Big Enough to Help

Proverbs 30:4 “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”

People make big claims about what they have done and what they can do. This is an election year, so we will be subjected to more outlandish claims than usual. Mere mortals running for president or congress will promise that they can fix the economy, stop the pandemic, put an end to injustice, and get everyone working again. Frankly, even if they were running for dictator or king I would be skeptical of their claims. Our challenges are bigger than one politician, or even thousands of them, it seems to me.

 Yet all these challenges are far smaller things than making a trip from earth to heaven and back, or controlling the wind and the rain, or determining the size of the earth and then building it! “What is his name, and the name of his son?” the name of the one who can do these things, the writer asks. “Tell me if you know!” And we do. His name is God, and his Son’s name is Jesus.  The hurricanes and the storms are his playthings. The earth and the universe are a project he put together one week. He even got it done in time to take a day off that weekend.

It puts us in our place, doesn’t it. Hundreds, thousands, and even millions of us working together can’t get control of one little feature of life on this planet God made, and we think we are going to lecture the one who designed and developed the vast universe in which we live, as if we think we know something.

Worse yet, the only reason things don’t work perfectly all the time is the result of our meddling in God’s business. Have you ever heard of “stolen valor?” Some men have claimed that they did heroic things and received medals while serving in our armed forces. They never actually did what they claimed. They lied in order to impress others. It makes many veterans, especially those who have earned medals for their bravery and sacrifices, furious.

It rightly makes God furious that we think we could stand before him with our false claims about what we have done or could do with his universe, and question him about the way he is running the show.

But this list of questions isn’t merely confrontational. It is a reminder of where true help lies. It is an invitation. Fix the world’s problems? I can’t even fix my own! They are so much bigger than I am. No human source of help is much better. Then God asks us to remember his power. As Lutherans, we generally emphasize God’s grace, and rightly so, because that is the emphasis of Jesus’ ministry and that of his apostles. Above all things we need to know that God loves us, that he forgives us, that he is on our side.

But God isn’t just a sympathetic weakling. When he hears our prayers, he isn’t like the counselor with lots of questions, lots of patience, but few suggestions about what to do. He has power to change our circumstances, and to change ourselves. When he saw our sins, he didn’t pat us on the head and say, “There, there now. It will be okay.” He didn’t give us advice. He used his power to turn himself into a man. He lived a perfect life, then shouldered the responsibility for our sin. After he let himself be killed, he walked out of his grave alive and glorified. He saved us.

When my life is out of my control (and when isn’t it, really?) and I’ve got trouble, he has control of everything from the orbits of the planets and the stars in our galaxy to the movements of the microscopic electrons in every little atom.

“Remember my power,” he tells us, “and come to me for help.” If we know him, we know the one who truly can solve our problems.

Becoming Thankful People

Colossians 1:3-5 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints–the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel…”

There is one great place we can go to become thankful people. That is in the faith and love that come from God. That is what fills Paul with thankfulness as he begins this letter.

            This faith and love have a source. They grow from the gospel. You know that the word gospel simply means “good news.” Here, Paul describes the good news of the Christian faith this way: “…the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel…” Thankful faith and love spring up, they grow, from the “hope that is stored up for you in heaven.”

Oh. I guess hope stored up in heaven sounds like good news…someday. Maybe we were hoping for something more immediate. Maybe we were hoping for something to have and enjoy right now that could make us forget about the things we don’t have. Maybe we feel a little like the boy who was hoping for some great new toy or gadget from his favorite uncle for his birthday. Instead what he gets is a savings bond that doesn’t mature for five years.

            But wait. God’s good news is far superior to the good news people think they want. It is something to be excited about right now. What if Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, and forgave all our sins so that we could win the lottery? What if he kept God’s law perfectly, and sacrificed his life in our place, so that we could have a happy family, just the way we want it to be? What if God’s Son left heaven, became a man, and surrendered himself to be executed by his enemies so that we could have fun, fun, fun–life in this world could be an endless circle of parties and good times? Now we are talking? Now we have a reason to be thankful? Now we have good news we can be happy to believe?

            But what is going to happen to all those things? The money is spent and its gone. Family members get old and die. Good times last a little while, but the moment passes, and then they are just a memory. “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare,” Peter reminds us in his second letter.

        When I was a little boy, my favorite uncle didn’t give me savings bonds. He bought me Tonka Toys. Do you remember Tonka Toys? They still make them–steel trucks and bulldozers and cranes that were made to last a lifetime. They were virtually indestructible. I had my own miniature construction company in the sandbox in our backyard. Then my next door neighbor friend discovered that if the rocks you drop on them are big enough, they really will bend and break. My collection ended up a pile of twisted metal. It was a sad loss, but a good lesson for life: Even the strongest and most certain things don’t last forever.

            Except God’s gifts in the gospel. Because heaven is a gift of God’s love, the result of Jesus’ work not our work, the prize for having our sins forgiven, it is stored up for us. It is being kept and prepared for us where no one can destroy it or take it away. It is certain. Remember Jesus’ words? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Everything God promised is secure and waiting.

            Because heaven is heaven, it lasts forever. It has no end. When you have a good day now, when you have a string of successes, you sometimes wonder how long it’s going to last. Today I feel good, but the migraines will return. Today sales are up, but another slow period is inevitable. Today my manager is in a good mood, but next week he will be back to his cranky self.

In heaven, our very last bad days will all be behind us. Every tomorrow will only be better and brighter. Faith feeds on a promise like that. It grows from such a gospel. And where there is faith, love can’t be far away. Now there is something to thank God for.

Grow up!

Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.”

            The picture here is actually a little funny looking. Christ is our head, but Jesus doesn’t have any growing to do. He is already God and perfect in every way. We are his body. But we aren’t fully grown yet. We are like children. Put those two things together. You can imagine a picture of Jesus’ face easily enough. Usually we see him as a man with a full beard and long hair. Imagine that full size man’s head on the body of a little boy. Obviously the picture doesn’t look right until the body has reached adulthood.

            Not a single one of us, no matter how old we are, has fully matured to the point that we match Christ our Head. At the same time, it is never too early to start living and acting like a grown up member of his body. Even teenagers have played important roles in God’s plan to save the world. Good king Josiah was just eight when he became king, just twenty when he started to reform the faith of his whole nation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in their teens when they served in the government of King Nebuchadnezzar, and chose to be thrown into the fiery furnace instead of worshiping the king’s idol.

            So what does “growing up” look like? “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head…” Two things go together here: truth and love. Growing members of Christ’s own body are not ashamed of the truth. They are not ashamed to defend it. We know God’s word is truth, not just truth to keep as our own little secret, but truth the whole world needs to hear, starting with the people who are nearest at any given moment.

            After all, this isn’t just interesting trivia. I had a friend in high school who knew what every airplane that flew in World War II looked like and was called. He knew how much they weighed, how fast they flew, how many men they carried, what kinds of guns and bombs they used. Fascinating! True! But if you can’t identify even one kind of airplane used in World War II, it wouldn’t hurt you at all.

We know the truth about how to get to heaven. We know the truth about what God has done with our sins. We know where to find God and his love right here on earth. That’s because we know the truth about Jesus. We know about Christmas and Good Friday and Easter all the other things God has done for our salvation. That truth is a matter of life and death.

            The thing that goes along with the truth is love. When we speak the truth, we speak it in love–not to prove how smart we are or how wrong others are, but because the truth saves. The truth wins hearts and minds for Jesus, just like it won you and me. It sets Jesus’ disciples free: from sin and death and fear and doubt and everything else that stands between us and knowing God’s love. That’s why we want to grow up as Christ’s own body, to be people whose lives and words speak the truth of his Word in love.   

          I wish I could say that we were mature already. At most you and I are still growing. Yes, Jesus loves us just the way we are. But because he loves us, he doesn’t want us to stay just the way we are. He wants us to grow up. So stay in his word, and keep growing.

No Longer Infants

Ephesians 4:14 “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

            You used to be so cute when you were little. Do you ever look through pictures or old home movies from your childhood? Maybe you tried to help your mom do some baking, and you ended up with flour all over yourself, so that you looked like a ghost. Maybe you tried to help dad in the garage and you ended up with grease on your face like it was war paint.

When you drew pictures, they were little more than scribbles, but they ended up on the refrigerator anyway. When you started writing, you mixed up your capital and lower case letters, and your words didn’t follow the lines. The letters were all different sizes, and some were turned backwards. When you started walking, and you lost your balance, you would sit down right on your bottom without even bending your knees. It was cute and your parents loved you for it.

            None of that would look so cute anymore, would it. Our parents raised us, and our school trained us, so that we would grow up. They loved us when we were little, but they didn’t want us to stay that way. That is also true of our churches. It is even true of our Savior. God gives us people who preach and teach so that we will grow up. Then we will no longer be infants.

            Not everything about being children in the faith is bad. When Paul writes, “Then you will no longer be infants,” actually something more like toddlers or preschoolers, he isn’t necessarily criticizing us for going through that stage of life. Jesus even praises little children for their faith and holds them up as examples. “Unless you change, and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” he once told his disciples.

The point he was trying to get across to them is that as children, we tend to know our place with adults, especially our parents. We all have our moments, it is true. My parents tell me that I used to throw some real screaming tantrums when I was little and didn’t get my way. But I never thought that I should be running the whole family, dealing with all the bills, making all the decisions. When my parents told me something I believed them without question.

The childlike faith that trusts God without question, and let’s God be God, will serve us long after we have become great grandparents. Because he is our loving Father, he doesn’t mess around with us about the things he reveals. When he tells us he takes our sins away, we can be sure he does. When he promises eternal life, we don’t need to doubt.

But there are other voices we can’t trust so much. That’s why we don’t want to remain infants or children. We need to hear and learn more of our Father’s word–so that we will grow up.

            Paul warns us about the schemers we need to avoid. “We have more fun in our worship. It’s entertaining. It’s practical. It’s filled with pretty people. It’s all about you. And, oh yeah, we use the Bible, too.” “We don’t make people feel bad about their sins in our preaching. We just try to help them live better lives.” “We don’t just listen to the Bible. God gave us a brain, too. A little common sense tells you that you can’t take everything literally. You have to let your reason be your guide.”

In each case they promise something more, but we get something less–less Jesus as Savior, less help with guilt, less comfort of forgiveness, less presence of God in our Baptism or the Lord’s Supper, less certainty of heaven–all in all, less of the kind of spiritual food that actually nourishes faith.

            That’s why we need a thorough education in the basic teachings of the Bible. That’s why we need to keep coming to worship, and attend Bible classes, and dig deeper into the Scriptures–so that we will grow up. Then we will no longer be infants. And unlike our physical bodies, which stop growing someplace in our teens or early twenties, our heart of faith can keep on growing and becoming more mature as long as we live.

Love: The Family Resemblance

1 John 4:7b-8 “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

We have been born of God and know him like a child is born from his parents and knows them. John is describing the new birth and the knowledge of faith. By revealing his love to us, God has made us children.

            With our own children, don’t we expect a family resemblance? I could walk you through the features of my own face and tell you whose side of the family it came from. Eyes, ears, nose–dad’s side. Teeth and hair–mom’s side. The rest of it–some kind of mixture. I could do the same thing with personality traits, and skills that I have. Some it has been taught, that is true. But much of it is inherited, because I am my parents’ son.

            So it is that God’s kind of love fits us, not just because God’s love teaches us what to do. It is because God’s love has given us birth. It is part of the new life he has created in us. It is part of the family resemblance that comes with being his children. We have things to learn about loving the way God loves, that is true. But God’s kind of love comes with the change that is worked by faith. It’s our spiritual inheritance. Since it fits us this way, let us love each other.

            Now John becomes even more specific about the place God’s love has had in our lives, and why that urges us to love each other as well. You already know this, but can we get tired of hearing about it? God’s kind of love saved us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him (vs. 9).”

            God’s love sent his Son into the world. God’s love gave us Christmas. Have you ever considered how hard this was for him to do? When my daughter chose to stop commuting between our house and school, and I saw the apartment she had chosen for the first time, my heart sank. The neighborhood seemed a little iffy. The maintenance of the buildings looked substandard to me. The young man who lived across the hall was one of these guys who needed someone to staple his pants to his waste, if you know what I mean. I was concerned. Still, she had a good roommate. Other people from school lived in the same complex. The locks on the door were secure. We were only a few miles away. And today she is alive to tell about the experience.

            When God sent his one and only Son into the world, he sent him to a planet filled with his enemies. He gave him no special protections. He knew that he would die here. But this is God’s kind of love: He did this so that we might live through him. He did this not because he needed it, but because we needed it. God’s kind of love sent his Son into the world to save us.

            God’s love not only gave us Christmas, it gave us Good Friday and Easter, too. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (vs. 10).” God’s kind of love sent Jesus to atone for our sins. Here, I am all out of stories and illustrations, because there is nothing else like it in all the world. All I can do is state the facts. This is a love so astounding that many even who claim to follow Jesus struggle to accept the full meaning of what Jesus has done. It seems so unbelievable. The entire human race lived under God’s anger because of our sins. If God were only fair and just, he could have demanded that we suffer the full penalty in hell. That is not what he did. He sent his own Son Jesus. He not only helped us pay for our sins. He paid the full penalty himself. He gave up his own life and died in our place. He suffered our hell on a cross to satisfy God’s justice and turn God’s anger away. Who would do such a thing? I know of no one else. But that is God’s kind of love, the kind of love that saved us.

            That kind of love calls for just one response: “We ought to love one another.” But our love will always be dependent on this: “God so loved us.”

Beloved

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God.”

Literally, John’s “dear friends” is “beloved”– you know, like you hear preachers beginning wedding ceremonies in the movies, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” We don’t talk that way in every day conversation. But it says something about the way God loves us.

            Right from the start, we are people God loves. Love, after all, is what distinguishes him. Unfortunately, many people don’t think of love first when they think of God. “Rules come from God.” That’s what many people think. And it is true, so far as it goes. God is the author of right and wrong, and this in no way contradicts his love. But to many people this is just an intrusion into their lives. “I’m a mature adult,” they think. “I can make my own decisions. Why doesn’t God mind his own business?”

            “Justice, and Judgment, come from God.” That, too, is true so far as it goes. But that never won God any friends. It scares people. It makes them run and hide from him, like Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden.

Or it makes them shake their fist at God, because they don’t think he is being fair: “Why are you treating me this way?” Even God himself calls this his strange work, his alien work in the book of Isaiah. It’s the part of his job he likes the least. He doesn’t like to punish. But someone has to do it. Otherwise, our world would end up in utter chaos.

            “Love comes from God…God is love.” That is what God should be known for. To understand his love, we need to realize that it is not just any kind of love. It is not romance. The first thing I noticed about my wife was that she was pretty. It didn’t hurt that she had this bubbly personality I found attractive. God does not love us based on finding us attractive–not physically or spiritually. If we understand what our sins have done to us, then we know that they have made us unattractive to him. God loves us anyway.

            God does not love us like a consumer loves. Consumers buy things and own things to use them up. I “love” a juicy steak because it makes me happy to eat it. I “love” my car because it is comfortable and it makes me happy to drive it. Someday it will wear out, and then I won’t love it. But God doesn’t love us because we are objects he finds useful for his happiness. We are far worse than the broken down car. He is always putting more into us than he is getting out of us. God loves us anyway.

            If love comes from God, then how do we describe his kind of love? God’s love is unconditional. It is not based on our worthiness or response. It’s not like a contract in which we have to keep up our side of the bargain. You realize that you could never sin so much, or so severely, that it would make God stop loving you? I am not recommending that we try. Sin can still make our lives miserable and destroy our faith. But that is all on us. It is not because God ever stops loving you. His love is unconditional.

            God’s love is unselfish. It is about giving, not taking. Certainly he is happy when we start to love him and serve him in return. But this is not the reason he loves us. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus has the father answer the second son, who is angry that his father is so generous with the little brother who wasted his father’s inheritance: “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” That’s how God loves us: Everything I have is yours. God’s love is unselfish.

            God’s love is unlimited. Nothing is too big to ask, nothing is too much for him to do, if it will truly help and serve us. You can look in the Bible and see that love led him to split the Red Sea in two, make the earth stand still, and become a man and sacrifice his own life to save us. Because this is love, you understand, this is not the same thing as giving us whatever we want. If helping you and serving your real needs meant giving you a billion dollars or miraculously healing your cancer, God wouldn’t hesitate for a second. But sometimes he knows we need the poverty or the disease even more, and because his love is unlimited, he is even willing to give us these things.

            God’s love is unending. The supply never runs out. It is never anything less than full. He will love you for the rest of your life, and through death, and for all eternity. There will never be a “when” that God doesn’t love you.

            This, then, is the kind of love that comes from God. Let that fact sink in, and know that you are loved.

The Atoning Sacrifice

1 John 2:2 “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

It’s always nice to have someone else on your side when you have problems. My wife has her girlfriends. When something is wrong I can bet that she will be on the phone eventually getting a little sympathy, or giving a little sympathy when the shoe is on the other foot.

Jesus listens to us with a sympathetic ear. But he does so much more. The hymn does not sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our whines and gripes to share.” It goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.” He carried, he bore our sins for us. In the words of John, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Jesus has satisfied God’s anger by his sacrifice on the cross.

We had real reason for concern, because sin makes God furious. You remember the sinking, dreadful feeling you had as a child when you had done something dangerous or destructive, and now you were waiting to face the music? Did you ever pack a suitcase with thoughts of running away, maybe you even made it part way down the street, hoping that you might be able to avoid Judgment Day with your mom or dad?

The great and awesome Judgement Day of God would be terrifying for us to face if we had to do it based on our own sinful record. God’s wrath at sin isn’t merely a scary story told by old fashioned church people who want to control others with fear. It is a basic assumption of the whole message of Scripture. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…” (Romans 1:18).

But Jesus replaces our fear with confidence because he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He paid the price that ended God’s anger. It’s not just the price he paid. It is the price he himself IS! Luther’s Small Catechism, borrowing from the Apostle Peter, says Jesus paid it “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent sufferings and death.”

There is nothing more precious or valuable, more powerful or effective, that could have been offered to pay the debt we owed. That single body and soul of God’s Son, that single life given in place of ours, has a value that far exceeds all the billions of bodies and souls that have ever lived, from one end of history to the other. We struggle to put a price on human life. Even more so, no one will ever be able to put a price on the life of God’s Son. That is why he can be the atoning sacrifice “for the sins of the whole world.”

God couldn’t love us anymore than to make this sacrifice. You can take the sum total of all the great acts of love through history– soldiers giving their lives to spare their friends; parents working themselves to the bone to give their children a better life; missionaries dying at the end of a spear to bring the gospel to those who never had it before; heroes of every kind who risked fire, drowning, bullets, teeth and claws to save people they didn’t even know. Add it all together, take the sum total of that love, and it still does not equal the love that led Jesus to offer himself as the atoning sacrifice for your sins.

Such a gift is proof that you are loved with a love we shall never be able to measure or exhaust.

Defending Sinners

1 John 2:1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ the Righteous One”

There it is. John didn’t want the people to whom he was writing to commit sin. Was that really any of his business? Is it any business of the pastors who serve you? You bet it is! “It’s my life, and I can live it the way I want,” may be a popular way of thinking. But it’s an attitude that needs to be checked at the door when we enter God’s house and become members of his family. It’s not that your pastor wants to become a snoop, and catch you in some questionable behavior. But Christian leaders are right to be concerned about the way people live their lives, just like the Apostle John was.

Why? Because sin hurts. When you visit your doctor or dentist, don’t they ask some personal questions about the way you are living your life? And don’t they have some straightforward, even firm things to say about what needs to change? They can make us feel uncomfortable, but we expect it. They are supposed to be looking out for our health. Whether or not you floss, what you eat, and how much you exercise can all have an effect on us for good or bad.

Sinful behavior works the same way, only the stakes are higher. Sometimes it literally destroys our bodies. Just ask the person who has been drinking too much, or who has had too many sexual partners, or even the person who has let worry create too much stress and anxiety. There is a reason God set his commandments up the way he did. He wasn’t trying to take the fun out of life. He was trying to keep us from destroying ourselves.

Worse yet, sin erodes faith. It is a cancer for our souls. In my home we have a cancer survivor, too. When my son was diagnosed, the doctor gave the chemotherapy about a 95 percent chance of success. That doesn’t mean we would have volunteered for the disease. It’s still a killer. So is sin. “The wages of sin is death.” It’s not reasonable to volunteer for this killer.

So your pastors preach, and they preach so that we stop committing sins–not just you, but the pastor, too. But you know how successful that has been. For thousands of years God’s people have kept committing them. That is why John follows up: “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ the Righteous One.”

With these words John is putting Jesus in the role of a lawyer. He is our defense attorney, defending us in God’s court of law. It isn’t every day we cast a lawyer in the role of hero and source of comfort. We tend to be suspicious of them. People even accuse them of being interested only in our money, of having only their own welfare in mind.

So maybe it seems strange to us to have Jesus described as our lawyer. But when you are going to court, and you know that you are guilty (and so does the judge), you want the best lawyer money can buy.

That’s exactly what we have in God’s court of law, except we have him for free! The devil is prosecuting, and he has a solid case against us. His power and resources far exceed our own. But Jesus has committed himself to our case and speaks in our defense. He has taken our case because he has dedicated himself to defeating the other side. He will win for us at all costs. And in God’s court of law, he never, ever loses.

God’s Children

1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are the children of God…

Now we are the children of God. That’s not so bad when you consider what we were. You know Paul’s words from Romans 5? “When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…” Really? Enemies? That seems a bit strong doesn’t it? Enemies? Yes! There is no other way to describe people who have taken their own Maker’s instructions, thrown them aside, and like a defiant little two-year-old looked him in the eye and said, “It’s my life. I’m going to do what I want. I don’t care what you say about sharing. I don’t care what you say about how I use my body. I don’t care if you don’t like my potty mouth.” Active little rebels–we were God’s enemies!

Or there is Paul’s other picture from Ephesians: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” Dead ! A spiritual corpse! From God’s point of view, in our sin, without real love for anyone but ourselves, we were lifeless, hopeless, useless–done!

And that is what we were. It is hard to say which is worse, being enemies or corpses, but we don’t have to make a choice, because the Bible calls us both.

But on Good Friday Jesus gave up his life to remove our guilt and to forgive all our sins. Again, look at the quote from Romans 5, “When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” We are reconciled, not enemies.

By his resurrection from the dead on Easter morning Jesus conquered our death. As much as that means new life for our bodies, it also brings new life to our souls. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ,” Paul wrote the Colossians. Now we have faith, we have hope, we have life.

It’s harder to say which is better, Good Friday or Easter, but Jesus gives us both. His salvation doesn’t leave us hard choices. It gives it all together as one beautiful gift.

That is why John can say, “Dear friends, now we are the children of God.” Now we are children! Do you know what that means? Children are not the same thing as employees–cheap labor for God because they are now “part of the family.” His main interest is not what we can do for him.

Nor are children the adult sons and daughters who stand independently and alongside God as his equals. One Christian writer compares our relationship to him to the relationship between a parent who has an I.Q. like Einstein, and a little child who is only two. To make a relationship possible, the father accommodates himself to the toddler he loves. The child will know her daddy, but she won’t completely comprehend him. What the father reveals to his daughter will be true, as far as it goes. But there will always be more.

You see, we are the children of God, and that means that we are dear, we are loved. God treasures us as his own.

As God’s children, we are simply enjoyed by him. He is pleased to laugh and play with his little ones. There is a beautiful picture in the last chapter of Isaiah of God enjoying his children like a parent bouncing a child on his knees. I can’t help but think of the Christian character in the movie “Chariots of Fire,” Scottish runner Eric Liddell, telling his sister that when he runs he “feels God’s pleasure.” God’s children are people in whom he takes delight.

“Now we are the children of God.” That’s not so bad now, is it, and Jesus’ death and resurrection have made it all possible.