Children of God (1 John 3.1-15)

Children of God (1 John 3.1-15)
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God the Father’s love takes our breath away. He has actually chosen to call us his children. And somewhat amusingly John notes that we are not only called his children; he adds the words “and we are”! Let us all stop for a moment and marvel that ordinary people like us should be adopted by God the Father as his beloved children. I find it almost incredible that the almighty all-holy God should want me in his family as his son. That’s good news if ever there was!
But the good news is followed by a warning. We are still living within the context of the non-Christian world. God loves us perfectly, but the world doesn’t know us because they also don’t know the Lord (3.1). So don’t let us be so carried away by the sheer glory of our adoption as God’s children that we are taken by surprise when opposition hits us.
Wonderfully, however, God’s staggering grace in making us his children cannot be dimmed by mere worldly opposition. The warmth of his love shines through to move John to another question. As God’s children what lies in the future? What sort of people will we be (3.2)? John has no answer to such questions, but he moves on to our final ultimate destiny when Jesus appears, when he comes again at the end of human history (3.2). More glory is revealed! These brief verses leave us breathless with their brilliance. “We shall be like him” and “we shall see him as he is”. Is it really possible that sinful people like us will then be totally God-like? God’s answer through John comes with a resounding ‘Yes!’. We shall not only be “like him”, but we shall also see and know him perfectly. What a future! To be absolutely like the Lord and to have that intimate relationship with him!
Holy like God (3.3-10)
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Having this sure hope for our future, we are now called to a life of holiness and purity. In preparation for the day when we shall “be like him” we are to sanctify ourselves and begin the process of making ourselves as righteous and holy as God is. As God’s very own children we inherit from him God’s own nature and being. By his Spirit he now lives in us and forms within us his own character of righteousness. Before we came to faith in Jesus and were born again as God’s children, we may have followed lives of selfishness, pride and godless sin. But if we have indeed been “born of God” (3.9), we cannot “continue to sin” (3.6). John’s teaching in this passage cannot but strike us forcefully; anyone who is living a life of sin is of the Devil (3.8). But Jesus came to earth in order to remove and destroy the works of the Devil. In Jesus sin has no place and we dare not allow it a place  in our lives. He came to earth to take our sin away.

This passage with its call to ‘sanctify ourselves’ sounds quite extreme. Our modern ears are unaccustomed to such a challenge to a life of disciplined holiness and moral righteousness in our daily living. We may shudder at John’s words, “sanctify yourself” (3.3). We might expect him to say that God’s indwelling Holy Spirit will work in us and for us. Of course this is also true. But John’s emphasis is rather that with God’s ‘seed’ dwelling in us (3.9) we ourselves have the responsibility not to go on sinning.

In this way, John declares, we can know who are genuinely God’s children. Those who do not follow a life of sinning are evidently God’s children, while those who do not follow righteousness show that they are “children of the Devil” (3.10).

God’s revealed Scriptures do not mince their words! The challenge of God’s demands stands starkly before us.

Not like Cain (3.10-15)

not like cain

Once again the central feature in the life of holiness and righteousness is that as Christians “we love one another” (3.10/11). John underlines that this is the message which we have heard “from the beginning”. Throughout biblical history God’s command has always been that love should reign amongst his people. If we don’t love our Christian sisters and brothers, we “are not from God”. As followers of Jesus we are to be known as people of love.
Every Thursday morning our little village church has an informal coffee time at our local garden centre. Their staff once told me that they looked forward to serving on Thursday mornings because of our being there. They thought that we were all of one family because they noticed how we loved each other! What an opportunity to share the reality of new life through faith in Jesus!
John goes on to warn his readers against any failure to love our fellow believers. He cites the dire example of Cain who was “from the evil one” and actually murdered his brother. What led him to such hatred? “His works were evil, those of his brother were righteous” (3.12). Today too some non-Christians will strongly oppose us because Christians’ moral standards make them feel uncomfortable and grubby. I well remember that feeling of dislike of Christians when I was first at university as a non-Christian; their lives showed up my sin and my lack of moral uprightness.
How can we be sure of our salvation? How can we know that we have “passed from death into life” (3.14) – once again we may observe John’s emphasis on LIFE? Assurance of that life comes because we see that we now love our sisters and brothers in Christ. It has become a delight to us when we happen to meet a fellow believer on the train or bus. We love to gather with other Christians and share the joy of God’s amazing love with them. Let us pray and work to foster such love within our local churches and fellowships!
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One thought on “Children of God (1 John 3.1-15)

  1. tonicabrasil

    Thank you for such an amazing and encouraging message, straight from God’s Word,

    Tonica

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