loves us as we are. He won’t leave us as we are. Can you see? Will you see? Let’s pray.