Practicing the Impossible

When you hear the words, “Shame on you; behave yourself,” how does that make you feel?  I suspect most of us are not very motivated by such verbal assaults; they probably instill in us the opposite inclinations, born of resentment.  That is why it is very important to understand what is being said when the Bible seems to be wagging its finger and scowling at us, using words like “purify yourself!”  It used to be, when I came across words like that in the Bible I’d just want to close it up for good and read something that would make me feel better.

Here’s the line I’m talking about specifically:

Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself,* just as he is pure.  (1 John 3:3)

For openers, I’m not able to purify myself – not going to happen.  I know, because I’ve tried.  So have you, right?  I’ve had more success with hula hoops and building towers of playing cards.  And John knows we can’t do it.  It is because we can’t purify ourselves that God sent us a Savior.  Saviors aren’t really “saviors” unless you are going down, unless you really need saving.  Jesus isn’t merely a friend, or even a coach; He is our Savior.

So then, if he knows we can’t do it, why does John tell the believer to “purify himself”?  The solution emerges from the context:  John has just promised us that one day we, who have received Jesus, will be like Himjust like Him!  (See: “Extreme Makeover”)  As we stand, amazed and baffled by that promise, he says, in effect, “anyone who knows that is true will get in step with the improvements he is about to receive.”

Like this:

Imagine you received a registered letter, informing you that you had been selected for the grand prize, a personal, 2 week, in-home workshop from Eric Clapton.  At the end of two weeks, they promise, when you pick up your acoustic guitar, people will think it is Clapton playing.  If you can’t relate to that fantasy, select your own substitute hero:  Bobby Flay?  John Grisham? You pick.  Think about what has been promised:  You are about to be transformed and become just like the best in your field.  Here’s the question:  How would you spend the week or two leading up to the beginning of your personal lessons?  Isn’t it true that you would do everything you could imagine to anticipate what you are about to learn, to get in step with the program, so to speak?  Me?  I’d be playing scales on my guitar and practicing blues licks from dawn ’til dusk.

That’s what John meant to say…

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