1 John 3:1-3 “Spirit of Healing”
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18, verses 15-17, we see Jesus being surrounded by parents bringing their infants for Jesus to touch—to lay hands on—to, in essence, bless. The disciples are upset by this and try to keep the children away from Jesus. Jesus stops his disciples and tells them: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I tell you that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
That is an incredible idea. We have to become like children. Yet, it does not answer the basic question of WHOSE children we are. The scripture from Luke says that the children were with their parents. Yet, Jesus seems to be hinting at the idea that perhaps the children really belong to God! Our reading from 1 John 3, spells that out quite clearly for us in no uncertain terms.
You see, in the Greek there are many different terms for “children.” We have the same in English, yet it seems that the editors of the Bible like to always just translate to the term “children.” So, let us clear this up: Jesus calls τα παιδια to him in the gospel of Luke. This is the generic term for children. But in 1 John, the term that is used is τα τεκνα, which literally means “offspring” in English. So, we are not just somebody else’s children. We belong to God. We are God’s children.
Then in our scripture for today we have another interesting note from the Greek in so far as we are “called” children of God. We know that this term “call” in English has many different meanings. Does this mean that we are called, that is to say someone has given us that name on our birth certificate? Does this mean that we are called, as if someone called out our name in a crowd to catch our attention or called us on our phone? No. This “call” is a call from God, just as a pastor is called to ministry. Our calling is to be the offspring of God! That is literally why we are here on this planet!
How often it is that we shut out the truth of the matter that we were created by God. When we look back in Genesis we see God created us in God’s image. God saw that it was very good. WE are very good because we are of God. We sprang off from God—offspring. That is to say not that we are all a little “springy,” the term “spring” here is in reference to a source of water for life. God is our source. It is not a reference to a mechanical spring! Not like a diving board! We did not just dive off from God!
We are all the children of God. Think about that for a moment. We are all the children of God. “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God.” Do you see it? This is a command form. This is an imperative. See! And, as I have pointed out again and again, this word “see” is more than just hold in your vision. It has the meaning in the Greek of something more powerful. This is as you would ask somebody: “Are you seeing anyone right now?” And, the response might be “Yes, I am married.”
“See what love the Father has given,” means to look into the heart of God and totally understand, grasp, accept that love from God in heaven for your life as a child of God.
It also means to note that love is flowing down to others as well. If we are to see it in our own lives, then we should be able to see it in the lives of others, too. Brothers and sisters we all are! Hence, we have the Great Commandment from Jesus to love one another as we love ourselves.
Here now stands before us this huge stumbling block! When I look at others, I must see the child of God in each one. Helen just came back from her trip to visit family back in Malaysia, and her flight back reminded me of all my time in airplanes recently. It is really hard to keep in mind this “child of God” thought when you are being squeezed into a little seat with a few hundred other people on a plane. Once you are on that plane, you are no longer a person with a name. Now you are just that seat number. You hear it from the stewards on the plane, “26b needs a pillow and a blanket,” “37g has had too much drink already.”
Hear me now. You are not just passengers on this planet. You are not just filling a seat on a flight through space-time. God knows His children, sees His children, and loves His children. That is better than first class on any flight.
Recently we have seen an upswing in people wanting to know their genetic heritage. For very little money one can see how the DNA from previous generations has come together in you. I have really wondered if this is a good thing at all for us to pursue. What difference does it make anyway? Do we realize how dangerous this can be?
For my own family on my father’s side, baptismal records were pulled by the SS in Germany in Hitler’s time right from the church office. The SS were looking to see if we had any Jewish blood in our family. Apparently we did not because I am here today talking with you. Can you imagine what would happen today if another Hitler came to power and started DNA tests on everybody?
Do you see the Jew? He is a child of God. See the Muslim? He is a child of God. See the atheist? Also, a child of God! Hold on now: The neo-nazi is also a child of God. Some children get lost, but they are children of God. They may reject the love of the Father, might even deny the Father, but the Father still has love for the son.
This is the incredible story that Jesus told of the Prodigal Son. Luke 15:11 and on tells that story of the son who asks his father for his inheritance early, goes off and squanders the money, and then comes home to the father once again. The father holds a great feast for the boy. Even those who reject God, will be welcomed back. Behold what manner of love!
Our scripture for this morning goes on to note that Jesus will be revealed. The first son of God will come again. Upon that revelation, we ourselves will be welcomed to the Kingdom of God as in likeness with Christ. It says plainly that “We shall be like him.”
As children of God, how then shall we be one day? The writer of this letter has a unique perspective on this that we must appreciate. You see, John himself has seen Jesus in all of his glory. In Luke 9:28 and on we can read how it was that John and some of the other disciples that were close to Jesus were invited to come up on to the mount of transfiguration. We can read how it is that Jesus became dazzling white. Then, he was joined by the angelic prophets Moses and Elijah. John actually is a witness therefore of the true glory of Jesus. John also witnessed Jesus after the Resurrection. Lastly, John is shown what Christ’s Revelation is going to look like by the angel in the Book of Revelation. So, on at least three different times John has actually seen Jesus in His revealed glory.
The promise is that we will one day be healed. All of our earthly frailties will be taken away. We will no longer have to deal with aching joints, wrinkling skin, or too much fat hanging over the beltline. We will not suffer headaches or bad breath. That is our hope.
Verse 3 of our scripture for today says that if we hold this hope, then we will purify ourselves. We want to be as pure as Jesus is. Why wait until you die? If your hope is to be like Christ, then start the process now.
I have a little bit of a historical note to add here to the message. The idea of making ourselves pure in the here and now rather than waiting for the End of Days was one of the founding beliefs of our forebears of this particular church. That is right: we are the descendants of the Puritans. We are a puritanical church! The puritans wanted to purify the church and themselves therefore. They wanted to lead a pure lifestyle that was simple and unblemished.
At the same time as the Reformation, 500 years ago, people just wanted things to be pure again. They saw all of the corruption around them and wanted to get back to the basics. It is no coincidence that at the exact same time as the Reformation, the government of Bavaria was introducing the very first “purity laws” for food being sold with the Reinheitsgebot in regards to beer. 500 years ago the Germans made it clear that the only things that could go into beer were water, barley, and hops—nothing else. Beer had to be pure.
It is interesting to note that now we are going through another phase asking for purity. We no longer tolerate food with secret ingredients. We read the labels on everything. My daughter Kim does not handle MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) very well, so we now make sure that what is in the house is pure from MSG.
We are doing this with our food, but are we as curious about the other stuff we are taking in? We still watch a lot of stuff that is impure on television or on our computer screens. We still allow our ears to hear unclean thoughts that are supposed to be religion. Some preachers today are preaching hate instead of love. We need to purify ourselves. If there is any hate in us today, we need to let it go. We need to keep our faith simply upon the Word of God.
Letting all of the corruption out of our hearts is called “repentance.” This is what is needed to make ourselves pure again. This is how we can heal the world and bring God’s children back home to Him.