Children of the King
What is wrong with Christianity today? Why are so many churches struggling in this country? Here is my answer: We have forgotten who we are. More precisely, we have not understood what it means to be a child of the King.
John attempts to raise our understanding of who we are with the first word in chapter 3: "Behold!". 'Pay attention!'. 'Look at this!'. "1Behold how great a love the Father has bestowed on us". Why the word "behold"? Could it be that John recognizes our failure to see just how great the love of our heavenly Father is?
And just "how great" is the "love the Father has bestowed on us"? So great that we, who were once considered enemies by God (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:3; Col. 1:21), are now "called children of God". We must not miss this first point: we were once enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). Not everyone is called a child of God. In fact, John, in verse 10, talks about those who are "children of the devil".
It is only when we consider the alternative to being a child of God that we can appreciate just "how great a love the Father has bestowed on us". Somehow, for some reason, we have lost this. We have lost our understanding of how special it is to be called a child of God.
When I was a teenager, I attended a private school where many of the students had famous parents. One of my good friend's dad was the Prime Minister of the British Virgin Islands. Another student's father was a prince. Another student's father was the wealthiest person in Hong Kong--a multi-billionaire.
I can top that: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. You know who I am talking about--the One who created the British Virgin Islands with a word; the One whom every prince depends on for life and breath. This is my Father. This is your Father. That is the glorious truth before which we stand this morning.
In a day and age that emphasizes status, Christians need to be reminded that they have the greatest status imaginable: we are children of God. We may not be the president of a successful corporation; we may not drive a BMW; and we may not own a mansion in Muskoka, but we have something better: we are children of the King of the universe.
It is about time that we start acting like children of the King. It is about time we stopped acting like slaves of our society. This is John's point: that our behaviour should match our calling. This is why John says, in verse 6, "6No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him".
What is John suggesting here? Is John suggesting that children of God never sin? No he is not. Remember that in chapter 1, verse 8, John says that, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us".
We can be sure that John does not mean to say that the child of God will not sin at all, but rather, the child of God will not sin habitually. The child of God will not lead a life characterized by sin. Charles Spurgeon points out that "the Bible often calls a man righteous; but that does not mean that he is perfectly righteous. It calls a man a sinner, but it does not imply that he may not have done some good deeds in his life; it means that that is the man's general character. So with the man who abides in Christ: his general character is not that he is a sinner, but that he is a saint".
Why does our fundamental character change as children of God? Verse 8, because "the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil". And what is the work of the devil, but sin! Christ came not only to save us from the disease of sin, He came to "destroy" the disease of sin!
This is why John can say, "9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God".
Again, we know John is talking about sinless perfection here because the Greek verb "practices sin" implies a continuous action. This being the case, John Piper translates verse 9 this way, "No one born of God is content to keep sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot be content to keep on sinning because he is born of God".
The difference between a non-Christian and a Christian is not that one sins and the other doesn't. The difference is the non-Christian is content to keep on sinning while the Christian detests their sin and does everything possible to be free from it.
Following this logic, we gain understanding into verse 10, "10By 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".
One who is content to keep on sinning will not practice righteousness. Conversely, one who detests their sin will be diligent to practice righteousness. On the one hand, becoming a mature child of God is a work of God, but on the other hand, becoming a mature child of God requires hard work. Becoming a mature child of God requires that we hate sin and practice righteousness.
Does this describe us? Are we being intentional about our hatred for sin? Are we being intentional about practicing righteousness? Or do we think that God is going to wave a magic wand to make us live righteously?
A few years ago, Jack Nicklaus was golfing in a celebrity golf tournament, and Jack's celebrity partner turned to him after watching him putt and said, "I wish I could putt like that". Jack's response was, "I didn't get to putt like this by wishing".
Becoming a mature Christian, becoming a Christian that habitually practices righteousness, is hard work. It is hard work, but it is work made possible by our calling. Furthermore, it is work appropriate for our calling. We are children of the King.
Let me close with a story often told by British pastor, Stuart Briscoe:
In this account, the king of England's two sons were playing in High Park, London. One said to the other, 'I'll bet you a schilling that all fat policeman have bald heads.'
The other one said, 'OK, I'll bet you.'
Coincidentally, an overweight police officer walked by wearing the regulation British police helmet. Of course, they would need to dislodge the helmet. Neither of the sons was very adept at that sort of exercise, but fortunately a young scruffy kid from the East Side of London came along.
The sons said to the boy, 'Do you think you could dislodge that policeman's helmet for us? If you do, we will give you 6 pence.'
The boy said, 'Sure', and he picked up a stone, and with a flick of the wrist, knocked the helmet right off the police officer's head. And lo and behold, the fat police officer had a baldhead. This, of course, does not prove that all fat policeman have baldheads, but the boys were not into statistical analysis.
The one son said to the other, 'You owe me a schilling.'
And while one son was paying his debts, and while the other son was collecting his debts, the police officer came by and asked, 'What's your names?!'
The first son replied, 'Sir, I am the Prince of Wales.'
The policeman said to the boy, 'First you insult my person and now you are resisting arrest. You are going to be in deep trouble young man! Now tell me your name! What is your name, really?'
'Officer, I really am the Prince of Wales'.
He said, 'I don't believe you', and turned to the second son and asked, 'What's your name?'
The second son replied, 'Well, he is the Prince of Wales, and I'm his brother, the Duke of Kent.'
The officer said, 'I don't believe you either. First you insult my person and now you are resisting arrest. These are serious charges.'
The officer then turned to the scruffy young boy and asked, 'What's your name?'
The scruffy boy nudged the other two with his elbow and whispered, 'Don't worry boys, I won't let you down.' . . .
'Officer, I'm the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.'
Why did the policeman not believe that the two boys were the king's sons? And why did the scruffy kid from east London not believe that the two boys were the king's sons?
The answer is this: They were not living worthy of their calling.
And we must not expect anyone to believe we are Christians, we must not expect anyone to believe we are children of the King, unless we live worthy of our calling. You are a child of the King. Let your life reflect that reality. Amen.