18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 3:18-24
Dear Friends in Christ,
We all would like to have perfect children. Well, a few years ago scientists began sharing information to help parents create the “perfect child.” Maybe you remember this—It’s known as inheritable genetic modification and they promised it would change the way parents have children. The technique modifies genes in eggs, sperm or early embryos and results in what some call designer babies. Parents could choose hair color, for example, or decide to give birth to a boy who’s a “a slender and intelligent book worm” or a girl who’s “muscle-bound sports hero.” I’m sure you can already begin to smell the dangers of this process. To be sure the use of genetic screening helps doctors screen for gene combinations in embryos that create higher risks of diabetes, heart disease or cancer. But, do we really want future parents to be able to create a perfect child with perfect looks and born with perfect health? As with so many things, while there may be some advantages, we better think long and hard about the disadvantages…..
For instance, those who speak of inheritable genetic modification, have their warnings—such as who is going to stop parents from aborting an unborn baby with some DNA glitch they don’t like and doctors can’t or won’t fix? If you’re not the perfect child, are you doomed? That question has serious implications not only for gene alteration but for all of us as children of our mothers! Where would this all end? If this is such a big deal regarding our human existence in this life, how much more so does this apply in our relationship to God as children of God! Since God is holy and demands that only holy people will be allowed into heaven, than it has to be true that we are the
Perfect Children of God
- You know it
- You Show it
“Dear children,” this Bible section begins, addressing us as still-developing believers who, no matter what our age, have a need to grow in our faith,
“let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
To be sure it is because we love God that we are here this morning in worship. But, St. John is inspired to remind us that when it comes to love, reciting the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed is simply not enough. The solid strength of confessional Lutherans like us – that we hold firm to the Bible’s teachings and will not compromise on these timeless truths for the glory of God and good of people – can become a wicked weakness if we stop there and then think that God loves us only because we are guardians of the truth. Listen to the warning recorded in James:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”
Yes, we are called to be witnesses to the truth, and let’s do it well. But, Scripture does not need us to defend it, as if it were weak. The Holy Spirit can well defend his own Word by his own Word. Rather, let us be eager to love others with our words, but let us also be eager to love others with our actions. Remember, Jesus calls himself the Vine in today’s gospel and he warns that God
“cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”
Love is not just a feeling and not just a faith. It’s also a fruit. Love is, “produced action,” that flows from a thankful heart connect to Christ or it isn’t love … it is dead, rotten wood destined for the flames.
Do you know what an “erg” is? It’s the term of measurement for a unit of mechanical work. For example, it takes a certain amount of ergs for you to engage todays sermon and listen carefully. “Erg” is also the Greek word for “action,” when the Bible says, “Love with action.” Love is work. Marriage relationships grow with work, and it doesn’t just happen. Parenting is work (and sometimes having parents is work J ). Friendship is work. Going to church is work. Work is work. Sometimes it’s hard work! Hearing God say, “let us not love with words or speech but with actions” then it’s no wonder “our hearts condemn us.” We usually prefer to love without doing much work. We’d rather pay someone to care for the poor than actually do it ourselves. We’d rather spend one day treating mom like a queen then every day treating mom like a mom. We’d rather put offerings into the basket to pay pastor to do the work of the church rather than us. After all, that’s why we called him, isn’t it? (Sarcasm!) We are all guilty and have fallen short of God’s holy demands, so how can we possibly be a Perfect Children Of God? Obviously, not by our own behavior. Then how? Listen:
“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
Let me share this little story: Mikey’s older brother constantly harassed him. He was jealous because Mikey got better grades in school. One day he got Mikey in trouble – even though Mikey really didn’t do anything wrong – and Mikey felt terribly guilty about it. He moped around all day long and then went to bed. Mikey’s mom tucked him in that night and told him she knew he didn’t do anything wrong. If that wasn’t enough to quiet his nagging conscience she also told him that even before he was born she knew that she’d name him, “Mikey” and he’d be a special boy. She knew she’d always love him and always forgive him for anything no matter how terrible. And she knew she’d be packing his favorite cookies in his lunch the next day. There is the truth that quiets a hurting heart—for Jesus’ sake God our Father in heaven knows us and loves us, knows us and forgives us, and knows us and can’t wait to have us spend eternity with him in heaven. Yes,
“God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
God knows so much more about your hurting heart than you do! God knew, even before he painted the colors of tulips at the beginning of the world, that he would someday create you and he already knew then what color he’d paint your unique personality. God knew every one of your sins for which his own Son suffered, and now they can’t catch him off guard. God knows your emotional makeup and spiritual weaknesses, and so he fills in the gaps and nurtures you like a shepherd, like Pastor Hering said last week,
“who knows each of his sheep by name”
God knows the confirmation vow you made to remain faithful unto death, and your heart that longs to say “no” to your favorite sin for good. God knows your name written in his book of life, he knows the exact day and time he gave birth to you in baptism, he knows you will receive his Body and Blood for your forgiveness in worship next week, and he knows the prayer you prayed three years, seven months, sixteen days, two hours, and thirty-eight minutes ago and have since forgotten – but he hasn’t. And like a caring mother tucking in her troubled child, God wants you to know that he knows. “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” So, what is this great confidence you have before God? Simply this: For Jesus’ sake You are God’s Perfect Child. Believe it! You know it! That’s confidence before God. There is nothing that gets in the way of God and you; nothing you do can make him love you less or love you more. Jesus has done it all. So, what shall we do with this amazing gift of God’s grace? Let’s SHOW IT!
You show it
Have you ever tried to get something done right over and over again, but just couldn’t and someone always had to help you? When you finally get it, are you happy or sad. Here’s what I mean by this little story: A mother walked in on her 5-year-old who was sobbing. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “I just figured out how to tie my shoes,” her child whimpered. “Well, honey, that’s wonderful. You’re growing up, but why are you crying?” she asked. “Because now I’ll have to do it every day for the rest of my life.” Do you see how that applies to us? We were spiritually dead and God gave us a new life in his Son Jesus. Now, through faith in Jesus, we are God’s Perfect Child and you know it. It would make sense then, that we would face a future of God’s perfect demands and our perfect fulfillment. Thinking about this responsibility can be scary and daunting. But not with God. “We receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” Yes, we are God’s children who delight in obeying his commands and pleasing him. And because he delights in his children obeying his commands and pleasing him, God provides us with just the right blessings for doing his will. We will have everything we need to carry out any of his commands, as much as a 5-year-old’s parents will make sure that child only wears shoes with laces that are easy enough for a 5-year-old to tie, or a 16-year-old’s parents will make sure that the car is insured for their new driver to get to work. “From him,” the Bible says, thereby qualifying the word “anything,” not to mean we receive everything we think we want but everything God knows we need that comes “from him” to help us obey his commands and please him.
St. John also recorded these words in the gospel lesson today,
“This is to my Father’s glory,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”
You see, When You’re the Perfect Child you show it because that’s what faith does. It can’t help it anymore than fire can’t help producing smoke. How can you perfectly keep God’s commands? (Point to the cross) It starts right here,
“This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Believing in Jesus connects you to Jesus like a branch to the vine. All of the vine’s nourishment nourishes you. All of the vine’s life enlivens you. All of the vine’s direction directs you. Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God, and you’re connected to him. That means being connected to Christ and God views you as perfectly obeying his commands. Where you fail, you have Jesus’ forgiveness. Where you succeed, you can point to Jesus and thank him for the fruits prepared by him for you to do.
“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.”
When you obey God’s commands it is really GOD and you who are obeying God’s commands. When you bear fruit it is really the Vine and you who are bearing fruit.
The scientists will never be able to create a perfect child. No, every offspring of every human being will always be infected with the sin passed on from his parents. However, in Jesus you are the perfect child of God. Live it. Love God with not just your heart, but also your hands (talents) and your time and your treasures and your testimony. Love others with new energy from the risen Jesus that flows to you through faith. Dear Believers in Jesus Christ, You are God’s Own Perfect Child. Know it and show it. Amen.