See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3.
In the video series Grace Based Parenting, the author (Karis Kimmel) proposes to parents what she calls the “10-year rule”. It is a way to help distinguish between developmental behavior and bad behavior that requires discipline. If a two year old bites another child, it certainly needs to be dealt with, but some parents react like this problem is the end of the world. The “10 year rule” projects this behavior 10 years out, when the child will be twelve years old; the question then becomes, “do you think your child will be biting people when they are twelve years old” – probably not. However, if your four year old is starting to lie to others and you project that out 10 years, then you start to have a much more serious problem. Biting is something they will outgrow but lying can become a big problem.
This passage constructs a similar idea, however not from the perspective of the parent, but from the perspective of the child. It begins with our identity as children of God and this profound love that God has exercised to get us to that status with him. John writes about the future with this glorious promise that while we do not know exactly what we will be when we stand in his presence, we do know that we will be like him. We will be changed, and we will see Christ for exactly who he is. It is a remarkable statement.
Those who are true children of God would not want to embarrass their parent by looking like someone else’s child. A genuine child of God would want to honor their parents so they would be very proud of their children. Knowing that we will stand before the Lord and see him for exactly who he is reminds us that we will also see ourselves for exactly who we are. This knowledge ought to be a powerful catalyst to live in a way that we will look as much like Christ as possible. The better my life reflects Christ, the more He receives the glory for that work He has done in us.
Those who set their hope on him will purify himself just as He is pure. If we look years into the future of our own life, especially to that day we will stand before the Lord, we ought to be highly motivated to live in a manner that honors him. If we purify ourselves just as He is pure, then we will live a life that glorifies Him.
Sometimes we plan for lots of things in our life. We often spend a lot of time preparing for retirement. We love to plan an extended vacation and work out all the nuances of time away. We often do a huge amount of research regarding how to raise our kids. We have no shortage of time to put the energy into something that we truly value. One thing that is harder for many of us, is to look 5 or 10 years down the road and ask the question, “What does God want me to look like in ten years, as a child of God, so that he would be proud of me”? How does knowing that someday I will stand before the Lord motivate me to live a pure and holy life now?
Our future hope is the best motivation for present holiness. It lifts our perspective (and our conduct) above the temporal circumstances of our lives and anchors it the eternal anchor of our relationship with Christ. If we want to experience the power of God to transform our life, we need to look ahead and see what we ought to be and start living in a way that cultivates that level of purity now.
In His Grace