As we go through life, we typically pick up a few titles along the way. Some of my titles include reverend, pastor, dad, coach, bapa (now that I am a grandpa), and mister. Around my wife’s workplace, I am called Julie’s husband. I tried to add doctor to this list, but ran out of time and energy. I bet you have a few titles of your own.
Yet, all these titles, as nice as they are, pale in comparison to what John calls us in our passage for today. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Trusting in Jesus Christ, you and I are no longer children of wrath. We have become children of God, born again. God’s beloved ones through Jesus Christ.
John says, “If you know that he is righteous . . . “ The “he” John is talking about is Jesus.
As we know the Righteous One, we become children of God. We were unrighteous, in a broken relationship with God because of our sin, which made us children of wrath. But God in His love sent His Son Jesus. He is the Righteous One who came, the perfect life of righteousness, and He died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice so we might be righteous in God’s sight. A great transaction took place at the cross. Jesus took my filthy rags of sin upon Himself and paid for my sin. I received a clean robe to stand before God cleansed.
Stuart Briscoe writes in one of his books, “Years ago when I was a young banker, we used big leather ledgers where all accounts were entered by hand. I remember daydreaming about those ledgers and God’s ledgers in heaven. We are told those books will be opened. I imagine my name, David Stuart Briscoe, and God adding up the sum total of my indebtedness against Him. I could never cancel the overwhelming indebtedness. In my mind’s eye, I saw God take His pen and transfer the sum total of my indebtedness to the account of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the account of the Lord Jesus, He wrote, Transferred from the account of David Stuart Briscoe.
“I thought God was finished, but then I saw Him do something incredible. He added up the total righteousness of Christ and against it wrote these words, Transferred to the account of David Stuart Briscoe. That’s love.”
I am forgiven. I’m given a new status through what Christ did for me. I am a child of God, a child of God who is also heaven bound. I have an eternal inheritance awaiting me. I can look into the future with confidence because I belong to my Father through Christ Jesus.
I remember a lovely story I came across years ago about Dr. Billy Graham. In January of 2000, the leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon. He initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggled with Parkinson’s disease, but the leaders told him, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he agreed and some wonderful things were said about him at this luncheon.
When he stepped to the podium and looked at the crowd he said, “I’m reminded today of Dr. Albert Einstein, the great physicist, who this month has been honored by Time magazine as man of the century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle punching the ticket of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket, but couldn’t find his ticket. So he reached in his other pocket; it wasn’t there. So he looked in his briefcase; he couldn’t find it. He looked in the seat by him; he couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I am sure you bought a ticket; don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively.
The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back to Dr. Einstein. ‘Dr. Einstein, don’t worry; I know who you are. No problem! You don’t need a ticket; I’m sure you bought one.’
Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is, where I’m going.’
Dr. Graham continued in his talk. “See the suit I’m wearing. It’s a brand-new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious, so I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. Do you know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I am dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”
All of this for the children of God. What sweet, sweet love the Father has given us, John says. It is a gift given through Jesus Christ
As a child of God, John goes on to say, I also have a promising future. I can live my life with a hope, a confidence of a glorious forever with Him. You see, all of history is headed somewhere, friends. History is not “some tale told by an idiot,” as Macbeth said. History has an end, and those of us who know Jesus know it will be a good ending. John tells us a day is coming when Christ will make His royal appearance. When Jesus appears, we will see Him as He is. We will see Him in His majesty, in His power, in His beauty. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord. The whole creation will be transformed including us. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and believers in Christ shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.
John does not mean we will be identical to Christ, omniscient or omnipresent as Jesus Christ is. But we will have resurrected, glorified bodies that never get sick or grow old or die. Morally speaking, we will be completely without any sin. Intellectually speaking, we will be without falsehoods or errors. Physically speaking, we will be without weaknesses, imperfections. We will be filled continually with His Holy Spirit, loving God and loving each other. This is the glorious hope awaiting us as we live as children of God with our heavenly Father.
In the meantime, we wait in a world that perhaps doesn’t appreciate us or Jesus. We face hardships, maybe even putdowns and persecutions as we follow Jesus. Yet we have a deep confidence, certainty, and hope because we know the end of the story, and it is mighty good!
As we serve Him in this world, witnessing, and loving others in His name, shining for Him, John presents us with a question: How will you face Him when that day comes – with confidence or with shame? It will depend on how you’ve prepared, how you have lived your life as a child of God.
I’m reminded of a parable Jesus told one time about a master who went away and left his servants in charge, and then he returned.
Children of God, we are called to some things. John tells us to abide in Jesus, remain with Him, stick with Him, keep your faith in Him, walk with Him, follow Him, trust in Him, listen to Him in His Word as you open Scripture. Then, obeying Him, do the right thing. All who have this hope in them will spend the rest of their days purifying themselves as Jesus is pure. We purify ourselves getting ready to see Him.
I liken this to something I came across in one of my studies for this passage. It says, If we have a hope like that ahead of us, we should make every effort in the present time to be pure in the same way as He is pure.
This is quite a challenge, but it makes all the sense in the world. If you are going to meet a very important colleague in another country, you might think it worthwhile to learn some of their language in advance. If you are going to meet your future employer, it would be wise to learn enough about the business in order to make a good impression. If you are going to meet Jesus Himself, it only makes sense to make yourself pure. But how?
John tells us a little bit later, “Those who abide in him do not continue in sin.” We now spend our lives as new people, new creations in Christ. While we still have the old nature at work in us and we fail, in this new life we are sensitive to sin. When sin is happening, we confess it and strive to not do it anymore. We live in a repentant lifestyle. We build Christlike character. We want to be more and more like Jesus. For instance, we
• Set aside profanity and obscene talk. Instead use words that build up.
• Replace lies and half-truths with truth. We are known for our integrity.
• Treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.
• Are careful about what we put into our minds. We put away pornography and other things on the screen that play with our minds. Instead, we focus on those things which Paul says are noble and true and beautiful.
• Put away covetousness – the need to have more and more, which becomes idolatry.
• Watch our lips. Slander, malice, wrath, anger are put away and replaced by love, compassion, and kindness.
How can all this happen? First of all, it is important to remember, we cannot do it on our own power. As children of God, we have the Holy Spirit to help us. We also have a church community to hold us accountable. Within this community we have the opportunity to confess our sins and receive cleansing and forgiveness.
Craig Barnes, a wonderful pastor, wrote this: When I was a child, my minister father brought home a twelve-year-old boy named Roger whose parents had died of a drug overdose. Roger had no one to care for him, so my folks decided they would raise him as if he were one of their own sons.
At first it was difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home, an environment free of heroin-addicted adults. Every day, several times a day I heard my parents saying to Roger, “No, no. That’s not how we behave in his family.” “No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get you what you want.” “No, Roger. We expect you to show respect in this family.” In time, Roger began to change.
Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. Did he have to do some work because he was in the family? You bet he did! It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at, it but he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.
Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly you do, but not in order to become a son or daughter to the Father. No. You make these changes because you are a son or a daughter, and every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit says to you, No, no, no. That’s not how we act in this family.
Dear friends, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to remember who and whose you are. You are a child of God – precious in His sight with a glorious future and a date to meet Him face to face. May you spend the rest of your days confident with a deep hope, the rest of your days getting ready to see Him, making Him proud. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer