5th Sunday in Lent March 21, 2021
1 John 3:1-5
17, 785 (Worship Supplement 2000), 151, 391
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
I don’t think I realized how much a father can love a child, or how much my father must love me, until I held my firstborn son in my arms for the very first time. But I also can’t imagine that I will ever really understand just how much my Heavenly Father loves me.
Dear fellow Christ believers, I am, and you are the VERY CHILDREN OF GOD through Spirit worked faith in God’s Son. If we are tempted to take that blessed fact for granted, then today’s Word from our Heavenly Father is just what we need to hear and take to heart. If you’ve ever felt that you are not anything special, then listen carefully today. If you’ve ever felt that you don’t matter much to anybody, then today’s chosen text is just the good news you need to hear.
What is a child? A small child is someone who can wash his hands without getting the soap wet. A child is someone who can give you a lump in your throat one minute, and, in the next, be a pain in the neck. A child is a person who can’t understand why anyone would give away a perfectly good kitten.
But more than anything a child is someone who needs to be loved and COMFORTED. A child is comforted when he knows that someone loves him and is watching over him. How mentally and emotionally healthy for a child when he knows he’s truly loved.
I cannot describe in words how COMFORTING the first words of our text truly are. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Dear Christian, you’re not just a face in the crowd. You’re important, special, and of tremendous value to God. Whether 8 or 80, as one who believes in Christ as his or her Savior, you are an adopted child of God!
We probably all know how expensive and time-consuming the adoption process can be. It involves tens of thousands of dollars, and, if one adopts a foreign child, it might involve several trips overseas. Then there is all the government red-tape that a couple must go through to bring a child into one’s family.
But this is nothing compared to what your Heavenly Father went through to make you His child. He took a person who was by nature His enemy, who by nature was filled with love for sin and not for God, and he formulated a plan to bring you into His family. The plan? “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5—NKJV)
God gave up His natural Son unto death—even death of the cross!—so that He might make you His own! Then He saw to it that you were baptized. Your baptismal certificate is essentially your adoption papers.
To be called a child of God is not a mere honorary title, it is literally what you and I are through faith in Christ. What a comfort! What a comfort to have a Heavenly Father’s love when you’re sick and hospitalized, when you’re unemployed and nobody seems to think you’re worth hiring, when you’re lonely or the victim of a broken relationship. How comforting to have God’s love in times of crisis—to know you’re not alone as you face whatever it is you have to face. How good to know that you have a Father in Heaven to whom you can pour out your heart. You have Someone who will really listen, who will care, who will perfectly understand, and who will provide you with His perfect help.
But being God’s child is not only a tremendous COMFORT for this life, it also fills us WITH HOPE FOR THE NEXT LIFE. Verse 2 of our text says: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” As a child of God, you can be HOPEFUL because you are bound for eternal glory.
This world of sin takes its toll on our bodies, our minds, our hearts. As the years increase so do the aches and pains. But our Father gives hope. He promises that when Jesus appears on the Last Day “we shall be like Him”—like Jesus. St. Paul says it this way: “[The Lord Jesus] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21) What will our Jesus-like, risen bodies be like? The Bible uses words like powerful, immortal, imperishable, glorious to describe them. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-44)
Our text also tells us that “we will see [Jesus] as he is.” Can you imagine that? After all the years of bringing our cares and our sorrows and our sins to Jesus, after all the years of receiving His forgiveness, His comfort, His encouragement, leaning on Him and finding strength every time — we are finally going to get the chance to thank Him face to face. We are finally going to feel His nail-pierced hand upon our shoulder. We are finally going to walk with Him along the carefree paths of the New Heaven and a New Earth. What a thing to look forward to! What a prospect to encourage us and make us hopeful!
God has called you His child! You have that, it belongs to you, and nobody can take it away from you. The question is, how are you going to live now? Will you live as though you were not a member of God’s family? Will you live like the unbelievers around you live? “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” The Lord has called to a life of purity.
Maybe you’ve seen that commercial that advertises a product that’s supposed to eliminate unseemly odors in your car. In that commercial they talk about becoming nose blind. Nose blind means that you’re so immersed in a smell that your brain doesn’t process it anymore. You get used to it. You might not recognize the bad smell anymore, but you can be sure that others do.
We are children of God, as such we are called to live pure lives. But how easy it is for us to become sin blind, to get used to the stinky things in our lives so that we start not to even notice them. We can easily become sin blind to the way we treat our spouse, the way we talk back to our parents, the way we use Facebook or other social media, or the way we become so apathetic toward our critical need to continue in the Word.
What is your particular sinful weakness? Fill in the blank. You know and God knows what it is. And, as a child of God, you have all of God’s loving power in His Word and Sacrament to help you get out from underneath that particular sin.
A group of teenagers were together, and someone suggested they go to a certain individual’s house—an individual who was known for drinking and doing drugs. One of the girls, we’ll call her Jan, said, “My parents wouldn’t want me to go there. Would one of you drive me home?” “Afraid of your father will hurt you?” one of the girls asked sarcastically. “No,” Jan replied, “I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him.” She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, is filled the desire *not* to sin against that love.
Well, someone once said that if verse four is for careless Christians, then verse five if for care-worn Christians. It’s for those who feel deeply the impurities and the failings and the shortcomings of our lives as Christians. For those convicted sinners, John has a word of peace: “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away sins. And in him is no sin.”
As God’s child, you can be AT PEACE—for your sins are taken away. A guilty heart is the #1 destroyer of peace—peace of mind. Guilt keeps us awake at night, and robs us of the joy God wants His children to have. But be of good cheer. God’s Son, “…appeared so that he might take away our sins!”
Because of God Friday and Easter, God can make this rock-solid promise of Psalm 103:13, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Child of God, by the authority of Jesus’ Christ I proclaim to you: “Be at peace! Your sins are forgiven!”
There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday eight hundred Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
When we go looking for our Father in His Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit will always lead us to God’s forgiving, saving, and helping love. We will find comfort, hope, and perfect peace. We will find strength to resist sin and strive to live pure lives to the glory of our Heavenly Father, showing the world what manner of love the Father has lavished on us. Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved