Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. We come in our study of 1 John to chapter 3. In this chapter John writes about that relationship we have with God (IN Christ) as His children and how that contrasts with those who are not IN Christ; who are called children of the devil (v.10). And we will see in this chapter an interesting comparison between those children of God and the children of the devil and how we can easily tell the difference between them. Look with me at…
1 John 3:1a (ESV)— 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Children of God— Now I love how John opens chapter 3. He opens with a call for us to ponder what an amazing thing it is that the God of the Cosmos; the Creator of the Universe; the One who is Holy; the One who is Transcendent; cares about each and every one of us, formed from the dust of the earth as His children. We talked not long ago about Logos (meaning Word), the Greek concept of a divine force-like ordering principle of the Universe. But what John enjoys pointing out, especially in the prologue of his Gospel, is that that Logos (that Word) became flesh and dwelt among us so that He might bring us into the family of God. Clearly John had a very clear understanding that Jesus is the divine ordering principle of the universe. And I don’t think John ever could get over that; that he broke bread; ate and drank and walked with his Creator. And John, in all of His writings it seems, wants to point us to the amazing glory of Christ and to the amazing reality that we have been invited by God into His family. Now John says in…
1 John 3:1b-3 (ESV)— The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
William Seeks to Emulate Me-- When my son William was very young, I remember one time he got up from his nap. And he wanted me to hold him. And I tried to put him down, but he wouldn’t have it. He wanted to be held, so I held him. But I am finding that in everything I do, my son wants to be right there with me and be a part of it. I can hardly go anywhere without him tagging very close behind, eager to share in whatever I’m doing. But he always wants to do what I’m doing. Once I remember doing a handstand against a wall just to entertain him. But seeing me do it was not enough. Immediately afterwards he put his head on the floor and attempted to himself perform a handstand.
John and Us Seek to Emulate Christ-- Well that is what John is talking about in verse 3. If we are children of God, then we will want to be like Christ. He says: 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. For John, holiness became not just doing the right thing because that is what God wanted, but because he saw his Lord live a life of holiness and he saw the benefit. And he wanted to live that kind of life too as a child of God. But then you have this contrast with those who are not children of God. John says…
1 John 3:4-9 (ESV)— 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (Now keep in mind the man of lawlessness we talked about last week.) 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's[a] seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
Bearing the Characteristics of Our Father-- Now that is a pretty powerful statement: cannot keep on sinning,. Why? for God’s seed abides in him; Now seed here does not mean plant seed. Rather [The picture is of human reproduction, in which the sperm (the Greek for “seed is sperma) bears the life principle and transfers the paternal characteristics.] Just as our children bear much of the characteristics from their fathers (and mothers too), so also we bear the characteristics of our Heavenly Father.
In Our Likeness-- Now my son looks and acts very much like me. Sometimes it drives my wife crazy because of how much people say he looks like me. In many ways he is almost a carbon copy. His feistiness and stubbornness he gets from her, but the rest is from me. But he is like me because he is my child. And you can really see a parent in many ways by watching their child.
Now there are certain characteristics we look for in those who claim to be children of God. And John focuses on of course holiness, but even more specifically on how that holiness is lived out in perfect love of one another…
1 John 3:10-11 (ESV)— 10 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. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Cain and Abel— So love and hatred is what distinguishes the true child of God from the false one. And John gives us a specific example in the first example of hatred in all of scripture; the story of Cain and Abel…
1 John 3:12 (ESV)— 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.
Why the World Hates Us-- Now John’s point here is to show why we ourselves are hated by the world. Just like Abel and Cain (though they shared the same physical parents) did not share the same spiritual parent. Abel was a child of God and Cain was a child of Satan. So while we love our brothers (and especially those lost in sin), they, the hateful brothers (the World) rejects us. Why? Because their deeds are evil.
1 John 3:13-15 (ESV)— 13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[a] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
So we understand that it is love that separates the believer from the unbeliever, the Child of God from the child of the devil; but how do we recognize that kind of love? If that is the single most important defining characteristic of a child of God, then it is important we have a definition; an explanation of what that kind of love is and looks like. John tells us in verse…
1 John 3:16-18 (ESV)-- 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Laying Our Lives Down For Each Other-- Wow, talk about application; a very practical laying out of what Jesus had taught in John 15 and how to apply it. And what John is talking about here is compassionate ministry; providing for the needs of another person. But the standard John sets isn’t to just give of your possessions. No, we are to emulate the love of Christ. What does that love look like? Verse 16: 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us,… You and I are called to lay down our lives for one another; to live lives of sacrificial love that mirrors the same kind of love Christ first showed us.
My Doubt-- When I was younger I always wrestled with the issue of whether or not I was saved. Some people have a healthy understanding of guilt; mine was a bit unhealthy and in many ways I had an over-sensitive conscience. Not to say I never did anything wrong, but I was always worried about my salvation. And that worry is not foreign to many believers. And John here wants to lay some of that worry to rest. And he does so by pointing back to whether we bear the likeness of the One we have received, Jesus Christ; if we bear the marks of being true children of God: whether we are living lives free of sin and whether or not we have manifested in our lives the sacrificial love of God. If those things are there, then we are truly His children.
1 John 3:19-24 (ESV)-- 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (In other words, God is greater than our anxiety and has the complete perspective on our lives. Holiness of heart and life and an active love of others is strong evidence that we are in fact His children.) 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
“by the Spirit”-- And by the Spirit doesn’t mean we just somehow feel saved in our spirit. Rather, it means that because we see God’s work of transformation being worked out in our lives that we know God’s Spirit dwells with us. We know He is there because there is evidence He is there. We are being made more like Christ. Like a child is growing more and more into the likeness of it’s parent, so we are growing more and more into the likeness of our Heavenly Father.
And so in our day to day lives we need to ask ourselves, “Do we bear the characteristics of our Father in heaven? Are we like Christ? Are we holy like Him? Are we loving like He is loving? Do we live sacrificially?” It is that kind of love that John says identifies us as Children of God. Let us live in that love and commit to reflect that love we have been given upon a world that needs to be touched by it. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.