Abide in him
I preached the following sermon at Signature HealthCARE of Bremen on Sunday, February 6, 2022.
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28, 29)
The unbeliever’s life is one of hopelessness. He doesn’t have what Christians have, which is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19). Instead, the entirety of his hope is here on earth. Job’s friend, Bildad, was correct when he said, “The hope of the godless shall perish” (Job 8:13). If one’s hope is not grounded in something outside of time and this material world, the object of his hope is fleeting because nothing on this earth can last nor can it satisfy the soul for very long.
For those who have already gained the best this world has to offer—wealth, health, beauty, entertainment, fame, physical gratification—they have fulfilled their only hope, and the fulfillment always proves disappointing. Like Solomon, they say to themselves, “I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecc 2:17).
The book of Proverbs says, “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish” (Pr 10:28). The child of God may very well experience more suffering and hardship than he ever imagined was possible in this life. He may look at unbelievers with a hint of jealousy because their lives seem so easy and enjoyable. But he knows something they don’t. Soon enough, everything will be flipped on its head. The hope of the righteous will bring joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish once and for all.
They don’t serve drinks in hell. They don’t provide mansions or expensive cars. A man won’t find any form of entertainment to distract him from his misery. So what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mk 8:36). His expectations and vain hopes will die with him.
The child of God, on the other hand, has hope in something far greater than anything we can find on this earth. In Romans 8, Paul writes:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22-25)
As one psalmist says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps 43:5). Paul reminds us, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2Th 2:16, 17).
The elect of God are redeemed. Our hope for the future is sure and steadfast (Heb 6:19). The time is near when every last prophecy of the Bible will be fulfilled (Rev 1:3). Any moment now:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. But according to God’s promise we, his children, are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10, 13)
Peter writes, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these things to come, be diligent to be found by Christ without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation (2Pe 3:14, 15). Why is the Lord’s patience our salvation? He says,”The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all, that is, all whom God will save, should reach repentance” (2Pe 3:9).
The Lord is coming again, and when he comes, our salvation will be complete. From that day forward, we will live forever in a place the book of Revelation describes this way:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4)
In that place, we’ll see:
the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
With that vision of the future comes an invitation. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (Rev 22:17). The unconverted person who is still striving after the wind and holding on to fleeting earthly hopes is invited to surrender to the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev 17:14). Christ says to him, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).
Human beings are natural-born legalists. We instinctively believe we can save ourselves by doing one thing or another. The dissatisfied musician uses drugs and alcohol to save himself from the emptiness he feels. The middle-class American may devote himself to his work or his next promotion to feel a sense of redemption. We all want to hope for something and strive to obtain it, but the message of the gospel says, “Stop. Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will save it” (Mk 8:35).
The gospel says, “Give up. First of all, let go of your vain confidence in trivial things. Second, surrender yourself to the only one who can save you.” Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). We’ll never rescue ourselves from either hell on earth or the eternal hell to come no matter what we do. “Come,” the Savior says. “Simply come. If you’re thirsty, drink from the water I give and you’ll never be thirsty again.”
If you’re already drinking from the living water of Christ, John says here, “Little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1Jn 2:28). Children, abide. Stay in him. Settle into Christ as though he were your home. Don’t be tempted to move elsewhere. Never mind how the wicked seem to prosper (Jer 21:1). They may be enjoying themselves now, but the hope of the godless shall perish” (Job 8:13).
As believers in Christ, our hope is real and eternal. The unbeliever’s hope will die with him while our hope is so secure we can taunt death as Paul did, saying, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1Co 15:55).
Even so, John wants our sense of security to be merited. While the object of our hope is Christ alone, our assurance is directly tied to our sanctification. In his book, The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges writes, “[There are] three means by which God assures us that we do have eternal life: (1) The promises of His Word; (2) The witness of the Spirit in our hearts; (3) The transforming work of the Spirit in our lives.”
“Abide in him,” John says, “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1Jn 2:28). If you want to have confidence before God now and, of course, when the Lord returns, you must abide in him. What does it mean to abide in him? You may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (1Jn 2:29).
To abide in Christ is to believe in him, obey him, and love his people. That is John’s three-fold means of obtaining the assurance of our salvation in this epistle.
The question at the heart of John’s entire epistle is this: Who are you? Are you a child of God or a child of the devil? Are you born of God or not? Never mind what you claim. It doesn’t matter what the bumper stickers on the back of your car say. It doesn’t even matter whether you sit on a church pew every Sunday because so have many antichrists (1Jn 2:18). Assuming you know that God our Father is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (1Jn 2:29).
A child of God is born of God just as a son or daughter is physically born of his or her biological mother (1Jn 2:29). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” Jesus said. “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:6-7; 3). Spiritual life requires spiritual birth.
Naturally, John believes one who is born of God practices righteousness (1Jn 2:29). He will reflect God in his actions because he has been created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). He is predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Ro 8:29). The Bible says Christians are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).
Believers, those who know that God is righteous, not to mention the source of all righteousness, can be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has also been born of him (1Jn 2:29). Another translation of the text says, “If you know that he is righteous, you know this as well: Everyone who does what is right has been born of him.”
In other words, our abiding in Christ and persistent hope in that future which he has promised his people are manifested by righteous living, that is, trusting Christ, obeying his word, and loving his disciples. In turn, our righteous living leads to greater hope by increasing our sense of assurance that we are, in fact, saved. Those who are born of God will abide in him by practicing righteousness, and those who abide in him will have confidence at his coming (1Jn 2:29, 28).
If you feel hopeless today, it is possible that you have placed your hope in someone or something other than Christ. Inevitably, that someone or something will let you down, leaving you with a dreaded sense of hopelessness all over again. It’s also possible that you know Jesus made atonement for sin, conquered the grave, and prepared an eternal kingdom for his people, but you still live as though he didn’t. I encourage you to look to Christ and his promises.
I encourage you to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Php 3:14). With every breath, pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and be sure that your life reflects that prayer (Rev 22:20). As Isaac Watts wrote in one of his beloved hymns, “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God, but children of the heavenly King may speak their joys abroad. We’re marching to Zion, the beautiful city of God.”