What is the time?
We watch it, we waste it, and we pass it. It often seems like there’s not enough of it, and we don’t know where it goes. Time matters. It affects what we do.
I have a wall planner on my wall where I can see my CU event dates, my holiday breaks, and major church and social engagements. I have a diary on my computer, which syncs with my phone, which tells me where I need to be and when.
But time matters on a much bigger scale – on a cosmic scale. What are these times in which we live? Where are we up to in history? What does this time mean for what we do?
Time is a one of the threads woven though the book of 1 John. John teaches us about time from the perspective of God’s plan of salvation. He shows how knowing the time helps us know who we are and how we ought to live.
So, what is the time?
We live in a world where the Son of God has come (1 John 5:20). Jesus has risen from the dead. The world is not the same as it was before that first Easter Sunday almost 2000 years ago. With that momentous event, God has ushered in a new era. Sin has been atoned for. Forgiveness and eternal life are now available through faith in Christ. On offer is the outstanding joy of fellowship with God and with each other (1:3). What happened then changes everything about how we understand ourselves, and life in this world now.
John writes in stark contrasts. Dark and light. Life and death. There is no middle ground.
There are only two sides: you can either belong to the old era or the new.
John warns us against loving the things of the world, which are passing away (2:15-17). It is futile to live for temporary things, forgetting what is eternal. ‘The desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life’: all sorts of things that clamor for our love and turn our desires away from God. But the pleasure and security they seem to offer now will vanish. Investing in such things – with our time, thoughts, and energy – will come to nothing but loss. This is the old era, the side of death (3:14).
But Jesus has died and risen from the dead. He has passed from death to life. In doing so, he has brought in a new era. John writes with confidence that all who believe in the Son of God have life in him (5:11-13). Those who ‘abide with Christ’ have entered into a new era. With Jesus, we too have passed from death to life (3:14). Being made alive through faith in Christ means we don’t belong to the old era anymore. We live in the new era, and we will remain in fellowship with God forever (2:17). This is the side of life.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have passed from death to life! And yet, it can be tempting to live as if nothing much has changed. The world appears to work the same way it always has. It still seems like the best way to have security and to be successful is to get ahead in the same ways those around us use. We feel the pressure to place importance on the same things everyone else does, and to try to fit in.
Yet John is adamant that true faith will be evident. Why is it so hard sometimes to stand in the life Christ has given us? Why does it take such courage to be distinctively Christian?
It’s because the old era is passing away, but it’s not gone yet.
The new era has come, but we can’t see it clearly yet.
We live in a time of anticipation, the ‘overlap of ages’, waiting for Christ’s return. John writes in chapter 3:
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are! The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
When Jesus appears, we will be transformed to be like him. Through God’s work in us, we put off sin because we are his children now. We must live as people who know the time. Live as someone who belongs to the new era, expecting Jesus’ return and life with him in its fullness.
How do you live like a new era person? How can you make radical choices that reflect the reality that we are a people of the new era and not the old? Can you see it in your relationships, in the way you befriend those who are not like you? Can you hear it in your words, when you speak up for Jesus while others try to mock him or his people? Maybe you might choose to be single over pursuing a relationship that will lead you away from God. Or choose not to sin, even when everyone around you thinks it’s okay.
It’s not easy to live against the grain of the world. It stands out. John tells us the time so that we will have courage and persevere. Many people won’t understand you. But that is good. Use it as an opportunity to speak of Jesus, and the life he gives.
Tell people the time.
Tell them that there was a time when Jesus died and rose from the dead.
And tell them that there will be a time when he’ll come back.
There will be a time when we’ll stand before him.
Tell them we must live for that time now.