The Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 25, 2021
1 John 3:1, 2
Live Who You Are!
How great is the 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. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
About twenty years ago the congregation where I was serving hosted a Leadership Seminar. The seminar focused on our leadership “style” and how that “style” is impacted by our personality type. Everyone at the seminar was required to fill out “The Keirsey Temperament Sorter II.” This questionnaire helped you to discover your personality type. According to this questionnaire there are four main personality “types” with each “type” having four “sub-types.” The four main personality types are: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational. Knowing your personality type helps you to understand yourself better— what you do and why you do it. If we know someone else’s personality type, we can also have a better understanding of what they do and why they do it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar for two reasons. First, it gave me an even deeper appreciation for the words of great King David recorded in Palm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our Almighty Creator has designed us human beings with incredible depth and detail— not only physically, but also intellectually, psychologically and emotionally. Second, as a result of this seminar I discovered that certain occupations “fit” better with certain personality types. To help me grow in my understanding of how that works, I purchased this book, “DO WHAT YOU ARE.” This book takes each of the four basic personality types (along with their four sub-types) and shows how someone with a particular personality type does well in certain occupations.
The fact that the God of heaven has designed us in ways that amaze us over and over again, helps us to understand what God the Holy Spirit is proclaiming to us here in our text for today. Using the title of this book as a springboard, let’s study these words of our God under the theme: Live Who You Are! Who are we? There are two answers to that question. First let’s see how the apostle John assures us of who we are now. Then let’s see how the apostle John assures us of who we will be in eternity.
John opens our text by proclaiming to us a truth, a reality, a status that is nothing short of miraculous. He says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” A more literal translation of this verse would go like this, “Behold what wonderful agape love the Father has granted to us that we should be called/named the children of God! And we are!”
These words are overflowing with joy and with amazement and we might even say surprise! Why is John filled with so much joy and so much amazement and so much surprise? Because John understood that by nature we were not born “children of God.” By nature we were born enemies of the Almighty. (See Romans 8:7) By nature we were born slaves of sin, death and the devil. (See Romans 6:15-18; Hebrews 2:14, 15) By nature we were born “outside” the family of God. (See 1 Peter 2:9, 10)
That’s why John was overflowing with joy and amazement and yes, surprise! God did not “have to” adopt us to be His own dearly beloved children. He did not “scan” eternity to see who still had a little bit of “good deep down inside of them,” or who would be faithful and obedient to Him. We are “children of God” purely because of the heavenly Father’s “agape love” for us! This is the unconditional love of John 3:16. This is the sacrificial love of the cross on Calvary’s hill! (Pointing to the cross)
Since the heavenly Father has so freely “lavished” His “wonderful agape love” on us, since through the power of the Holy Spirit working through either the Sacrament of Holy Baptism or through the power of God’s holy Word the heavenly Father has adopted us to be His very own, we now need to live who we are! What does this mean? John helps us understand what this means for us on a practical level when he says to us, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” As Christians, as the “children of God,” we need to recognize that since the unbelieving world is a stranger to God’s “wonderful agape love,” the world does not “know” us. The world does not understand us. Since the unbelieving world is still enslaved by sin, death and the devil it has no room for God and therefore it has no room for us, the “children of God.” Our status in the eyes of God, our faith in God, our trust in God, our love for God— all of this is both a mystery and a threat to this world and to its “status quo.”
Christ warned His disciples about the hostility they would face from the world when He said to them, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20). As we saw in our reading from the book of Acts this morning (Acts 4:23-33) it did not take long for Jesus’ disciples to experience this truth firsthand. Since the religious leaders of God’s Chosen People could not figure out a way to punish Peter and John after they had healed the man who had been “crippled from birth,” they released them with a warning. Luke writes, “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Do you remember how the Lord’s disciples responded? They said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” Acts 4:18-20).
Even though the world does not “know” us, my friends, even though the world may hate us and reject us, ridicule us and demean us because of our faith in Him (Pointing to the cross), we consciously strive to live who we are— the “children of God”! Living who we are will guide and direct what activities we are willing to engage in and what activities we refuse to participate in. Living who we are will filter what we watch on television, what music we listen to and even the jokes that we laugh at. (See Ephesians 5:1-7) Living who we are edits the priorities that we have in our life, the attitudes that we have in our heart, and the words that we allow to come out of our mouth. Living who we are means that whether they like it or not everyone around us will be able to see and to hear that we are the “children of God.”
As we turn to the second verse of our text, we see how God the Holy Spirit leads the apostle John to widen our focus from who we are now because of the “wonderful agape love” the heavenly Father has “lavished” on us, to who we will be in eternity. Look once again at what John assures us, “Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
The blessings that the heavenly Father’s “wonderful agape love” has “lavished” upon us are phenomenal! Where will it end? What is the limit of what God will do for us? We don’t know! God’s “wonderful agape love” for us goes far beyond our wildest imagination! As the apostle Paul told God’s people in Corinth, “’No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10). Here in our text the Holy Spirit reveals a “sliver” of what God’s love has waiting for us: “When he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
These words transport us to Judgment Day. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, we will behold and experience an even more glorious sight than what John saw and what John experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration! Not only will we be able to gaze upon our Lord in all of His power, majesty and glory— without fear!— but we will be “changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52). Try to imagine that in your minds, my friends. Now we are the “children of God”— lovingly adopted by the heavenly Father, completely forgiven of all of our sins, redeemed by His blood (Pointing to the cross) for all of eternity! On Judgment Day we will “be like him” (Pointing to the cross)— glorious, perfect, holy, filled with more joy and more happiness, and more peace and more contentment than human words can express! Since we know who we are and since we know a little bit about who we will be because of what our Brother Jesus has done for us, we need to live as brothers and sisters of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
What does this mean? It means that as brothers and sisters of Jesus we journey through this world with the confidence of knowing that our Brother Jesus is our Good Shepherd. It means that as brothers and sisters of Jesus we trust that our Good Shepherd will freely provide us with all that we need for both our body and our soul. It means that as brothers and sisters of Jesus we depend on our Good Shepherd to protect us from all of our spiritual enemies. It means that as brothers and sisters of Jesus we humbly listen to our Good Shepherd’s voice as He speaks to us through His holy Word. It means that as brothers and sisters of Jesus when we hear our Good Shepherd say to us, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also” (John 10:10), these words motivate us to do everything we can to tell others about the Good Shepherd who was willing to “lay down” His life for them so that through faith in Him they too can enjoy the “wonderful agape love” of the heavenly Father— both now and in eternity!
When we stop to consider how our loving Creator designed us— physically, intellectually, psychologically and emotionally— we gladly join with great King David in saying, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Because of God’s design we appreciate how books like this (holding up the book “DO WHAT YOU ARE”) can be very helpful to us. But, when we stop to consider what the God of heaven has done for us (Pointing to the cross) and given to us, we gladly join with the apostle John in saying, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!” My prayer this morning, my friends, is that you will always stay focused on the cross so that with His help you can daily strive to Live Who You Are!
To God be the glory!