2008-04-27am 1 John 2:28-3:10 Abba, I Belong to You (GEMS Sunday)
To start the sermon, I have some questions for the GEMS. Feel free to shout out your answers, if you’re brave enough.
Did you decide where you were born?
Did you choose your parents?
Did you choose your looks, hair colour, eye colour?
Do you know how tall you’re going to be?
Did you know that your parents made all those decisions for you? They decided where you’d be born. Yes, they did. By deciding where to live, they decided where you would be born.
They decided to have a baby, and here you are, though you’re hardly babies anymore. You had no choice in the matter.
Your looks, hair colour and eye colour are all results of the genes you inherited from your parents. Even your height is determined genetically.
The same thing is true, not just of you GEMS, but also of Korben. He’s the product of his parent’s decision.
But did you know that God the Father is working, watching over everything, determining what happens and when? Did you know that God is the Father of the entire universe? Did you know that He’s the one who put you together? Psalm 139 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
But our passage this morning isn’t talking about natural birth, about being born into a human family. Our passage is about God the Father adopting people as His own children. In this passage, God calls us His Children.
This call goes waaaay back, yep, back before Korben was born, back before the GEMS, even the GEMS leaders were born, back even further. It goes back past the Reformation, it goes back before the Birth of Jesus, it goes back even before God called Abraham. It goes back even before the birth of Cain and Abel, even before Adam and Eve were created. It goes back to even before God created the world.
You see, God knows whom he has called. He knew our names, all the names, even before he created the world.
God the Father knows his children. He’s been displaying his love for them from the very beginning. After Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, God promised to make it right by sending His Son. When God called Abraham, he promised to bless him with many offspring (even though his wife was barren at the time), and that the offspring would be a blessing to the world. Jesus Christ is a descendant of Abraham, He is the fulfillment of God’s promise.
And we who believe in Jesus Christ are spiritual descendants of Abraham.
And because we are Abraham’s spiritual descendants through Christ, God calls us His children.
That’s what chapter 3 verse 1 is all about. This morning, we need to understand three important truths contained in this one verse.
First, Chapter 3, verse 1, starts with a command. The author, John, the beloved disciple, gives us a command. Unfortunately, our Bible Translation didn’t include this command. But the command John gives us is, “See.” See how great God’s love is! God’s love isn’t simply something you feel. It isn’t like a feeling or an emotion, something you can’t really explain, like the feeling of your first crush.
No, John says, God’s love isn’t like that. God’s love is something we can see! God’s love is something that is great. Now, according to Alfred Plummer, there are only six times that the phrase “how great” appears in the New Testament. And, he says, it “always implies astonishment and generally admiration.” God’s love, which we can see, is astonishingly admirable! It is wonderful!
Now, what do you think John means when he commands us to see how great God’s love is? How can you see love? Well, John has already told us, in his gospel. There he quotes Jesus who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The greatest love is completely self-sacrificial.
There are many stories of this kind of love, a person rushes into a burning building, rescues a trapped child, gets the child to safety, but dies in the process.
The greatest example of self-sacrificial love is God the Father’s love. God the Father so loved the world, He so lavished love on the world, on you and me, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die to save us.
Jesus Christ took our penalty, eternal death, upon himself, and willingly died for us. God the Son so lavished love on us, that He has given us His righteousness, so that we might live eternally with Him, and so that we might be called “Children of God!”
God loves us like a father. He is a father, he’s the Eternal Father. He has always been Father to the Son, and He is Father to us. And like a father, God the Father knows who we are, He loves us, He cares for us, He provides for us and He is close to us. He’s a perfect father.
The apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, shows how close a relationship we have with our Father in heaven. He says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15). Abba is the Aramaic word for Father. It describes a close relationship. My children call me “Papa”. Some children call their Father, “Dad”, or Daddy.” The name Abba has that kind of meaning. God is our Father, our Papa, who is in heaven.
The second thing we need to learn from this verse is that because of God’s love, because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us when He died on the cross, God now calls us His children!
Can you fathom the honour of that? God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of all things, calls us His children! God, who knows how the universe functions, for He designed it, God who knows how many hairs we have on our heads, God, in whose palm the entire universe fits, He calls us His children!
That’s amazing! Again, because of what Christ has done, because He has demonstrated God’s love, because He has lavished God’s love on us, we’ve become God’s children! A couple of verses later in Romans, the apostle Paul describes us as heirs and co-heirs with Christ. In Christ, God gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12) “to all who in faith have received Christ as Lord and Saviour.” 
Perhaps you’re wondering, “When does this happen. When did this happen?” John answers that for us. He says, “That is what we are!” That’s our identity! We are, right now, God’s children. And that’s one big reason why we baptised Korben this morning. Even though He’s just a baby, even though he can’t articulate his faith in God, we know that faith comes from God, and that God called us His children even before creation. So, Julie and Zane have acknowledged that God has claimed Korben as His child. And they will do everything they can to teach Korben and his siblings that they belong to God! That they are God’s children!
You see, God makes us His children immediately. In Christ, God adopts us as his children right away. There’s no period of waiting.
Many people here are familiar with the adoption process. Some are going through it. It is an expensive, lengthy process. It is difficult. Adoptive children take a long time to adjust. Some children never adjust at all. If the adoptive child was abused, or neglected, it takes a long time for the child to adjust to his new life.
I know of an African girl who was adopted by a Canadian couple. Even though she had everything she needed, she would still get up at 4:30 in the morning, take the mortar and pestle down off the shelf, fill it with peanuts and start grinding.
I’ve heard of children who hoard food. Sometimes it takes several years to change behaviour. It takes, years for adoptive children to realise that in their new family, they can trust that their new family will look after them.
There’s no lengthy process in God’s adoption. He transfers full rights immediately! There’s no waiting for a future promise! We’re immediately God’s children! God puts His claim on us right away!
But often, we behave exactly as adoptive children behave. We fail to realise that we can enjoy all the rights and privileges of having God as our Father! We hoard things that we think we need. We still cling on to what the world offers. We have a hard time trusting God. We doubt, we wonder, does God really love me? Am I really saved from all my sins? Am I really forgiven?
And the plain answer is yes, yes we are! Right now, we are! We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who in faith, faith that also is from God, who in faith receives Christ as Lord and Saviour, we are Children of God! Nothing, not one thing, not sin, not persecution, not angels, not demons, not height, not depth, not even death can separate us from the love God lavished on us in Christ!
The third thing we have to understand is the knowledge of God. We know God. We experience His love. We call God our Father; we put our trust in Him. We do this because we know that God loves us, he provides for us and he protects us.
But those who don’t believe, those who do not know God the Father, those who do not know Jesus, they cannot understand us.
Perhaps you heard about the Christian Rock Concert in Abbotsford that ended in tragedy on Friday night. During the show, a group of people gathered in front of the stage. Their co-ordinated movements caused the floor to collapse from underneath them and more than 40 people were injured.
I read about this on the cbc.ca news website. On that site, people can post comments related to the story. Naturally, it being news about a Christian Church, affecting many Christians, a lot of Christians commented on the story. Many non-Christian people commented as well.
The comments from the non-Christians show the truth of this our third and final portion of the verse we’re looking at this morning. The world does not know Christians, and the world clearly does not know God. Some of the non-Christian comments were derogatory, mean, and cruel. It is very sad.
The world does not know the significance of our spiritual relationship with God. Perhaps one of the reasons why the world does not know God is because Christians are too much like the world. Some Christians are like the world because they have a hard time understanding that God has adopted them, they don’t have to live as they used to!
When God claims us, adopts us, he doesn’t begin a regimen, a boot camp that roots out unwanted behaviour. No, God goes to the source of behaviour, the heart. In Jeremiah, God promises to give us a new heart. In Christ, we receive that new heart.
And because we have new hearts, because we are God’s children, because we are co-heirs with Christ, even little Korben, we live not as slaves to sin, but rather as children of God.
The GEMS theme this year is a great theme. “Abba, I belong to you.” Keep that in mind, GEMS. Keep that in mind Julie in Zane, and other parents here, as you bring up your children in the Lord. Remember, not only for yourselves, but for your children as well, that they belong to the Lord. That’s their identity. That’s your identity. That’s our identity. We’re God’s Children! Amen.
Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 14: New Testament commentary : Exposition of James and the Epistles of John. Accompanying biblical text is author's translation. New Testament Commentary (292). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.