Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
The Father’s Kind of Love - April 19, 2015 - Third Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 John 3:1-7
This morning we continue to bask in the glow of the resurrection. Indeed, for us Christians the very reason we worship on Sunday, the very reason that Sunday is now our Sabbath, our day of rest is because of the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week, thus for us Christians each and every Sunday is an Easter celebration. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
In our text for this morning, John’s first letter, not the Gospel of John, but his first letter, John helps us to understand what love is, what true love is, that is that true love begins with the Father’s love, with God the Father’s love. True love is that God loves us first and He shows His love in the gift of His Son. We begin at verse one, “1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 1-3).
Notice first and foremost that God is the prime mover. He first loved us, making us His children. And notice that this is a passive clause indicating that this is all done by the Father Himself. It is the Father who has given love to us, making us His children and we are simply given to and made His children with no effort on our part. And how does He make us His children? Two weeks ago we celebrated Good Friday; the giving of Jesus’ life for ours on the cross, His suffering the punishment for our sins and on Sunday, on Easter Sunday we celebrated His resurrection, the complete defeat of sin, death and the devil. This is how He purchased us, by paying the price for our sins. And now He makes us His children through means, namely through His means of grace. He makes us His children through His Word, which does what it says, in other words, when the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God gives us faith and says we have faith, that is exactly what we have, faith, given to us by God through His Word. Another means the Lord uses to make us His children is Holy Baptism. As water and God’s name are put on us at Baptism, the Lord gives us faith, forgiveness of sins, life, even eternal life and salvation. These things come to us from outside of us and are given to us from outside of us. These are the Lord’s doing and the Lord’s giving. He makes us His children.
When Jesus came into the world, as we are reminded in the Gospel accounts, the world rejected Him. Jesus was not the Savior the people were looking for. Jesus was not a social/political Savior. Jesus did not come and overthrow the oppressors of the Children of Israel, at least not the oppressors they wanted overthrown. Jesus simply did not fit their definition of who the Savior was or what He should do.
The world rejected Jesus and as He makes us His children, we should expect nothing more or less from the world, in other words, we should expect that the world will reject us as well. As children of the Lord we do not speak the same language as the world, we do not have the same priorities as the world, we do not have the same outlook as the world. The world speaks of power, fame and fortune. The world speaks of the things of this world, that is that this is all there is. We speak of sin and forgiveness. We speak of absolutes, absolute truth and love. We speak of the transient nature of this world, that our lives in this world are fast and fleeting And so, our hope is not in this world, but in the world to come.
John says that we are not yet what we will be. John is speaking of our goal of sanctification, that is that, after being given faith by the Holy Spirit, through the outward means of grace, the Word of God and Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through us to make us more and more Christ-like. Of course, we understand that we will never be completely Christ-like, at least not this side of heaven. But when we reach our eternal home of heaven, we will be made perfect. So, we are no longer what we were before being given faith, that is we are no longer complete sinners, lost and condemned persons, but we are not yet what we will be in heaven, complete and perfect saints.
But, John is not through speaking. He moves on to outline the two sides of our nature. We pick up at verse four, “4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 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” (v. 4-7).
John talks about sin and sinning and we do not shy away from speaking about sin and sinning either. John says that sinning is lawlessness. Sinning, not doing what God would have us to do, that is sins of omission and doing those things God says we are not to do, that is sins of commission are lawlessness. Having other gods, taking His name in vain, absenting ourselves from worship, Bible class, family and private devotions, these are ways we break His laws, His commandment, His Words. Disobeying our parents or those in authority over us, hurting, harming, hating, actually killing others, lusting after others, taking things that do not belong to us, borrowing without returning, vandalism, speaking evil of others, gossiping, coveting, all these are ways we break His commandments. All these are ways we sin. And we do sin. We sin boldly. We sin daily. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing as we ought and sins of commission, doing things we ought not. Let us face it, we are sinners.
And yet, there is good news, even great news. Jesus took away our sin. Actually we would better say, He paid the price for our sins. He did this by dying on the cross, which is what we celebrate on Good Friday, Jesus suffering the punishment for our sins. Certainly we may have a difficult time with Good Friday, and we should, because it is because of our sins that Jesus had to die, yet at the same time we are so thankful, because Good Friday shows God’s great love for us. As I have mentioned before, it is only as we realize, acknowledge and confess, just how sinful we really are that we can realize how gracious God really is. If God only had to die a little for me, then His love does not seem that big. But when we realize that I am the biggest sinner and still, Jesus died for me, then we realize just how great and wonderful His love truly is.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, because the Holy Spirit puts faith in our hearts, our response to all the Lord does for us and give to us is that as Christians, with the Lord’s help, we work to keep way from sinning, but please understand this does not imply perfectionism on our part. This side of heaven we will never reach perfection, let alone get close.
John next distinguishes between malicious sin versus sins of weakness. Malicious sins are sins where we are thinking up ways to sin against God. Malicious sins are when we want to ask, “Will God forgive me if I do ________?” and you fill in the blank. This is premeditated sin and this is malicious sin. This is not the same as sins of weakness and while we are on this earth, we can know for certain that we will continue to sin sins of weakness. Sinning is our nature, after all, we are conceived and born in sin as David tells us and we cannot help ourselves, as Paul reminds us.
And so, John puts up this division, that we are either Christ’s or the devil’s. And, although we may be Christians, we may have been given faith in Jesus, that does not keep the devil away, as a matter of fact, the devil works hardest on those he does not have. So, if you are never tempted, then be wary.
Yet, do not be deceived, there is no perfectionism while on this earth. Again, we will never reach the state of perfection while we live in this world It is only when we reach our eternal home in heaven that we will be perfect.
What does this mean? First we are reminded that God is the prime mover. As John says elsewhere, we love because He first loves us. Here, as you know and as you have heard me say many times, I like image of the Sun and the moon. When we see the moon shining in the sky, we know we are seeing the reflection of the Sun, because the moon has no light of its own. Thus when we love others and when we are loved by others, we know that we and they are merely reflecting the love of God to each other, because in and of ourselves, apart from God, we have no love of our own.
God first loves us and then God gives us faith, forgiveness and life. These are gifts from God. These are not gifts we take or get on our own, which would mean they are not gifts, but they are gifts from God. And these gifts He gives through means, namely through the outward, external means of His Word, the Bible; Holy Baptism wherein He tells us that Baptism which corresponds to circumcision which was done on the eight day after birth, now saves you; the Lord’s Supper wherein we eat His body and drink His blood thus participating in His sacrifice for us making His perfect life our perfect life, His perfect death our perfect death and His perfect resurrection our perfect resurrection; and confession and absolution where in as we confess all our sins so that as He speaks His most beautiful word of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven you,” and we know we have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness is life and salvation. Just as we did not choose to be born into this world, but we were conceived by our parents and born into this world, so we do not choose to save ourselves, to get forgiveness for ourselves, these gifts are given from outside of us, namely our Lord has chosen us and gives us the gifts He has to give, forgiveness, faith, and life and He delivers these gifts through these means of grace.
God first loves us, God gives us faith, forgiveness and life and then God works in us our sanctification. Sanctification is our becoming more and more Christ-like, but here again, this is not something we do in and of ourselves, this is God’s doing as well. God the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to always point to Christ and that is why we do not hear or see much of Him, He is the one, working through the means of grace who works in us to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do and we do them because He is working them in and though us.
And finally, God brings us into His kingdom. Notice how in all these instances it is God who is doing the doing. God does and we are done to. God gives and we are given to. God has His way with us and we are thankful. We know we get it right and we can have confidence only in this, that God always does it right, and gets it right. I may err, but God never errs. Thanks be to God.
As we continue to celebrate Easter and the resurrection and life of our Savior, He continues to fill us with His love and as He helps us to reach out and love others, so we pray that He will reach out, in and through us, to share His love with even more, so that all people may come to know His great love, be given faith and be kept in faith until His return, or our departure from this world. Finally, may the Lord bless our time together in this world, and His Word, so that we might be given, strengthened, and kept in faith, so that His kingdom may be extended and so that praise and glory may be given to His Holy Name. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.