How Great a Love

Monday, February 27, 2017, 10:07 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Gracious Father.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 John 3:1-10 (NASB).

Children of God (vv. 1-3)

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

God, in his infinite wisdom, before he even created the world, chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight. He predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ, according to his own purpose and grace (See: Ro. 8:29; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:3-4). He knew when he created Lucifer (an angel) that he would rebel against him, along with a third of the angels. He knew before he created humankind that Lucifer (Satan, the devil) would tempt Adam and Eve in the garden, that they would fall into sin, and that he would then put a curse on them and on the earth from that moment on. He knew that all humankind would, thus, be born into sin, and that they would need salvation from sin. So, even before he created the world he already knew, i.e. he already had planned that God the Son would be our sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (See: Gen. 3:15; cf. Gal. 3:16-19).

So, why did God do it that way? I am not certain that I know the answer to that question. But, I believe he had it all fall into place that way because he wanted followers, not puppets. He could have made puppets if he wanted to, but what he wanted was people with hearts, souls, minds and wills who would choose to accept his plan of salvation for us via God-given faith in Jesus Christ. He allowed us to have an arch enemy, Satan, who would tempt us to sin, and who would oppose us, I believe, in order to drive us to our Father’s breast. And, he chose that his Son, God the Son, would be our perfect (sinless) sacrificial Lamb, and our sympathetic and compassionate high priest, to take away the sins of the world, and to give us new lives in Christ Jesus, free from slavery to sin. This was his plan to make us holy.

Yet, God didn’t have to do this. He could have left us wandering in our sins or he could have just wiped us all out at any time, if he wanted to. But, that was not in his divine plan and will for our lives. His will for us is to be saved from our sins, and set free from the control sin and Satan had over our lives, so that we could walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh. He did this because he loves us, and because of his great mercy, grace and compassion towards those he created.

His plan was that the way in which we would come to receive this salvation was that he would first draw us to Christ, and then he would gift us with the faith to believe in Jesus, i.e. he would persuade us as to his will for our lives. Once persuaded, we would submit to his will and yield the control of our lives over to him. And, he would cleanse us from sin, deliver us out of slavery to sin, and give us new lives in him, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This God-given faith would involve turning from our sins and turning to God/Jesus, to follow him in obedience. Through faith in Christ, we would be crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we would be resurrected with Christ to this new life, to be lived to his righteousness. Via this new birth, we would then become children of God.

Sin Practitioners (vv. 4-10)

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

God’s goal in saving us from our sins was not merely to free us from condemnation and to promise us heaven when we die. He chose us to be holy and blameless. He predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, not to the image of man or of the world. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul’s commission in preaching the gospel was to open blinded eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they could receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t die just to save us, but to transform us, i.e. to make us his new creation. As believers in Jesus Christ, we died to sin, so that sin would no longer by our master, but so we would now be bondservants of Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus said that if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (with God) (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul reiterated this when he said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we lie, and we do not live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

It isn’t as though we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but as followers of Christ we should not be people who regularly practice sin, i.e. sin should not be our custom or our habitual way of living. Once we believe in Jesus we should no longer continue living in sin. Sin should not be normal procedure for us. It should not be the manner in which we consistently live. If it is, then we are not in the light, but we are still in the darkness, and we don’t have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth. And, I didn’t say this. God said it! If we say we know God, or that we love God, but we don’t walk in his ways and in his truth, but we continue living for sin and self, then we don’t know or love God at all (See: Jn. 14:23-24; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).

Yet, if we have truly believed in Jesus with God-given faith, through which God persuaded us as to His will for our lives, so that we yielded control over our lives to God, and submitted to his purposes, then we were set free from slavery to sin. So, we should no longer walk in it and make a practice of it. Instead, we should now be those who practice righteousness, because we now have the Spirit of God living within us, and God and his Word remain and continue in us, not just in thought, but in action. When this says that no one who abides (remains, continues) in him sins, this is speaking of the continual practice of sinning, not of a singular sin. Again, although we were freed that we may not sin, we still may sin, on occasion, but that sin is still covered by the blood of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:1-2). Yet, if we continue practicing sin as the normal course for our lives, then we have no part of God or of his salvation from sin. So, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Gracious Father / An original work / April 6, 2011

How great are You Father;
how great are You, Lord.
My heart so adores You;
Your mercy outpour.
Your love and your kindness;
Your gracious reward
Are treasures from heaven
that we can’t afford.
So, freely they’re given
and humbly received
When we bow before You
on penitent knee.

O gracious Redeemer;
my Master and King,
To You I owe everything –
my offerings I bring
With whole heart devotion,
to honor and praise
My loving companion
and friend for always.
It’s You I serve only,
to walk in Your ways,
So I have your promise
for all of my days.

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