“And everyone who has this hope in Him [to be like Jesus when He is revealed] purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,” 1 John 3:10-11
Let me first start with this overview of where we should be as Christians:
When a person exercises true, deep, living faith in the message of the Gospel, that is, they understand that they have become a child of the true and living God through His Messiah, Jesus Christ, and they then are transformed and are able to gain victory and turn from the sin and rebellion in their lives and walk in true love.
When we say that we have a true, deep, living faith, we mean that we don’t just believe that there is a God that created us, or that there was a person named Jesus that lived a long time ago. No, we mean that our beliefs go much deeper. We believe and accept what was promised to us by God through His son Jesus: the gift of eternal life with Him in heaven. We don’t just mentally consent to this truth, but we have placed our hopes totally in this and have aligned our lives accordingly. We have “died” to the false hopes that this world has to offer. We have shifted our affections towards this promised future hope and no longer set our hearts on the things of this world.
Upon making these changes in our lives, especially changing where we have placed our hopes and affections, we become a transformed person, a new creature. We are able to be content with whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and can now trust God to care for our basic needs of food and clothing. Our stress and anxiety are removed and replaced with a trust in our Father who cares for us in all circumstances.
This transformation allows us to become a “spiritual” person rather than the “fleshly” or “carnal” person we were in the past. Being spiritual is mostly about seeing things from a new perspective, seeing things in the light of eternity and in the light of God’s will and purpose for us.
Since God created us and knows more about how we function than we ourselves know, He knows that when we have no hope of eternal live, and have our view of our situation limited to just this physical world, it keeps us in bondage to our physical desires. Becoming spiritually minded sets us free from this bondage. In this freedom, we are also able to love others, since we are no longer seeking for the things that will please ourselves. We no longer allow the strong longings for the things of this world that feed our physical passions and pleasures to rule our actions, but rather we are able to shift our actions towards pleasing God and caring for others.
The letter in the Bible known as “1 John” is one of three letters that were written by John, who was one of the twelve men in the “inner circle” of Jesus during His earthly ministry. John also wrote the Gospel of John. In this letter, John is very clear about our need, as children of God, to be free from sin and to love one another.
As you read through this letter, you will recognize quickly that this is not a harsh, correctional, disciplinary letter, but rather, is written like a loving father towards his children. Many times throughout the letter John addresses the readers as “little children”.
I see John’s motive in bringing out these truths about purifying ourselves and loving one another as twofold. He first is giving us guidance and direction, reminding us to not lose sight of our main goal to walk in love. Second, he is showing us how to detect evil or falsehood, by testing against these characteristics in the true children of God.
John starts chapter 3 of his letter by pointing out how incredible it is that God has poured out His love on us and offered to us the opportunity to enter in to His family and become children of God. J.B. Phillips translates the first verses like this:
“Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called ‘Children of God’ – and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. This explains why the world will no more recognize us than it recognized Christ. Here and now, my dear friends, we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like that keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.” 1 John 3: 1-3
John make clear that living in the reality of this condition, that is, knowing that we are truly the children of God, and knowing that we have the assurance of joining Him in heaven as His children and becoming like Him, we will purify ourselves. This means that our hearts will be pure, focused only on the future hope, not on the pleasures and hopes of this world.
John goes on to make it clear that this purity will result in no longer living in or practicing sin.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” 1 John 3:6
John makes it clear that we as the true children of God should not be living in sin, but rather, we should be pure and sinless. As sin is exposed in our lives, we need to deal with it, allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in transforming us. Of course, this does not mean that we will be perfect. We may stumble or have set backs, but there is not an excuse for us to continue in these set backs. We must humble ourselves before God and repent. Allow the Holy Spirit to expose the root of the problem. It could be that some part of our fleshly desires was not totally and fully put to death, or perhaps some part has come back to life and needs to die again.
John then warns the reader to not be deceived. The clear test for someone who claims to be a child of God is the fruit of their actions:
“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:7-9
We also know that all the law is summed up in this one: to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And so, John also points out that a person’s love for others is a test of their being a true child of God. Verses 10 and 11 relating to this were quoted above, at the start, so I’ll pick up at verse 13:
“Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” 1 John 3: 13-19
In summary, we need to look to ourselves and make sure that we are walking in love, that is, loving one another in deed and in truth. We also need to make sure that we are purifying ourselves, dealing with any sin or unrighteousness that is exposed in our lives. We can then look to others and make sure they are true children of God based on the sin in their lives and their ability to love.
Please read this full letter of 1 John as there is much more to support these truths. I leave you now with this one last quote from 1 John 4, verses 16 and 17 that sums things up quite well:
“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”