A sermon on 1 John 3:1-3 by Rev Richard Keith on Sunday 28 March 2021
Who are you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a great success in life? Someone who is an asset to their family and their community? Or do you see someone who’s muddled through life, just trying their best? Or maybe someone who has been a great disappointment? Or an old stranger in whose body your still young self has been trapped? Who do you think you are?
And who will you be? What future do you have? Where will you be and what will you be doing in ten, twenty, fifty years’ time? Who are you going to be?
Today we are focusing on 1 John chapter 3, verses 1 to 3. It tells us who we are and who we will be.
Who are you? 1 John chapter 3 says that you are a child of God.
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!”
It speaks of the love of the Father for us. The God who exists in the eternal dance of love and fellowship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God who is in himself love and exists not just for himself, but for others. This God has loved us. And he has not just loved us. He was not content to feel a nice warm glow when he thought about us. But he has given his love. He has shown his love. He has proven his love by lavishing it upon us. And the result of his love is that we are invited to join his dance of love. He has called us his children and made us his children.
Because what God says happens. He says, “Let there be light” and there was light. He says, “Let us make human beings in our image” and it happens. So when he says that we are his children, we are. We become what he says we are. Not children by birth. Not children by nature. But children by adoption.
For by nature we are children of wrath. We were created by God for him, but we have lived for ourselves. But God sought us out when we were lost. When we were all but dead in our trespasses and sins he brought us alive and kicking into his family.
God made us his children, because firstly he is God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father sent the Son into the world to do what had to be done to find us and to bring us back.
God made us his children, because secondly he is God the Son, who called us his brothers and sisters. He shared our flesh and blood and called us his. He took our sins upon himself and died with them to put them to death. And he rose to life so that we might have life and peace.
God made us his children, because thirdly God the Son taught us to call his Father, our Father. We may believe that our lives are guided by luck or fate or karma. But Jesus taught us that our lives are guided by our heavenly Father. That the God of the universe cares for us like a father ought to love his children. Jesus taught this faith and lived this faith, entrusting his own life in the hands of his Father.
And God made us his children, because fourthly he has poured out upon us God the Holy Spirit who speaks to our spirit and encourages us and urges us to call God our Father. Giving us faith to believe his promises, to submit our lives to his command, and to entrust our lives to his care.
Through Jesus Christ his Son and by his gift to us of his Spirit the Father calls us his children. And this is what we really are. Not by birth. Not by nature. But by adoption, by Christ, through faith. We are the children of God. His kingdom is our true home. The wealth of his glory and power are our inheritance.
When you look in the mirror that’s what you see. A person who rubs shoulders with mere mortals during the day, but who is really the brother or sister of divine blood, who holds a heavenly passport and shares an eternal inheritance. You, yes you, by Christ, through faith in him, are a child of God. The value of your life is not measured by your career prospects, by the number of your descendants, by your annual taxable income or by the number of your Facebook friends. The value of your life is measured by the blood of Christ that purchased you out of your misery and by the wealth of glory that awaits you at the coming of the Lord Jesus.
You are more than you think. You are more than you ever imagined. The world may never see it. It may even run you down. The world may think that you are nothing, not worth a second glance. But you, yes you, are a child of God.
This is who you are. And who will you be? You are a child of God and you will be like your brother Jesus Christ. John in verse 2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
This is our hope. This is our destiny. This is our future. Not to be crippled with age and then put in a nursing home and then finally to spend an eternal death in a box under the ground until we return to the dust from which we were made. Our future is to see Jesus Christ with our own eyes and then to live with him, our humanity to be renewed in his image and according to his likeness.
This is what Paul means in Colossians chapter 3 when he says,
Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The truth is that you don’t see that child of God, do you, when you look in the mirror. You see the flaws, the imperfections. You see the passing of time. You see all the could have beens and should have beens. But you don’t see it, because what you are lies dormant. It lies hidden. Like a butterfly within its cocoon. Like a lolly inside its wrapper, just waiting to be unravelled and revealed.
Who you are and what you will become are not determined by your will power or lack of it or by your positive or negative thoughts. They are determined by the life, death and risen life of Jesus Christ. He called you brother and sister. By his blood he made you family. Not just to be an orphan child, the charity case adopted into the family, but who doesn’t and will never really belong. Jesus Christ made you family so that you would bear the family likeness.
And to that end he has given you the Spirit to make that change in you from the inside out. Even now you experience that transformation in the small victories you have over your temper or your pride or your fears and worries. Baby steps along the way towards the divine perfection that awaits you. But its truth is not confirmed by any experiences or by any victories whether great or small but by the promise of God to complete his purpose in you. Why shed his Son’s blood, why waste his Spirit on you, if this person you are was the best that God could hope for you? He sent his Son Jesus to become like you so that you might become like him.
And his purpose is achieved in Jesus Christ who is the true God and the true human being. God like his Father and human just like you. On the cross he took your place so that you might take his. Who we are, what we will be now lies dormant. It is hidden. Waiting. Like a bud on the tree, waiting through winter for spring to burst forth with new life. But we are who we are and we will be who we will be because of Jesus Christ. He is our life. Our life is hidden with him. And when we see him, when we stand before him face to face, when the roll is called up yonder and we wait, and we wait for our name to be called from the book of life and it is, then at that moment his life, his righteousness, his holiness, his perfection will be mirrored in our life. Not a you who is inside you, waiting to come out, born of will power and effort. But a new creation of God, a new you who is born of the Spirit. Not a stranger or an alien, but a new you. A you like precious metal refined from its ore and made into something beautiful. A new you with all the bits that make you less than you should be all melted away.
This is who you are. A child of God. This is who you will be. Made new in the image of God in Jesus Christ.
And the change starts now. It won’t be completed until we see Christ face to face. But it begins right now. No excuses. No exceptions. As John wrote in verse 3,
Everyone who has this hope in him, purifies himself, just as he is pure.
Jesus Christ is pure. We see it in his love for the weak and the oppressed, for the children and the sick and the marginalised. We see it in his relationship with his Father and how he was happy to turn his back on the crowd to be alone with God. We see it in his obedience to the Father’s plan. No double standards. No second thoughts. No compromise. The leaders hated him and feared him. The crowd bayed for his blood. The Romans nailed him on a cross. His friends buried him and wept for him. But his Father vindicated him and raised him from the dead and welcomed him to the right hand side of his throne in heaven. Jesus Christ is pure. And he is our life. Our life is hidden with him. And when he appears, we will be like him.
With this hope in the next life, we commit ourselves to health, to love, to compassion, to justice, to purity in this life. And so we commit ourselves to leave our sin, because where we are going we cannot take it with us.
In 2010 I was at Sydney airport, waiting in line to go into the terminal. And there was a problem. When my bag through the x-ray, it found that I was carrying a deadly weapon. A pair of nail scissors. Such a tiny insignificant thing. I didn’t even really need them. They were just still in my bag from the last trip. But I still couldn’t them with me because in the hands of a trained assassin or of a mad terrorist they were a deadly weapon.
So I couldn’t take them on the plane. And if I couldn’t take them on the plane, I couldn’t take them into the terminal. I could complain. But I couldn’t take them into the terminal. I could moan at the top of my voice how stupid the airport rules were, but I couldn’t take them into the terminal. I could have sat there for hours plotting my revenge, but I still couldn’t take them into the terminal because I couldn’t take them onto the plane. I would either have to turn around or let the scissors go.
When we look in the mirror, it is hard not to see the sins we have done and the sinner that we have been. But like nail scissors at the airport they are not a part of the future God has planned for us. Because I am a child of God and my destiny is to be made new in the image of Jesus Christ and I cannot hide my sin in some safe hidden part of my life and to try to smuggle it with me. I either have to turn around, to forsake Christ, to leave the path that leads to my life with God, or let my sin go. I do not do it in order to be saved. But because I have been saved. Because my flight is booked. It leaves for heaven soon. And none of my deadly weapons, my lies, my lust, my anger, my hate, are welcome on board. No matter how insignificant I think they are.
Because I am a child of God. One day I will see Christ and I will be made new in his image. And everyone who has this hope purifies himself.