November 4 2012 Sermon
I John 3:1-3
1 John 3:1 See awhat kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called bchildren of God; and so we are. The reason why cthe world does not know us is that dit did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are aGod’s children dnow, and what we will be bhas not yet appeared; but we know that cwhen he appears1 dwe shall be like him, because ewe shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who athus hopes in him bpurifies himself as he is pure.
We are called the children of God! And we are the children of God! There is no greater delight than this. There is no greater consolation than this. This is the most sacred truth, the purest joy, the sweetest gospel. Child of the Most High. Think about it. This is the highest and most noble title of all titles. It is a higher rank than king, queen, president or governor. It means you have royal blood and your citizenship is in the greatest nation there ever was, and is, and will be forever. It means you have it all, your life is secured, and you will live forever.
How is it that you earned such an honor? What great thing did you do? Was it your great personality or beauty? Did you compete on American idol? Did you win the Miss America pageant? Did you bring home a gold medal from the Olympics? Did you have to apply for it and be interviewed for the job? None of the above. You didn’t do anything. You didn’t even deserve it! You didn’t even want it! God just made you his child because of his infinite love without any merit or qualities or doing of your own. He didn’t go around looking for people who pleased him, or people he liked to make his children. Just the opposite. He made you his children so he could then make you into someone pleasing to him, someone he likes. He didn’t look for people qualified to be his children, He made you his child first and then he qualified you to be his child and receive his inheritance (Col 1:12). And he did it by dying on a cross. By his death He purchased you to be his child. He ransomed you from evil and from punishment by paying for you, not with gold or silver, but with his own precious blood. And by means of Baptism he did it to you; he made you his child.
This is all over and done. It was accomplished on the cross. And it was done to you in Baptism. You didn’t choose it, he did it to you, and for you, because he loves you. You are his child. That is what you are now.
But what does being a child of God look like? Right now it doesn’t look too great. You still are tempted, and you still sin. You still have sinful and selfish thoughts and desires. You still lust for the pleasures and things of the world. You still have to labor and toil to make a living. You still get sick, feel pain, get old and die. So what’s the big deal? How does being God’s child make any real difference?
In every way! Notice The Beatitudes which we just read in the Gospel reading. They are a description of what a child of God looks like. They are poor in spirit, they mourn, they are meek, they hunger and thirst for righteousness, they are merciful, they are pure in heart, they are peacemakers, and they are persecuted and reviled for His name’s sake. These describe the sons of God. But notice, they don’t describe you, do they? You are not poor in spirit. You are not meek and humble. You are not pure in heart. You are not very merciful. Fact is, you have done poorly at showing mercy and compassion. You have usually failed at loving your neighbor and serving him with what you have. You have not been good stewards of God’s gifts. You have not lived like children of God.
This is confusing. If I am God’s child, and yet this description of God’s children doesn’t describe me, what’s going on here? What’s going on here is that these Beatitudes describe God’s child—Jesus. He is the Son of God, and his life defines what a son of God is like. He is the model of what a perfect relationship with God looks like. He shows you what it means to be without sin. In your baptism you became a son of God, but you still have your sinful human nature. You still sin. You still fall short of loving your neighbor. Your stewardship is still poor and failing. You fall short of living like a child of God.
But being a child of God means that in baptism the blood of Christ has covered you. In spite of your failure to live like God’s child, you are covered in the white robes of Christ’s holiness and perfection. Because you are covered with Christ you look like obedient Children to God. In God’s eyes these Beatitudes of Christ do describe you because they describe Christ whose life and perfection cover you like a robe of righteousness. He sees you as merciful and pure in heart. Because he has made you his children, he has clothed you in Christ and sees you also as his son. Being a child of God means that you live in relationship with God which means God sees you as living in love for your neighbor. Caring for him, helping him, supplying his needs, and bringing him to Christ. So being a child of God is a big thing, because this is how God sees you. Because you are God’s child He see you using the time, the talents, the things, even the money which He has placed under your care to love, help, serve and have mercy on others. He sees you living as God’s children all because your sins are covered by Christ.
So, glory and praise be to God the Father who on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus now considers you his children, in spite of the fact that you are still sinful and unrighteous. But what will you be in the future? That is John’s question. He says, “We are God’s children now, and what we will be is not yet seen; but when Christ comes again we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is.” Notice that here he is talking about a fundamental change in us. When Christ appears we will be like him. No longer will we just look like him because we are clothed in Christ’s robe. Rather, he says we will be like Christ. That means our sins will not just be covered up, but they will be gone! We will no longer be sinful at all. There will no longer be any need for forgiveness, because there will be no sin in us. The beatitudes then will indeed describe you. The kingdom of heaven will be yours. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth. Your hunger and thirst for righteousness will be completely satisfied. You will receive mercy. You will see God. You will be called sons of God. And your reward will be great. John saw the saints in heaven with the white robes because they were washed in the blood of the Lamb. The robes were washed. There was no longer any stain of sin. Your sins will not just be covered over, they will be removed, gone, done away like stains that the drycleaner removes. These beatitudes, then, give us a glimpse into the future of what we will be like.
But to make you over into sinless people, not just forgiven, but sinless, is a long, difficult process. It began at your baptism. It requires purification, like that of a refiner’s fire. Just as you boil water to purify it and put gold into the fire to remove the dross, so we have to be purified by trials and fires. The final step in the purification process is physical death. For only when sinful flesh buried in the ground decays is sin completely done away with. Those loved ones who have gone before us are today the blessed ones. Their sin has been removed from them. Their righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. Not just a covering for sin, but the removal of sin and the life of Christ who lives in them.
There John saw them like a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes. “There the angel host stands inflamed in God’s light, and our fathers gaze upon his sight. All the saints, from the beginning of the world who have died believing in the Redeemer, whether he was yet to come or had come in the flesh, all members of the people of God of all times to the present today.” They are around the throne of the Lamb crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” And John saw the angels standing around the throne and they fell on their faces worshipping God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!” They are clothed in white robes. Their robes are made white in the blood of the Lamb. These blessed people are your own loved ones who have gone this past year into the presence of God, Clarence Straits, John Doppelhammer, Walter Seifrid, Garry Stamm, and Lorene Patzer who are with us in church this morning and every Sunday as we gather around the Lamb to hear his teaching and to dine at his table. They are not gone, they are here. They are still members of the holy, Christian church. They are still part of the communion of saints, and they are still part of our communion. The only difference is that now they have been glorified and are in the state of blessedness, while we wait for Christ to come, and while we gather with them each and every Lord’s Day around God’s word and at his altar to worship the Lamb on the throne.
So whether you have found yourselves in the loneliness of a Siberian prison camp or the isolation of the Diaspora or suffering inner alienation with the great secularized “churches” of our century, it has become ever more consolation of those who have suffered for the sake of the church and whom God has led on a “lonely path” to know that you are not alone in the one church of God. They of the early church who have been removed from every error and sin, our forefathers, our parents, now stand with us in the seamless fellowship of the body of Christ.