Message Title: ‘God’s love changes everything’ Text: 1 John 3:1-3
Introduction: Pastor Steve Shepherd relates the following true story: Perhaps you have never heard of Katherine Lawes. Katherine was the wife of Lewis Lawes, warden at Sing Sing Prison from 1920-1941. In his 21 years he instituted numerous reforms, and an important part of his success was due to his wife Katherine.
Katherine took seriously the idea that the prisoners are human beings, worthy of attention and respect. She regularly visited inside the walls of Sing Sing. She encouraged the prisoners, ran errands for them and spent time listening to them. Most importantly, she cared about them. And as a result, they cared deeply about her.
Then one night in October of 1937, news that Katherine was killed in an accident spread through the prison. The prisoners petitioned the warden to allow them to attend her funeral service. He granted their strange request and a few days later the south gate of Sing Sing swung slowly open. Hundreds of men; felons, lifers, murderers, thieves, men convicted of almost every crime conceivable, marched slowly from the prison gate to the funeral, reassembled at the house for the wake and then returned to their cells.
There were so many that they went unguarded. But not one tried to escape. They were devoted to Katherine Lawes, the woman who daily walked into Hell to show the men a piece of Heaven. (adapted from www.newyorkalmanack.com)
Love can have that kind of effect on people’s lives.
But… lasting change, a total transformation, a complete life altering existence, happens only… with the love God offers.
Transition: The apostle John, in our text this morning, will tell us about a kind of love that changes everything.
1. 1 John 3:1a We are loved
See what kind of love the Father has given to us (ESV)
John starts with the word See. The Greek word is often translated as Behold, and it means ‘to stop and take a look’, ‘to examine.’
John’s saying ‘Listen, what I’m going to say is HUGE, so stop what you’re doing and give me your full attention.’
Why such a big windup to what’s he’s going to tell them? Perhaps because when John speaks about God’s love, he speaks from personal experience…
- Through his relationship with Jesus, he felt, he knew, he experienced God’s love and it changed everything about him.
The apostle John was in awe of God’s love. And even more, that God would choose to shower Christians, followers of Jesus, with His amazing love.
- You see, John knew the depth of his/our sinfulness, that we’re corrupt, vile and disobedient… unworthy of His love.
- And because that was our nature, how we chose to live, we were destined to experience God’s judgment and wrath.
Yet, God has chosen us to be the recipients of His ‘out of this world’ kind of love. That’s what the word kind means here.
- It’s not the kind of love the sinful world offers… in fact, the world cannot know or understand this God kind of love.
Since the Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16) It’s a love that’s unique to God.
- It’s a forgiving love, a redeeming love, an unchangeable love, an unconditional love, it’s an eternal love.
- It’s the love that comes from the very heart of Almighty God, Himself.
And… it’s the love God lavishes upon those who are His through faith in Jesus. That’s the way the NIV Bible puts it… See what great love the Father has lavished on us.
- God doesn’t just hand His kind of love over to us. It’s not like a transaction in Shoprite with the cashier when you pay for what you bought.
- No, He pours it all over us, He showers us, He immerses us, in His love.
Christian, please, don’t ever take God’s love for you for granted. Let it continually fill you to overflowing with worship and thankfulness that God, loves, you!
In fact, the Apostle Paul prayed that followers of Jesus would understand God’s great love for them.
- so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17–19)
While the unsaved world around us cannot know or understand God’s love… those who place their faith in Jesus, can not only know and understand it, they will experience it, intimately!
Transition: This is one of the reasons why John says ‘Listen, stop what you’re doing and pay attention.
- It’s because of God’s great love for us that He has called us His children.
2. 1 John 3:1b We are children of God
that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Ill: A young man entered the movie theater loaded down with popcorn, drinks, and candy. As the lights dimmed he began to pace up and down the aisle, scanning all the darkened rows. It was obvious he was looking for the people with whom he had come. After three or four unsuccessful trips up and down the aisle, he finally stopped and asked loudly, “Does anybody here recognize me?”
Everyone wants to belong. We all want to be known and cared for by others. God has created us, to be in community. (J Jeffrey Smead)
And in God’s economy, the ultimate community is His family. God does not just love us, He loves us to the extent, that He calls us His sons and daughters.
And if we didn’t get that the first time, John adds… and so we are. In other words, John’s saying
- Yes, Christian, it’s really true, we’re sons and daughters of Almighty God, who loves us with an extravagant kind of love.
You see, God loves us to such a degree, that just saving us from our sin was not enough. He wants to make us a part of His family. There are two remarkable aspects of being children of God.
First, we’re His adopted sons and daughters, by God’s free choice and by His amazing love for us.
- In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5)
This is the legal aspect of being children of God and that’s an amazing thing. But God didn’t settle for just the legal aspect of placing us in His family.
Second, is the spiritual, the eternal aspect of being children of God… we are born of God.
- since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23)
The phrase born again actually means born from above. This is a spiritual rebirth. And like a natural birth it requires a seed…
- The seed of the spiritual rebirth is the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit living in us.
Making us ‘natural’ if you will, children of God.
The extravagant love of God will not settle for anything less than a deep closeness, an intimate communion that goes to our very souls and has the power to change everything about us… for His and our good.
So, why is it so wonderful to be children of God? Well, I just don’t have time to get into all of that today. It is more than wonderful to be a child of God… But, one point though since John in chapter 2:15-17 stressed the urgency of NOT loving the world or the things in it.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews said
- in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, (Hebrews 1:2a)
Then the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:16-17a added:
- The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
- As Christians, children of God, we’re not just a part of His kingdom…
- We share ownership in all that is His kingdom.
What an impact the truth that we’re both born again and adopted children of God, join heirs with Jesus, can have on us.
- Greed, envy, pride, our obsession over things.
We fight, we strive, we stress over, sometimes sinfully, to ‘own’ stuff here on earth, when we already ‘own’ everything what truly matters here and there (in heaven) through faith in Jesus.
- James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..
Coming down not from God, not from the Almighty as if to separate us from Him… NO, coming down from the Father…
- That’s intimacy, that’s a generous and loving Father. And, that’s just one of the incredible privileges and blessings it is, to be children of God!
3. 1 John 3:1c We are different than the world
The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.
In Johns gospel he wrote this:
- But to all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Listen again, closely, as you may not like or believe what you hear.
- To all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God
- If you have not believed in Jesus, placed your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin,
- Then you have NOT received Him.
- And… you’re NOT a child of God.
Please, not my words, God’s, right here in our text.
- The reason why the world does not know us (Christians) is that it did not know Him. (They aren’t saved)
The world doesn’t know you… doesn’t understand you, doesn’t get why you choose to live for Jesus…
and not like everyone else around you. Because, they don’t know Jesus in a saving way.
Here’s John’s big idea.
- It’s only because God pours out His love on us as Christians, that we are different than the unsaved world around us.
There’s an innate, change of our DNA. We’re no longer are ‘like the world’
- We no longer share it’s narrative, it’s desires, it’s choices, it’s values or it’s lifestyle.
We are, through the imperishable seed of the Holy Spirit, wired differently. The Apostle Paul’s gives us a glimpse of what that means in Romans 8:29
- For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son
The reason the world doesn’t know us is because it doesn’t know Jesus… in a saving way. And, if you add Romans 8:29, the world doesn’t know us because we’re starting to resemble Jesus, again, whom they don’t know.
- Our values, our priorities, our choices, our language, our behavior, our… everything is being changed by the love of God. His love in us is conforming us to Jesus’ likeness.
Listen, that a really good thing!
Because the world doesn’t know Jesus in a saving way, those who are saved, who are God’s children can show them what Jesus is like… by how we live.
The Apostle Matthew said it in a clearer way than I ever can:
- In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Pastor and theologian Martin Lloyd Jones wrote:
Let us never again think of the Christian as just someone who is trying to live a good life, trying to be a little bit better than somebody else, a person with a belief in doing certain things, going through certain forms and ceremonials and keeping certain regulations dictated by the church. Christians do all that, but before all that is this vital fact that they are children of God. They have been born again, born from above, born of the Spirit; they have received something of the very nature and life of God Himself. They are transformed people, they are a new creation, and they are thus absolutely, essentially different from those who have not experienced that. That is the very basic thing which the New Testament everywhere emphasizes concerning the Christian. (Bruce Goettsche)
Look, I know there’s a very strong pull to look like the world, to not be different, to not stand out. I get it, life is easier that way. But, it’s not our calling.
- Once we see our difference as a result of God’s amazing love for us and of being His children,
- perhaps our lights will shine a bit brighter for Jesus.
4. 1 John 3:2-3 We will be like Jesus
A. 1 John 3:2 We will see Jesus and be like Him
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.
There’s a lot of talk, many books written and sermons preached concerning what happens to Christians when Jesus returns. While many speak with authority, the Bible’s not as clear as their authority would require. Perhaps John felt that way too. Let’s follow his thought process:
He begins by calling Christians, beloved.
- It’s a term of endearment.
- It’s used to show that we are loved by God, that we’re His ‘loved ones’.
He then tells them, us, that we are God’s children now. The emphasis is on the word now.
- It’s not something we will achieve when we die and go to heaven.
- It’s not something we work hard to earn.
We are the children of God… today.
- We have the life of Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, living in us… today.
- We are joint heirs with Jesus… today.
- We have eternal life with God… today.
We can know that and take it to the bank, as it were. And none of that will ever change.
But, John implies that we will change in some way, there will be something significantly different about us in the future.
That’s why John writes: and what we will be
What we see when we look in the mirror today is not what we’ll see when Jesus returns.
- Speculate as we will, we just don’t know… at least not very much.
- We get a glimpse now and again in the Bible, but the picture is not very clear.
But John does give us a hint as to the nature of our coming change when he says and what we will be has not yet appeared. Why didn’t John say ‘and we don’t know what we’ll be’? He said what we will be has not yet appeared. Big difference.
- Our change will not be the result of something new we’ll learn or something we’ll do to earn it. No, our change will be the result of Jesus’ appearing, His return.
John gives us an even bigger clue as to how we will change, be different when he says: but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him. Look,
- We will NOT be Jesus, we will NOT be a god. We will NOT be exactly as Jesus is, but we will be like Him.
Finally John adds because we shall see Him as He is. Paul in Philippians 3:20-21a fills in a little more of the change that will take place in Christians when Jesus returns, he writes:
- But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body
We’ll see Jesus’ glorified body and we’ll see that He has transformed our body to be like His… glorified,
- We’ll be able to live in Heaven.
- We’ll be able to relate, in very real ways, with the Godhead.
- The work the Holy Spirit has been doing in us to conform us into the likeness of Christ, will have been completed.
(again, not the same as Jesus, but in His likeness.)
B. 1 John 3:3 We will be pure like Jesus
And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.
When John wrote: And everyone who thus hopes in Him he was referring to Christians, those who have given their lives to Jesus by faith.
And John adds these Christians, will purify themselves.
- They will live rightly, strive to be holy, abhor sin, obey God’s Word and live to please their Heavenly Father.
Remember this is a process that Jesus, living in you through the indwelling Holy Spirit, is working on in you, every day. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians 1:6
- And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Writing to the Christians in Ephesus Paul adds a bit more detail to that good work He is doing in Christians: Ephesians 5:25-27
- Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
So what we see is this process of purity, of holiness is a joint venture between us and the Holy Spirit.
- What I’ve read in Philippians and Ephesians is God’s work
- John will tell us in 1 John 3: 4-10 what our responsibility is.
And, I’ll speak on this in more detail next Sunday. Let me just say that I believe John’s idea here is this:
- The hope the Christian has of the future return of Jesus produces a desire in us to live godly lives for Him… today.
So, Christian, are you a part of the everyone who thus hopes in Him?
Ill: Steve Brown tells of his friend whose husband walked out of the marriage for another woman. The wife vowed that if she ever married again, she would marry the ugliest man in town. This way no one would tempt him away.
Two years later, she did just that. He was ugly on ugly, but he would sometimes sit around and just smile, because he couldn’t believe that she would marry him.
Christian, each of us ought to sit around sometimes, and just smile, because of the great love God lavishes on us, changing ugly sinners into children of God. (Adapted from Dana Chau)
Friends, God’s love… changes everything.