At WL the past two Sundays, we have heard about two of the main themes of 1 John: he is writing so that believers might have confidence they belong to Christ, and he continues to refer to abiding/remaining in Christ. I think both of those concepts show up in today’s reading, too.
John again calls his audience “children” here to continue the sense of a fatherly love and instruction, and he again exhorts them to abide in Christ – to remain faithful, to continue believing and trusting and obeying Jesus. But here, his instruction to abide is “so that when [Jesus] appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” John is encouraging us to abide, which gives us confidence that we belong to Christ. Put another way: our perseverance in belief and obedience should give us confidence that we truly belong.
There is coming a day on which Christ will return and will judge, and there will certainly be mixed responses from mankind then! Some will approach with overwhelming joy and confidence, whereas others will hide in shame. I think of two teachings of Jesus here. In John 15:11, he tells his disciples to abide in his love and says, “these things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Abiding in Christ should give us joy, and that joy should lead us to run toward Christ and not shy away from him! Consider another teaching of Jesus, however, in Luke 9:26: “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Those who do not know Christ will cower in fear and shame at his sight.
I think John’s point is obvious way: we want to be like the first group! We want to follow Jesus, to remain faithful to him and to press on in following his ways. If we do so, we will be filled with confidence, and on the day of his coming we will not hide in shame but will be filled with overwhelming joy as we run to meet him. And make no mistake: every knee will one day bow and every tongue will one day confess that Jesus is Lord – will you bow in joyful confidence or in fearful shame? Let us abide in him both now and forevermore, that we may experience his joy and confidence.