Summary: We are part of God’s family, we have the resources to grow in the family likeness of holiness
The importance of holiness
It is always wonderful when a baby is born. It’s great when the proud parents bring their baby out on its first adventure into this wide world. And you know without a shadow of doubt that one of the first comments that will be made about the child is ’oh she’s the spitting image of her mother’. The child’s physical appearance, colour of hair and eyes, the shape of the mouth or the nose are all inherited from their parents. And very often we can see that family likeness straightaway.
Rather less wonderful when one gets older is that strange experience when you suddenly hear your parents voice coming out of your own mouth. All of a sudden you find yourself saying things that your parents said, or doing things your parents did, or even walking the way your parents did. And however hard we try not to be our parents, there are characteristics in our personality, which have been indelibly etched upon our lives. So often we can see for ourselves that family likeness.
And in our reading from John’s letter this morning, we find that John is talking about something very much like that. John is talking about a family likeness but on a much grander scale. Because John is talking about the family likeness, the family characteristics of the children of God.
1 We are (part of God’s) family
Now first of all we do need to start by being absolutely clear about our family relationship with God. For we are family. We are part of God’s family John is absolutely clear about this. He says we are called the children of God v1. There is no mucking about with this statement. And more to the point John says that we are God’s children now. I think this is very important. For many people their relationship with God is one in which they are working towards a relationship with him. Many people are living their lives in expectation that they will be in a relationship with God when they are good enough, or perhaps when they die. But John is clear. For Christian believers, we are God’s children now. In fact, John says that it is not clear what we are going to be. But we are God’s children now. We are part of God’s family now.
And the reason we are part of God’s family now is because of the love that the Father has given us. It is not because of anything that we have done, but it is because of God’s love. Last week, Richard helped us to understand the nature of God’s love. And it is in the marvellous nature of God’s love that he has called us his children.
We talked earlier about children being born. Part of God’s enormous love to us is to enable us to be reborn. John talks about being born of God v9. This idea of being born again is something that we are familiar with. I’m sure you can remember Jesus conversation with Nicodemus, when Jesus talked about the need to be born again spiritually John 3. The love of God is so great that he gave his son Jesus Christ to enable us to be born again. The love of God is so great that he gave his son Jesus Christ to enable us to be his children. And John makes a clear in verses 5 and 8. And so it is that if we accept the saving work of Jesus Christ, we become God’s children, we become part of God’s family. So if you have accepted the saving work of Jesus Christ for yourself, John makes it absolutely clear that you can say with full assurance that you are a child of God. You can say with absolute assurance that you are part of God’s family. So we can say that as Christian believers we are part of God’s family.
2 We do have the family likeness
Secondly we need to understand that as Christian believers who are God’s children, we do have a family likeness. So, how is it that we can see the family likeness? Is it the size of our noses, or the colour of our eyes? Of course not. The family likeness that John refers to is purity. V3. He says ‘Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure’. Another word for this is holiness. That’s why Richard has entitled this sermon in the series ‘ the importance of holiness’. This is tricky isn’t it? Holy is not a word I would use to describe myself, and to some extent I’d be uncomfortable about it. St Augustine – Lord, make me holy – but not yet! It all sounds a bit otherworldly, and indeed slightly impossible. So what is it that John is trying to get through to us here?