TEXT: 1 John 2:28-3:10
Few things are more difficult than driving a long distance with small children. No matter how many activity books, games and tapes you bring, you still hear the steady drone of, “Are we there yet?” How do you respond that?
The Irritated Response: “We’re closer now than the last time you asked.”
The Threatening Response: “If you keep asking when we’re going to get there I’m gonna turn around and go home!”
The Sneaky Response: “Let’s play a game and see how long we can go without asking if we’re there yet.”
Yet no how you respond, on long trips kids seem totally focused on the final destination.
Now in some ways that’s not a bad thing, because at least you really have a destination. Without a clear destination, a journey lacks focus, it lacks any way to measure progress forward because you don’t know what way forward is. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of 1 John called A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY. The Bible pictures the Christian life of following Jesus Christ as being like a journey, and we’ve been seeing how John’s little letter provides us with a roadmap so we don’t get lost. So far we’ve looked at how to find joy for the journey, we’ve talked about God’s call to authenticity in the journey, we’ve looked at how to please God in the journey, we’ve identified some of the hidden dangers along the journey, and then finally last week we looked at what to do when we experience spiritual betrayal in the spiritual journey. Yet all of this assumes that this journey, like all journeys, has a specific destination, a specific focus that we’re moving toward.
Where is this spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ headed, what is the final destination? Well the Bible teaches that it’s ultimately heading toward the end of history, when Jesus Christ returns again to this earth to set up his kingdom. For every one verse in the Bible talking about Jesus Christ’s first coming, there are 8 more verses that describe his Second Coming at the end of the age. One Bible scholar has estimated that Old Testament mentions this second coming of Christ 1,845 times. In the New Testament the second coming of Jesus Christ is mentioned 318 times. Many people today believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. According to a recent Gallup poll 62% believe that Christ will come again at the end of history. Christians throughout the ages have believed that one day Jesus Christ will come again to this earth. In a way, if we die before Jesus Christ comes again, we experience that second coming sooner in the sense that we’re face to face in God’s presence in heaven. So this is the final destination of the spiritual journey, Christ’s second coming at the end of the age or our physical death when, whichever comes first in our particular case.
Yet as we look back at how Christians have viewed Christ’s second coming in the past, we find many people obsessed with figuring out all the details and making predictions. Let me give you a quote: “The last days are upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for him who is above all time, eternal and invisible” (Kyle, The Last Days Are Here Again 27). That statement was not made by a modern prophecy expert. That statement did not come on religious TV. It was made by a Christian named Ignatius, who lived in 110 AD, just a few decades after 1 John was written.
Let me give you another quote: “There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power” (Abanes, End Time Visions 337). No that statement wasn’t made by a radio prophecy teacher; it was written by a Christian leader named Martin living in 375 AD.
- In the year 236 AD a church leader named Hippolytus predicted that Christ was sure to return by 500 AD.
- The years between 999 and 1030 AD were characterized by excessive speculation about Christ’s second coming among Christians, so much so that it led to social chaos as farmers didn’t plant crops for the next year, buildings weren’t repaired, and the details of daily life were neglected because they thought Christ would return in their lifetime.
- In the 1500’s the Protestant reformer Martin Luther said, “We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse. This world will not last any longer… than another hundred years” (Kyle 55).
- Christopher Columbus said he was sure the world would end by 1656 (Abanes 338).
- The year 1666 saw an explosion in end time speculation, so much so that one pastor wrote in his journal that every time a storm hit, people would go to church to await Christ’s second coming.
- In the 1800s a Christian named William Miller said, “I am fully convinced that somewhere between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844 Christ will come” (Kyle 87). When Miller’s date came and went, hundreds of people walked away from the Christian faith. If their pastor was wrong about that, what else was he wrong about?
- In our own generation, many modern day prophecy experts guessed that 1981 would mark the rapture of the church and the beginning of the terrible 7 year tribulation period that would culminate in the battle of Armageddon.
- Now in the year 2,000 dozens of prophecy experts on Christian TV, radio and in books are making new predictions related to the year 2,000.
Christian historian Richard Kyle cautions us, “Through two thousand years of Western history millions of…sincere, devout, and knowledgeable people have seen the end as [about to happen in their own lifetimes]…But they have all been wrong” (11).
If the Christian community fails to learn from our history, I’m afraid we’re doomed to repeat it especially today in the 21st century. Now the clear teaching of the Bible is that Jesus Christ will come again at some point in the future, but we have not given that right, that privilege of speculating on when or where it would happen…But how does focusing on this final destination help us in the spiritual journey? If the last 2,000 years of failed speculation teaches us that we shouldn’t speculate on how it’s going to happen, why has God revealed this truth of Christ’s second coming to us? How does knowing this final destination help us, even if you and I die before Christ comes again, how does this help us? Tonight we’re going to focus on the second coming of Jesus…but not to speculate when or where, but we’re going to see how focusing on the second coming would help us in our spiritual journey.
1. HELPS US TO WALK CONFIDENTLY (1 John 2:28-29)
Before we read the text, let me give you the first way the final destination helps us: FOCUSING ON CHRIST’S SECOND COMING HELPS US CONTINUE OUR WALK CONFIDENTLY.
That’s what we learn in vv. 28-29 of chapter two. We don’t see the apostle John speculating here, but instead he’s concerned with how we live our lives. That word “continue” in v. 28 is a key word in 1 John, we saw it used six times last week just in 2:18-27. This word means to “abide,” and it means to “persevere,” to “continue and persist” in something. This word “continue” describes a deep and intimate relationship between a person and God, it describes a depth of relationship that causes a person to keep the faith and continue on in the journey, even when they face difficulties and problems (Smalley 128-29).
John calls our attention to the future, to Christ’s appearance at the end of the age to motivate us to “continue” on with Christ. Those who continue with Christ in the spiritual journey can be confident and unashamed when Jesus Christ comes again. To be “confident” means having nothing to fear. This particular word describes a state of boldness and courage, even in the midst of intimidating circumstances. Even in the face of such awesome circumstances as Christ’s appearing, this person will have nothing to fear.
To be “unashamed” means having nothing to hide. This is probably describing some sense of inner shame, that feeling of being disgraced when you’re caught doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. Those who continue with Christ will have nothing to hide, they won’t shrink back in shame or hang their head with regret. This implies that some followers of Jesus Christ will have something to fear and something to hide when Christ comes again.
When I was in high school my mom and step-dad went away…my dad to work and my mom, well I forgot…my brothers and sisters in school…they left me at home. I decided to throw the party to end all parties, I invited my friends, and the house was thrashed. Well in the midst of the party, I lost sight of the fact that my parents would eventually come home, and to make matters worse, my mom came home several hours early. When she appeared in that doorway, I was anything but confident and unashamed because I had plenty to fear and plenty to hide.
Friends, it’s easy to get sidetracked in the spiritual journey. Sure we start out strong, maybe when we’re younger and filled with the zeal that comes from youthful idealism, but as we follow Christ through the years sometimes things don’t turn out the way we thought they would. Life is harder than we ever thought it would be, the constant pressure of unpaid bills, changing diapers, difficult people, and the regular stuff of ordinary life distracts us from our final destination. Soon we find ourselves stalled spiritually, side tracked in our culture, no longer looking toward the final destination, no longer able to stand before Christ confident and unashamed. So God calls us to look up, to raise our eyes from today’s circumstances and to look beyond the horizon to that point when Christ comes again. If we die before that happens, so much the better, because we’ll stand before God confident and unashamed in death as well.
Without that final destination to focus on we get distracted and sidetracked from the journey.
2. HELPS US TO SEE OURSELVES ACCURATELY (1 John 3:1-2)
Now this leads us to the second way focusing on the final destination helps us: FOCUSING ON CHRIST’S SECOND COMING HELPS US SEE OURSELVES ACCURATELY.
Mentioning the fact that we’ve been born of God causes John to pause in amazement at God’s incredible love. The translators of the New International Version miss the force of the original, because verse 1 actually starts out with the word “Behold.” John is telling us to stop for a minute, to pause and to reflect on the incredible love God’s shown to us, to gaze at it, to meditate on it, to actually see it. In fact, every other time this word “behold” is used in the Bible it refers to something you can actually see, that’s how vivid and graphic this love is to John, he can almost see it and he wants us to see it as well.
The phrase “how great” describes both the quantity of love–how much love it took to make us God’s children–and the quality of love–that it’s a God kind of love, not just another human kind of love. This infinite, God kind of love’s been lavished on us, poured out generously. This incredible God kind of love enables us to be called as God’s children. Now in the ancient world an child would officially become the son or daughter of the father when the father “named” him or “called” him, and that’s the same word translated “called” here. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God the Father looks at us and “names” or “calls” us his children, welcoming us into his family. This is what we are, says John, it’s our identity, our truest self.
Yet even now we don’t always feel like God’s children, we don’t always show a family resemblance to our Father. Did you hear about the time Charlie Chaplin entering a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest? He only came in third place. We don’t always look like God’s children, our culture certainly doesn’t recognize us as God’s children. So John reminds us again of the final destination, that when Christ comes again we’ll be transformed fully into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Our truest self is obscured, hidden beneath the surface of our failures and doubts. Hiding who we really are is our struggle with viewing ourselves inaccurately, as we tend to define ourselves by how physically attractive we are, by how much money we make, by the size of our office. Beneath our doubts about anyone really loving us, far below our failures resides our truest self, a son or daughter of God, called into God’s family by God the Father himself through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Illustration: You Are an Eagle
While walking through the forest one day, a man found a young eagle who had fallen out of his nest. He took it home and put it in his barnyard where it soon learned to eat and behave like the chickens. One day a naturalist passed by the farm and asked why it was that the king of all birds should be confined to live in the barnyard with the chickens.
The farmer replied that since he had given it chicken feed and trained it to be a chicken, it had never learned to fly. Since it now behaved as the chickens, it was no longer an eagle.“Still it has the heart of an eagle,” replied the naturalist, “and can surely be taught to fly.” He lifted the eagle toward the sky and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.
The eagle, however, was confused. He did not know who he was, and seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again.
The naturalist took the bird to the roof of the house and urged him again, saying, “You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
But the eagle was afraid of his unknown self and world and jumped down once more for the chicken food. Finally the naturalist took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There he held the king of the birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, “You are an eagle. You belong to the sky. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle looked around, back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun and it happened that the eagle began to tremble. Slowly he stretched his wings, and with a triumphant cry, soared away into the heavens.
It may be that the eagle still remembers the chickens with nostalgia. It may even be that he occasionally revisits the barnyard. But as far as anyone knows, he has never returned to lead the life of a chicken.
Yet how often do we tend to forget this reality? How often do you and I define our worth and value by our looks or our performance, by our service or our ministry? Focusing on the final destination, looking beyond the horizon to Christ’s Second coming helps us remember who we really are, so we can view ourselves accurately in the spiritual journey. HINDI MO DAPAT TINITIGNAN ANG MGA PAGBAGSAK MO, HITSURA MO, ETC., You must always remember that you have been made in the image of God, in the likeness of Christ and in the 2nd coming of Jesus…we will be like Him…glorified, complete, full, without blemish…that you and I will be ruling and reigning with Him! Hallelujah!
If you’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ, this is who you really are. Even more fundamental than your identity as a spouse or a parent, as a worker or a student, as a church member or a Filipino citizen is our identity as God’s sons and daughters. For the Christian this is our truest self.
3. HELPS US TO CONDUCT OUR LIVES RIGHTLY (1 John 3:3-6).
Now let me give you the third way focusing on the final destination helps us: FOCUSING ON CHRIST’S SECOND COMING HELPS US CONDUCT OUR LIVES RIGHTLY.
Let’s look at verses 3-6 together. Once again John calls our attention to the final destination, to Christ’s second coming, describing it in v. 3 as a “hope.” In the Bible hope isn’t just wishful thinking, but it’s a confident expectation that God is going to keep his promises. We sing songs about hope; that our hope is not in this life or in this passing world’s rewards, but our hope is in a life that will never fade. This hope, this anchor, this confident assurance is the Bible’s promise that Jesus will return one day.
This hope ought to transform our lives, in John’s words, it ought to lead us to “purify” ourselves. Just like we clean ourselves up before going on a date, so as we look forward to meeting Christ who’s fully pure, we’ll want to get rid of our character defects.
Biblical hope has a transforming effect on our lives, it causes us to want to change by God’s grace. John tells us that when we sin we’re living as if there are no laws, no standards of right and wrong, no moral principles to guide our lives.
But that Christ was born in Bethlehem on Christmas, and died on the cross on Good Friday, and rose from the dead on Easter to “take away our sins.” That means to carry them away, to get rid of them forever. Psalm 103 puts it this way: “As far as the east is from the west so far as God has removed our sins from us, they’ve been “taken away.” This is a life changing reality, a transforming truth, so much so that it’s impossible for someone who’s experienced this incredible experience to continue on as if nothing happened.
It will change our lives, causing us to want to conduct our lives rightly. Now John is not talking about being perfect here, as if truly spiritual people will arrive at a point in their journey where they stop sinning entirely. Remember 1 John 1:8–“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Also remember 1 John 1:10– “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
Right standing, specifically before God. Among the Greeks, righteousness was an ethical virtue. Among the Hebrews it was a legal concept; the righteous man was the one who got the verdict of acceptability when tried at the bar of God’s justice. Christ’s death took away our sins and made it possible for sinners to have “the righteousness of God,” i.e., right standing before God (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:22; 5:17). That gift of righteousness is to be followed by upright living (Rom. 6:13-14).
John’s just telling us that the hope of Christ’s second coming will lead us to want to conduct ourselves rightly in the journey. As we look forward to Christ’s arrival, we’ll want to get rid of pornography, we’ll want to stop gossiping about our co-worker, we’ll be motivated to break our habit of exaggerating, we’ll find renewed vision to get involved in our church family and to serve in ministry. This hope of Christ’s second coming activates us, it draws us out of our consumer mentality of “what can the church do for me” and into a passionate desire to serve God, to love God, to honor God. Not because we’re unsure about how God will receive us, but because this hope makes us want to live lives that will please him.
When we lose sight of the final destination we start drifting into lifestyle choices that don’t honor God. We start living as if there are no moral absolutes, we start justifying our extra time we take with a co-worker of the opposite sex, we start making excuses as to why we honor God with our money by investing in His work, we start rationalizing why we don’t have time to seek God in prayer. In short, we get sidetracked, we lose sight of the fact that this journey has a destination, and when we get sidetracked we stop making progress in the spiritual journey.
So by focusing on Christ’s second coming we find renewed motivation to conduct our lives rightly before the Lord.
4. HELPS US OVERCOME OBSTACLES (1 John 3:7-10)
The final way focusing on the final destination helps us is this: FOCUSING ON CHRIST’S SECOND COMING HELPS US OVERCOME OBSTACLES VICTORIOUSLY.
Let’s look at verses 7 through 10 together. Don’t get sidetracked in the journey, says John, don’t let people deceive you and get you off track, but stay focused, know that your direction in this journey reflects who you are. The direction of our lives as it’s evidenced in our daily choices reveals whether or not we’re truly on track in the journey. We might claim to be following Jesus Christ, but if the direction of our life is against Christ, and our daily decisions are in rebellion against God, then according to John we’re actually aligning ourselves with the evil one. We may not be aware of that fact–in fact very few people who align themselves with the devil even know that they are–but the direction we’re travelling betrays us.
Maybe you remember that old Bob Dylan song, “You’ve got to serve somebody, it might be the devil and might be the Lord, but you’ve gotta serve somebody.” That’s basically what John is saying here, that the direction of our lives betrays who we’re aligned with.
John tells us that the purpose of Jesus coming was to destroy the works of the devil. That word “destroy” means to “reverse the effects” of something, to untie, to loosen, or to release. Jesus came to untie the knot the devil had devised to keep people bound up, he came to undo what Satan had accomplished, to set us free from the devil’s schemes and attacks. This release from the devil’s knot comes through new birth, by being “born of God” so that “God’s seed remains” in us. Only Christ could untie the knot that held humanity captive to the devil, so only through new birth as we trust our lives to Jesus Christ does the freedom Christ offers come to us. Although the decisive victory was won on the cross when Jesus died for our sin and rose from the grave, we still await the full application of that victory to our lives when Jesus Christ comes again at the end of the age.
So once again, John is calling our attention to the final destination, to that time when the victory of Christ is fully realized, and the devil is made unable to ever resist or oppose God’s plan again. When we’re loosed from that knot, it will change us because the life of God is dwelling in us.
Again, John’s not talking about perfect here, but he’s talking about lives that are no longer persistently, habitually rebellious toward God and God’s ways. We’re given a genuine choice to not sin, to walk in freedom. Since Christ came to destroy the works of the devil–to untie the knot–we can overcome the obstacles we face in the spiritual journey victoriously. When we hit the wall in our spiritual journey and it seems that there’s no way around it, we can’t climb it, we can’t dig under it, we just feel like giving up, our knowledge of Christ’s ultimate victory will give us the courage to press through that obstacle, no matter how big. Whether that obstacle is cancer or divorce, whether it’s a failed business or a child who’s giving us fits, we can press on to overcome these obstacles victoriously because of Christ’s work in untying the knot that once bound us.
How does focusing on this final destination help us in our spiritual journey? Not by setting dates for the rapture, or making predictions about a new world order, or by trying to pin the tail on the antichrist. Focusing on the second coming of Christ helps us continue confidently, view accurately, conduct rightly, and overcome victoriously. This is how looking beyond the horizon can help us, this is how the second coming of Jesus Christ is relevant to our lives today, regardless of whether he comes again next week or in another 1,000 years. So as we’re steadily moving forward in the spiritual journey, and we look up to God the father and ask him, “Are we there yet?” he doesn’t chide us or tell us to be quiet.
He reminds us that yes there is a destination, and yes we are closer now than we’ve ever been before. That destination should help us live today, to empower us, to motivate us, to cause us to grow into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who love God with our whole hearts and to who love other people sacrificially.