1 John 3:3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
Many places in the Japanese Bible, where the English says “holy,” the Japanese uses the character for holy but gives a reading for it that is a homophone for “pure.” That’s because Japanese in general doesn’t really grasp “holiness,” and certainly doesn’t use the word very often. However here, the character as well as the reading is simply “pure,” as in unadulterated. Purity can be a part of holiness, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. After all, we speak of pure evil! Holiness is achieved by transformation. It is something God makes available to us and that we can choose to receive, but it is not something we can attain by our own efforts. Purity, on the other hand, is the absence of contaminants, and that is something we can work toward. I still don’t think we achieve it perfectly on this earth, but it is much more within our grasp. The thing is, we live in a sea of pollutants. Maintaining purity requires constant attention, both to exclude junk and to let the Holy Spirit clean house when junk is discovered. We will never do it, or even really try, without a clear grasp of what God has made available to us in Christ. This is the hope John is talking about here. Those who fail to strive for purity have lost sight of that hope, if they ever really had it in the first place. We all sin at times, as John says clearly in this same letter, but anyone who has this hope is never satisfied with sin; it feels bad. That’s why John goes on after this to talk about how those who are in Christ do not continue to sin. Some older English translations, and actually the Japanese translation I use, fail to pick up on the Greek tense and make the flat statement that those in Christ don’t sin. That’s not only a violation of our experience, it contradicts the rest of this letter! Hope in Christ does not produce instant perfection, but it lets us realize what God has provided and gives us a goal to strive for,
This is something I have struggled with, as every honest Christian has. There are times when Romans 7 is all too present reality! However, I have experienced the reality of 1 John 1:9, and know that Jesus Christ is indeed my righteousness, wisdom, holiness, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30) I am never to let down my guard, but recognize evil and refuse it. That’s not always easy, given the world we live it, but by God’s grace it is possible. I do have the hope John speaks of here, and it is a powerful motivator. As a pastor I am trying to bring others along with me into that lifestyle. That’s not something I can accomplish on my own, but God can use me both as an example and a mentor, and I am not to draw back from that. Life in Christ is joyful and it is fun, but it is also pure, and I need to help people understand that.
Father, thank You for increasing purity over the years. Looking back can be an encouragement! Keep me from getting lax about it, taking things for granted. Rather, help me keep pressing in for more of Christ, more of Your Spirit, so that I may be more useful to You in drawing others to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!