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. – 1 John 3:2 ESV
John went out of his way to let his readers know that they were God’s children. It wasn’t some future hope reserved for them in heaven, but a present reality that was to set them apart from the rest of the world. John could think of no greater expression of God’s love than that He would call people who had once been His enemy, His children. And that new relationship had been made possible by Him sending His own Son to take on human flesh and die for the sins of mankind. John puts it this way a little bit later in his letter: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9 ESV). And John’s statement, “that we might live through him” is not just a reference to the eternal life reserved for us after Jesus returns. John had heard Jesus Himself say, “ I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). So as believers, we have the amazing privilege of being children of God. Which means we are loved by God. Not only that, we have the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, living within us, providing us with an abiding awareness and constant proof that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be and that all He promised and that the apostles taught was true. Which includes the promise of Jesus, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV). He is with us now. John referred to Him as our “advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1 ESV). He intercedes on our behalf before the very throne of God. And the Spirit of God lives within us, providing us with divine insight and incentive to live godly lives in the midst of a godless world.
But a big part of our motivation to live righteously in this life has to do with the life to come. At this point, we have residing within us our new nature, our sinless nature, given to us by Jesus. Because of His death, we were given His righteousness. We received new natures, that like His, are sinless. Our new natures are incapable of sin. John says, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5 ESV). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning; for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:8-9 ESV). Jesus died in order to put an end to sin, to destroy the works of the devil, and to eliminate the spirit of the antichrist that pervades this world. And while we still struggle with the ever-present reality of sin, we must never forget that Jesus Christ has already done all that needs to be done to put an end to sin and death. His crucifixion settled it. His death paid the price for man’s sins and satisfied the wrath of God. His resurrection was proof that His death was worthy and that His Father was satisfied. It also proved His power over death. The apostle Paul said it so well. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV).
John wants us to know that there is a day coming when our sinless nature will be our only nature. Right now, we struggle with our residual, clinging, hard-to-kill sin nature that is constantly doing battle with our new nature. But there is a day coming when He will return, and “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 ESV). His sanctifying work in us will be completed once and for all. Our old natures will be eliminated and we will be like Him. Which is why John says, “everyone who thus hopes in him, purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3 ESV). It is our hope of future holiness that motivates our desire for present holiness. Because we are children of God NOW, and our future inheritance is reserved for us, we should want to live like who we are. We should desire to see our new nature increasingly become our only nature. Our future hope should instill in us a present passion to be sinless and righteous even now. The best is yet to come, but Jesus provides abundant, overflowing, righteous life even now. No one states this reality better than the apostle Paul. “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:6-11).