May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our God – in whom we live and move and have our being – Amen
See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God…
… Yet so we are. (1 John 3:1)
Did you catch the message of the Children’s time?
It was pretty straight-forward of course
As you all are well aware children’s time is not really only for those under the age of 10 or 12
Most of the time the goal of the children’s time to send the kids away with a straight- forward message, BUT (and this is a big But) it is often also a time of telling the message to ‘the children of all ages’, as simply as possible, the key message of the day.
And so speaking to everyone of every age makes it one of the more challenging tasks of the service…
However - Not today
Today the message is as simple and clear as can be…
We are so incredibly fortunate
– so loved by God
– that God calls us His children
It has been said that ‘with God there are no grandchildren – only children’
God loves us so deeply… and wants us to understand that love, that we – brothers and sisters in Christ – are His children
And each one of us has direct access to God the Father
As each one of us - is His Child
Different versions of the Bible have selected different words to say the same message but some times there are nuances that catch our attention in special ways – in some versions our passage starts out with the following words “Consider How Great the Love of God is that we should be called Children of God”
For me this week in my sermon prep I was struck by this idea of “considering How Great God’s love is…”
What that means to us as a starting point in the relationship
What it means to us in terms …ultimately of our salvation
What it means to how we, as followers of Christ, how we live our lives
John, in what the Bible has called his 1st letter of John, lays out the whole relationship to his audience
And that audience is both the people 2000 years ago and to us now…
Firstly it is a love letter
John writes “you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:3-4)
It is a message of faith, hope and joy
It is also a message of encouragement and yet reproof
“If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:8-9)
But most importantly, today, it is a message of assurance in the faith
We are given a beautiful message – that we ARE ‘children of God’
Eight times in this letter, John uses the word – “children”.
“children do not sin.”
“children, your sins are forgiven.”
“children, it is the last hour.”
“children, let no one deceive you.”
“children, love with deeds and truth.”
“children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Eight times the author addresses his reader with this endearing term, “children.”
John the elder statesmen – some figure that he was well into his 80’s at the time of writing this letter, is sharing a vital message of assurance and endearment
A message from one who knew Jesus the Christ in the flesh
- Was called the beloved disciple
- Was told to treat Mary, the mother of Jesus, as his own mother - just before Jesus died on the cross
- was the first, after Mary Magdalene, to arrive at the empty tomb and know that Jesus had risen
John who was likely imprisoned on the island of Patmos at the time of writing
Doesn’t share a message of bitterness as one might expect of a prisoner
But shares a message of one that walks in the faith, hope, joy and love of God
John’s love letter assures us all
We are loved by God as Children
One of the greatest problems facing believers these days is a lack of assurance.
It has been said that if you Scratch a believer and you might find someone unsure of their salvation.
Why might this be?
For some it might be because they have sadly never truly grasped the simple message that we are all children of God
They may never have entered into a relationship with God in this way
Never understood that they have direct access to God
Never allowed themselves to be open to God presence and released themselves into the role of a child of God
The reasons for this could be numerous
- It might be that they have assumed their Christian faith like an inheritance
- It might be that they attended church only out of duty or because their parents made them
- It might be that they never truly slowed-down enough to let God in
Never letting the distractions of the world go long enough to embrace God as God calls us
But rest assured that God is patient - God will find an opportunity to be invited in
The reason for this lack of assurance might also be related to our clumsy attempts to confirm our place with God by means of our personal piety.
We do good deeds and pray prayers telling God about us
We work at proving our standing with God on the basis or our goodness
But every day we fail miserably (if we are honest with ourselves) and so find our standing undermined
Regardless of the reason – John is sharing with us something so precious, something so vital to life
So important to our understanding of the world, creation, ourselves, others and God
It speaks to the heart of the `Shema`` - The Jewish summary of the law
Which Jesus amplified – as recorded in Mark
Jesus said, `The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: `you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31)
It is the right ordering of the whole of life – it is the right understanding of who God is and who we are
That God is God and we are not… and yet… and yet… God loves us so much that we are invited to be His children
I am not sure I can think of a more important message
I believe it to be the heart of the Good News – The Gospel
As Paul sates in Galatians
`When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Àbba! Father! So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Gal 4:4-7)
We are God’s Children – God gives us that inheritance – the inheritance of life eternal
Not death – for death was defeated on the Cross of Christ
Nor resting or sleeping after life on earth
BUT… LIFE ETERNAL
Now John’s message for us today does not end there – as we consider `how great the love of God is…`
We are to consider what it means: how we, followers of Christ, how we live our lives
And here John gives us a quick message about sin
About the right understanding and place in which sin plays in our lives as followers
Simply that: one who lives in fellowship with Christ – one who claims to be in union with Christ
That union is to BE and DO as Christ did
Those who are made righteous and should act in a righteous manner as befits children of God
In other words, we are called to act according to what we confess… Christ bids us to be righteous, not just talk about being righteous.
We may be able to fool others and even ourselves some of the time
But we are never able to fool God.
Let’s be clear here… a believer is oriented towards righteousness.
This doesn’t mean that a believer won’t sin; in fact, sin will daily infect our lives.
What it means is that a believer is attracted towards Christ-likeness.
A person who has truly experienced the mercy of God will tend to be merciful – not perfectly merciful, but oriented towards mercy.
Likewise a person who has truly experienced and invited God’s love into their lives will tend to be loving – not perfectly loving – but oriented towards love.
This orientation towards God’s will and ways in the world extends beyond the relationship with God
It extends into community – community of the church – the body of Christ – the people of God
…And it extends beyond – to those that walk as yet by faith
A Christian is not called to retreat from the world
Our identity is only found in the one who is the Good Shepherd
`Who knows His sheep and his sheep know him` - YES and to the `other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also – Jesus said
God’s concern is that we become like Jesus Christ-people – who live with a passionate concern that the will and way of God be done on earth as they are in heaven.
We may think of ourselves as human beings….
We really aren’t that – not yet.
We are human becomings
We are being transformed grace by grace
That is why the letter to the Romans says: `the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.`
Let us pray
Brothers and sisters of Christ – fellow children of God - may you grow in your love for the one that loves us all as His children, may you walk in the ways of Christ – so that the world may see God’s grace through you. And may you be assured how great the love of God is - Amen