ss=MsoNormal>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…(1 John 3:1)
… Beloved, we are God’s children now.
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…”
This is in part because I have been preparing for a funeral service for a 103 year old
Lillian McDonald’s only connection to this congregation is through me
I worked for 6 years at The Beer Store for her Son
And this was made possible because my Dad’s best man at his wedding was his brother-in-law
As I met with the family and discuss Lillian’s life and also caught up on our own lives – you can see the hand of God through-out – lovingly involved with his children
The other factor in that caught me this week “considering How Great God’s love is…” was a pastoral meeting I had with someone
During that meeting we both shared our stories with each other – and the loving hand of God was always there… even when at times we could only see it after the fact
Next week we are going to have the service devoted to Baptisms and New Members – it will be a service of new membership to the family of God and to the church
And it is such a powerful understanding to consider the starting point in the relationship that God provides… each and every one of us …Children of God
What that means to us in terms …ultimately of our salvation
What that 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 correction
“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”… We hear:
“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 (at an era when the average age was somewhere in the 40’s) is sharing a vital message of assurance and endearment
A message from one who knew Jesus the Christ in the flesh
- John was called the beloved disciple
- John was the one told to treat Mary, the mother of Jesus, as his own mother - just before Jesus died on the cross
- John was the first, after Mary Magdalene, to arrive at the empty tomb and to know that Jesus had risen
- John who was likely imprisoned on the island of Patmos at the time of writing, Yet he 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 their Christian faith has been assumed like an inheritance
My parents were Christians, therefore I am Christian – yet never personally engaging with Jesus the Christ – Jesus the Lord of all life – the author and perfecter of life
- It might be that they attended church only out of duty or because their parents made them
Then when the choice was theirs alone they come to church only when duty calls again – Christmas, Easter, Weddings and Funerals
- It might be that they never truly slowed-down enough to let God in
Never letting the distractions and temporary amusements of this 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 to fully earn our way (if we are truly honest with ourselves) and so find our standing with God on our own merits 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
It I the essence of the first commandment…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
To revealed us as children of God is the purpose for the life of Jesus, as He, Himself declares in the passage that we have from Luke today
“Everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48)
Listen to how St. Paul states it in Galatians 4
“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
Brothers and Sisters in Christ I would be remiss if I shared with you only half of the message we have today from John first letter – as we consider `how great the love of God is…`
As we consider the Love of God that makes us… transforms us into Children of God, we are given more – we are given some instruction how we can take an active role in the relationship
We are also to consider what it means: and given how we are to 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 are called to 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.
Now before you get overwhelmed with your own shortcomings
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.
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, but as Jesus says to all nations
Our identity is only found in the one who is the Good Shepherd
“Who knows His sheep and his sheep know him” (John 10:14)
YES and to the “other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also” (John 10:16)– 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.” (Romans 8:19)
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