Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Letters Of The Apostle John. Day 7, The Great Love Of The Father

In our passage today John talks about the fact that, in Christ, we have been made the children of God. Sometimes we may hear people refer to the whole human race as the "children of God", but this isn't Scriptural. God does not claim as His children those who do not sincerely claim Him as their Father, and we can't rightfully claim Him as Father if we have rejected His testimony that Jesus is His Son.

John said in yesterday's study that the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ does not have the Father, but that whoever accepts the Son has the Father also. He told his readers that, now that they have accepted Christ and now that they can call God "Father", they must live godly lives so that when Christ comes for His church they will not feel ashamed of how they are living when He appears. John picks up at that point today by reminding us that godly living is the proof that our hearts are right with God. Then he rejoices in the great love the Father bestows on His children.

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him." (1 John 2:29) Those who belong to the Lord Jesus should look like Him. I'll use an example from my own family to make my point. If you took a picture of my husband and put it beside a picture of his father at the same age, you'd think you were looking at twins. We've often joked that there's no way his dad could deny being his father. There's no need for a DNA test; just one glance at them would tell you they are father and son. This is how much we should look like Jesus! People ought to be able to tell by the things we say and do (and by the things we don't say and do) that we belong to the Lord. When out in public together, did my husband and his dad ever have to tell anyone that they were father and son? No, because it was obvious that they were. We should be so much like Jesus that we don't even have to say, "I'm a Christian." It should be obvious that we are.

We must never forget what an honor it is to be elevated to the status of children of God. This is not something to be taken lightly. When John thinks about this, he breaks into rejoicing. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1a) We didn't earn or deserve the privilege of being called the children of God. This is an honor that God, because of His great love for us, conferred upon us when we bowed our knees to Christ and confessed our sinful nature and accepted His offer of salvation. God didn't owe us anything. We had earned nothing but the sentence of death for our sin and rebellion. We must never make the mistake of thinking God will have to let us into heaven because we are pretty good guys and girls. As the prophet Isaiah said, even at our best we fall far short of godliness: "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6)

This proves that living a "moral" life is not the same as living a godly life. When John says in verse 29 above that "everyone who does right has been born of Him", we need to understand there's a difference between morality and righteousness. If we are right with God then naturally we will do things that are morally correct, but living a morally correct life doesn't make us right with God. Many atheists, agnostics, and pagans do their best to live morally correct lives. But they deny the Lord in their hearts and therefore cannot be considered righteous by Him. So when John says that everyone who does right is born of Christ, he's talking about those who have accepted Christ and who are striving to live lives that give Him honor. He's saying that if a person has accepted Christ, the person's way of living should be all the proof that's necessary to back up the claim of belonging to Christ.

Belonging to Christ will not necessary win us friends, popularity, or prosperity. Jesus never said it would. Instead He said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first." (John 15:18) John reminds his readers of what Christ said by saying, "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." (1 John 3:1b) The Christians of the first century AD were enduring all sorts of persecution. Sometimes persecution merely took the form of ridicule and exclusion. Other times it meant losing their property, freedom, or life. This is why the Lord Jesus tells us to count the cost before deciding to be His disciple. (Luke 14:25-34) He tells us we have to value Him above all else in this world---even above what we want for our lives and above our very lives themselves. It will cost us something to follow Jesus. It may only cost us the pain of denying our worldly inclinations. It may cost us inclusion, promotion, or popularity. And in some time periods, and in some places in the world, it can cost people their lives to proclaim Christ as Lord. Does He mean that much to us? Does everything He offers us outweigh any temporary hardships we experience in this short life?

Jesus knew what it would cost Him to do the work that would make us the children of the living God. He decided that His love for us made it worth any price He had to pay to offer us salvation. How then can we conclude that He is not worth whatever it costs us to follow Him?

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