Living in Light of His Return

1 John 2:28-3:3

October 9, 2011 | Brian Bill

I want to share something that happened when I was a teenager but before I do, let me give six disclaimers.

  1. I am not recommending this behavior.
  2. I did this before I became a Christian.
  3. I am not recommending this behavior.
  4. My memory is fuzzy so I had to check the details with my mom and sister.
  5. I’m glad the statute of limitations has run out (I hope).
  6. I am not recommending this behavior.

When I was in high school my parents went out of town one weekend and left me and one of my sisters at home.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a perfect opportunity to throw a party.  Even though there were no cell phones, texting or Facebook back then, the word somehow always spread when there was a party going on.  A ton of people showed up, including many that I didn’t even know.  I remember being very nervous and worried that my parents would come home unexpectedly and I would be in huge trouble.

Things went downhill very quickly.  This is what my mom remembers: I think you were 17, because the legal age for drinking was 18 at that time.  Dave Moran caught some one leaving the party with a fist full of cash; we found out later it was from our freezer in the basement (our cold cash).  The door of the freezer had been left open until we got home.  Do you remember how much fun you had cleaning out all the thawed meat and veggies?  Dave hesitated to call the police because you were under age, but he did so and they came and cleared out the party.”

I don’t remember all my consequences but I’m sure they were severe.  Whatever they were, the worst part of it all was that I felt ashamed because I knew that I had disappointed my parents.  

In a similar way, we’re to live in light of the return of Christ.  Our conduct should reflect the fact that He’s coming back.   Here’s the big idea for today: The closeness of Christ’s coming should cause us to walk closely with Him today.  Please turn to 1 John 2:28-3:3 where we will discover three ways to live in light of His return.

1. Anticipate Christ’s appearing. 

Let’s begin in verse 28: “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”  Did you know that for every one verse in the Bible that speaks about Jesus’ first coming that there are eight more verses that describe His second coming?  This passage lays out only two possible reactions when Jesus returns – you will either be confident or you will be ashamed when He appears.  

In the context, I believe this is a word to the false teachers but it also has application to believers.  Let me be quick to add that for a believer any shame will be momentary because all born again believers will be quickly transformed (we’ll see this in 3:2).  This brief regret will be something like, “If only I had served him more fully!” 1 Corinthians 3:15 says that those things that we’ve done that are not good will be burned up but that “…he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  Will your deeds be acceptable or will you be ashamed?  All believers will be accepted but not all our deeds will be acceptable.

In order to fully understand 1 John 2:28, let’s define some key words.

  • Continue = Also translated as ‘abide,’ this word is used 24 times in this book.  It’s the idea of constantly remaining in a deep and intimate relationship with God.  We’ve learned that we abide by believing the truth, living like Jesus, and loving like Jesus.
  • Appears = To be made visible.
  • Confident = Cheerful courage, boldness and fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank; having freedom in speech and nothing to fear.
  • Ashamed = The root of this word refers to disfigurement or disgrace. To be “unashamed” means to have nothing to hide and nothing to shrink away from.
  • Coming = Used of a visit of a king or an emperor.  It literally means, “To be beside” and reflects one’s arrival and personal presence.
“Do I want to be found doing this when Christ returns?”

In light of this verse, here’s a question to ask yourself when you’re involved in something that you shouldn’t be doing: “Do I want to be found doing this when Christ returns?”

2. Appreciate our position. 

We need to anticipate the imminent return of Jesus Christ and secondly we’re to appreciate all that we’ve been given.  We see this in 1 John 2:29-3:2: “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.  How great is the 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 he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

  • Believers have been born of God.

In that culture, a child would officially become a son or daughter only when the father pronounced the name of the child or called out to them.  That’s what’s behind the word “called” here.  We enter God’s family through the new birth where we are adopted as His forever children.  Speaking of adoption, I celebrate the adoption movement going on at our church right now.

That reminds me of a little boy who was teased incessantly at school because he was adopted.  He kept a lot of things inside but when he could take it no longer, he blurted out, “You can say what you like.  All I know is that my parents chose me.  Yours couldn’t help having you.”  Brothers and sisters in Christ, God the Father chose you because He loves you.

Verse 29 tells us that when we do what is right we resemble our righteous Father: “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” 

In a sense we look like God when we live like He wants us to live.  But we don’t always show a family resemblance, do we?  I heard that Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest and he only came in third place!   

I was struck by a news story this week out of New Castle, PA.  The New Castle News reports that a man forced open a door to a woman’s house and demanded money.  The woman only had $5 so she gave it to him, but he wanted more.  The woman told police that she began praying as he pushed past her to take $20 from her purse.  He apparently apologized – though he didn’t give the money back – and knelt down as she prayed before running away.  Too many today go through the religious motions but it doesn’t affect how they live.  We need to start acting more like our Father.  Because He is righteous, we must do that which is right.

  • Believers are recipients of God’s lavish love.

As John contemplates the truth that we are God’s children, it’s as if he pauses to consider God’s incredible love in 3:1.  The Greek actually begins with the word, “Behold” which has the idea of remembering and reflecting.  Interestingly, every other time this word is used in the Bible it refers to something you can see.  John can almost see this love because it’s so real to him.  This word is both an exclamation and an exhortation.  

The phrase “How great” describes both the quantity and quality of God’s love.  Actually, it literally means, “From what country?” or “What foreign kind of love?”  God’s unconditional love is foreign to our understanding of love.  We could say that it’s out of this world!  This love has been “lavished” on us, which means that it’s given as a gift, not earned or deserved.  That reminds me of Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

A week ago two church members renewed their wedding vows.  It was really a moving experience.  Their Connection Group leaders stood up with them and their Connection Group members attended as cheerleaders and witnesses.  Both Mike and Kori wrote out their vows and said them to each other.  Check out part of what Mike said, “Recently the doctors diagnosed me with an abnormality in my heart…they say that my heart skips a beat sometimes.  Well they were right about that.  It skips a beat every morning I wake up and realize that God has blessed me by giving me, YOU.” 

I’ve tried to say these words to my wife but she says it doesn’t count because it’s not original!  While our spouse should cause our heart to skip a beat, I think the Apostle John was totally mesmerized and moved when he contemplated the love of God.  Think of all he saw and heard when he was with Jesus for three years.  What is it that he remembers?  What motivates him?  The love that God has lavished upon us!  John was an old man when He wrote this letter but he never lost his wonder about God’s amazing love.

In order to help us capture John’s sense of astonishment about how God’s love has been lavished upon us, I’d like to have several people read the first part of 1 John 3:1 in various versions and paraphrases.  Please read with a sense of wonder, amazement and enthusiasm.

NIV – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” 

KJV“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”

NLT – “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

TLB – “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children – think of it – and we really are!”

AMP – “SEE WHAT [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are!”

Let’s sing the song called, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” right now.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

It was Max Lucado who said, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more than He already does, and there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any less than He already does.”

Before leaving the topic of God’s love, let’s soak up a couple more Scripture passages.

Psalm 36:7-9: “How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.” 

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  • The best is yet to come.  

3:1 tells us what we are and 3:2 tells us what we shall be: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Someone has summarized the Christian story like this: 

  • I’m not what I used to be
  • I’m not what I should be
  • I’m not what I’m going to be

I came across a story about Michelangelo.  One day a servant brought him a huge piece of marble and asked Michelangelo what he saw in such an ugly rock.  This is what he said, “I see the statue of David, because I’m not seeing what you see, I’m seeing what it will be.”

Let’s break down this verse phrase by phrase…

  • “Now we are children of God.”  Our identity and our position are sure and secure.
  • “What we will be has not yet been made known.”  We are made for another place and all the details are a bit of a mystery…at least right now.
  • “But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  Dear friends, for those who know Jesus Christ, a total transformation is coming when we see Him face-to-face.  

Here are some more verses that shed some additional light on what believers have to look forward to.

Psalm 17:15: “And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” 

1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”  

Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 describes what will happen to those who don’t believe in Christ and those who do: “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.  This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”

our righteous position should lead us to right practice

As we anticipate Christ’s appearing and appreciate our position, we should be highly motivated to aspire to purity in our lives.  Actually, every appeal to right living and loving is based on our position.  Or to say it another way, our righteous position should lead us to right practice.

3. Aspire to purity. 

We move from what we are to what we shall be to what we should be right now.   Let’s see what verse 3 says: “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  Friends, the imminent return of Christ should be an incentive to live with purity in the present.  One pastor put it like this: “An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator.  A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father.  The unbeliever sins against law; the believer sins against love.”

Hope in the Bible is not just wishful thinking; it’s a confident expectation that God will do what He said He will do.  In short, He will keep His promises.  This hope should have a transforming effect on our lives.  But we are responsible to put this purity into practice according to 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Some people really love to study prophecy and figure out tables and timelines.  I admit that it’s very interesting but let’s make sure we don’t become argumentative about it all and let’s remember that the study of what’s coming in the future should always affect how we live today.  Prophecy is practical because it should propel us to pursue purity in the present


Let me come back to my foolish party.  I not only should not have done that; I also tried to keep it a secret from my parents.  That didn’t go over so well.  On top of the neighbors and the police being involved, my face gave it away as soon as they came home, not to mention some party remains that I had forgotten to clean up.  It would have been much better to just confess and own up for what I did.

Friends, since Jesus is coming back, let’s confess our sins and live in light of His return.  Here are some action steps that come to mind.

  1. Trust Him with your life.  Romans 9:33: “…and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
  2. Rearrange your priorities.  I like what D.L. Moody once said: “I have been working three times as hard since I came to understand that my Lord is coming again.”  When Jesus returns, do you want to be found lazy?  Do you want Him to come back while you nurse that grudge in your heart?  Do you want Him to return when all that friction is tearing your family apart?  Do you want Him to appear when you’ve not been giving of your financial resources to expand His kingdom?  Would you have been OK if He had returned when you were doing that secret sin this week?
  3. Live with joyful confidence right now.  No matter what you have done, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
  4. Lavish God’s love on those close to you and on those far from you.  Start with your family and friends but then make sure you’re lavishing love on that person you don’t care for at work or that neighbor who calls the police on you.

A Beautiful Benediction

Pastor Andy passed along a passage of Scripture this week that makes for a great close to our service.  It’s found in Ephesians 3:14–21 (ESV): “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?