Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. (I John 3:1-3)
Child of God, Lift up your head!
Today’s text reminds us of one of the most beautiful and powerful teachings of the faith: all who have put on Christ in baptism and in faith are the real, true adopted children of God, with all the privileges, benefits, protection, and responsibilities that go with it. And, with our elder brother, Jesus, we look forward to sharing the same inheritance that is his:
“When we cry ‘Abba, Father’ it is the Spirit witnessing with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15b-17a)
It is this inheritance that John would have us focus on as we read today’s passage. And although the exact content of this inheritance is veiled in mystery, it is a mystery that yields only the highest of expectations and excitement. After all, if we are already regarded as children, who can even begin to imagine what is in store for us! Simply put, it is grand beyond imagination.
Confidence in this future God has in store for us is the hope and prayer not just of John, but of every other New Testament writer as well. Listen to Paul writing to the Ephesians:
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…that having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the glorious riches of his inheritance to the saints.” Ephesians 1:18)
And listen to Peter:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (I Peter 1:3-4)
No, we cannot even begin to imagine the world that will be ours. But we can imagine what will not be there:
“And he will wipe away every tear from their eye and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore”. (Revelation 21)
Our minds fall short in wonder over what it will actually be like. We only know that if our Father has promised it, it will be better than anything, absolutely anything, we can imagine.
One thing we do know, though: not only will there be a change in our circumstances, there will be a change in us as well, for “We shall be like him.” We shall be made into those who bear completely the image of Christ, who himself bears the image of the Living God. And this is just as it should be, for we were created in the image of God and our end should be the complete restoration of that image. The glory of what that means has been captured well by C.S. Lewis in another context. The transformation is far grander than we dream so that, even “the dullest and most interesting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”(The Weight of Glory) It is an uncomfortable thought, and yet undoubtedly true if we are to truly become like Jesus?
Our response to all this? Child of God, Lift up your head.*
Walk bravely and confidently into your sure future. But as you walk, live as if heaven is where you really want to end and as if being like Jesus is what you really want to become. That is, “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure as he is pure.” The way is actually simple and is expressed eloquently in the simplest of ways in an old Gospel song.
I have but one supreme desire, that I may be like Jesus. To this I earnestly aspire, that I may be like Jesus. I want my heart his throne to be, so that a watching world may see, His likeness shining forth in me. I want to be like Jesus. O perfect life of Christ my Lord! I want to be like Jesus. My recompense and my reward, that I may be like Jesus. His Spirit fill my hungering soul, His power all my life control. My deepest prayer, my highest goal, That I may be like Jesus.
*From the third verse of the hymn “Sing With All The Saints In Glory”, William J. Irons
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.