Actually Children of God

1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

John says that we are God’s children. Perhaps we don’t appreciate this more because we have forgotten what an astounding thing this is! We never appreciate something more than when we know what it is like not to have it. We value it most when we realize that we are sitting on top of a gift we don’t deserve.

Maybe some of you have had the experience I had when my parents had to sit me down and explain to me what a creep I was being on my birthday, only to surprise me with something later I never dreamed they would get me. Knowing life without it, and knowing you don’t deserve it, raise the level of appreciation.

Some of you know what it is like to live without the comfort that you are God’s children. God’s love in the gospel didn’t make its impact on your heart until you were somewhat older. But even if we are people who grew up singing and believing “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb,” there is a gap between our appearance and God’s promised reality that can help us appreciate even more what it means to be God’s children.

Children usually resemble their parents. It’s more than how they look. I have picked up mannerisms from my parents I once promised myself I would never do. For better or for worse, I see ways in which my children are taking after me.

If we are God’s children, how much do we take after the heavenly Father? How much do we look like his only-begotten Son? If anyone ever had reason to complain, “I am surrounded by idiots!” it was Jesus, don’t you think? The disciples could be so dull. But what did Jesus do? He didn’t insult them. He didn’t fire them. He might confront them, but he saw this as a teaching opportunity.  He taught the same lessons over and over again. How’s our patience?

If anyone ever had reason to say, “I’m burned out,” it was Jesus. Wouldn’t you agree? His 12 trainees required as much attention as they provided help. The crowds never let up, and with them it was “take, take, take,” without ever giving in return. “Jesus, help me! Jesus, heal me! Jesus, cleanse me!” The only way the poor man could find time pray was to carve time out of his sleep. But Jesus pressed on unswervingly in his mission. How is our dedication to serving others?

Examples could be multiplied. Are we picking up a strong family resemblance here? Or do you, like me, find that we don’t look so much like the children God says we are? Would it be perfectly understandable if the Father were to hang his head in disappointment, turn his back, and deny that he ever knew us?

Now listen again to John’s words, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” God calls us his children. Then, just in case we might get the idea this is nothing but a polite lie, John assures us, “That is what we are!” When God says something is so, then it is so, no matter how it looks, no matter what anybody else may think. If you or I were to say that the sky is yellow, that would not change the fact that it is blue. But if God were to say that it is yellow, then it would be yellow, no matter how it looks and no matter how much the rest of the world might object.

So God declares that we are his children. Though we may not look like his children, though we may not fit the common definitions of what it means to be someone’s children, his declaration here has a basis. You know very well what he did to make us his children. It emphasizes that much more how lavishly he loves us. He made his natural Son–the one who looked like his Son, and acted like his Son, because he was his only begotten Son–he made Jesus first join our family, and look like one of us. Even more, in the Father’s eyes he looked so much like us that when he was kind and loving, it looked to the Father as though we were kind and loving. When we were mean and nasty, it looked to the Father as though his Son were mean and nasty. So he had him executed for our sins on the cross. This was not just a case of mistaken identity. It was a case of exchanged identity. It was God’s loving way of dealing with our sins and forgiving them. It makes us sure that John’s statement is true: we are the children of God.

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