One of the most frustrating things about the Christian life is the realization that we will never be as holy on this side of heaven as we desire to be. In moments of true, humiliating repentance, we are deeply grieved by our sin. We long for that day when we will no longer be tempted, no longer act the fool of the old self, no longer slip into moments of forgetting our devotion to Christ.
But while we are here—going through the process of sanctification—the Bible has a command and an encouragement for where to fix our eyes: the day when Christ appears.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”1 John 3:2-3
John reminds us in the beginning of this passage that we are already God’s children now and have been declared righteous and pure, but the glorious, sinless body we will one day gain has not yet appeared. Until Jesus comes again in full, blazing glory and we are made like him, we spend each day putting off the old self and putting on the new.1 We are justified (declared right in God’s sight), and being sanctified (being made more like Jesus), but we are definitely not yet glorified (made perfect).
We still live in a universe that is groaning under the bondage of sin-produced corruption. Romans 8:23-24a says, “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.”
So what are we to do as we live in the already-but-not-yet reality? Should we throw up our hands and give in to petty sins since it is too hard to be perfect now? Should we call holiness a futile goal and just count our blessings that physical death will be the end of our sinful living? What are we to do while we await glorification?
“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.”1 John 2:28
John tells us earlier in his letter that while we await his coming, we are to abide in Christ. Myriad other passages about the second coming of Christ tell us that, as we look forward to his arrival, we ought to be:
- Blameless in holiness4
- Completely sanctified5
- Zealous for good works6
- Filled with the fruit of righteousness
- Having love abounding with knowledge and all discernment7
- Living self-controlled, upright, and godly lives8
This list is admittedly a tall order. Why does the Bible tell us to strive for an impossible perfection while we await the total purification already promised in Christ?
The reason why is because the restoration of all things is God’s goal. This is Christ’s aim. Specific to us, the triune God is bringing about a people, purified for his possession.9 In fact, all things in the new heaven and new earth will one day no longer be corrupt in any way, but united in Christ.10 And God is working toward this end, through you, through me, and through the collective body of Christ made up of every true believer.
Because it is the sovereign God’s will, it is surely on its way. He has begun it, and he is doing it, and he has given us a glimpse of the part we can play with our individual lives. We have the great privilege of aligning ourselves to God’s will, conforming ourselves both to the one who is holy and the righteous world he will bring about.11
There is additional good news that comes with God’s grand plan, and it is that each of these passages also reveal the power source for how we will become blameless and above reproach, even as we strive on earth.12 It is the grace of God which trains us to renounce ungodliness. It is the Savior Jesus Christ who purifies for himself a people who are zealous for good works.13
Our God and Father, our God of peace, our Lord Jesus, God himself will and has empowered us to purify ourselves as he is pure.14 We are to follow the example of the apostles and pray God’s help to this end. We are to abide in Christ. We are to hold fast to the word of life, run, and labor, as Paul says he does so that he may be proud on the day of Christ.15
Next time we feel tempted to stop striving toward righteousness or feel defeated in our wrestle with sin, may we fix our eyes on the day of Christ. Let us look to the redemption that is coming and recognize the privilege to submit ourselves to the course of God’s grand plan.
Consider the following passages to be challenged, encouraged, and reminded of the great hope of glorification. God is at work in us. May we continue to walk in him for he is faithful, and he will surely do it.16
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”Titus 2:11-14
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
“you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:7b-9
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.”1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
1 Ephesians 4:22-24.
2 Philippians 1:10.
3 1 Corinthians 1:8.
4 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 5:23.
5 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
6 Titus 2:14
7 Philippians 1:9
8 Titus 2:12.
9 Titus 2:14.
10 Revelation 21; Ephesians 1:9-10.
11 Romans 8:29.
12 Colossians 1:22.
13 Titus 2:11, 14.
14 1 John 3:13.
15 Philippians 2:16.
16 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
Photo credit: Jared Crouse
Sharon Jeong Ide is wife to Isaac and mama to Martyn and Teddy in Los Angeles, California. You can find more of her writing, reflections, and homeschool resources at @sharonjeongide on Instagram.