1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his children as well.”
Christians are people of faith. By ‘faith’ we don’t mean ‘optimistic wishfulness,’ or ‘the anticipation of possible success,’ or even ‘educated guesses,’ or ‘informed opinions.’ Christian faith is about certainties. The things which we believe are things of which we have become convinced, no less than I am convinced that I am alive, or that this chair in which I am sitting is made of wood, or that the grass outside is green.
This makes us… odd. To some who don’t share our faith we will seem backwards and naive because the things we believe are things we have never “seen” and cannot prove in the ordinary way. To some we will seem arrogant, because in being so certain about the teachings of our faith, we are discounting and denying the things that they believe.
One of these certainties we have by faith is the fact that we are God’s children, spiritually born into God’s own family. How do we know? What makes us so sure? I can think of reasons that might give us doubts. Usually children resemble their parents in some way. If you looked at my four children, and you knew only my wife, you might think of the old Sesame Street song: “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song?” One of my children gets his looks more from me, I believe. I leave it to those who know our family to decide which is which.
If we are born of God, do we look like him? Does our behavior suggest a family resemblance? Does it distinguish us from everyone else? We have to admit that many times it is hard to tell any difference based on how we act.
We worry about money, health, and safety just like people who don’t know God as their kind and loving Father in heaven. We don’t live every moment in absolute peace about the way in which he will provide and protect. Our lifestyles can be just as self-indulgent as those who don’t believe Jesus is anything special.
So how do we know? How do we know that God has given us birth, that we are his children? John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” It doesn’t start with behavior. It starts with faith. We believe that Jesus is the Christ. For us he is not merely “Interesting Historical Figure,” “Founder of a Famous Religion,” “First-Century Philosopher,” “Mesmerizing Middle-Eastern Mystic.” Jesus is the Christ, our God and Savior. Everything we celebrate about Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, we believe. We believe it as something far more than a sad and tragic miscarriage of justice followed by a miraculous return to life. This death is God’s own payment for our sins. We are forgiven, freed from guilt, liberated from the debt in which we were trapped. This living and glorified God-man, this empty grave, is a preview of our own bright future. Like Jesus our bodies are going to be revived and glorified. We will leave our tombs behind us, and live and walk with God in a land where there is no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away, and God has made everything new.
This message, this promise, is the womb in which our faith is formed, the means by which the miracle of spiritual birth takes place. It is the power by which we believe that Jesus is the Christ. Person after person has fallen under its spell–sinners and skeptics, doubters and deniers: fully armed and ready to debunk the Christian story, but in the end, won by his love, and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. That faith, born of those truths, is how we know that God has given us birth, that we are the children of God.