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Children of God

1 John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Are you God’s Child?

Are you God’s child?
For some, this question seems worn out and obvious at this time. To others, perhaps, it is new. But to all, this question should probably strike us more than it does.
If your answer is “yes,” then you must be able to defend your assertion. By what means did you become God’s child? What evidence do you have that you are God’s child? Why is being God’s child of any relevance at all?
If your answer is no, then may God reveal to you the means and the significance of being His child through the Scripture.
This third chapter opens in an explosion of delight over this proposition. Clearly the idea of being a child of God is of paramount importance to John!
John speaks of this concept in many places, but he does so first in
John 1:12 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
John 1:12 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
John 1:12–13 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:18 ESV
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
So you may say, “well aren’t we all God’s children? Didn’t he create us all? Don’t we all come from Him?”
So you may say, “well aren’t we all God’s children? Didn’t he create us all? Don’t we all come from Him?”
That we all come from his creation is true, but an inference that this makes us all his children in the way John speaks of here is false.
To the contrary, we are born into this world as not being God’s children, but rather his enemy. Cf.
Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Seeing then our natural position, it makes the idea of becoming God’s child that much more relevant. When we see the immense action of God’s sovereign love that is necessary to transform one from his old nature into being a child of God, then we too will rejoice as John does here!
And this title of “Children of God” is more than just that designation, but it carries with it the transformation that takes place when God’s work is active in an individual. And although we are “children of God” by designation, we are actually children of God by the new birth.
And since this is more than a title, we ought to expect evidence of this reality to play into our lives, and also our future.
Therefore;
As children of God, we behold what God’s love has accomplished, wait earnestly for our ultimate glorification, and persevere in sanctification.

Beholding God’s Love

What does it mean to see, or behold, God’s love? And what is it that makes God’s love so worthy of our attention?
The word here is perhaps stronger than is first let on in a word-for-word translation. Understand God’s love, pay attention to it, visit it in your mind’s eye, learn about it. Perhaps all of these wrapped up together give us an idea of the importance John is giving to the concept.
It is important because of What Kind of love it is.
Literally, “from what country did this love come from?” It is a foreign love, a love that is not inherent in our human nature. It is as if the love of God is so unparalleled in human experience that John cannot even tell where it coule come from!
Of course, we know the source - it is from God! So what is this great love?
What it is ties directly into what it means to be God’s children. For this love is directed toward us who have become God’s children, and this love is the direct means by which we have become God’s children.
Later on in this very letter, John gives a short treatise on what love looks like, and he gives us more insight into the Father’s love.
1 John 4:10 ESV
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:7–10 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God’s love acted, in that God’s only Son was sent into the world, and not without purpose, but with the purpose of being the propitiation for our sins! Our great sin, that sin which was spoken of in - that sin which caused us to be mortal enemies with God, by this great love He has propitiated.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Here we see another display, in that God loved the world in this manner. that He gave his only Son - that theme repeated. His only son was given so that all the believing ones, literally, would have eternal life.
Propitiation for our sin, hope for our mortality, What else?
Romans 5:6–11 ESV
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Here Paul gives us an even clearer understanding of God’s love.
Why is God’s love so great? Because it made atonement for us. When God’s love was displayed, Christ Jesus was on the cross in our place - on our behalf. And by this display of love he made the idea of Propitiation, justification, and reconciliation a concrete reality.
God’s love is great and worthy of our attention because it is not simply some abstract idea or concept, and it is not some general benevolence, but God’s love for His children is displayed fully in the substitutionary atonement!
And we would be remiss if we didn’t see another aspect that ties directly into our Sonship
So then, what kind of love has been given to us, GOd’s children? It surely is a glorious love worthy of all our attention and consideration! And what of being God’s child? Well, it took the propitiating sacrifice of our perfect Savior to accomplish.
As we began to read earlier, let us now finish the thought in
John 1:12–13 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
1 John 3:1 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
And here is where we begin to see the reality of this love played out.
Why does the world not understand the importance of our adoption, of our Sonship of God? Because it does not know the God whose children we are.
Illustration of a child with a significant father.
Child of God, behold God’s love! Dear ones here without God’s love, may you see it here in the scripture and by God’s Spirit see the importance thereof.

Waiting for Glorification

1 John 3:2 ESV
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
All of these truths made actual by GOd’s love have real effects on our existence.

God did not bring children into spiritual life to thereafter abandon them and let them go to hell. He brought them into life in order to make them completely like Jesus and take them with him into heaven. Therefore, John cannot stop his rhapsody with the mere thought of what we are but rather goes on to reflect on what we shall be when Christ shall appear and we shall be made like him.

Within this verse lies a bit of mystery. For even John says, “I am not totally sure exactly what we will be like - it hasn’t been revealed.”
But what we do know is this, our future existence hinges on the appearing of our Savior. Not simply a mere spiritual appearing, some sort of apparition, but a real appearing - that which the Angel in told about.
Acts 1:11 ESV
and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
And as was revealed to John in Revelation
Revelation 22:20–21 ESV
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Revelation 22:20 ESV
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
And also what we know is this; when he comes, and he is coming, we will be made like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.
It is interesting, and we certainly cannot be dogmatic about exactly how it will happen, But John’s language here seems to suggest that there is something in the mere sight of our glorified Savior that will work to purge his followers of sin at last, and conform them finally to his own perfect image! What an expectation!
We who were created in God’s image, yet marred that image severely by sin and the fall, will once again be in that perfect image if we are His children indeed.
Romans 8:18–23 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Persevering in Sanctification

We have seen God’s display of love that made us to be children of God, and we have seen our future expectation that we will be made fully and finally like him, but we would be remiss if we did not see how this plays into the here and now.
For all of the truth that we have positionally by God’s decree, justification, adoption, future glorification, etc, we have a current reality that displays God’s supernatural work in us.
Consider how John began this section in 2:28
1 John 2:28–29 ESV
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
1:john 2:28-29
Righteousness? Well yes, we have Christ’s righteousness on our account, right?
Yes of course, for that was accomplished in the atonement.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
But furthermore, it is God’s will of desire for His children in this present age to pursue practical righteousness. And the catalyst of this pursuit is Christ himself.
Everyone who hopes in him purifies himself, everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. These are marks of evidence - evidence that our claim to be “children of God” is a reality.

The meaning then is, that though we have not Christ now present before our eyes, yet if we hope in him, it cannot be but that this hope will excite and stimulate us to follow purity, for it leads us straight to Christ, whom we know to be a perfect pattern of purity.

John uses strong language to illustrate this in the next few verses. Consider a couple of them briefly with me.
1 John 3:5 ESV
You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
1 John 3:4–10 ESV
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:8 ESV
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:4-
This ties directly to the statement in verse 1 - the world does not know us because it does not know the Father. We bear resemblance to something other-worldly, because of the indwelling Spirit and the work of Sanctification in our life. To become more like Christ is more than just calling ourselves believers. And although sanctification is a work of God in us, a real means which he uses is our obedient pursuit of holiness.
In verse 5 and verse 8 we are reminded so importantly that Christ came to destroy sin - if we claim to be his followers and are being conformed to his image, it follows that we should rejoice in this his mission!
Let me paraphrase this section. “No child of God should be known for doing the very things that God hates, the very things that Christ came to destroy.”
Now, let us be doubly sure that our justification is not seated in our practicing of righteousness.
Philippians 3:9 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Philippians 3:9 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Philippians 3:9
and because God has
Consider also, most gloriously, what John wrote in chapter 2.
1 John 2:1 ESV
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
It is God’s will of desire that we do not sin, but when we sin, we have Christ our advocate.
And because He is our hope and our righteousness, we pursue righteousness every day - for we love what he loves, and we hate what he hates, and we desire what he desires.
This is a hope that purifies.
“In thinking about heaven, believers should not become overly preoccupied with speculations about what it might be like to float on clouds or walk down golden streets. Instead, their primary focus should be on the profound significance of being eternally conformed to the image of Christ. As they fix their hope on their absolutely holy savior and Lord and yearn to be both with Him and fully like Him, their lives will be positively affected toward righteousness in the present.” - John Macarthur
And we pursue holiness, but while we pursue holiness, may we be sure that we do not remove our eyes from the love of the Father that caused us to be his children in the first place - and when we stumble for a season, may we exult in His great love which caused us to be born again!
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