In America, we have certain days which we set aside to thank our parents. Children show thanks to their mothers especially on Mother’s Day, and to their fathers especially on Father’s Day. The young children paint pictures or cards, while the older ones often buy clothes for their parents, or perfume for mom and cologne for dad. Why do we do these things? Why do we set aside days for these people in our lives? Is it not because we want to show them that we have appreciated all that they have done for us? We thank them for giving us food and clothes and a nice place to call home. We thank them for the love they have given and continually give us.
As we continue our three-week focus on stewardship, today we consider how we in love, respond to our gracious Heavenly Father, by showing our thankfulness to him. We will consider how ...
Theme: In Love, We Give to God
I. because he gives us righteousness (6-8)
When we talk about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we realize that we were by nature children of the devil. Because we were born of parents who were sinful, we were not able to call the Father, “Father”. We were unable to “do what is right”. We were “sinners”, and were by nature only able to sin. Scripture elsewhere says we were “slaves to sin”. It is as if we had spiritual chains binding us to do only what is wrong and offensive to God.
In fact, we could do no righteous thing. Why? The Bible says we were blind to how to do righteous things. We couldn’t do what is right, because we had no idea how to do what is right. It would be if you told a person who was blind from birth to paint a picture of the Grand Canyon. Now, painting the Grand Canyon would be hard enough, but if he never had seen the Grand Canyon and was unable to see, it would be impossible. Well, we were in a similar situation. In order for us to get to heaven, God said that we had to be perfect. Sinless. We were unable to be perfect, and were spiritually blind so that we didn’t even know how to do what is righteous.
Still God demanded that we be righteous. It was the only way to eternal life. Does it seem like God is a cruel Father? Well, the fault does not lie with God. He is holy. He couldn’t ask for anything less. A righteous God could not stand unrighteous sinners in heaven!
Nonetheless it was and is impossible for anyone to attain that righteousness demanded by God. God can’t lower the standards. Then he would no longer be a just and holy God. No one can reach those standards. That was the impasse. We desperately needed righteousness. What was our Heavenly Father’s solution?
He promised a Savior, someone who would live a righteous life in our place and bear the sins of the world. Christ, that Savior, became righteous in our place. The Apostle John wrote in this portion of his letter that the Son of God came to defeat the devil’s work. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life. Jesus died a death which he did not deserve on the cross, and more than that, he suffered the pangs of hell which we deserved. But it doesn’t stop there. He gives us the fruits of his labor, his righteousness. Our sins no longer count against us because Christ paid for them while he hung on the Cross.
The Apostle talks about those who continue living in sin, as having not seen or known Christ. We “see” Jesus through the Gospel message and through faith which the Holy Spirit brings us. We “know” Jesus through faith and through the constant encouragement we receive through his Word.
Application: A well-known parable, the parable of the prodigal son, illustrates God’s love for us. In the parable, the son demanded his portion of the inheritance, and then went and squandered it in a foreign land. Then, when he was broke, a famine hit the land where he was living. He hit rock bottom, and even yearned to eat the slop which he had been hired to feed the pigs. He finally returned to his father’s home, thinking that he would ask to be accepted back as a servant. To his surprise, his father welcomed him home, dressed him in new clothes and threw a party to celebrate his return. The parable shows the distinct and unfathomable love God has for us. When we were at our worst, God loved us the most. We were the worst of rejects, the most unfit children anyone could have. Yet, God showed his love for us by sending his own Son to take our punishment. By Jesus’ life and death, we were declared righteous, even though we rightly deserved otherwise.
Certainly, this was a wonderful event in God’s plan for his family. The Son of God made his righteousness the salvation of all who believe in him. It is only because Christ has given us his righteousness, that we can even speak about giving to God. The joy that comes with understanding this joyful declaration, is what leads us to give back to God with thankful hearts. We give to God...
II. because he called us to be righteous (9-10)
John wrote that we are no longer bound to live sinful lives because God gave us his “seed”. We received that “seed” when we were brought to faith by the Holy Spirit. What is that seed? It is the new man that lives in us. It is the part of us that yearns to do what is right before God. It is the part of us that is constantly struggling against that sinful nature that still remains inside of us, even though it no longer has control over what we do. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ lives in us to strengthen that new man. We remain in Christ through faith in him.
God has called us into his family through his Son that we might be righteous. Our model of righteousness is the one who made us righteous, Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the one who lives in us to bring us up to be mature children of God. How do we remain in Christ? Christ says in the Gospel of John, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
When God talks about our giving back to him, he lays before us the great gift of our salvation to motivate us to want to do what is right. We see worship as an opportunity to praise God and give him thanks. We see service as an opportunity to show our thankfulness. We see helping with the worship service an opportunity rather than a burden. Because of what Christ has done for us, we enjoy making time to share our gifts and help out the church in other ways.
Certainly, when our attitudes have been changed by the message of God’s grace, it carries over into our actions. We are now able to do what is right before God. Our actions are a fruit of our faith, an offering given to thank our gracious God.
The Apostle John wrote that one way we can give thanks to God is by showing love to our “brother.” He isn’t just talking about our blood-relatives. Our “brother” is anyone within the family of God. We can do that by sharing the message with fellow believers. God wants us to gather together and encourage one another in the faith. As a congregation, we will have a special opportunity to celebrate the fellowship we share as God’s family on November 22, with the Every Member Worship Sunday. We will have an opportunity to assist those who need help getting to church, whether they be shut-ins or in a nursing home. We will have an opportunity to gather in those who have not heard that Gospel message in awhile. Why do all this? Simply for this reason, to celebrate the unity we share as the body of Christ and encourage each other in a visible assembly.
So often, people think that sharing the Gospel is the just the pastor’s job. They come to church to fill up, as if the Church were a gas-station, and the pastor was the pump. To some extent that is true. But, we sometimes forget that God also called each one of us to actually be a pump! How can we do that? We can visit those who are hospitalized or are in the nursing home and bring them words of encouragement from God’s Word. We can share our material blessings and support the work of the Gospel through our offerings. When the Bible pictures the work of the early church, it shows the joy and zeal of believers by what they did in response to the Gospel. God wants us to have that same kind of joyful response. God wants everything that we do for him to be done in love. When the Bible talks about our giving to God, it often points to how we love our fellow believers. Christ said, “ Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” I will talk more about that next time, when we consider, how as God’s Family, in love we give to others.
Since Christ came into the world to destroy the devil’s work, and that is what he did, we are now free from those shackles of sin and guilt. We are no longer bound to the devil’s ways, trapped in doing what the devil wants. Christ freed us by his righteousness! Just as a slave rejoices when he is freed from a horrible tyrant of a master, so we can rejoice that we have been set free. We can show our Savior how much we love him by doing what he desires. We can follow the commandment to love him above all things. We can put him first in our lives. We can make public and private worship a priority. We can give gifts to God and support his public servants.
God has lavished his love on us by giving us salvation through Christ. God has adopted us as his children and promised us all part of his inheritance, eternal life. Surely, we will offer him our praise, thanksgiving and service, for the great unfathomable love he has given us, his dear children! Amen.