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iHope - Living in the Hope of Jesus' Return

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It is always interesting to see how people express the concept of love. You see people fall in love. You see the crazy things they're willing to do to try to express the fact that they care so deeply about the other person. When you see a parent and a child and the love that is expressed between them and the unique and special things…maybe it is even phrases that they say or nicknames or special treats or special times…things that identify the love they have one to another.

We have that same relationship with the God of the universe if we have received Christ as our Savior. Today I want us to look at that because it is actually the love God expresses toward us that gives us the hope we talk about so often in the Christian life. I want to talk about hope. I want us to define it. I want us to see how the apostle John defines it as we look at intentional hope today.

Hope is not something we just wish upon a star, but it is an unfulfilled reality. We live in hope. We live in the reality of that which has not yet come to pass. John speaks about that hope for us in 1 John 3, this morning. I want to invite your attention there as we look at just a few verses and this idea of hope. Notice he says in 1 John 3, beginning in the first verse, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."

Now, a good translation of that word manner would be to say, "Behold, what crazy, out-of-this-world, unique love God has for us." That's what John is trying to express. He's not saying this is just agape love. He's literally saying this is crazy love. This is out-of-this-world, unique love God has for us. While we were His enemies, the Bible tells us, God loved us. Notice what he says, "This love that the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God."

Now this is not some high-sounding title. This is reality. This is what we lay claim to. This is what God has bestowed upon us. He loves us in such a crazy way that He has given us inheritance into His family. John describes it that He has bestowed it on us such that we can legally and legitimately and really be called the children of God. It's not just a title. We talk about the children of God, and we say that euphemistically, but John says it's a reality. For those of us who know Christ, we are the children, the very children, of God.

Then he goes on in that verse to say the world does not understand this. Then again, the world does not understand the love of God. It can't understand how humans can lay claim to being the children of the Creator of the universe, but then again it doesn't understand the love that comes from the Creator of the universe. Only a believer can know the intimate reality of that relationship.

When God created man, when God first created that garden, He created a being in Adam and in Eve that was different from every other living thing He had created…different not only from the plants, and not only from the fish, but different from every animal that walked on the face of the earth. In fact, the Bible tells us when God created man, He created man in His image. There's something different about that. There is something unique about being in the image of God. He created a being that could actually have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.

So what did He do? He created a perfect being…a perfect being in the sense that man and man alone was created in the image of God. While we may speculate what that means, one thing was for sure. It meant that the creation, a creation, could have a relationship with the Creator. Unlike every other created thing in all the universe, mankind could have a relationship back and forth with the Creator. No other animal or plant conversed with the Creator as man did. No other creation received the level of personal concern that man received from the Creator.

What made man so perfect? What made him so suitable for relating to God? Well we might say his brain. Well maybe I guess in the sense that man can reason, in the sense that human beings can comprehend a Creator, that human beings have within them a desire for God. In every created human, there is this void that is filled by a relationship with God.

There is uniqueness in that mental sense, but also in a soul. Man was created with a soul so there would be an unspoken connection between a physical being and an invisible God. A soul…a way of communicating and feeling and empathizing and comprehending that which is often unspoken…a soul that makes us perfect, that makes us in the image of God. That meant that man was without sin or what the Bible called innocent.

Now innocent does not mean naive, it means innocent from sin. When man was created, when Adam was created, when Eve was created, they were created as sinless souls. As a sinless soul, a reasoning creation could have a conversation with the Creator. What we discover in Scripture is an essential quality of being able to converse with the Creator is to be sinless. What we just sang about as being holy.

Now holy is very much a church word, but that simply means to be set apart. That's what holiness means. When God made man He set him apart from all the other creation and made a sinless being, and because God cannot cohabitate with sin, and therefore by being sinless man is able to have a conversation and a relationship and share a love with its Creator. Only a sinless man could speak and commune with a holy God.

So when sin came into the garden, fellowship with the Creator became man's greatest casualty. It wasn't just dying and going to hell. Literally, hell can be defined as the absence of God. What man suffered was that break in that conversation, in that walking in the cool of the evening, in being able to stand with, walk with, and sit with the Creator of the universe. My friends, ever since that fateful day when man was evicted from the garden, that garden that was a place of fellowship, that God's love did not die in the garden.

Everything that has happened since, everything has been part of the absolute, necessary and unavoidable process of returning His special creation…man…back to the garden. God's love was deeper than man's rebellion. God's foreknowledge knew that before man was ever made, what man would do and laid plans even before He made man how He would deal with man's own fall in order to restore that fellowship God desired…His restoration was settled before creation every took form from the dust.

God's crazy, out-of-this-world love for us has always been with one thing in mind, that we could become His children in a special intimate, permanent way that is described as being children of God. You see, if Adam and Eve lost through sin the ability to physically walk with God and to physically fellowship with Him, then recovering that physical ability, the ability to stand and walk and sit with God, that is the goal of God's plan. God's plan is to restore the physical fellowship with Himself. That's what God has been doing down through the ages.

The cross, the plan of salvation, is all pointing to this purpose…to make in each human a new creation who is incapable of sin. It begins spiritually, but that is not the ultimate goal. The end game is not a spiritual relationship, but a physical relationship. What we experience spiritually is a small part of what God intends for those who trust Him. Therefore, when we get to verse 2, of 1 John 3, it says, "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

Now John says, "Beloved, we are children of God now, but it's a spiritual sense in which we are the children of God." He's saying, "It has not yet been revealed what's going to happen…what we will be like, but we know this…when He is revealed, we'll be like Him." "For we shall see Him as He is."/ Oh, this verse conjures a lot of imagination and speculation, but the object of this verse is very clear to me.

The phrase that often draws our greatest interest is the phrase that says, "We shall be like Him." Really I believe, and studying in the context and looking back at the previous verse…and remember this is about the love of God…I believe that the phrase that should occupy our attention is the next one. "We shall see Him as He is." You see, when we think of being like Him, we think of a glorified body. We think perhaps of shining with that burnished-bronze glow that we see revealed in Christ in Revelation.

The context of this verse is John speaking of the love of God, and being called His children. Really the key phrase is, "We shall see Him as He is." Why is that important? Because it's telling us something. John is telling us we will be able to stand in the presence of our Creator…to see Him as He is means we will be able to do so without a veil, without hiding our eyes. We'll be able to stand in His presence. We will have nothing that separates us from an intimate fellowship with God. I believe with all my heart this is what John is pointing to.

When we see Him as He is means we can talk to Him. That means we can view Him, we can praise Him, we can bask in the glow of the Shekinah lightning of His presence without being afraid…without falling to our knees, without running. Where He is, we will be there, and we will look at Him and thus talk with Him and love Him as a child should love his own parent. That's what John is looking forward to.

He says, "I don't know how this is going to be accomplished, but I do know that we'll see Him, and when we see Him, we'll be as He is, in order that we will be able to fellowship with Him. That glorified body more than anything else allows us to walk in the cool of the evening again with God. I believe with all my heart it's not going to have wings. It's going to be much like our bodies are now, except without sin. It will be glorified. It will be what Adam was created to be before sin came in.

We don't know what Adam looked like. We don't know how perfect physically, if there was any alteration at all in his body. We do know the damning effects of sin that he began to die at that moment. We know our glorified bodies will never die. They will live on through eternity, and it will be such a body that we can stand in the presence of our Creator. The Bible tells us very clearly…we see the examples even among angels…that when our physical, sin-fallen body now comes into the presence of something divine our knees buckle and our face hits the ground. That's how we physically react to it.

The day is coming when we will be able to stand up and fellowship with, and talk with this God who loves us in a crazy, unbelievable love…a love so much that rather that destroy us and start all over again, He enabled us to be called His children and to fellowship with Him.

Paul said in Philippians 3, beginning in verse 20, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." Paul is looking forward to that day when our bodies will be transformed and conformed to have fellowship with God.

Oh John then tells us this is more than idle speculation. In verse 3 he says, "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He [just as Christ] is pure." In other words, this is more than idle speculation. This is more than some Bible trivia question. It's more than just a side benefit of going to heaven. This idea of restoring fellowship with God is what John calls hope. He says, "This is hope."

Hope is a word that means to cherish a desire with anticipation. It is the hope of a genuine believer that is in view here. Really this is the litmus test of your salvation, the litmus test of whether or not you are a believer. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are of genuine faith. Granted, some people do examine themselves, come up short, but because of their own personal pride, they never do anything about that. The pride is stronger than any future hope they might have.

Here is the litmus test for you. The ultimate hope of the genuine believer is not heaven. The ultimate hope of the genuine believer is not a mansion over the hilltop. The ultimate hope of a genuine believer is not to see your dear old parents in glory land. Those are the side benefits. The hope…the hope of a genuine believer is to see Jesus. It's to be so in love with God that like two lovers who haven't seen each other and can think of nothing else, you can think of nothing else but to know that one day you will be able to stand in the presence of God Himself…to stand in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure." What's John saying there? Listen…there is no motivation to be holy as He is holy without this hope of being where He is. If we're trying to just be holy to impress God, that's nothing more than a sappy romantic. If we're just going to try to dress like and imitate and idolize or try to impress in some way like that, it's very temporary and it's why it never lasts.

No, the true genuine motivation that gives you a lifelong desire to be holy is this desire to be with Him. One who sets his hope by faith on the Son of God experiences an inward purification. That is complete, as complete as Christ's own purity. Notice it says, "…as He is pure." Now my friends, I realize that often we say we're sinful people, but as a new creation we are without sin…in the new creation. In fact, if you say, "Well I abide in Christ," I want you to know something; you cannot abide in Christ in sin. In fact, to abide in Christ is to do so without sin.

When we abide in Christ that is a sinless experience because Christ has nothing to do with sin, and you cannot be sinning while abiding in Christ, and we do abide in Christ. Our problem is a duel nature. We are both a new creation and an old creation. In fact John talks about it in 1 John, 1, and verse 8. He says…let me turn to it real quickly. At the beginning of his letter he says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Down to verse 10, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."

What is he saying? We're still in this old body. But what else is he saying? We're to purify ourselves. We're to live our lives in the anticipation of the day in which we see Jesus again. If we love Him, we will do what we need to do to get ready for Him. When a lover is anticipating meeting their beloved…you know they're getting in shape, they're picking out the right clothes. They're coming up with the favorite things the other one wants. They're arranging their life in their anticipation. Sometimes it seems silly. Sometimes it seems overboard, but that's what love will do to you, and that same motivation ought to be in every heart that is desiring to see Jesus, not as a conductor who says, "Here's your ticket to heaven," but as the total object of our worship.

If you're here, if you're saying you believe the Bible or if you say you're trusting in Jesus because you want to get a big, beautiful green field in heaven, you're missing the point. It is to be able to walk with Him in that field, to be able to talk with the One who created us, to realize that no other creation in all the universe has this privilege or even this ability. But we do, if we will but yield ourselves to the Savior and be called His children.

That hope is enough (is it not?) to purify ourselves. It's enough (is it not?) to want to model the life that He left for us to model. It's sufficient (is it not?) to abandon every vice, every unseemly activity, to cleanse our mouths of things that we would never say in front of a holy God. It's sufficient (is it not?) to consider and look for and long for the day He will return. That's why John says in the end of the previous chapter that we should not be ashamed at His coming. We need to prepare in anticipation of that.

Oh my friend, I just want to invite you today to realize that your hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness. Our hope, our future, is that someday we'll see Him. Oh I hope when you sing that you sing with your mind's eye singing to the Savior. I hope that you're practicing how you'll sing in His presence…not songs that give you a fond memory of earlier days, but one that paints a picture of your Savior, one that shows your love for Him and not for yourself or your past.

I hope that when you study Scripture that you do so not to increase your own knowledge and be known as a scholar among your peers, but you do so to increase your level of conversation with your God…the one who wrote this huge letter to you…and that you study and learn and dig and discover what He wants you to do and how He wants you to live.

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