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The return of Christ to this earth is at the top of the list when it comes to important subjects mentioned in the Bible. It is impossible to read the New Testament without coming to the conclusion that the return of the Lord in glory to judge the living and the dead, preoccupied the minds of the early believers.
The return of Christ is mentioned in 1 John. What is the purpose for the apostle John referring us to the return of Christ? This is what he says, beginning at 2:28: "And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him." And down to chapter 3:3: "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
John writes about the return of Christ to remind them of the appearing of One who is pure. John does not want any of his believing brothers and sisters in the Lord to be ashamed of standing before God on that awesome day. He reminds them that the character of God, which is revealed in Scripture, will one day be so openly displayed that it will be a face to face encounter with the Holy One of Israel.
When we see Jesus we will see with our eyes that burning purity of God. What John says in 1 John 1:5, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, is true. We will stand before the One who is completely holy, the One who is completely pure, the One who hates evil and loves good.
John is telling us this because there is only one way in which we will be unashamed to stand before the holy God and that will be if we heed what he says in verse 3: "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself."
The Bible makes it very clear in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for deeds done while in the body.
When the Lord appears, I will stand before Him and give an account to Him of my life and you will stand before Him and give an account to Him of your life. Each one will stand before the Lord. Each one will be examined and so John writes, "Dear children, continue in Him so that when He appears we may be confident...Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself."
If personal holiness is to be the goal of every believer, if the way in which we prepare ourselves for the presence of the Lord, the appearing of Christ, is to purify ourselves, then it follows inevitably that Christians should never, ever participate in evil. If God's people are to purify themselves, that means they are to get rid of evil. They are to steadfastly, absolutely, unequivocally refuse to do what is wrong in God's eyes.
Read through the New Testament letters. Read through Ephesians. Read through Colossians. What do you find? Great doctrinal teaching in the first half is followed by application to life. In the second half of those letters, you find long lists of attitudes and behaviour which we are to get rid of and long lists of attitudes and behaviour which we are to seek after.
For example, in Ephesians 5:3-6 we read this: "Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." Notice the emphasis on holiness. It is because the Lord is pure and because we are His that we are to have nothing to do with evil. "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient."
At the coming of Christ, there will be a laying bare of where you stand with God. All individuals will stand or fall, be accepted or rejected, on the basis of how they have lived on this earth.
Ephesians 5:7-10 says, "Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light...and find out what pleases the Lord." Then verse 11: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Christians who purify themselves in preparation for the glorious appearing of the Lord have nothing to do with evil.
We face choices and pressures in this life. Every day you choose whether or not to purify your lives out of reverence for the Lord or to follow the ways of the world, the flesh, or the devil. What will that choice be?
As that day when you will stand before the Lord draws nearer, do you purify your life from the fruitless deeds of darkness? Will you have nothing to do with them? Do you examine your life in the light of Scripture where you find what God loves and what God hates and then what He loves you follow and what He hates you avoid? Christians who purify their lives have nothing to do with evil. Insofar as it lies within us we must refuse steadfastly to do anything that God hates.
Let me be even more specific. Let me say something to those of you who are single. Scripture makes it crystal clear that we are not to marry an unbeliever. "Do not be partners with them." (See 2 Corinthians 6:14).
How can those who are purifying their lives out of reverence for Christ deliberately become partners with an unbeliever? It is amazing when love tugs at the heartstrings how hard it is to purify yourself in this area. But I plead with you who are single: do not compromise! Part of your calling to purify yourself is to keep yourself for the Lord and to wait until He provides a believing partner. Do not compromise. Purify yourself. Purity starts with the basic decisions that face us each day, not to compromise the standards of godliness that God has called us to.
Purity In The Church
There are obvious implications for our corporate life as well. In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ spoke individually to each of the seven churches that are mentioned. He had words addressed to each specific church, calling them to repent in each specific way in which they had not been following Him.
We are responsible to the Lord as a congregation to be holy. We must insist that the life of the church reflect those same standards of holiness that God calls us to individually. So you find a great emphasis in the New Testament on the purity of the church, not only in its doctrine, but also in the lifestyle of its members. Purity in the local congregation begins with you purifying yourself, but then we must also insist that we are concerned for the purity of another's life.
The Lord Himself was very specific on the matter of what to do when there was sin in the body. This is what He said: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17).
We begin with the private seeking out of a brother who has sinned. That is the extension of the need for us to be ready for the appearing of the Lord. Every church that has this hope in it purifies itself, just as He is pure. God who has chosen a people for Himself and who had taught them to walk in covenant loyalty before Him, warned them that if they did not purify themselves, God would purify them by judging them.
We sometimes forget that holiness is not inconsistent with fear. I do not mean a servile, cringing fear in which there is the constant sense that you are going to be rejected and cast away. But I do not think it is at all inappropriate for there to be some fear at the prospect of standing before God. We have toned down the sense of judgment. You can recapture that sense of judgment by opening your Bible and starting to read through it and see there the determination of a holy God not to let His name be sullied.
In the early church Ananias and Sapphira were determined to lie about the contribution they made. That lie was exposed--read it in Acts 5--and they fell down dead, and "Great fear seized the whole church."
Read the section in Hebrews 12 which says, "Make every effort to be holy for without holiness no one will see the Lord." Read on from that section down to the end of chapter 12 and the burden of that writer at that point is to say to the New Covenant believers to whom he writes, "Do you think that it is a lesser matter to receive the blessings of the Gospel and not to respond in holiness and obedience?"
When the law was given to Moses, every infraction brought punishment, but we have not come to an earthly mount. We have come to the actual reality of which Mount Sinai was but a symbol. We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the spirits of just men made perfect. Chapter 12 concludes, "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks...Our God is a consuming fire."
"Everyone who is born of God is righteous" (1 John 2:29). It is the work of God to bring that new life about in our hearts. It is the Spirit of God who sets us free from the power of sin. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses from all unrighteousness. If we confess, He will forgive. We bring our sins to the Lord, He cleanses us. But then we do not go back and wallow in the dirt again.
No, we purify ourselves by opening our life to the searchlight of God's truth, by crying out to the Lord for His power to deliver us from all that He hates. We do that in our corporate life as well. "If a brother sins, go to him privately." When you see a brother sinning, how can there not be a concern for his soul?
Oh that we would go when we see a brother sinning! Not in a haughty spirit because we think we have no sin, but as Galatians 6:1 says, in a spirit of gentleness. You who are spiritual, when you see someone fall, should restore them gently, for you yourself may be tempted. He who stands take heed lest he fall.
Go in the love of Christ and say, "Brother, don't you realize that the Day of Christ's appearing is drawing near? You are going to stand before the Lord! Don't be ashamed to stand before Him."
How terrible to stand in that day before the Lord in all His holiness and purity and awesomeness, and to have Him disappointed in you.
Everyone who has that hope purifies himself. Every church that has that hope, purifies itself. This is the call of God to us. It is only the Lord living in His people who can make it happen. It is only the Spirit working in our hearts who can purify us. It is our individual responsibility to purify our own life. It is also our responsibility in the Lord to help those brothers and sisters with whom we are one in Christ, to purify their lives as well.
Abridged from The Gospel Witness.