This sermon is number 8 in a series of 23
1, 2 and 3 John - Part 8
"The Family Likeness"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2005 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
So we're turning to 1 John chapter 2, and we have two verses to finish off in chapter 2, and then we'll embark on chapter 3 verses 1 to 3. So our portion for consideration tonight is chapter 2 verse 28 through to chapter 3 verse 3, and our title this evening is 'The Family Likeness'.
Beginning to read at chapter 2 verse 28: "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure".
It is a fact of life that you cannot choose your relatives, and of course it is equally a fact that you can't choose your parents. Now, we owe a great deal to our parents, not least the character traits that we have, many of us, in our personalities. Now some of those may be regretful to us. Maybe your nose is a little bit too long, or your temper is a little bit too short, or your frame is a little bit too light - but the fact of the matter is: you can't avoid it, and many of those things may be character traits that have been passed down in the genetic makeup of your parents to you as their children. Likeness, family likeness is the proof of the relationship that you have with your parents and with your family. What we have come to accept naturally in the physical realm as a matter of descent, John here is applying in our spiritual relationship to our Heavenly Father. He's wanting to point out that if we are truly the children of God, and we want the assurance of being children of God in fellowship with God as our Father and His Son Jesus Christ there must be, and indeed there will be, a family likeness. We as sons and daughters, children of God, will have a resemblance to our Heavenly Father.
Of course in verses 28 and 29 he outlines this: 'Little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming'. You see, like begets like, and God's children have a paternal characteristic, family traits to their Father - and the particular one that John is outlining for us, which I think is the fourth that we have dealt with up to now, is that the righteousness of God Himself will be displayed in our lives. This is the chief family likeness that the children of God will display: as God is righteous, as God is holy, we ought to be so as well. To abide in His fellowship, as verses 28 and 29 say, we ought to display His likeness, we ought to manifest His righteousness. Now, it's alright me pontificating from the pulpit here, but I know, and I freely admit with you who are struggling in the Christian life, that this is easier said than done. Our Heavenly Father is perfect, and the Lord Jesus spoke to us in the Sermon on the Mount and said: 'Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is also perfect'. That is a tremendous injunction that is given to the child of God: to be like God in the very aspect and character trait that we find it most difficult to be like Him in. Yet God's word is saying this is the very characteristic that is showing likeness between Father and son and daughter in the family of God.
Now we all admit equally, I'm sure, that it's not easy being a Christian in the world today. We struggle, don't we, from time to time? Everything is against us, the world is against us and all the temptations around us, and our own flesh, our old nature that we'll deal with in the weeks that lie ahead in the will of the Lord, it is also against us. The devil himself and all his minions are round about trying to distract us from the highway of holiness. We might be sitting here thinking: 'Well, it's alright for you to tell me that I'm to be like my heavenly Father, and that's a proof that I'm a son or daughter of God, but how do I get there? What is the motivation? I just seem not to be able to work it up, and my heart is filled with apathy, I'm lethargic regarding Christian things and I feel pulled down by all of these things around me in the world and in my flesh, and the influences of the devil. What is the motivation for me to have this type of fellowship with God, to abide in Christ, and to live a holy life as He is holy?'.
Well, we're looking this evening - and this is so important - at what is the motivation for living a holy life and manifesting this characteristic of our Heavenly Father that is righteousness. It's found first of all in verse 28, that we not be ashamed when He appears, that we will have confidence and not have shame at His coming. Now, incidentally, 'Now little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear', that word 'when' could also be translated 'if He appear'. Now that is not the 'if' of doubt, but it is the 'if' of imminence - what do I mean? Well, John is saying to them: 'Perchance, if in your lifetime Christ should come, you've got to live a life of righteousness like your Heavenly Father so that you'll not be ashamed, but that you'll have confidence when He comes, because He could come in your lifetime'. It's this thought of imminence, 'imminence' literally means that the Lord Jesus' second coming is hanging over us all the time - that's a fact, but I wonder is it a practical reality in our lives? That we're living our Christian daily experience, and seeking to live holy before God, because we know that His coming is hanging over us every moment of our day.
Now I know that many talk about the coming of Christ, that many get excited about it and know an awful lot about it, but many of those same people will be embarrassed when the Lord Jesus appears, because they will not have confidence toward Him, they will be ashamed before Him at His coming. We ask, rightly so, why would that be? Simply the answer is: because of their lives. Revelation 22 tells us in verse 12: 'Behold', Jesus says, 'I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be' - every man according as his work shall be. Second Corinthians 5:10: 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad'.
Now there is the question tonight, I throw it out right at the very beginning: do you have confidence toward the Lord concerning the imminent return, that He could come back at any time, and you would have confidence toward Him, you would not be ashamed? Maybe you can't say that, I wonder if any of us can say that, but maybe you've got as far as saying: 'Well, I never want to be like that when He comes. I want to have confidence toward Him, I don't want to be ashamed. How can I avoid this fate?'. Well, it's very simple: live righteously before the Lord, as if He's going to come at any time. Now, that's easier said than done, as I've already said - but what John does for us tonight, and what I want to relay to you from the word of God, are the motivations for living righteously in the light of the second coming of our Lord Jesus.
There are three of them, I believe, in a sense. The first we find in verse 1, John says if you're going to live righteously to such an extent that when Christ comes you will have confidence and you'll not be ashamed, first of all you need to contemplate your great privileges. Contemplate your great privileges. Verse 1: 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God'. Now, what are these great privileges that we ought to contemplate that will motivate us to live a holy life in the light of the coming of our Lord Jesus? Well the first, John tells us: 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us' - we're motivated to live holy lives through the love of the Father. You could put it: it is the privilege of His passion, His love for us. Now remember that John the apostle is the great man that wrote John 3:16 that we love so well: 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. He's telling us that the greatest motivation for living for Jesus until He comes is the love of God.
Now we're talking about family life here, aren't we? Love is the greatest drive in the human family. A man falls in love with a woman, and a woman falls in love with a man, they make tremendous sacrifices the one to the other, they become one flesh, they relinquish their individuality to an extent - and human love has a tremendous drive to it, there's a great passion, a great power. But the fact of the matter is: we are not children of God because we love God, we are children of God because He loves us. Now taking the family relationship again as an illustration, we were all loved by our parents before we even knew what love was. Most children don't understand what true love is, but that doesn't stop their parents loving them. We were in that position.
I read a story today about a man who was deeply depressed as a Christian because he felt that he didn't have the love that he should towards the Lord in his heart. He talked to a close friend, and the friend said this to him: 'When I go home from here I'll take my little baby on my knee, I'll look into her sweet eyes and I'll love her with all my heart. Now she loves me very little, if at all, and if my heart were breaking it would not disturb her. If my body were aching with pain, it would not interrupt her play. If I were dead she probably would forget me in a few days. Besides this she never has given me any money, but she has been a constant expense to me, and I'm not rich - but there is not money enough in the world to buy my little baby!'. 'Why is that?', he said, 'Is it because she loves me, or because I love her? Do I dare withhold my love from her until I know that she loves me? Or is there something that she must do first before she can earn my love? Absolutely not!'. Then he looked into his friend's eyes and said: 'If you want to love God and let your love for God grow, don't focus on how much you love Him, focus on how much He loves you'.
This is God's family and what John wants you to grasp just now, if you're ever going to be motivated to live, in the light of Christ's coming, a holy life, is the great love of God which far exceeds anything on the human dimension. It is beyond our imagination, the privilege of the passion of God's love toward us that we enjoy. Verse 1 says: 'Behold, what manner of love', now that literally could be translated like this, 'Behold, of what country is this love' - that's literally what it says. 'Behold of what country', now what does that mean? It's expressing the unearthly characteristic of this love. I could contemporise it by saying this: 'Behold, this love is out of this world!'. That's what John is saying: God has lavished, literally that's what 'bestowed' means, He has lavished this love upon us. Get a glimpse of it, John says, if you want to live a holy life in this awful world and you don't want to be ashamed when Christ comes, you need to get a greater capacity of an appreciation of His love for you.
Isn't that what Paul said in Ephesians? 'That we would be able to comprehend with all the saints the breadth, the length, the depth, and the height of this great love'. The children sing:
'It's so high, we can't get over it,
So low, we can't get under it,
So wide, we can't get round it,
It's wonderful love!'.
God loves us so much, John says, that He calls us His children. But not only does God call us His children, but John is saying He claims us as His own. Now I don't know about you, but I'm proud - in a right sense - to have God as my Father. I've nothing to be proud about in myself, but I'm proud of that fact - but do you know what blows my mind tonight? That God is proud to have me as His son. He's not ashamed to call me 'son', or you 'daughter', and He'll never ever disown me no matter how faithless and unbelieving I am, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself. Once in Christ, in Christ forever! That's love, if ever there was love. Contemplate that great privilege: the privilege of His passion through the love of the Father.
Here's the second aspect: through the love of the Father we have been made sons of God. This is now not the privilege of His passion, but the privilege of our position: 'Now are we called the sons of God'. Now right away this blows out of the water this idea that everyone is a son or a child of God, and this is what we hear so often today - the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. It doesn't exist in God's word, you have to become, be made a son of God. So the question begs: how are you made a son of God? Well, the first step is the new birth. John tells us about it in his first chapter of his gospel, verses 12 and 13: 'But as many as received Christ, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God'. Now what does that mean? Well, we're not born-again by human decision, we're not born-again by something that we inherit from our parents or our culture or our religion, we're not born-again because of the desire of another or the desire of ourselves. It doesn't come primarily by human determination, the salvation, this new birth is not of man, it is of God. It's not about what man does for God, it's about what God does for man! That's how we can know that we have eternal life, that's why we can know that we are the sons of God, because it doesn't depend on you or me, it depends on God. Do you know tonight?
Verse 1 in many translations, and because some manuscripts put 'and we are' after 'the sons of God', '...we should be called the sons of God, and we are' - adding for emphasis that we know now. This isn't something that we're waiting on when the balances are weighed in heaven and God says: 'Well, your good has outweighed your bad, so you're a son of God' - not a bit of it! We can know now, the assurance is given to us now. 'How is it given?', you say - well, if you've got the traits of your Heavenly Father. Do you have those? Oh, we've seen them: there is the moral test, you obey His commandments; there is the social test, you love your brother; there is the doctrinal test, you believe in the Christ of God outlined in the Scriptures, and you believe about Him as God has revealed Him concerning who He is and what He has done. Why do you need to know? Because Christ is coming, and if you don't know for sure the likelihood is you'll be ashamed and confounded without confidence toward God.
But John now is turning his attention away from the new birth, simply because the new birth alone does not make you a child of God. Did you hear me? I see you perking up now! The new birth alone, oh, it's the first step of course, and it gives us a new nature which allows us to fellowship with God and enter into heaven - but God could have, if He so desired, allowed us to enter into heaven as slaves. He could have saved our souls and took us to glory, but the Bible's teaching here is that we are not slaves, but God has made us sons. Now would I be right in saying that most of us would be glad to get to heaven even as a slave? I heard of a preacher who said this: 'If God had said to me, 'James, you may go to heaven, but only if you agree to sweep the streets of glory', I would have said: 'Where's the broom, Lord?'. If He had said, 'You may go to heaven, but only if you agree to polish the pearly gates', I would have said: 'Where's the wax?'. If He said, 'You can go to heaven, but only if you agree to wash the wings of the angels', I would have said: 'Where's the soap?'. But praise the Lord, I'm not going as a slave, I'm going as a son'. Hallelujah!
My friend, get a glimpse of this: we don't only have a new nature in Christ, we have a new name. It's not just new birth that deals with us spiritually, we have adoption that deals with us legally. This is now what John is talking about, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. In Roman law, a bit like our own law, adoption was a legal act of taking a child that was not your own. That child had no rights in your family, it had no lineage or heritage, but by that legal act of adoption you were taking it as yours and giving him or her the privileges and the rights of your family. That's not an easy thing to do - what would motivate such an act? Well, I can only imagine, but perhaps some would choose a child because of its attractiveness or its beauty, blue eyes or blond hair - more superior, of course, is brown eyes! - its own beauty or attractiveness. Maybe it was obligation that made people choose a child, maybe they were left in a will to a brother or sister. But what we have here is God adopting us into His family out of pure, naked, raw, unconditional love - for no reason other than the fact that He loves us!
Friends, do you see it? We have been made sons through the love of the Father, the privilege of His passion. We now have the privilege of our position, 'Now are we the sons and daughters of God'. A wee boy was cruelly teased at school because he was adopted, and after a wee while his stiff upper lip began to wobble, and he could take no more. He blurted out: 'You can say what you like, all I know is my parents chose me, yours couldn't help having you'. That's what it's all about, isn't it? We are chosen in Christ. Galatians 4:4 and 5 says: 'When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons'. God's word says we've received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry 'Abba, Father'. I don't wish to be irreverent, far from it, or over familiar with the Almighty, but that little word 'Abba' means 'Daddy', or 'Papa' - take it or leave it, that's what it means. Whilst we must always have reverence before God, this is the intimate relationship: the Bible says His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
I think it must have been the doctrine of adoption that motivated Samuel Crossman to write:
'My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?'.
Contemplate our great privileges, the privilege of His passion, the privilege of our position. Through the love of the Father we have been made sons, and then we find in verse 1, so that we will share in his suffering: 'Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not'. What John is saying is: the world didn't understand Christ, and the world's not going to understand you. 'If they hated me', Jesus said, 'they will hate you'. That liberates me, because so many Christians today are running around trying to get the world to understand them, aren't they? They're trying to become acceptable to the world - now I know that in our evangelism we have to be all things to all men that we might win some, but the fact of the matter is: they're never going to understand us - never! Because the natural man does not perceive or understand the things of the spirit, they are foolishness to them. Here's one of the greatest foolishnesses of all: that we should count it a privilege to suffer and not be understood for Christ!
Sure isn't that what the apostles said when they were whipped and scourged for preaching in the name they were forbidden to preach in - they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. I'll tell you this: if you're suffering for Jesus, you'll not be ashamed when He comes again. First Peter 4 says: 'Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy'.
Contemplate our great privileges: one, through the love of the Father, the privilege of His passion, we have been made; two, sons of God, the privilege of our position, so that we can share in his suffering, the privilege of worldly persecution. Have you contemplated our great privileges - boy, if anything would motivate you, it's motivating me as I speak tonight, to live godly that I'll not be ashamed when Jesus comes! But the second thing he tells them to do to motivate them to live godly in the light of the coming of the Lord is to anticipate their glorious prospect, anticipate our glorious prospect. Verse 2: 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is'. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said that he felt sorry for anyone who had not spent a week with such a verse as this one.
It's a wonderful verse, isn't it? Someone has said the Christian story can be told in three chapters: the first is entitled, 'I'm not what I used to be'; the second, 'I'm not what I should be'; but the third, 'I'm not what I'm going to be'. These Docetists were coming around saying, 'You can be sinless now' - we can't be sinless now, sure we can't? John has told us, if we say that we have no sin, or we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar and we deceive ourselves. But the fact of the matter is this: though we are discouraged, and I don't know if I'm talking to a child of God this evening who's discouraged because you find it difficult to measure up to the mark of other people, you see others as being super spiritual and yourself as some kind of Christian pygmy just not reaching their standards. Maybe there's others in your circle or in your denomination that make you feel even smaller, because you haven't had the so-called experience that they have had. Maybe you throw up the head, and you think: 'What's the point of it all? It can't be done, you can't live godly in Christ Jesus in this world'. This is what John is saying to this little discouraged flock: 'Look up, be encouraged, it will be done when Jesus comes'. You are the sons of God now, and the motivation for living righteously now is that it doesn't yet appear what you shall be, but when He shall appear, you'll be like Him. In other words, live righteously now, John says, because now is the dress rehearsal for eternity. You're going to be perfect - oh, my friend, that you could get that tonight and anticipate your glorious prospect in the future in Christ. I'll tell you, there'll be nothing else that could be a catalyst like that to cause you to live godly for Christ Jesus today.
Now there's a number of aspects in this glorious prospect that he wants us to anticipate. First of all there's an uncertain expectation, an uncertain expectation: 'It does not yet appear what we shall be'. It's hard to imagine, isn't it? Being perfect! Maybe some of you're sitting there thinking: 'It's not that hard!' - that's the wives, probably! The fact of the matter is: you know what a failure you really are, and I know the failure that I am. It's uncertain in its expectancy in the sense that we really don't have a clue what it's going to be like. It is incredible!
I don't know whether you've heard the story of Michelangelo, when a servant brought him a great lump of marble and the servant said nonplussed: 'What do you see in that?', and he said, 'I see the statue of David'. He says: 'You see what?', 'The statue of David, because I'm not seeing what you see, I'm seeing what it shall be'. That's what John's trying to get across: God is not finished with us yet, it does not yet appear what we shall be. I love that little chorus: 'He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be'. First Corinthians 2 says that: 'it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him'. Let me tell you, some of you are experts on the Lord's return, I'm telling you tonight that the half you think you know, you don't know - and what you do know, some of it is wrong! And that's from somebody who knows nothing! But I know this much: that there is an uncertainty to our expectation in this regard, that we don't know, we don't contemplate or are able to grasp what we will be. That gives me more delight than rhyming off to you a whole list of things that we will be.
There is an uncertain expectation, but secondly there is a definite revelation: 'but we know that, when he shall appear' - a definite revelation. We mightn't know everything about how He will appear, and how we will appear with Him, but the fact of the matter is: it's definite that He will be revealed. Literally the word 'appear' means 'revealed'. Three hundred and eighteen times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament we find the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The Lord spoke of it: 'If I go away, I will come again', John 14. All the apostles in their epistles spoke of it, and Paul spoke of that moment of rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4: 'If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words'. The fact is this: a definite revelation of Jesus Christ is coming! It's a fact, whatever the unbelieving world says about it matters little: Jesus is coming again!
An uncertain expectation, a definite revelation, and then thirdly an incredible transformation: we shall be like Him. Second Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 10 is a remarkable verse, I don't know whether you've ever contemplated it, Paul says: 'When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe'. Christ, one day, is going to be glorified in you! He's going to be admired in you, because when He comes you will be like Him! Now that doesn't mean that there'll be a trillion Jesus Christ's in heaven - I think that's the conception that some people have. He's not going to dissolve our personalities, we'll retain our personalities apart from sin, and our individualities within reason. We'll still be ourselves, the Lord Jesus isn't going to destroy David Legge or you - but what John is getting across, and the whole Bible, is that we will behold Christ's face in righteousness. We will be satisfied when we awake with His likeness, the thrust of the thought is: we will be morally like the Lord Jesus. Do you get it?
With the Spirit's help, we're all down here trying to live godly in Christ, and it's possible but it's not easy - but there's a day coming when we'll be like Him! We'll be free from all possibility of defilement, of sin, of trampling into temptation, of sickness, of sorrow, of death. That's why Paul said in Philippians: 'For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself'. An incredible transformation: we shall be like Him! Are you anticipating this glorious prospect? If anything should motivate you to live for Christ, is it not these things? That He's coming, it's definite; and when He comes, you will be like Him - trying to live godly in Christ Jesus down here is not a waste of time, because you're going to get there, child of God, it's going to happen! Your faith will give way to sight, and you'll be perfect!
Then fourthly, anticipate our glorious prospect, there's also a desired realisation: we shall see Him as He is. You've desired it, haven't you? It has never been realised, we look through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face we'll see and know. Can I tell you this tonight: men have never seen Jesus, the Lord in Christ, the way He is. Did you hear me? They have never seen Him the way He is. You might say: 'Did the disciples not see Him?', they saw Him the way He was, but not the way He is. How is He now? Well, they saw Him without His glory, they saw Him without all the majesty, without all the splendour of heaven - but Jesus, in John chapter 17 and verse 24, praying to His Father, said: 'I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world'. There's a day coming when we'll be caught up to be with the Lord, and we'll be changed into His likeness, and we'll see Him as He is, as no men on earth have ever seen Him before. Oh my friend, this thrills my heart:
'Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine'.
But what a day that will be when this will be accomplished - how will it be accomplished? This is mighty: at that very moment we look on His face, we'll be changed, perfect, and will see His glory - and His glory will be reflected out of our lives. The very look into the face of Christ will bring it to pass!
'Oh, to see Thee as Thou art,
And love Thee with unsinning heart'.
Well, we're motivated to live Christlike, contemplating our privileges and also anticipating our glorious prospect, and thirdly - do you know what will happen? These things will generate a growing purity in our lives. Verse 3: 'Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure'. It could be translated: 'Every man that has this hope set on Him'. The Authorised in the typesetting is a little bit misleading in the sense that this is what the verse means, verse 3 - watch my finger: 'Every man that hath this hope in Him', Christ, 'purifieth himself', me, 'even as He', Christ, 'is pure'. In other words, if you believe that Jesus is coming again, that will cause you to live a pure life down here, because you'll be living in the light of his coming. It will purify you, even as He is already pure.
This is the balance of the Christian life, it's the balance of prophecy between expectation and participation. It's the tension between living for today and looking for tomorrow, and it's often a tension that is missed - for many who are looking for tomorrow are not living for today, and some Christians who are living for today are not anticipating tomorrow. But isn't it wonderful to even contemplate tonight that we have a tomorrow? Do you know what rejoiced my heart today? John is an aged man, the last of the living apostles, and here he is, and the old man is still thrilled with the love of God. The old man is still anticipating the second coming of Christ and its imminence, waiting for it every moment of the day. Some old men in our world today, and old women, all they can do is look back because they've nothing to look forward to. I know there's some more mature folk in our meeting tonight, and maybe you've lost all that you know as dear to you, and everything is gone that held you down here - well, listen: you thank God tonight that you've got something to look forward to. You've got glory, and your loved ones in Christ; and you've got the Lamb of God to see and know and be changed into His likeness. Would that not purify you?
Jesus urges us, because He's coming again, to keep watching, Matthew 24:42; to be ready, Matthew 24:44; to keep serving, Matthew 24:46. He left specific instructions of what to do as we await His coming: we are to witness to Him everywhere across the world, we're to build His church in every generation, we're to occupy till He comes - that means we're to be doing and using resources and putting this money to the work, using our talents for Him, not burying them. We're to remain faithful to the word of God and keep doctrine pure. If we're living in the light of His coming, it will keep us in this balance of our present responsibilities and our future expectations. So I'm asking you: as you contemplate your great privileges, the love of God, your position as a son of God; as you consider the glorious prospect that you're going to see Him, you're going to be like Him, you're going to be changed to be in His character - does it not generate a growing purity in your life? It ought to, there's something wrong if it doesn't.
D. L. Moody said: 'I have felt like working three times as hard since I came to understand that my Lord is coming again'. That's what it ought to do! If your head is full of dispensational truth, and your life's not full of holiness - that's useless! This is a truth not to be held in our heads but our hearts, and if it's held in our hearts it will affect our hands, and it will affect our feet, and it will affect our lips! One thing is sure: if we are anticipating this glorious prospect, we'll not be ashamed when He comes. When He comes, do you want to be found with a grudge in your heart towards another brother or sister? When He comes, do you want Him to find His money in your pocket? When He comes, do you want Him to smell booze off your breath? Do you want Him to find dirty magazines under your bed? Do you want Him to find disharmony in your marriage or in your home? Will He find you in a place that He wouldn't mind being in Himself? Will He find you doing something that He wouldn't mind rolling His own sleeves up and helping you with? Will you have confidence toward Him or will you be ashamed? Will I be ashamed?
A group of teenagers were enjoying a party and someone suggested they go to a certain bar for a good time. A little girl called Jan said: 'I'd rather you took me home, my parents don't approve of that place'. 'What's the matter?', one friend said, 'Are you afraid your father will hurt you?'. 'No', replied Jan, 'I'm afraid that I might hurt him'. That girl understood the principle of being a child of God. He loves us, do we love Him? One writer has said: 'A mind singularly focused on meeting Jesus will discover a renewed power to pursue righteousness, so that when He appears our righteousness will resonate with Him'. This recalls the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:8: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'.
I'm going to finish by reading to you the words of the late Vernon McGee, the Bible teacher on radio and Bible expositor. I'm just reading them, because I couldn't put it the way he does, and the sentiment of what he is communicating is tremendous. I want you to listen carefully and grasp it as we close tonight. He says, and maybe you can identify with him: 'We all have regrets. Personally', he says, 'I don't know about you, I can speak only for myself, but I very frankly make this confession: I have never really been the man that I've wanted to be. I am at the age now where I guess a man begins to dream a little, and as I look back over my life I realise that I've never been the man that I've wanted to be, and I've never been the preacher that I've wanted to be, I've never really preached the sermon that I've wanted to preach. People have been kind to me and have said nice things, and I appreciate that, but I know in my own heart that I wish I could do better. I've never been the husband that I've wanted to be. Previously I mentioned an illness I had several years ago which necessitated a three-month rest, and my wife and I sat out on our patio and did a great deal of reminiscing. As I revealed and reviewed my life, I thought 'My, I wish I'd been a better husband than I was. I should have been'. I've never been the father that I wanted to be. Some people think that I'm a little too much for my grandsons, well I'm trying to make up for them what I left out on my own child. I've never really attained my goal. I thank God for the way He has led me, He has been good to me in my life and I rejoice in the fact that He has given to me a Bible teaching radio ministry. I never thought He'd do that, but He has - but I have not attained my goal. But He says: 'Behold, I make all things new'. He is saying, 'Vernon McGee', and He is saying this to you too, 'We are going to be able to start all over again. You are really going to live an eternal life, and you're going to attain your goal''.
Does that not motivate you to live for Him? When you contemplate your privileges, and you anticipate your glorious prospect, does it not generate a growing purity - to be pure, even as He is?
We say 'Maranatha', even so, come Lord Jesus, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighth recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "The Family Likeness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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