1 JOHN 2:28-3:3 - Blessed Abiding

Walking In The Light - The Epistles of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:21
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Living in complete dependence on Christ produces abundant blessings

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Introduction

A few weeks ago I came home from work and saw a strange, bright light emanating from underneath the door to my office. When I went in I discovered that the light was coming from the Christmas present Selah got from my cousin Heather—an AeroGarden. Have you seen these? It’s a small hydroponic garden that grows herbs, veggies, etc. with full-spectrum light and liquid plant food. Selah had been trying to figure out a place where the light wouldn’t be a nuisance (and where the cat wouldn’t try to eat the plants!), and my office turned out to be a good spot. (So now I’ve got instant access to all the mint, basil, parsley and dill that I want when I’m working from home!)
Selah is very diligent to make sure the water and fertilizer are replenished, and the light cycles on and off to keep the plants healthy. There won’t be any fresh basil for cooking if the light goes off or the water runs out, right? And if you take one of those pods out of the device, it will shrivel and die—it needs to live in the grower.
Sounds a lot like the passage we read from John’s Gospel earlier--
John 15:4–5 (ESV)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John revisits that same command to abide in Christ here in our passage this morning:
1 John 2:28 (ESV)
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.
I think that this command to abide in Christ is very important for us to hear, because I think there is a dangerous misconception that some people have about what it means to be a Christian. There is a mindset among some folks that becoming a Christian means “asking Jesus into your heart” or “accepting Jesus as your Savior” or (if you’re a good Calvinist!) “receiving Jesus as your Savior”. When you do that, you have become a Christian.
And that’s certainly true, as far as it goes—the Apostle John records Jesus’ words in his Gospel, John 5:24:
John 5:24 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
So calling out in repentance and faith for Jesus Christ to save you by His death, burial and resurrection is a “one-time”, singular event. You have “passed from death to life” at the moment when you hear and believe the Gospel. But the problem comes when people take that “one-time” event and count it as their entire relationship with Christ. In other words, “Yeah, I prayed a prayer at church one Sunday thirty years ago, so I’m a Christian.” “I signed a commitment card at a revival service once; I’m a Christian.” “I threw a pine cone into the bonfire at a youth group camping trip once; I’m a Christian...”
But John makes it plain here (as Jesus did in our Gospel reading) that you are not a Christian because you had a one-time spiritual encounter where you affirmed the Gospel, but otherwise your life has gone on unchanged and uninterrupted. The proof that your Christian faith is genuine lies in the fact that it is an inescapable part of every facet of your life!
This is what Jesus means when He says that we need to abide in Him—live in Him, live our lives in such a way that Who He is and what He has done for us and what He says in His Word is as vital to our lives as a branch is to a vine, that we can no more live without Him at the center of our lives than a sprig of mint will survive when you uproot it from its source of light and nourishment.
John has just warned his readers here in 1 John 2 to refute and resist the spirit of antichrist that denies Jesus is fully God and fully man—and here in the rest of this chapter and into Chapter 3 he builds on that argument: If Jesus really is fully God and fully man, then you can abide in Him! You can depend on Him for every facet of your life, you can receive forgiveness for your past and cleansing from your guilt and shame, you can depend on Him for wisdom to meet the day-to-day challenges of living in this fallen world, you can be assured you will grow more like Him as you walk with Him, and you know that you will have all eternity with Him when this life ends. (NONE of that would be possible if the antichrists are right, and He is not fully God and fully man!)
So what John wants to show us in these verses this morning is that because Jesus is not who the spirit of antichrist says He is—because He is fully God and fully man—then abiding in Him brings great blessings to your life. He lists several of those blessings through the end of Chapter 2 and into Chapter 3.
So what I aim to show you this morning from these verses is that
ABIDING in Christ produces the ABUNDANT BLESSINGS of the Christian life
When you abide in Christ—when who He is and what He has done and what He says is as vital to your life as a vine is to its branches—your life will be characterized by these things. First, in verse 28 John says that you will have the blessing of

I. CONFIDENCE at Jesus’ COMING (1 John 2:28)

1 John 2:28 (ESV)
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.
The way John composes this statement it’s easy to be put in mind of those videos that are so popular of little kids standing at an airport watching their dad come home from military deployment—that’s the kind of meeting that John wants his readers to have. A meeting with Christ that is
Full of JOY (cp. 1 Peter 1:6-7)
There’s no self-consciousness, no second-guessing in a child when she sees her Daddy walking down that jetway toward her, is there? Christian, that’s what a life spent abiding in Christ produces in you! You can look forward to the day that He comes (and that day is getting closer every day!) with joy and excitement because of the beautiful fruit that will appear in you on that day.
The Apostle Peter writes about that moment when Christ arrives:
1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus arrives someday, you who have been abiding in Him, drawing your entire existence from who He is and what He has done and what He has said—you will shine like pure gold when He arrives! The “praise, glory and honor” Peter writes about is the praise, glory and honor that will be yours when you shine with Christ’s glory reflected in your life through the refining fires of trials and tribulations you have lived through here in this life!
The blessing of abiding in Christ means confidence at His appearing—full of joy and
Free from SHAME (Mark 8:38)
John says that if you abide in Christ in this life, you will not “shrink from Him in shame at His coming”. He takes this warning from what he heard Jesus Himself say. In Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 8, we read:
Mark 8:38 (ESV)
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
In other words, if your entire experience of Christianity comes from walking down an aisle at a crusade or signing a commitment card or repeating a Sinner’s Prayer, and you have no other interest or experience of Christ or His life, then the arrival of Christ someday will not be full of joy for you; it will be a moment of shameful exposure.
We’ve all seen the sitcom plots where one character makes a big show of knowing some important celebrity in order to impress his friends; but in reality he doesn’t know the celebrity at all. And then invariably there comes a point in the plot when the actual celebrity does show up and the hapless pretender is exposed for the fraud he is.
John says here, live your life abiding in Christ so that you won’t be exposed as a fraud when Jesus comes! Don’t sit back and say that because you prayed a prayer one day that you’re “all good”, and that you are a Christian. Because if all you ever did was “pray a prayer”, then on the day He returns he will look at you and say, “Do I know you?” (Matt. 7:23). Don’t live a lie; abide in Christ now so that you won’t be exposed as a fraud when He arrives!
Abiding in Christ produces the abundant blessings of the Christian life—confidence at His coming, and

II. CERTAINTY that you are God’s CHILD (1 John 2:29-3:1)

Look at verse 29 to see where that certainty comes from:
1 John 2:29 (ESV)
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
John is the only Gospel writer who records Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus—the whole conversation revolved around Jesus’ insistence that Nicodemus be “born again”:
John 3:3 (ESV)
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John picks up that thread from his Gospel here in verse 29—the only way to “see the kingdom of God”, the only way to “practice righteousness” is to start over with a brand-new life in Jesus Christ. Only when you have been born again by salvation can you produce any kind of righteousness—Jesus says in Matthew 7:18:
Matthew 7:18 (ESV)
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
And so John says here, “Look at your life—if you see the ‘good fruit’ of the righteousness of God working in you, then you can have certainty that
You are born of His NATURE
John says, “Look at the peace in your life where there used to be anxiety, look at the love in your life where there used to be hatred, look at the contentment in your life where there used to be envy and bitterness, look at your delight in God where there used to be indifference (or even hostility)—those good fruits of righteousness cannot be produced by a diseased tree! You can be sure that if you see those evidences of the righteousness of God in your life it’s not because you’ve “turned over a new leaf”—it’s because God has chopped down the old diseased tree of sin and planted you as a new, healthy tree that bears the fruit of His righteousness!
When you are living and abiding in Christ you bear the fruits of His righteousness that demonstrate that you are born of His nature—and John says that you have that certainty that you are His child because
You bear His NAME
Look at verse 1 of Chapter 3:
1 John 3:1 (ESV)
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.
Consider the name that you used to bear, before you knew Jesus Christ as Savior, when you used to live at the mercy of your lusts and desires, carrying out whatever whim your brain or belly demanded—God’s Word says that you were “by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3).
But what name do you bear now? “Child of God!” To go from an object of His loathing to an object of His love, to go from a target of His wrath to the recipient of His tender mercy and love and delight:
Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...
John simply can’t contain himself when he describes the enormous blessing that you possess in being called a “child of God”—because of His great mercy and grace to reach out and draw you to Himself when you had given Him no reason to show you any mercy whatsoever! All John can do is marvel at such great love—and when you really consider what God did in saving you and what you were before, how can you help but marvel right alongside him?
To be called a “child of God” means that you are the recipient of all of His tender love and affection and delight and joy, just as any child is the recipient of its Father’s delight and joy and love. But you know what else is true of children? They grow up to look just like their father!
Abiding in Christ produces the abundant blessings of the Christian life—confidence at His coming, certainty that you are His child, and

III. CONFORMITY to the image of CHRIST (1 John 3:2)

1 John 3:2 (ESV)
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.
The first thing that John wants to make sure you his readers understand—the first thing you need to get straight in your mind when you consider your relationship with God is that
You are God’s child RIGHT NOW
In other words, you are not a potential child of God depending on your behavior—you are not “on probation” until you really prove you can measure up to His standard: You are as loved and cherished and delighted in by God as it is possible to be RIGHT NOW.
There is not one thing that you can do that will make God love you and delight in you more than He does right this moment. And there is not one thing that you can do that will ever cause Him to love you any less! This is so important for you to grasp, because so often people grow up with parents (or parental authorities) who make their “love” conditional on whether the child performs a certain way, or threatens to “disown” a child and remove their love for them if they fail in some way.
But your Heavenly Father will never do that! You are His child now, and there is nothing that you can do, nothing you can fail to do, nothing that you can become or fail to become, nothing you accomplish or fail to accomplish that will change how infinitely He loves you!
And do you know what that means? That means that you are free! You are free in His love to grow and flourish and become all that your Heavenly Father is making you to be! You are free to grow up to be just like your Heavenly Father!
Surely that is part of what John means when he writes that “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” (1 John 3:2b). You are God’s child now, but
You are not what you WILL BE when you SEE HIM (1 Corinthians 2:9; Psalm 17:15)
By your faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you have been made a child of God—and every child grows up to look like his Daddy! John says something here that simply overwhelms our attempts to imagine it, that someday you and I will take on the holiness and glory of God Himself! We will still be finite beings—we won’t be “like God” in that we will be eternal or all-knowing or all-powerful or all-present. But in the attributes of God that He shares with us, you will be like Him! You will be perfect in righteousness, perfect in wisdom, perfect in goodness, perfect in peace and joy and delight, and you will spend all of eternity future delighting in God Himself, face to face!
Psalm 17:15 (ESV)
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
Abiding in Christ produces the abundant blessings of the Christian life—confidence at Jesus’ coming, certainty that you are God’s child, conformity to the image of Christ, and

IV. CONSISTENCY in your CONSECRATION (1 John 3:3)

Look at what John says in verse 3:
1 John 3:3 (ESV)
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Christian, if everything we have just seen is true of you—and it is—then the hope of that day gives you tremendous power to live like that right now! You can pursue a life of obedience to God, a life that goes to war with sin every day, a life that pours itself out in sacrifice for others, a life that feeds on God’s Word and delights to grow in grace with God’s people because you have the unshakeable promise that
Christ will someday make you COMPLETELY HOLY (Philippians 1:6)
The Apostle Paul says it well in Philippians 1:6, when he says he is one hundred percent sure “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”! Your perfection in holiness, the perfection of your “family resemblance” to your Savior Jesus Christ is guaranteed, Christian! Can’t you see how freeing that is? You are free to grow in Him, free to serve in His Name, free to fight that remaining sin with everything that is in you, knowing that you cannot fail to be made completely holy in Christ!
And I hope you can see how the very last thing that would enter your mind is to say, “Well, shucks—I prayed a prayer twenty years ago that made me into a Christian, so I guess this promise of perfect holiness someday means I don’t have to worry about how I live my life now! I prayed the prayer, I’m good!”
No, it’s just the opposite, isn’t it? If you are promised that someday Christ will make you perfectly and completely holy, then you want to grow into that holiness, don’t you? You see in Him perfect righteousness, perfect communion with His Father (your Father!), perfect joy and wisdom and delight and peace, and you can’t get there fast enough!
But between that day and today, there are a lot of “tomorrows”, aren’t there? There are a lot of “dangers, toils and snares” ahead of anyone who wants to grow up into the holiness and righteousness of Christ. And maybe you look at your life right now, you look at the state of your walk with Christ—you look at His call to “abide in Him” and you see just how rarely you seem to obey that invitation.
You look at your life today and realize just how far you have to go in holiness. The sin that still lurks in you, the failures to fight temptation, the bitterness and fear and lust and anger and unbelief that still reaches up and clutches at your life—it makes you wonder if you will ever be free.
And here is the promise that the Word of God makes to you here in 1 John 3:3—that
Christ is today making you HOLIER than you ever THOUGHT POSSIBLE
When God says here that you have this hope in you—the hope that the day will come when you are utterly, completely and eternally free from all sin—and you experience that as a hope, when you hold on to that promise as one of your most precious possessions while you fight that war with sin every day, then that hope itself is the beginning of your purification!
Do you see? The beginning of your purification is found in your new attitude towards the sin that once enslaved you! Put another way, the fact that you desire that ultimate holiness when you awaken in Christ’s presence is the sign that you have already been set free from that sin! No one who is still enslaved to their sin wants to be free of it! John says that men loved the darkness because it allowed them to keep doing their evil deeds (John 3:19).
The fact that you so deeply desire the holiness that Christ promises you someday shows that you are in the process of being made pure—step by step, moment by moment, desiring that sin less and less, those temptations gradually but surely replaced by new instincts that move you closer to your holy and loving Savior, that draw you away from dwelling in that darkness where your corruptions fester and draw you to abide more and more in the One who promises you abundant blessings here in this life and for all eternity in His presence!
Repeating a “sinner’s prayer” alone doesn’t make you a Christian. Walking down an aisle at a revival service doesn’t make you a believer. Pointing back to a day when you “made a commitment” to Christ means nothing if you are not abiding in Him every day. John says that all of these blessings come to a heart that lives every day in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, a heart that deeply desires to obey Him, a life that hungers for more and more of Him every day, a spirit that says “You may have all this world, but give me Jesus!”
So abide in Him, beloved—talk to Him every day in prayer, listen to what He is saying to you in His Word, seek out the company of His people and gather to worship Him together, search out your life to drive out whatever unbelief and sin that is keeping you from loving Him and living in Him more and more. And live in the confidence that you belong to Him, that you are His precious child, and cling for all you’re worth to the promise that the day is coming when you will be perfected in holiness when you come face to face with your Savior, Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV)
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

Why is “abiding” in Christ so important for the Christian life? How is “abiding in Christ” different from “getting saved”?
How do you imagine you will react when you first see Jesus revealed in all of His glory someday? What are some reasons that might cause someone to “shrink back in shame” at His appearing?
How does the promise of seeing Jesus face-to-face someday inspire you to seek holiness in your everyday life? Why is holiness the natural response to the hope of seeing Jesus?
What evidences do you see in your life that give you certainty that you have been born of God? How is your life different now than before you knew Christ as Savior? Praise God this week for the fruit of righteousness that has come from abiding in Him!
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