Summary: John goes to great lengths at the start of this passage to assure us that we are members of God’s family now. It’s not how we live that guarantees us a place in God’s family. We are God’s family. But how we live shows that.
Sermon by Rev George Hemmings
For a while this was one of Sarah’s favourite photos. A few months ago she was sending it to everyone she could think of. Not because it was a great shot of one of our boys. In fact, it’s not a photo of Micah or Joshua at all. No, it’s a photo of me, from when I was just a few months old. Sarah loved it though, because it showed the striking resemblance between Micah and me.
We expect this don’t we? We expect children to look something like their parents.
And it’s not just in looks that we expect a resemblance, but in behaviour and temperament.
If you looked at Micah and Joshua, you’d see that Micah looks like me, but acts like Sarah. And Joshua looks like Sarah, but is much more like me in his personality.
Incredibly John states that we belong to God’s family! In the passage we are looking at today, he says something amazing. That we are God’s children and that we should therefore resemble our Heavenly Father.
John doesn’t want us to miss how important, how significant this concept is. The old KJV gets closer to the mark when it starts chapter 3 with a big, bold, ‘Behold!’ ‘Behold, what manner of love’. John doesn’t want us to just glance over this idea, but to stop, to sit up to pay attention. This is monumental. We should be marveling at ‘how great is the love the Father has lavished upon us.’ For it’s in his love that God has made us his children.
It’s not just that we’re called his children, but that’s what we really are. Each of us, has been chosen by God to be part of his family.
We’ve been born of God. This idea, that we’re born into God’s family is a favourite of John’s. Think of the start of his gospel:
"But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God."
Again in John 3, in that famous conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said:
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Here’s the amazing thing. God in his love has taken the initiative, in choosing us. Just like our physical birth, it’s not something that we have played a part in. What’s even more amazing is that God’s chosen us, despite our failures, despite our shortcomings. Despite the fact that we are unlovely, God has chosen to love us and make us part of his family.
And so, John says, we are God’s children now. It is not something that we wait for in the future; there’s no gestation period. And there’s no period of probation. We are members of God’s family at this very present moment.
John is so keen to assure us that of this, as he knows the world will only cast doubt upon our parentage.
This past fortnight, the atheist Richard Dawkins was on the radio, promoting a survey he had conducted. Although on the UK census, around 54% of the population identified themselves as Christians, Dawkins had his people do one of those telephone polls, asking people a series of questions. His conclusion was that really only 2% or so of the population might have been Christian. Dawkins claim is that unless you pass a rigorous test, can correctly answer all sorts of questions , you are not a Christian, and certainly not a child of God. This is just one example of how the world ‘does not know us, because it did not know him.’
John would have nothing of this though. He says, strongly and clearly, we are God’s children, and that is what we are now. We are already members of God’s family, not because we’ve passed a test, but because God has chosen us. This is our present reality.
What’s more, John says we’re a family with a bright future. We’re a family looking forward to something: the day when Christ will be revealed. Of course, as John’s already acknowledged Jesus has already been revealed, he has walked on the earth, died on the cross. But John says we are to look forward to the day when Christ will return, in all his glory. On this day, John tells us, when we see him as he truly is, we’ll all be transformed. When Moses met with God, his face was transformed for a short while. But when we see Christ, we’ll be completely transformed, for eternity. We’ll put off these mortal bodies, with their sinful desires, weaknesses and be clothed in new bodies, pure, imperishable, just as he is. As a God’s children we’re to look forward to this. We’re a family with great prospects for the future.