A few years ago, my wife and I planned a trip to Florida. We wanted to get away over the winter to spend some time together someplace warm as we prepared for the birth of baby #4. I was really looking forward to it. I was daydreaming about the sun, time on the beach, swimming, eating out… no kids! In fact, in the weeks leading up to the trip, I put so much hope into the future, I lost sight of the present.
When we finally got to Florida, it was cold and windy. We barely saw the sun. We sat on the beach in sweatshirts huddled under a blanket. I confessed to my wife that the weather was all my fault – God was chastening me for my misplaced priorities!
I don’t really think that’s how God orchestrates the weather, but I did learn a valuable lesson (and we did still have a great week away). As Christians, we have much to look forward to in the future, but that shouldn’t stop us from being grateful and enjoying all that God has given us now. We call this dual reality the “already, not yet.” Because of Christ’s work, we are already born again to a new life, but we are not yet fully transformed into our eternal glory. And so, we need to live appreciating, enjoying, and investing in what we have been given now, and hoping, celebrating, and longing for what is coming later. We see this truth in 1 John 3:1-3:
“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children – and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.” (CSB)
John is directing us to remember and celebrate the amazing love of our Heavenly Father that has been given to us. We have been called children of the living God – and so we are! We are God’s children now! Our status as God’s children and our life as God’s children is not something we are waiting for in the future. We know his love now. We experience his care for us now. We follow him now. By the way, John adds, that’s why the world doesn’t know us. We don’t fit in. The world didn’t know Christ, so it doesn’t really know us either.
And yet, despite our real, present experience as God’s children now, there is more that Christ has for us later. What we will be someday – our position as fully mature, sanctified children – has not yet appeared. But we have the certain hope, that when Christ appears at his second coming, we will be like him. We will be like Jesus – free from sin, walking in glory, connected to the Father! Now we only see Jesus dimly, but when we see him face-to-face, we will be transformed.
In life, some of us are prone to be so focused on the mess of the present day, we forget the hope of the future. While others become so fixated on the hope of the future, they miss the gift of the present. Don’t live so focused on the glorious transformation coming later, you lose sight of the incredible life you have been given now as God’s child. But also don’t make the opposite mistake: living so much in your present reality, you forget the glory that is to come.
The truth is that the beautiful tension of the “already, not yet” works together. Look again at the last verse above. Everyone who fixes their hope on the future coming Christ, actually purifies himself now. Our eternal future impacts our present reality. As we fix our heart on the one who is pure, he begins to purify us now!
Life in Christ is now and later. God’s children now, glory later. Put your hope in the glorious reality you will have later, and live in the amazing reality that you are God’s child now.