Easter 3 – "We Shall Be Like Him" – 1 John 3:1-3 – 4/19/15

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“SEE WHAT KIND OF LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN TO US, THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD; AND SO WE ARE.”

THE WHOLE THING SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. The ‘prodigal son’ couldn’t wait for the ‘old man’ to croak so he could get his hands on his inheritance and start spending it. He demands it UP FRONT, before his father dies. And the Father gives it to him. And the son squanders it all RECKLESS LIVING. And when the son is broke and hungry, has the nerve to return home and ask his father for a job doing yard work or painting the barn or cleaning toilets. He has given up the idea of ever being called ‘a son’ again. A ‘hired hand’ was all he was hoping for.

Oh, but when his father saw him yet a ‘long way off,’ he ran to him and threw his arms around him and kissed him, bedecked him with all of the emblems of sonship, and declared loud enough for the whole community to hear, “This MY SON, was lost but is found, was dead but is alive.”

“SEE WHAT KIND OF LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN TO US, THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD; AND SO WE ARE.”

THE WHOLE THING DOES SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. But because of Jesus Christ, the whole thing is really TOO GOOD NOT TO BE TRUE. For if it is not true, we are all lost and there is no hope of ever being saved from our sin.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans :6-8)

It’s “Love for the loveless shown that they might lovely be. Oh, who am I that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die.” (LSB #430:1)
“SEE WHAT KIND OF LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN TO US, THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD; AND SO WE ARE.” It’s all too good NOT TO BE TRUE.

The thing that makes all of this hard for us to comprehend let alone accept, is that this is ‘UP FRONT LOVE.’ It’s ‘love for no good reason,’ except that God chooses to love you.

Love like this is hard for us to understand, let alone appreciate, let alone believe.

We keep looking for the ‘price’ buried somewhere in the fine print, because EVERTHING comes with a price. You can waste an entire CHILDHOOD searching the fine print for the ‘catch.’

But there is no catch. The ‘price’ has already been paid in full by God. UP FRONT. “BELOVED, WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN NOW…”

All of the rights and privileges that come with being one of God’s dear children are yours NOW, in the present – UP FRONT, NO WAITING. The death has already occurred. The inheritance has already been paid out – IN FULL. Forgiveness, peace, security, blessedness, “an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous,” the perfect love of God, eternal life – all ours, NOW. The Father’s guidance in all your ways; His care and protection in all you do; even His discipline, for what loving father doesn’t discipline his beloved children. All of it. Ours. Now.

EVEN IF IT IS ‘by faith alone.’
EVEN IF IT IS hard to see.
EVEN IF IT IS hard to believe.
EVEN IF IT IS only because THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.

Just because you can’t always SEE it or FEEL it, or should I say, just because it doesn’t LOOK like you thought it would, just because it doesn’t FEEL like you want it to FEEL, doesn’t mean it isn’t REAL; doesn’t mean it isn’t TRUE.

“How can we be sure” you ask? “How can we be sure that we are “CHILDREN OF GOD – NOW”?
• Do I look inside myself and ‘examine my heart?’
• Do I look at my behavior and see if I’m ACTING like a ‘child of God?’
• Do I look at the circumstances of my life and ‘read them’ like a ‘gypsy’ reads the lines in my palm?

Of course not. Whenever you want ASSURANCE that this is about YOU, that God loves YOU, and you are HIS CHILD NOW, you never look inward at yourself OR outward to the circumstances of your life – but outward to GOD’S WORD. For HIS WORD IS ALWAYS TRUE.

“See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be CALLED, children of God.”

Remember that this is JOHN’S letter to the church and to you. And John loves to go back to the very beginning of things. Remember how John begins his gospel,

“In the BEGINNING was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” (John 1:1) Remember how John started this letter? “That which was from the BEGINNING, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes…”

In the beginning, God CREATED EVERYTHING and EVERYTHING HE CREATED He CALLED something. “God CALLED the light day and the darkness He CALLED night.” “He CALLED the dry land earth and the waters that were gathered together He CALLED Seas.” And whatever God CALLED it, THAT IS WHAT IT WAS, and it still is. There was never a doubt that it was what God called it.

So when John writes, “we are CALLED children of God,” there’s no doubt about it. “And so we are.” God CALLED you MY CHILD in your baptism where He gave you His name – “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit;” where He gave you your inheritance – His life and His love.

John takes us back to the beginning again when he writes, “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.”

After God created the world with all of its parts and pieces, all perfectly made and everything in perfect working order, He was ready to make a perfect man to live in His perfect world. In the counsel of the Holy Trinity, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our LIKENESS.” (Gen.1:26).

The ancient philosophers had a saying that “like is known only by like.”

Whether they were thinking of Genesis or not, that’s where the principle comes from. “Like is known only by like” means that we can only truly know and understand what is ‘like’ us. What is not ‘like’ us remains a mystery to us. We can’t really know or understand it.

In the beginning, God made Adam ‘LIKE’ Him so that Adam could KNOW GOD and UNDERSTAND GOD. That doesn’t mean that when God made Adam, Adam was a god like God is God. That’s where the Mormons get it all wrong.

Adam was not made of the same ‘essence’ as God. But he was ‘like’ God. He was in the ‘image’ of God. Adam KNEW God and SAW God – AS HE IS. “In His essence.” Adam could comprehend the love of God in its fullness. He knew the height and the depth and the width of the love of God FOR HIM.

God is pure and holy. As we heard John describe it last Sunday, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5).

Adam was LIKE GOD in this way. Only that which is pure and holy can see that which pure and holy. “Like is only know by like.”

This is the way God created Adam. And God’s intention was that Adam and Eve would fill the earth with little Adams and Eves and everyone would KNOW GOD and KNOW HIS LOVE FOR THEM.

So when we talk about the ‘fall of man,’ this is the height that what we fell from and the depths in which we live.

The serpent’s temptation to Eve was that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would be “LIKE GOD,” which she already was.

This is the deception of the devil. In his craftiness, he promises you what you already have from God. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be LIKE GOD, known good and evil.”

Which is such a ridiculous deception. How can you be ‘LIKE GOD’ AND know GOOD and EVIL. If you know EVIL then you are NOT LIKE God because GOD IS GOOD in whom there is NO EVIL.

John writes, “If we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie…” God has no ‘communion’ with darkness. You can’t walk with God AND walk with sin. The two are so mutually exclusive. You cannot have the one AND the other.

The serpent promised that their EYES WILL BE OPENED. But the truth is, their eyes were closed. As soon as Adam and Eve did what God forbid them to do, they became blind to God.

We cannot see God AS HE IS. The LIGHT OF HIS FACE would be too intense for us and it would kill us if we were to see Him. Moses asked if he could see God’s face and God answered saying, “no one can see my face and live.” (Exodus 33:20).

In His mercy, God shows Moses His backside, and that’s enough for Moses. He knows that God sees him even though he cannot see God – and for Moses that’s enough. And it’s enough for us too.

God sees us and we are always in full view before Him. But we cannot see Him. For our sake, He remains hidden from our sight behind what He is not – a pillar of cloud and fire, a lamb and a goat sacrificed on an altar, a crucified man named Jesus of Nazareth. And now in these last of days, hidden under water, bread, wine.
Since we are no longer ‘like’ God, we cannot FULLY KNOW God. We don’t understand His ways and why He does the things that He does. We cannot comprehend WHAT KIND OF LOVE HE HAS FOR US let alone believe it or respond appropriately to it.

But this is not the end of the story. GOD’S WILL, WILL BE DONE. John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW, but what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him AS HE IS.”

It is not God who will change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. But as Paul puts it, “we shall be changed, in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye.” (1 Cor. 15:52). And what a change it will be.

This present “LIKENESS” that we have to sin and darkness will fall away like a log over a Niagara Falls. And we will LIKE GOD “in whom there is no darkness at all.” As Paul puts it, “We shall know [God] fully, even as we are fully known” by God. (1 Cor. 13:12).

This is Easter’s victory. God’s purpose for men and women from the beginning, has been accomplished. “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” on the 6th day. And “We shall be like Him” on the last day. GOD’S WILL, WILL BE DONE.

God has accomplished His purpose for us in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the ‘likeness of God,’ even the same essence as God. And who is also the likeness of man, even the same essence as us.

What the first Adam, by his disobedience forfeited FOR US ALL, the last Adam by His obedience has restored FOR US ALL.

The darkness has not overcome the light. Rather, on Easter Sunday, the light shattered the darkness.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared…” It’s all just too good NOT TO BE TRUE.

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