1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
The Apostle John’s first epistle was directed to the house churches in the province of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It could have been written just as easily for us, here in Canada in 2015. In chapter 3 he begins by calling all Christian readers to marvel at the kind of undeserved love the Creator has given us. Through Jesus his Son the almighty Creator of all things has made himself our Father and has adopted us as his beloved children.
This is a kind of love measured out in both quantity and quality. A love that is completely undeserved in any way. It is the love He showed to us when we were Baptized into His name. Welcomed into His family, and given a room in His mansion and a seat at the divine family table. And by this love we are His children not just in name but in fact! Only Christianity knows the Almighty God as a loving Father. And this is possible only through baptism into Jesus Christ our Saviour. Children of God, that is what we are by faith in Christ Jesus, sons of God, led by the Spirit of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The image of God, lost by the Fall, is being renewed in us once more, Christ Himself is being formed in us.
But even as that relationship is restored, another is being lost. 1The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
We should not be surprised that the world or its culture does not treat us differently. It does not recognize our new family status because it did not recognize Jesus. Hatred toward believers (and yes, there is hatred out there!) comes from a good life which draws comparison or judgment. Committed marriages, loving families, hard-working employees, devoted volunteers, happy and contented souls … Our very existence gives lie to all the world’s arguments and counterfeit virtues and confronts the world with just how far and shamefully it has fallen.
And so the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will tempt us and entice us to be less like Christ and more like everyone else. Stop being so black and white, so right and wrong. Learn to appreciate all the 50 beautiful shades of gray, all the wonderful moral ambiguities! And in our desire to love our neighbour and be loved by them we can buy into their lie.
And so John warns: 4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. Just because the state sanctions something doesn’t make it good. Sin is still lawlessness, even if it is legal. And lawlessness (sin) always leads to chaos and confusion, no matter how good right or proper it appears to begin with.
5You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
The uncomfortable truth that John is getting at here is that there is no true Christian life without a complete break from the old life of sin. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, the kingdom’s door is open for one and all. But the shoes come off at the door. No tracking that filth and mud throughout God’s house. Entrance is free to one and all, but inside will not become a free-for-all!
The old Adam must die. He cannot be rehabilitated. He must never be given free room and board. The old sinful man with his sins and evil desires must die and the new man in Christ rise in his place to live before God in righteousness and purity. It doesn’t matter who you were before God set you apart in Christ … but it certainly does matter who you are now as his dear child!
2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Glory is seen by faith. Eternal life (which is ours even now) is seen by faith! Faith purifies (credits us with Christ’s righteousness) Having been purified and made holy we seek that which is holy and right. Born of God we are free to serve our Saviour. Stop living in the dead and desperate past, start living in the glorious future reality that is yours already in Christ Jesus.
Christians are born through Baptism with a desire to grow in the righteousness of Christ, which is given to us by faith. In other words, no one born of God wants to give into sinning. Those who do have no excuse!
Why? Because His Baptismal promise to us is that despite what we see so often now, we shall be like Him. We will not be the same as He. He is true God. But we shall be like Him, glorified in soul and body, forever pure and free from sin; He, because of His essential nature; we, because of what He did for us. Why will we be like Him? “Because we shall see Him just as He is.” What a glorious promise for the children of God! The image of God is being restored in us in the perfection of its purity. And when Jesus Christ the pure and righteous one comes again in glory the devil, the world, and the sinful stain in our flesh will be completely and forever gone and the children of God will be purified!