A weekday devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find the archive here.
Thursday May 14, 2020
1 John 3:2
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.
When you are more or less confined to home for 2 months, and your home contains 3 little girls, you begin to notice that the number of words capable of coming from the mouth of even a single human being is astonishingly, perhaps even frighteningly, high. Whether it is sitting down for one of our now three daily family meals, going for a walk, or even watching a movie, someone, (often three someones simultaneously), is always talking. And not only is someone talking, but typically their speech is peppered with questions of all kinds. Our middle daughter declared the other day on a family hike through the woods that her favorite two words in the english language are “What if” before quickly correcting herself by also adding “God” and “Jesus” to the Mount Rushmore of her vocabulary. She then proceeded to rapid-fire a series of hypothetical situations that would require a dedicated team of philosophers to tackle. Just a few examples: “What if the whole forest was made of candy? What if you got bit by a poisonous snake but it didn’t hurt you? What if bears were actually just sharks covered with fur?”
What if? These two little words can be the springboard of imagination and excitement to a (relatively) innocent child, but they can also be the source of anxiety and apprehension to an already troubled soul. Some of the questions that many have been asking lately are more distressing things like, “What if school doesn’t start back in the fall?” or “What if the economy doesn’t recover?” or “What if I get sick?” or, even worse, “What if someone I love gets sick because I shared a virus I didn’t know I had?”
It is important and helpful to know that fear for the future is not novel to our present time or place in this world. Remember that John wrote this letter to a group of Christians living under the oppressive hand of the Roman empire, enduring daily persecution, and would see many of their brothers and sisters pay the ultimate price for their faith in Jesus. Just like us today, the church at Ephesus also nervously pondered what may await them. Speaking directly to this uncertainty, John offers wonderful words of assurance. “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” Those who have placed their faith in Jesus are already, in this present moment, God’s children. This is huge considering what they used to be. Who were they? Back in Acts 17, addressing the men of Athens, Paul quotes the Greek poet Aratus, who had written, referencing the thunder-god Zeus, “For we are indeed his offspring.” Paul affirms that, in a very real way, all of humanity is the offspring of God. We understand this as an affirmation of the image of God unique in human being among the rest of creation. However, being created in God’s image, and being offspring of God in that way, does not guarantee us a place in His family. In John 8, Jesus enraged a group of Pharisees who attempted to claim that Abraham was their spiritual father, when He corrected them, suggesting “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds the church that formerly they were on the outside looking in in regards to the kingdom of God. But now, as believers, they were cleansed of their sin, washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.
Through the regenerative work of God in their hearts, a Christian is no longer who they once were. The moment a believer trusts in Jesus they are miraculously transformed, here and now, into God’s legitimate children. This conversion not only affects the present, but it also irrevocably impacts the future. With Christ, all believers are rightful heirs to the present AND future kingdom of God. While the believer’s ultimate future is permanently secure at the moment of their salvation, professing faith in Jesus is just the beginning of the process of their transformation into what they will become. John writes that “what we will be has not yet appeared,” but, have no fear, for “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Until Jesus appears, for the duration of their time in this fallen world, however long or short it may be, Christians will be limited in regards to the way they are able to see and apprehend God. While the veil has already been removed from their spiritual eyes, they will not see Jesus in all His glory until they are with Him forever.
While we might be tempted to think of that as unfair, in reality this is our benefit. Just as Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being full of himself at the surpassing greatness of his visions of God, when we see Jesus as He is we will never desire anything else. Fear and sadness and pain and sin will be nothing more than a fleeting memory, like a bad dream. Nothing will compare to the absolute beauty, glory, splendor, and majesty of God; there are not enough superlative adjectives in all the languages of the world to begin to adequately describe Him as He is.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, our puny words of gratitude are nowhere near enough to thank You for all that You have done for us. While the world around us rages and the times are far from certain, help us to place our trust and hope in You and You alone. There is no one and nothing like You in all of the universe. We are unworthy of Your love and mercy and ask that You would continue Your work of transformation in our lives. We anxiously long for the day when we will see You as You are. In Your unsurpassable name we pray, Amen.