One thing that seems missing in popular Christian culture today is any concern for personal holiness and purity. And yet, this is the thing that all of us are called to:
Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 2:28-3:3)
This is a passage about hoping in the second coming. As believers, we are waiting for Jesus’s appearing. But this is also a passage about how this hope purifies us. As we look forward in expectation of our God, we are sanctified. We progressively put away sin and increase in holiness.
It is the Lord’s desire to have a holy church — a holy people. Look at what Peter says:
But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
We are called to holiness. We are to be separated from sin unto righteousness. The obligation is clear. It is repeated again and again and again in Scripture. And one of the strongest motivations we have to pursue holiness is hope.
As believers, we have the hope that Jesus will one day appear, and we will be joined with Him. And if you really live in light of this coming moment, if you really recognize that someday you are going to face the Judge and your life is going to be evaluated as the basis of your eternal reward, you will be motivated to pursue holiness.
Remember, we are all going to stand before the Lord. We are all going to be there at the judgment seat of Christ, and our lives are going to be evaluated. We’re not going to pay for our sins, because Jesus already did. But all the dross of our lives, all of the failures, will detract from our eternal reward. As Paul warns us,
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.
If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
Living in light of eternity is not easy in this society. Very few people, even Christian people, do that. We cling to this life with a vengeance. We do everything we can to pack this life with all the good experiences, benefits, and possessions that are conceivable. It’s a curse in some ways to live in a materialistic society.
I’m always reminded of the time when I flew into Kazakhstan to do a series of meetings with 1,700 pastors from central Asia who were gathering together for the first pastors’ conference in the history of that area. And I was supposed to teach everything about God’s plan for the church, for six straight days.
About the third or fourth day, the leaders came to me and said, “When do we get to the good part?” And I said, “What do you mean, ‘the good part’?” They said, “The part about heaven.”
These people didn’t have anything. There were two of us staying in the home of a widow who had lost her husband a few months before. She was waiting in long lines to get a little bit of horse meat and a few eggs to feed us each day. There wasn’t anything in this world that she was holding to; she was living in the hope of heaven. She was living in the hope of her eternal reward and reunion with her beloved husband.
This hope is powerful. It motivates us to obey as we look forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).
I hope you’re not caught up in making the most out of this life and the least out of the life to come. This life is a vapor. The one that’s coming lasts forever.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2003, titled “The Purifying Hope, Part 1.”