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Scripture reading – 1 John 3; 1 John 4
We continue our devotional study of the Epistles of John, and come today to 1 John 3 and 4. John was writing to believers near the end of the 1st century, and who found themselves living in a world becoming increasingly hostile to them and the Gospel. After admonishing believers to “love not the world” (1 John 2:15-17), the apostle warned that there were “many antichrists” in the world and tragically, within the congregations (1 John 2:18-23).
Who were the antichrists? Some professed to be believers and were intolerant of sound doctrine (1 John 2:19). Others were false teachers (1 John 2:22-23), who purposed to seduce believers and lead them astray from the truth (1 John 2:26). John assured believers, if they would abide [literally sin not] in Christ, and were sensitive to the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, they would discern truth from error (2:27-28). The focus of our devotion will be 1 John 3:1-3.
Recalling chapter and verse numbers were not in John’s original manuscript (these being added by editors), John’s letter continued in chapter 3 with a wonderful, affectionate reminder: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (3:1).
A Message of HOPE (3:1-3)
Believers are not only the object of God the Father’s love (3:1), we are “the sons of God” (3:1a), and therefore strangers in the world. Knowing the world rejected Christ, and “knew Him not” (3:1b), we who are “the sons of God” do not look to the world for our identity or affirmation. As we heed God’s Word, and yield to His will (Romans 12:1-2), we grow spiritually and are changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Believers who look in anticipation for the coming of Christ, will find “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (3:2).
In fact, the believer’s HOPE motivates him to be ever purifying his soul of sin, that we might be pure and holy, “even as He is pure” (3:3).
What is HOPE?
Hope, in my opinion, is something you might have and do not appreciate, until it is lost. For instance, it is easy to define “hopeless.” Despair, despondent, dejected, downhearted, downcast, depressed are all terms that describe a state of hopelessness. HOPE, however, is a challenge to define. Words like anticipation, aspiration, and expectation might capture some of the essence of HOPE; however, they fall short in accurately defining it. Generally, the world considers HOPE to be little more than wishful thinking. Interestingly, the ancient world had many gods (gods of war, love, light, fertility, healing, death, beauty, and agriculture); however, to my knowledge no civilization worshiped a “god of hope.”
The God of Hope
HOPE occurs 143 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Twenty-six times in the Psalms, the LORD and His Word are referred to as the believer’s object of HOPE. We are to “Hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24), “Hope in [His] mercy” (Psalm 33:18), and “Hope in [His] judgments,” because the LORD is just (Psalm 119:43).
The prophet Jeremiah identified God as the believer’s object of HOPE, writing, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is” (Jeremiah 17:7). HOPE was also a frequent theme of the apostle Paul, who in his letter to believers in Corinth, wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Believer, our God is the God of HOPE!
The Believer’s HOPE
The world defines hope as probabilities and wishful thinking; however, the believer’s HOPE is a confident expectation in God’s faithfulness and His ability to keep all He has promised. In other words, the LORD and His promises are the object of the believer’s HOPE.
Two Dimensions of Biblical HOPE: Faith and Action.
HOPE was one of three virtues Paul employed when he defined the essence of a believer’s character: “And now abideth faith, HOPE, [and] charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul prayed, “Now the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in HOPE” (Romans 15:13a).
Application – Biblical HOPE is an active expectation the LORD will fulfill all He has promised. HOPE accepts circumstances and challenges as from the hand of the Lord (Romans 8:28). HOPE believes God, and makes the best of one’s circumstances. HOPE trusts, and obeys the LORD even when all seems hopeless.
Closing thoughts –An Old Testament example of Biblical HOPE is identified in the lives of four young Jewish men. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the first Jews taken captive to Babylon (Daniel 1). Their last memories of family, the city of Jerusalem, and their homeland were of a fallen, defeated people. Humanly speaking, all hope was lost. Yet, how did they respond to their circumstances? Did they follow their brethren, embrace the culture of the world, and bow their wills to the commands and idols of a pagan king? No!
Those four young men followed Daniel’s example, who “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). They determined to keep God’s covenant, and obey His Law and Commandments, and HOPE in the LORD.
Biblical HOPE aspires to a pure life, even as the LORD is pure and holy. (1 John 3:3)
Have you any HOPE?
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