We’re God’s Children

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2008-09-21 (am) 1 John 2:28-3:10 We’re God’s Children!

            Each time I read this passage, I’m blown away by the words.  Does it have the same effect on you?  Have you really considered the words that John writes here? 

          Listen again to chapter 3:1.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

          The love the Father lavished on us is so incredibly great!  So incredibly great, that through the death and resurrection of His Son, he counts us as his children.  We are called God’s children.  That is what we are.  That’s our identity.

          Try that on the next person you meet.  The fellow comes up to you and says, “Hi, I’m so and so.”  You say, “Pleased to meet you, I’m so and so, child of God.

          You can tell them that you’re God’s child!  That God, the creator of all things visible and invisible adopted you as his chid!  God is your father! 

          Do you remember when you were growing up, kids saying to one another, “Oh yeah?  My Dad’s bigger than your Dad!”  Last year, I overheard a couple of children saying essentially the same thing.  There’s this built in pride that kids have for their Dads.

          Do we have the same pride for our heavenly Father?  We should, because I can tell you this, He is bigger than anyone else’s Dad!

          Our God is our Father.  We’re His children.  We belong.  We’re not merely individuals, with our own faith, our own ways of doing things, we’re family.  You truly are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is totally amazing!

          What a privilege we have to be known as God’s children.

          Now, in our passage this morning, John talks about being able to recognize God’s children by how they act.  That is true, and we’re going to look at that in a little bit.  But first, we need to look at another passage in scripture.  There’s something that we all need reminding about.

          First let me ask this, who here really feels up to the reality that we’re God’s children, and as such, we should act like His children.  Do you feel like your life is a fair representation of a child of God?  Do you think your life honours your Father in heaven?  How does your life compare to your big brother, Jesus?

          Yeah, that’s how I feel too.  So let’s listen to a story our big brother Jesus told.

          Luke 15:11-24.  “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

          “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

          “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

                 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

          When we come to the realisation that our actions, our deeds, our thoughts, have been less than worthy of someone who is God’s child, we simply need to do what the prodigal son did.  We need to come to our senses and turn to God. 

          The son realised that it was a better life simply as God’s servant, than living apart from God.  The son didn’t listen to the voices of darkness, condemning him, telling him he was worthless, telling him that his father wouldn’t want him back.  The son trusted in his Father.  He knew his father was gracious.

          And, what happened is the best part of the story.  The father was eagerly waiting for his son’s return.  When we sin, when we turn away from God for a time, God our Father eagerly waits for our return, he eagerly waits for our confession.  He runs up to us, gathers us in his arms, and forgives us, no matter how big a sin it is, no matter how insignificant a sin it is.  God is loving and gracious.  He so loves us in fact that he sent His Son to die for us.  That’s amazing love!

          So you see, once you are God’s child, you will always remain God’s child.  Our hearts go out to our loved ones who might not come to church anymore.  Our hearts are troubled for those who have turned away from God, who by their actions are demonstrating more of a hatred for God than a love for God. 

          We mustn’t worry.  Jesus was giving us a true picture of the love God has lavished on us.  God is ever willing to receive anyone who confesses his or her sins to him.  He will always welcome the repentant.  So let us not despair for ourselves, or for others!  Let us pray for ourselves, through prayers of confession, but also let us pray for those who are living like the prodigal son before his conversion.  Let us pray for them, that God would open their hearts.  Let us speak words of encouragement to them.  Let us remind them of the gracious, amazing love that God is so willing to lavish upon them.

          Now, I’d like to read another story Jesus told.  This is also about a Father who had two sons.  Listen to what Jesus has to say: “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matt. 28:21-32).

          Again, the story has some similarities.  There is a son who disobeyed, said no to his father.  But later he repented, he obeyed his father and did what his father commanded him to do.  The other son, made it look like he was going to obey, but didn’t.  Clearly the one who repented and did what he was asked to do was the obedient son.

          Now, John calls us to examine our lives.  Are we obedient children?  Do we live righteous lives?

          Now, don’t misunderstand John.  John is not talking about isolated disobedience.  He is not talking about the occasional sin.  John is contrasting a person who strives to live for righteousness, with someone who has no desire to do what is right.

          John is saying this.  We cannot identify ourselves as God’s children if we at the same time are living lives of wilful disobedience.  When it comes right down to it, living a disobedient life, a life contrary to the righteous life as described in scriptures, is incompatible with someone who is God’s child.

          The prodigal son, very clearly lived a life that was contrary to the Father.  He did every kind of sin he could find.  In that lifestyle, he was absolutely living for himself.  And yet, no matter what he did, it never stopped him from being his Father’s son.

          In that sense, it is never too late, is it? 

          But in another sense, most of us would have loved to have walked up to him, slapped him upside the head and said, “Come on!  You should know better than that!”  You’re your father’s son!  You can do better than that.  You can honour him with your life!”

          But would that have done him any good?  Didn’t God lead him to the point of desperation, so that there was only one thing left for him to do?  Swallow his pride and go back home.

          Now, with the second story, we’re not sure what exactly transpired.  All we know is that on this occasion, one son repented and became obedient, whereas the other son lied, and was disobedient.

          We don’t know what motivated these sons.  Did the first son think to himself a bit later, “You know, I should do what dad asked me to do.  He’s looked after me well.  He loves me.  I love him.  I can demonstrate my love for him by doing what he asked me to do.  So, I’ll go and do it.  It will make us both happy.”

          Did the other son think something like this, “I always say yes.  That useless brother of mine never does anything.  Let him do the work for once.  I’m not going.  Besides, Dad knows I love him.  I’ve done my work.”

          The first son was the righteous one.  He did what his father commanded him to do.  The second son sinned.

          Now, how do we respond to God’s commandments for our lives?  Do we see God’s love for us in them?  Do we see how they benefit us?  Do we see that by doing them we can display our gratitude for God?

          That’s why the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism put the law in the last section, in gratitude.  That’s why when we read the law this morning; we read it in the context of it being as a rule for gratitude.

          When we consider that we, who were once enemies of God, are now God’s children, we’re filled with gratitude!  When we consider the amazing love that God poured out on us, sending his Son to die for us, we should be blown away!

          Those truths should fill us with a desire to demonstrate our love for God, by living righteous lives.

          In fact, John tells us that that’s precisely what we’ve been created to do! 

          Don’t be led astray.  Don’t believe those who might say, “You can have your cake and eat it too.  You can do whatever you want.  God will always forgive you.  God will honour your intentions.  God will respect your commitment to your significant other.

          No, that’s a lie.  God will not condone a person purposefully living in sin.  God doesn’t bless sinfulness.  He doesn’t turn a blind eye to it.

          But to the one who repents, God’s loving arms are open.  God transforms hearts, so that as time goes on, we will desire more and more what God commands us to do.  We will turn to God in obedience.

          So examine your heart this morning.  Are you living for God, or for yourself?  If it is the latter, confess, repent, and live for God. 

          Maybe you’re living for God, but you’re doing it out of duty.  There’s no joy in your life, no spring in your step.  Consider God.  Consider who you are in God!  You’re redeemed by Jesus blood.  Jesus blood was shed for you!  You matter to God.  You matter so much to God that he has called you his child! 

          Now, what are you going to do with that knowledge?

          How can it do anything else other than pump you up?  I’m God’s child.  No matter how many mistakes I make, nothing can change that reality!  I’m God’s child.  God said that he is faithful.  He who began this good work in me will be faithful to complete it!  Why worry?  Why fret?  Why beat yourself up?  Pick yourself up, dust off the dirt, jump right back into the saddle, and carry on!

          Nothing can touch you!  You’re forever made right with God!  You’re a child of God!  That’s your identity!  Live like that’s your identity!  Live a joyful, obedient life for your Father.  And you know what?  You will have joy!  Amen.

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