We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel, and if you would like a paper copy to follow along with, just raise your hand and someone will hand deliver it to you post-haste. If you’d prefer to follow along on your device, we’ve got our internet address password, and there’s a QR code if you want to click on that. Then you can access a page that has our notes and quotes on it. This morning we’re continuing in our study of the Letters of John. We’re in 1 John chapter 3, and our series title is “That You May Know”, and you may ask that I may know what.
That prompts the question, doesn’t it? And our answer is that you may know how much God loves you. We have a summary statement for this, for 1 John, especially. God wants you to rejoice in the knowledge of His love for you, which has been displayed vividly in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Amen. God is not hiding from us. Isn’t that a lovely thing? He does not play hide-and-seek. He’s revealed himself to us in nature, in His written Word, and in the person of Jesus Christ.
John said in the opening verses of this letter, chapter 1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the Word of life. The life was made manifest, plain to be seen. And we have seen it, testified to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life.” Friends, God wants to know us. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to know, and believe, and have fullness of life in Him and with Him. In chapter 20 of his gospel, John gives us his purpose for writing the gospel. That carries over to these letters, and he said, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
That is just some good news right out there for us to see. This is written so that you may know and that you may believe God does not want us to live our lives adrift. He wants us to be securely anchored and tethered to Him. Our passage today, it’s filled with the same hope and encouragement, and it goes even deeper. Not only are we forgiven, not only are we loved, but we are called children of God, sons and daughters of God. I’ve read this passage so many times, and then just this week, this verse just jumped out at me. We’re promised that one day we’re going to see Jesus face-to-face, and we are going to be changed into His likeness. Seeing Him as He is, is going to be transforming for us. I just love that. But then John also, he’s going to contrast practicing sin and practicing righteousness.
He’s also very upfront about that, about how we live, and frankly, it’s going to make us squirm in our chairs a little bit, and that’s okay. I’m calling our message today “Living in the Light of What We Know”. Henri J.M. Nouwen, and in his book In the Name of Jesus, he says,
“The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus,” Which is not just us on staff, that’s all of us here, “is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”–Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
That’s just awesome. As your pastors, whenever we teach, we are prayerfully aiming for this. That we encourage you in the love of Christ, the great love that God has for us. We’re wanting to exhort you in how to walk in light of that good news. We’re also wanting to equip you to walk in that as you leave the church and go to your mission field that God’s called you to during the week. That is our hope and prayer as we teach. I think that you’ll find that this text reflects those three things today. Let’s pray, and let’s dive into this amazing text.
Lord, we come to You this morning with expectant faith. Show us Your ways, oh, Lord. Teach us Your path. Guide us in Your truth and teach us. For You are God, our Savior, and our hope is in You all this day long. Holy Spirit, we ask that You illuminate the truth of Your Word to us this morning. Be tender with us on this day, especially, which is so oriented and geared towards family. Speak to us of being in Your family, Lord. We lift this up in Jesus name, amen.
Here we go, chapter 3, verse 1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God. And so we are.” I just love the way that rolls off. And so we are. This is just a gem of a verse, isn’t it? That we should be given this love. We don’t earn it. It’s given to us. We’re called children of God, and so we are, and this phrase that John uses here, “See what kind of love this is.” It’s the same type of phrase that the disciples used when they were in the boat with Jesus, worrying about perishing in the storm. Then He calms the wind and the waves, and they look at each other and say, “What kind of man is this that controls even the winds and the waves?” There’s something about this that is utterly foreign, unknown, like another country. That’s what this phrase means. That’s what John is trying to get across to us.
Last summer we took a trip with our boys to Iceland, and we drove all the way around the main highway in the country that goes in a ring around the country. When I say main highway, it’s a two-lane road with really no stripes or markers and a whole lot more sheep than automobiles. But it just seemed like every bend in the road we’d come around, we’d see yet another magnificent waterfall, mountain, or glacier, and we just felt like we were on another planet. It was unbelievable. We ran out of superlatives after a while, and that’s what John is trying to get across here. It’s an otherworldly kind of love. It’s so much more than we’ve ever known. At the end of verse 1, he says, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” Oh my goodness, I love that. What we are is so different to the world that, all of a sudden, we are counter-cultural without even intending to be, there’s something really beautiful about that because God will use that in the way we live our lives to glorify Himself to the world.
One other thing I want to ask, “Behold what manner the love the Father has given to us.” Anybody remember that old praise chorus? Any hands? There’s a couple. Oh, 2,3. Really late last night, I thought, “Man, this would be a great idea to get Pastor Jim up with me, and we’ll lead you in a resounding round of this from one side of the congregation to the other.” I was lovingly informed that maybe that wasn’t the best idea, so we’ll just pretend it was awesome. Oh my goodness. Okay, verse 2, this is another unbelievable verse, “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. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”
What a mind-blowing promise that is. For those of us in Christ, we are already God’s children, but the best is yet to come because when we meet Jesus and see Him face to face, see Him how He is, that is going to transform us and change us so radically that it says we will be like
Him, not the same as but like Him. And that hope fuels our living. Righteous living is not a prerequisite to being loved by God. It’s a result of being loved by God. Our living reflects our love for God.
Verse 4, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.” There’s two words for lawlessness in the Greek, and I hope I’m pronouncing these right, hamartia, which is transgression of the law, breaking the law, breaking the Torah, the law of God. But the word that John uses here is anomia, which means rebellion, an open rebellion against God and His ways. That’s what he’s talking about here. You’re going to notice both in our passage today, and then you’ve probably already seen it, and I think Pastor Jim and Pastor Tommy have already said this. That John doesn’t necessarily teach in a linear fashion. He teaches in a circular fashion, and he’s going to keep coming back to different themes. It’s like climbing a spiral staircase, where you continue seeing the same thing over and over again from a different vantage point. Or even better still, you could think of a really good, well-created symphony. The composer is going to have a main theme, and he’s going to keep returning to that theme over and over again in the symphony. That’s what John is going to be doing here.
Verse 5, another great and comforting truth John says, “You know that he appeared…” By the way, I’m not going to stop at every single verse. Close, it seems like it, doesn’t it? Sorry, I’m not sorry. Everyone who makes a… No, sorry. Verse 5, this is so good, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin.” Notice the nuanced difference in this passage and then in John’s gospel, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and he says, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Sin, singular. Here John says, “Jesus has appeared to take away sins.” Plural. I think that’s a really good reminder that sin can be out there, the sin of the world, so sin is global. We talk about this in our baptism meeting. Sin is global. It’s out there, but it’s also personal. It’s in here, in my life, and in your life and I love that it’s such a foundational verse. This is why Jesus came, to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. That is good news for all of us.
Verse 6, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous as He is righteous.” And here John continues with that contrast of sin and righteousness, and notice that there’s an emphasis on the idea of practicing because he’s not talking about committing a sin, an act of sin, or even an act of righteousness. He’s talking about a lifestyle.
Verse 8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” You see the contrast there? Jesus is without sin. In Him, there is no sin.
Then the devil has been sinning from the beginning. Here’s another just amazing truth, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” I just love that. In verse 5, John reminds us that Jesus came to take away sins, and then here he is adding to it that not only is He taking away our sins, He’s destroying the work of the devil. All of the evil that the devil has wrought. Wars, lies, death, sin, decayed disease, broken relationships, all that is wrong Jesus has come to set right. Isn’t that good news? That’s worth a Mother’s Day, amen, isn’t it?
In our last two verses in the passage, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in Him. We are God’s children, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this, it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” Is anyone else squirming yet? John keeps pointing out how our actions reveal our allegiances. I don’t know about you, but I’m keenly aware of the fact that I still have sin in my life. I am not a sinless person, and I would rather imagine, and I kind of hope that you guys might feel the same way too, but again, I want to remind us that what John is talking about here is not an act of sin but a disposition of heart.
As we look at this entire passage, I come away with, it is so deeply encouraging. There are some challenging parts to it, some things that make us squirm, but it’s so encouraging. It tells us these foundational truths of why Jesus came. That twofold reason, to take away sin, to destroy the works of the devil. It challenges us and exhorts us to live in light of that good news. Also, back in verse 2, it gives us that hope for our future in Christ. This is what we’re headed for. This is what we’re going to look like one day.
Three things stood out to me in this passage in terms of what we know and how we live in light of what we know, we behold, we believe, and we belong. They can all function in, just like John writes, in a circular fashion. These three can all function in a circular fashion, each one building upon the other and informing us in how we might live in light of all that.
The first thing is, man, we behold. We behold this amazing love. Brennan Manning says in The Ragamuffin Gospel, sorry, that came out funny, didn’t it?
“I have been seized by the power of a great affection.”–Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out
And loved ones, I am praying for all of us today that maybe somebody here, maybe even for the very first time, you’re seized by this idea, the power of this great love and great affection that the Creator of the universe of all we know, He’s seen fit not to just call us His own. That’s even an amazing thing. But to call us His sons and daughters, His children, to adopt us into His family, and He doesn’t adopt us into the family to be like the crazy aunt no one wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner. No. He is welcoming us in as dear, beloved children as heirs to His kingdom. The One who made us loves us. He loves us enough to call us sons and daughters. Friends, you are loved. You are tremendously loved.
I think if there’s one thing that I hope we all take away from this message this morning, is, you are loved and you belong, which is our third point. I let the cat out of the bag, didn’t I? We’ve said this before, but in God’s economy, provision always precedes obligation. God is not
shaking his fist at us and demanding that we live a perfect, moral, sinless life before He begrudgingly accepts us. It is exactly the opposite.
We read in Ephesians that because of God’s great love for us, while we were still dead in our trespasses, that He made us alive together in Christ. We are loved first before He asks us to even come to Him in faith. We are loved first. God is always the initiator, and there is a freedom in this being fully known and fully loved. We don’t have to be ever afraid of being rejected or being an outcast. There is a permanence in the Gospel that is ours forever. Not only are we beholding this great affection that God has for us, but in this passage, we’re also beholding that glorious plan of God through Jesus to destroy the works of the devil, to forgive us, and take away our sins.
David Jackman says in The Bible Speaks Today,
“So the coming of Christ, culminating in His cross, spells God’s total triumph over all the hostile forces which have tied us in knots and bound us in chains of sin which we cannot loose. Christ not only sets the captives free, He destroys the captor. He shared our humanity ‘so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”–David Jackman, The Bible Speaks Today
Wow, that’s good news. As we look around the world, I would say, even to an atheist, it’s not hard to see that things are not the way they ought to be. There is so much that is broken about our world that is obvious to all of us. It’s not the way God intended our world to be. In light of that brokenness, it just makes it all the more sweet. This idea that He is going to set things right, this desire to set things right, this great affection for us, that’s what fuels the coming of Christ, and that’s what led Him to the cross.
By His death and resurrection, He defeated the one who held the power of death. The cross is God’s answer to man’s deepest need. What a thing to behold, and beholding that great love. It leads to our next point. We believe, we read in Romans and Ephesians, that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You will be saved by grace through faith. That grace that saves us continues to work in us and one day will completely and forever transform us.
We receive from God that which we can’t achieve on our own. Even the faith to believe is a gift. Grace upon grace. In his short book, Faithful Leaders, Rico Tice talks about this. He says,
“I remind myself regularly of the three tenses of salvation that I learned when I was a young Christian. By grace, I have been saved from the penalty of sin. By grace, I am being saved from the penalty of sin. By grace I will one day be saved from the very presence of sin.”–Rico Tice, Faithful Leaders and the Things That Matter Most
Friends, that the grace of God is unending. Not only does it save us, not only does it meet us at the point of our deepest need, it walks alongside us for the rest of our lives and continues to meet us in our need. Grace saves us from the penalty of our sins. Jesus came to take away our sins and the penalty do us because we cannot be good enough on our own.
But grace doesn’t stop there. The grace of God continues to work in our life, saving us from the power of sin. Pastor Tommy talked about this just a couple of weeks ago, that in Christ, sin is no longer our master. It has lost its power, its chokehold on us. Think of a young sapling growing up. It might be surrounded by brambles and weeds that might choke it out, but along comes the gardener who prunes those brambles away, and that oak sapling grows and grows and grows until it’s a mature tree, and there’s no power, no hope for those weeds and brambles to affect it.
That’s what the Holy Spirit does in our lives’ day by day, changing us more and more into the likeness of Jesus, removing from us the power of sin, and then one day the grace of God that will meet us, join us, and be with us when we see Jesus face to face. That will be transformed
and removed from even the presence of sin. That’s such good news. It keeps getting better. We behold this amazing love and this amazing plan, and we believe in this unending grace. But now we realize we belong to the family of God. We are called sons and daughters part of the family. We belong.
Martin Lloyd-Jones puts it this way,
“The eternal everlasting God has become our Father and the moment we realize that, it transforms everything.”–Martin Lloyd-Jones
We don’t serve a nameless, faceless force out there in the universe. Instead, we serve a Creator who has made us but calls us children. We get to call Him Abba, Daddy. It’s just unbelievable to think of that. We are known, we are loved, we belong. I love that song that Keith, Kristyn, and Charlotte, thank you, Miss Charlotte, sang earlier. The first verse said, “The one who made the heavens made my heart and soul. Before I drew a breath, I was loved and known.” Even before we are alive on this planet, we are loved and known. The last verse says, “I am not my own. And now my heart is free.” And the chorus says, “I belong to the Lord. I am not my own.”
Love it. That runs so counter, doesn’t it? To our current cultural moment, which tells us that we belong to no one but ourselves, our feelings, our desires, which sounds pretty lonely to me. Actually, it sounds pretty exhausting. Having to constantly create and recreate who we are, dependent on the cultural moment or our feelings that literally change day by day, hour by hour, second by second, how freeing and filling it is to be fully known, fully loved by God, no matter what. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows the sins that we’ve committed in the past. He knows what sin or act of righteousness we might do today. He knows what sins we’ll commit next Wednesday, and yet He loves us, still came, died on the cross for us to take away sins. We are known, loved, and we belong.
What do we do with all this? The, “So what, now what?” Question. What do we do? How do we walk in light of what we know? And this is where John encourages us to abide in Christ and practice righteousness. Leon Morris says in The New Bible Commentary,
“The life we live reveals the source from which we draw our life.”–Leon Morris, The New Bible Commentary
The next slide says our belief is twofold, but they both circular back and forth. Our belief influences our behavior and our behavior, reveals our core beliefs. We can’t help but reflect in our outward behavior that which we hold to be an ultimate truth inside us.
In Jim Thomas lingo, “Our biography flows from our ontology.” So what does our biography say? What does our story say? Is there a family resemblance of our heavenly Father in how we live? And I’d like to suggest that in a humbly, faithfully, righteous life that’s repentant in sin and returns to the father. Boy, that in itself is an act of worship. It also can be a powerful witness to the watching world.
We’re not called to lead a perfect life, just a forgiven life. I’m sure some of you remember those bumper stickers, and if you had one, it’s okay. That said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I used to be annoyed by it. Yet I find that it’s the gospel truth. It is the truth. God does not call us to perfection. He calls us to faithfulness, and He calls us, as He does from the very beginning, to repent and return to Him. That kind of life is a witness.
I ran across this verse on Friday in Proverbs chapter 12, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor.” Isn’t that amazing? One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor. I would ask and implore you to consider your friends and neighbors who are not yet believers. Right? Who God
also wants to reach out, save them, and to reveal himself to them. Our life can be a witness and a guide to them, can be a pointer to Jesus. I want to encourage you in that.
1 Corinthians 15:49, I love this promise that we will one day be like Jesus,
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”1 Corinthians 15:49
Who knew that Paul was such a poet? That is amazing. Just as we have born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. One day, friends, one precious day, we will be changed into the likeness of Jesus. When He appears, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. That seeing Him face-to-face will transform us. That is just amazing.
I’d like to close with this quote from Philip Yancey and just in reading verse 8, where we read that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Man, that is so powerful. You just have this sense that all of creation, all of God’s handiwork, all of His craftsmanship, all of us, He loves all of us so much, and He is firmly and fiercely intent on our rescue. Here’s Yancey,
“In my lifelong study of the Bible, I have looked for an overarching theme, a summary statement of what the whole sprawling book is about. I have settled on this, ‘God gets His family back.'”–Philip Yancey
Oh, man, that’s good. I don’t know where all of us are. I don’t know where you are in your walk this morning, but maybe you’ve blown it again big time this week. You’re at a point where you’re thinking you’ve reached your sin limit, and God’s fed up with you and He’s turning His back on you. I’ve just got to tell you that is 100% not true. The same grace and love which meets us before we even believe in God before we even think about Him. That same grace and love meets us when we sin and confess our sin. As we like to say, “Grace is opposed to earning, but it’s not opposed to effort.” And I just want to encourage you that you did not earn your way into God’s love, and you’re sure not going to earn your way out of God’s love. It is steadfast, it is confident, it is sure.
There may be someone here today. Maybe you’ve never really considered Jesus. This idea of this great love that we can actually call the creator of the universe, Daddy, which just is
mind-blowing. Maybe you haven’t even thought about that, and I’d just like to encourage you. If there’s something keeping you from Jesus, what is that obstacle? Come talk to myself or one of the other pastors, Pastor Jim, Pastor Tommy, after church. We’d love to talk with you about that.
We also have people in the back that would love to pray with you. Beloved, you are children of God. You are part of God’s family in Christ. You belong. Amen.
Let’s pray. Lord, Your love for us is breathtaking. We can scarcely take it in that You would call us Your sons and daughters, that You would bend heaven and earth to run after us when we didn’t know, care, or even want to have anything to do with You. We don’t deserve it. Yet You freely offer it. Your grace is unending, and we are grateful. Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. In Jesus name, amen.
(Edited for reading)