This week in our gospel community I want to set the tone for the coming year by looking at our status as children of God from 1 John. Bible references are from the New Living Translation.
What does God think of you?
Look at 1 John 1:3: ‘our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son’. Now look at 1 John 5:20: ‘We live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ.’ We are in Christ and so we are in the Trinity. We are linked to the Son and so we have become part of the Triune community. We are part of the family. So we share in the fellowship between the Father and the Son. God loves us with the same loves that he has towards his own Son. God feels towards you the same loves that he feels towards Jesus. He can no more stop loving you than he can stop loving Jesus.
Look at 1 John 1:4: ‘We are writing these things so that our joy will be complete.’ Why does John write? John wants us to experience joy. So we are going to look for joy – the joy that comes from community with God!
Look at 1 John 5:1-5. The ideas come thick and fast. One thing leads to another and it is easy to get lost in the connections. But let me highlight the link between victory and faith:
- ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God.’ (1a)
- ‘Every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.’ (4)
- ‘The ones who win the battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.’ (5)
Our ‘job’ is to have faith in Jesus and his work. Our job is to have faith that we are the children of God through the Son of God. Our job is to trust in God as our Father: to see his smile, to welcome his embrace, to enjoy his love.
If we have faith that we are the children of God through the Son of God then everything else in our lives will fall into place. It will transform everything:
1. Our behaviour (3:2-3, 9)
Look at 1 John 3:9: ‘Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.’ ‘Life’ = ‘seed’. God’s DNA is in us. So we are being changed into his likeness. We have the family likeness. As we grow up in Christ, we look more and more like our Father. And one day we will be like him (3:2-3).
2. Our relationships (4:7, 11)
Look at 1 John 4:7, 11: ‘Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God … Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.’ Other Christians are also children of God so they are our brothers and sisters. We are part of the family together. We love one another with the love we have received.
3. Our failings (4:10, 18; see also 1:8)
Look at 1 John 4:18: ‘Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.’ We don’t need to fear judgment because God loves us and in his love he has dealt with our judgment on the cross. Look at 1 John 4:10: ‘This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.’ God never looks on you as a judge. He always looks on your as a perfect, loving Father. He never looks on with a frown. He always looks on you with a smile. Remember he loves you with the same love with which he loves Jesus.
4. Our fears (5:14-15, 18)
Look at John 5:14, 18: ‘We can be confident that he will listens to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will … God’s Son holds [God’s children] securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.’ Our Father cares for us and our Father is the God of the universe. He will look after us. He may allow bad things to happen, but never more than we can bear and always to make us more like his Son. A child may sometimes face discipline to help shape them into a beautiful human being. But he or she will always be a member of the family. In the same way, God may discipline us to make us beautiful people. But no matter what we do, we will always be part of God’s family. He will look after us for ever. God holds us securely.
5. Our priorities (5:19-21)
Look at 1 John 5:21: ‘We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the power and control of the evil one … Keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.’
So what’s our job? Not first of all to change our behaviour or love one another or get our priorities right. Our first job is to have faith that we are the children of God through the Son of God. This is what changes everything else.
The great English Puritan John Owen said: ‘The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him, is …’ How would you complete this sentence? Owen said: ‘not to believe that he loves you.’ ‘The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him, is not to believe that he loves you.’ John Owen continues:
Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts do not constantly delight and rejoice in God. There is still in them a resistance to walking close with God … So do this: set your thoughts on the eternal love of the Father and see if your heart is not aroused to delight in him. Sit down for a while at this delightful spring of living water and you will soon find its streams sweet and delightful. You who used to run from God will not now be able, even for a second, to keep at any distance from him.
Consider The Chronicles of Narnia. In this world, the children’s claims to know another world and to be kings and queens is mocked. At the beginning of Prince Caspian the boys are in a fight and being bullied because they claim to be kings. In The Voyage of the Dawntreader it is the same: they are mocked by their cousin, Eustace. But as soon as they arrive in Narnia, the Narnians bow before them as kings and queens of Narnia.
It is a picture of our status as children of God. Look at 1 John 3:1: ‘The people who belong to this world don’t know God, so they don’t understand that we are his children.’ This world does not know God and they don’t understand we are his children. But we really are! We are sons and daughters of God. We are kings and queens of God’s coming world, made and remade to reign with God.
Look again at 1 John 3:1: ‘See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!’ John literally says: ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us’ or ‘from what country the love of the Father has come’. In other words, John is saying: ‘Where did this love come from! It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It is literally out of this world.’
So throughout this coming year let’s make these words central to our lives and our life together:
‘See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!’