1 John 3:1-3
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
November 1, 2020
A cowboy walked into a Texas bar, ordered three bottles of beer, sat down by himself, and drank a sip out of each one in turn. After repeating the pattern several times in a row, he returned the empties to the bar and ordered three more.
The bartender remarked, “You know, a bottle goes flat pretty fast once it’s opened. Beer tastes better if you drink it one bottle at a time.” The cowboy replied,
“Well, you see, I have two brothers. One moved to Australia, and the other to Spain; but, when the three of us separated, we promised we’d drink this way to remember the days we drank together. So I drink the first bottle for one brother, the next one for the other, and the last one for myself.” The bartender smiled in acceptance of a touching custom.
The cowboy became a regular at the bar, and always drank the same way. But, one day, he ordered only two bottles. Everyone noticed and fell silent. When he went to the bar for the second round, the bartender said, “I don’t want to intrude upon your grief, but I am sorry for your loss.” The cowboy blinked in puzzlement for a second, but then chuckled, “Oh, no, everybody in the family is just fine. It’s just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church in Longview, and I had to quit drinking. But it hasn’t changed a thing for my brothers, praise the Lord!”
No commitment means much if it’s only half-hearted.
How committed are you, O disciple of Jesus, to giving people a sneak preview of all God one day will prove to be and all you one day will prove to be? Your purpose is to bring to light something of what is yet hidden from sight: the full magnificence of this redeeming God and the full magnificence of His redeemed.
God does something wonderful for all who respond to His overtures of grace: He makes them His children, not just in the sense that they, like all human beings, owe their existence to Him, but as those who have entered a personal, intimate relationship of love with a perfect Father.
From the very start of the relationship, such closeness with God changes people at their core; and, in the end, it changes them through and through. For in the close connection God’s life flows into them and fills them with the living waters of His Spirit, who pushes out what is wrong in them and pours into them God’s best.
Let me give you an analogy. The Chicago River was once a shallow, sluggish sewer for the entire metropolitan area. The stock yards, for example, dumped their animal waste into it. The river ran to the east, and its putrid waters polluted Lake Michigan, from which Chicago drew its drinking water. As a result, waterborne diseases entered the homes of Chicago residents and killed hundreds of thousands of them.
When the City figured this out, its engineers took action. To dig miles of channels and to alter the drainage topography, they moved more earth than was moved in the building of the Panama Canal. Then, on January 2, 1900, they opened a sluice gate at the lake and its pure water drained westward through the city. It reversed the flow of the river and replaced its disease-ridden water with healthy.
So too, a relationship with God reverses the flow in our soul, and replaces the deadly with the life-giving.
This marvelous grace from God changes us from the inside out, but it takes time for a change that begins in the deep recesses of the heart to become fully visible in conduct. That’s one of the reasons why John says here that the world does not know who in Jesus we really are. Though we are “now” God’s children, “what we will be has not yet been revealed.” What we will be is “like” Jesus as never before!
The task of our life then is to keep this process of becoming more Jesus-like moving forward, that we may give others clearer sneak previews of what God will one day make obvious about Himself and us. To persist in this process is to continue to seek to “purify” ourselves. And to purify ourselves is to pursue being 100% full of Jesus, in a whole-hearted commitment to Him and His purposes.
Just as water becomes pure when its pollution is cleaned out, and gold becomes pure when its alloys are refined out, Christians grow in purity as the Spirit flushes out division in focus, conflict in loyalty, insincerity in intention. When Christians attain purity, they are “all in” on knowing God and making God known, and on doing justice and showing compassion. Their purity of heart causes them to roll up their sleeves and to empty their wallets to help others in the love of Jesus.
In a grocery store Erin Bunting pulled off the shelf a bottle of juice. Its label said, “Blueberry Pomegranate, 100%, All Natural”, and displayed a picture of a ripe pomegranate and a mound of plump blueberries. Intrigued, she read the list of ingredients: “Filtered water, pear juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, grape juice concentrate.” “Where’s the blueberry,” Erin thought, “Where’s the pomegranate?” Finally she found them, in fifth and seventh place on a list of nine ingredients, but at least before mysteriously unspecified “natural flavors”. In other words, the bottle held mostly water and other juices, with just enough blueberry and pomegranate to suggest the taste and color of the real thing. It was a fake product disguised to look like something it wasn’t.
Erin returned the bottle to the shelf. On the way home, she wondered, “What if I had an ingredients list printed on me? Would God be the first ingredient? If not, how far down the list would He be? Am I, under my Christian ‘label’, a fake product disguised to look like something I’m not? Am I just Jesus-flavored, when I should be Jesus-filled?”
May we all pursue purity by letting Jesus fill us with His own life, that we may help others see God as He really is and ourselves as we are becoming by His powerful, transformative grace! Let us pray.