Christ Covenant Church
Text – 1 John 2:28-3:10
Joy for the World: Life, Light, Love
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May God fill you with the joy of his life, light, and love in Jesus Christ.
As you know we are in the middle of a series on 1 John. John says he wrote these things so that our joy may be complete (1:4). And we are preaching these things for the same reason. Life is hard, and full of tragedy, heartache, and sorrows. So, each week, since we started this series, I have read the text with one big question in mind: How does this teaching make our joy complete?
This week was no different.
John told us that the world and its desires are passing away, but the people who do the will of God will live forever and never fade away. But where will we live, if the world is passing away? Not knowing where you are going or how to get there can raise your anxiety to threat level midnight.
Today, we will see where we are going, and how to get there.
In seminary I learned that eschatology shapes morality. That means our view of the future shapes our life in the present; our destination shapes our direction.
This is common sense. When you plan a trip to the beach, you plot a course on the map that will lead you where you want to go. When you are invited to participate in a wedding, you plan to dress appropriately. When you go on a business trip to California, you don’t board a plane to Georgia.
In this text, John says that our destination shapes our direction. Our destination is the Father, our direction is Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life — no one comes to the Father except through him.
We want your joy to be filled up and finished out as you walk in the light, life, and love of God. But we also want you to know why you are walking and where you are going.
Our sermon text for today is 1 John 2:28-3:10. If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. Now hear what the Spirit says to the church:
And now children abide in him so that when he appears we will have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, [then] *know* that every one who does righteousness is born of him. See the kind of love the Father has given us, so that we might be called children of God — and we are. On account of this the world does not know us because it did not know him. Loved ones, now we are children of God and it has not yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears, like him we will be because we will see him as he is. And every one who has this hope on him continually purifies himself just as he is pure. Every one who continually does sin also does lawlessness and sin is lawlessness. And you know that he appeared in order to take away sin and sin is not in him. Every one who continually abides in him sins not. Every one who continually sins has not seen him neither has he known him. Children, *do not let anyone/-thing take you out of orbit*. The one who continually does righteousness is righteous just as he is righteous. The one who continually does sin is from the devil, because from the beginning the devil continually sins. For this reason the Son of God appeared in order that he might take away the works of the devil. Every one who has been born of God does not continually sin because his seed abides in him and he is not able to sin continually because he has been born of God. By this it appears who are the children of God and the children of the devil: every one who continually does not righteousness and does not love his brother continually is not from God.
The word of the Lord. May God add his blessing to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. All the church says: Amen! (You may be seated.)
+ JESUS IS PREPARING A PLACE FOR US
John starts with the promise of Jesus’ appearing in order to motivate us to practice righteousness and purify ourselves. In other words, since Jesus will appear again, we ought to prepare ourselves for his appearing. More on that in a moment.
First, I want to talk about what Jesus is doing right now.
In his Gospel, John tells what Jesus said about where he was going to go and what he was going to do. He said:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.
According to his own words, Jesus went to prepare a dwelling place for us in his Father’s house. But he had far more in mind than pearly gates, golden streets, roomy mansions, puffy clouds, and silver harps. His Father’s house is not a mansion on a hilltop with lots and lots of bedrooms set aside for house guests. His Father’s house is the whole cosmos.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth; at the end God will recreate the heavens and the earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3). In the end, the Word made flesh will remake all things, and without him nothing will be remade that was un-made by sin.
At his first coming, Jesus laid down his life and took it up again in order to take away sin — to take away the works of the devil. At his second coming, Jesus will bring the new heavens and new earth to us and take us into them.
So, even as we speak, Jesus is making all things new—Jesus is re-creating the world. He is regenerating the world and giving the cosmos an extreme makeover. Jesus is preparing a new home for us — a place where we may enjoy fellowship with God the Father, with the Son, and by the Spirit.
What I am telling you sounds like a cleverly invented fairy-tale to some — especially those who do not yet believe, to antichrists, to children of the devil. But it is the truth and everyone who has been born again of the Spirit sees and knows the truth.
This testimony is true, and it is consistent with the word of the apostles and prophets.
The prophets pointed forward to the first coming of Christ, and they described his coming as the dawn of the new heavens and new earth and the dusk of the old heavens and earth.
The prophets expected the Christ to restore the new heavens and new earth, and that is exactly what Jesus did, and what he is doing.
When the time for restoring all things comes, Jesus will restore the heavens and earth; they will be more real and even better than the real thing.
The apostles point forward to the second coming of Christ, which they saw as both the nadir (low point) of the old heavens and earth and the zenith (high point) of the new heavens and new earth.
In the Book of Revelation, John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and he was taken up through a door in the sky into the cosmic throne-room of God. And this is what he saw, in his own words:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 21:1-6)
John saw a new cosmos and a new city and a new cause-and-effect system. He saw the new heavens and new earth — a new place and a new people and a new paradise.
A new place where God’s city comes down from heaven to dwell with man;
A new paradise where God dwells with his people and they dwell with him;
A new place where God comforts his people—and wipes away our tears and drives away our fears;
A new paradise where God drives away darkness with light, and destroys death with life.
A new place where sorrow turns to joy — and our joy is made complete.
Most Christians imagine heaven as a good place you go to when you die; and they imagine earth as a bad place you escape or leave behind when you die.
But that is not true.
The Spirit reveals that the new heavens and new earth are paradise restored, creation resurrected, cosmos transformed. At the end of all things heaven and earth come together. They will be united in Christ, no longer separated by sin or corrupted by the devil.
According to the apostles and prophets the new heavens and new earth are the eternal reality that we who are born again of water and Spirit will experience and embrace on the day of the Lord.
The new heavens and new earth are the eternal reality; the place where we will experience the presence of God with the people of God forever.
In his children’s book “The Last Battle” CS Lewis tells the story of a Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling when he saw the New Narnia [the new heavens and earth].
He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and he cried out: I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life–though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Come! further up, come further in!
John went “further up and further in” into the new heavens and earth than CS Lewis was able to go with his imagination. He saw what Jesus was preparing—a new heavens and earth, a new city, a new garden, and a new temple for all God’s children.
He got a sneak preview of Jesus’ extensive building project. He saw the New Jerusalem—the holy and radiant city of the Lord’s shalom—descending to the new heavens and new earth. He saw the city that Jesus prepared for his people—for you; he saw the city of God coming down to dwell with man.
What do you see? If we look carefully enough by faith we can see who and what John saw.
If by faith you see what John saw that will shape how you live.
We know that when Jesus appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is. Jesus Christ is now glorified. When we see him as he is (glorified), we will be like him (glorified).
+ WE MUST PREPARE A PLACE FOR HIM
How shall we now live?
As Jesus prepares a place for us, so we must prepare a place for him. Every one who has this hope of becoming like him when he appears continually purifies himself just as he is pure. (That’s what it means for us to prepare a place for him.)
The word for purify means consecrate and cleanse. It has a ceremonial/ritual and moral connotation in the Scriptures.
In the OT, God set apart certain people for special tasks.
Priests were set apart by God, but they also had to set themselves apart before entering the presence of God. They purified themselves by offering sacrifices, sprinkling blood, taking off dirty clothes, washing with water, putting on clean clothes, and drawing near to God. (Leviticus 16)
Nazirites were also set apart by God, but they also had to set themselves apart for service to God. They purified themselves by abstaining from drinking wine and strong drink, from eating grapes and raisins, from cutting their hair, and from touching dead bodies. That is how they separated themselves unto the Lord and were holy and set apart to him. (Numbers 6:2-6)
In the NT, God also sets apart certain people for special tasks.
We are priests. We have an anointing from the Holy One. Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are set apart by God for his worship and service, and we must set ourselves apart for the same. This is where God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility meet.
Like OT priests, we must purify ourselves in preparation for entering God’s presence. Not only when we gather for worship on the Lord’s day, but also as we live, move, and exist day after day between Lord’s days. And finally, when we enter the place Jesus is preparing for us. How do we purify ourselves?
Unlike OT priests, we do not purify ourselves by keeping a list of ceremonial rituals. First and foremost, we purify ourselves by walking in the light and by confessing our sins (1 John 1:7, 9). When we do that, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness with the blood of Jesus. God purifies us.
Furthermore, we purify ourselves by keeping God’s commandments, loving one another, hating the world and its desires, loving the Father and doing his will, remaining in Jesus, and doing righteousness.
So, like OT priests and Nazirites, we purify ourselves as he is pure, but we are able to purify ourselves as he is pure only because he is willing to purify us as he himself is pure with the blood of Jesus.
Earlier in the letter John said he writes these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the true and better Nazirite who was set apart for God’s service; the true and better priest priest who prays that God will sanctify us by truth; the true and better sacrifice who cover our sins. (Hebrews 10:12-13)
Now, I want you to know that the place Jesus is preparing is for all who are loved by the Father and born of the Father. His “spiritual DNA” (GK sperma) abides in them. His children bear his traits and characteristics. They pursue righteousness. They purify themselves as Jesus is pure.
The place Jesus is preparing is for all God’s children, and only God’s children. It is not for any of the devil’s children.
John makes it clear that there are only two fathers and two families — and that everyone is a child in one of those families.
One family is the family of the devil. The other family is the family of God the Father.
The devil is a lawless liar who always sins. His children practice sin and are characterized by it. They are antichrists.
The Father is love and light. His children walk in the light and love of their Father. We have an anointing from the Holy One. We practice righteousness and repentance. They purify themselves just like their brother Jesus is pure.
How do you know who is your father and which is your family?
“By this it appears who are the children of God and the children of the devil: every one who continually does not righteousness and does not love his brother continually is not from God.”
You know who your father is by who you look like, think like, and act like.
If you have been born again by the Spirit and word of God, you will look like your Father and act like your brother Jesus. You will overcome the world and its desires. You will practice repentance and pursue righteousness. You will prepare yourselves for the coming of the Lord!
In other words, you will live in God’s family and act like one of God’s children.
+ PRIESTLY PRAYER
I came across this pastoral exhortation by Peter Leithart this week and want to echo it now:
We live out the Christian life between appearances of Christ. He appeared first to remove sin and to loose us from the works of the devil, and He will appear again as judge and to transform us into His likeness. John says that everyone who hopes in God’s coming “purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Purity is priestly language, the language of the temple. Jesus comes each week as the great High Priest to inspect His temple, which we are. This is why we confess our sins at the beginning of worship every Lord’s day. If we are going to pass His priestly inspection, we need to be cleansed of all blemishes and stains. When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is the only way we can appear before His presence with boldness, and not, like Adam, shrink back in shame at His coming. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2006/11/exhortation-16
Last thing: I want you to know that Jesus — our true and better high priest — is praying for us. Not that the Father will take us out of the world, but that he will keep us from the evil one. (We are not of the world, just as Jesus is not of the world.) And his prayer is that our Father will sanctify us in the truth; his word is truth. And as the Father sent Jesus on mission into the world, so Jesus sends into the world. And for our sake he consecrated himself, so that we also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:15-19)
We preach these things so that your joy might be complete!