All Saints – We are God’s children
Sunday, November 1, 2020
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We Are God’s Children
Whose child are you? There are strange tricks that life plays on you. I remember when Camille was born. I remember us bringing her home and then saying, “now what?” And I remember the times we had to wake our daughter up at that tiny age. And one of those times we woke her up, she wanted nothing at all to do with waking up. So she made faces and then turned over. And Karin said, “Wow, she is her own person, with her own personality.” It was one of those many reminders that this child that God had blessed us with wasn’t really ours. Life played a trick on us, in that we gave the little girl her name. But really, truly, that child didn’t belong to us. God is the one who gave that child life. God is the one who gave her her own personality. That is what God’s word speaks to us this morning about: Every person is from God and belongs to God. In 1 John 3, we read: “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.” (1 John 3:1 NIV11-GKE)
We get to be called, “Children of God.” But, my dear friends, notice what right or reason is it that we get to bear this name and this title? John says, “See what kind of amazing love God had that he would give.”1 You see, there is a temptation we all face. We whom God has blessed with children face this problem especially. We face the temptation to conclude that our child is a child of God because of that child. Our child earned it with her heart or with her hands. She wanted God more than others. She loved God more than others. But God’s word reminds us that when we come into this world we are all children of sin and shame, darkness and destruction. But the next temptation is just as real. We are tempted to think that it’s not our child’s effort that made that person a child of God. Instead, it’s our own as parents. I see this as a pastor when children are confirmed. The parents can look back on years of getting that child up on Sunda mornings and having the child get into the car to come to church. The parent can look at all the effort he or she put into having the child learn parts of the bible. And then the parent can say to himself or herself, “I did that. My child is ready for this day because of me.” This too is a mirage.
There is one reason—and one reason alone why your child is a child of God. John puts it this way: “See what kind of amazing love God had that he would give.” God’s love is the reason. And the word that John uses here is a beautiful word. It’s the sort of love that reaches out and does what is best for someone. Out of love for your child God exposes his or her sin in ways that you cannot or will not. And out of love for your child God showers your child with love and forgiveness in ways you could not, or sometimes would not.
What does this love look like? It’s the sort of love that dies for the sins of the entire world so that your child would know that yes, really and truly, his or her sins are forgiven. It’s the sort of love that reached out to your child and shared his word with that child so that either by itself, or that word connected with water in baptism, put God’s name on your child. It’s the sort of love that didn’t just produce faith in that child, but also preserved it. That’s this amazing sort of love that God had. So neither that child nor you is the reason why your child is a child of God. Instead, God’s love is the reason. But John continues: “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.” (1 John 3:2 NIV11-GKE)
We are God’s Children. We are God’s children because of his love for us. But notice what John says here. There also a “so that.” We are God’s children so that we would see him face to face. Here we are, on All Saints Day. This is the day when we have the privilege of looking at our loved ones who have lived their life believing in Jesus and died in the faith. What does their life look like now? Now they see God face to face. This is an amazing fact to consider. God hides himself because he hates sin. But here we see this amazing fact: Those who have gone before us into heaven see our Triune God face to face. And they do this because every sin, every stain, every shame is gone. So they are able to look at God in his glory.
My dear friends in Christ, this is good for us to consider and ponder because this fact reshapes our understanding. When God takes our loved ones away, whether they are younger than us or older than us, we naturally ask the question, “why.” But when we begin to realize that the person we loved and lost to death doesn’t belong to us, but instead, to God, we begin to understand. We can be filled with anxiety and even anger when we consider that God took away our loved one—especially if there was pain involved as they left us. But, my dear friends in Christ, where are they now? They get to see Jesus as he is. And as we consider this fact we begin to see the whole picture. Yes, that loved one is a child of God because his amazing love for that person. But there’s a point, a progression, a path for that person’s life. That person is a child of God not so that they would stay here on this earth forever. Instead that path and progression leads to heaven. And there in heaven your loved one sees Jesus now face to face, as he is. And that leads us with one small question to consider in our final verse: “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3 NIV11-GKE)
Your loved one who has gone ahead of you is a child of God because of God’s love for them and so that they would live for him. But what about us? Or, more to the point, what about me? John encourages us to hold onto this truth.2 Let each day be a struggle for yourself where you resist and rebel against your sins and return to who you really, truly are: You are a child of God. And recognize your path and progression in this life. Your life here leads to eternal life there, in heaven, with Jesus. That truth makes the worries and weights of this world so much lighter. For we too are God’s children. We are God’s children because of his love for us. We are God’s children so that we will live with him. Amen.
1 “ⲓ̈ⲇⲉⲧⲉⲡⲟⲧⲁⲡⲏⲛⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏⲛ” (1 John 3:1 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲉⲭⲱⲛⲧⲏⲛⲉⲗⲡⲓⲇⲁ” (1 John 3:3 GNT-ALEX)