Beloved Children of God
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. 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. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:1–3).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
This short text is brimming with Good News:“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Did you hear that? God deals with us in love and calls us His children.
Not only that: He calls us “Beloved!” Much loved. Dearly loved. We’re not just some orphan children God brought into the world and then left to fend for ourselves. God is not some deadbeat absentee father. We are His dear children; He is our dear heavenly Father. God loves you dearly in Christ!
For the sake of His beloved Son, God deals with you in love. He does not deal with you in anger, saying, “You’ve got one more chance to shape up before I drop the hammer. He doesn’t deal with you in fairness, saying, “I’ll help you out as much as you help Me.” He doesn’t deal with you on a contractual basis: “I’ll give you one blessing for every five good deeds you do.” No, God deals with you in reckless, extravagant love. He declares, “Love equals hard work, service to others. I love you so much that I’ve worked hard for your salvation. I’ve given My Son up to death on the cross to save you from your sin.”
Furthermore, God’s love is ongoing—He hasn’t stopped loving you. He gives you all that you need for life today. He gives you all that you need for eternal life. All this He does this out of His Fatherly love and mercy without any merit or worthiness on your part.
Furthermore, God calls you His children. He doesn’t call you His enemy, even though you were born as an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), naturally doing what He commanded you not to do. Rather than defeat you as an enemy, God gave His Son to make you His beloved child. Rather than condemn you for eternity, God gives you everlasting life. Rather than treat you as a foreigner, God calls you one of His chosen people. Rather than treat you as His servant who must earn your keep by how hard you work, God calls you His beloved child.
The Father has made you His beloved child for Jesus’ sake. He’s borne you into His family—not by your labor, but by the work of His Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. As a Father, He’s declared His Word to you, teaching you about matters of life and death. He’s given you His commands, so that you know the rules of the house. He’s told you about His love for you in Jesus. As a Father, He’s promised to keep speaking to you in His Word, and He promises to keep you fed.
And what does He do to you if you disobey Him? He keeps providing for you—He keeps telling you to repent and keeps giving you forgiveness. He keeps providing forgiveness to keep you as His child. That’s what a loving Father does for His beloved children. And what does He do if you run away? He pursues you, inviting you back at every opportunity. He patiently waits for you, welcoming you back with open arms. That’s what a loving Father does.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” This is, by the way, the theme of the family handbook—you probably know it as the Small Catechism. (Show copy of Small Catechism)
Here, you learn the Ten Commandments to learn the house rules—and how much you need to be forgiven for not keeping them. Here you learn the proper fear, love, and trust of God taught in Scripture. You learn the Creed to learn about the God who has sacrificed to make you His child forever, and how He provides for all your needs of body and soul. You learn the Lord’s Prayer, to learn how children speak to their Father who is in heaven. You learn about Baptism, how you were born into the family and live in the family. You learn about the Office of the Keys and Confession, so that you might be sure that the Lord keeps speaking His Word of life to you. And you learn about the Lord’s Supper, where He feeds you His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith unto life everlasting. And you are to keep on reviewing these doctrines for a lifetime.
You’re beloved children of God. That’s what we all confessed today. And here’s the Good News: God says the same thing about you, too. You’re God’s beloved children, right now. It’s not a future thing, but right now you’re sons and daughters of the king. In Christ, you’ve already conquered the world. For His sake, the kingdom of heaven is already yours.
Here’s the tough part: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." Because the world doesn’t believe in Jesus, it’s not going to honor you as His children. But you are His beloved children! You are blessed, even when it looks to all the world as though you are not.
Look at our Gospel lesson from Matthew 5 today. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
It’s still the same. The world didn’t get the prophets so it persecuted them. The world didn’t know Jesus, so it had Him put to death. The world doesn’t know Jesus, so it doesn’t know you. It doesn’t get you and your faith. It doesn’t understand why you’d go to worship instead of sleeping in or going to a sporting event, because it knows about rest and recreation, but it doesn’t know about Jesus.
The world doesn’t understand why you’d preserve the life of the unborn, even when that child has Down,s Syndrome, because it doesn’t know the Author of life. It doesn’t understand why you’d resist immoral temptations that would make your life “more fun,” because it has no faith in Christ or the eternal life that He brings. It doesn’t understand why you would spend two hours of your weekend hearing and studying God’s Word in the worship service and Bible class, rather than spending it on a thousand other things you could be doing with “your time.”
The world is self-serving: it has to be, because it’s rejected the only true God to serve. Therefore, it’s not going to understand you. For your efforts to help the unborn or stand for morality, you’re going to be considered a kook. For your hunger and thirst for the righteousness found in God’s Word, you will be called a "hater." So you live by faith. The world doesn’t know you, but God does. In His love, He’s made you His beloved child. He supplies strength to endure. He forgives your sins for Jesus’ sake, and He promises you everlasting life.
Be aware that the world has a willing ally close to home—your old sinful nature. Your Old Adam doesn’t get you, either; and he’s going to make the most of every opportunity to work you over. Sometimes, you’re going to make a mistake—one that brings with it a lot of shame and consequences. The embarrassment will be thick enough to taste, and it’s not going to feel good to be you.
Old Adam will get a hold of this, trying to persuade you that you’re either too rotten to be God’s child, or that God must be to blame if He let you mess up so badly. He’ll do his best to make you despair. But you live by faith; and by faith you remember the love that the Father has given to you for Jesus’ sake. You have God’s Word that He calls you His beloved child. Even if you have misused the freedom He has given you in order to sin, God still loves you. For even though you may be unfaithful, the Lord is faithful to you. He who did not spare His own Son to make you His will not forsake you now, but stands ready to forgive.
Sometimes, things are going to happen—bad things. Whether you’re in high school or a great-grandparent, tragedies are always possible. The world and Old Adam are going to team up to declare that you must have a worthless Lord if such things would happen to you. But you live by faith. Even as the world mocks your sorrows, you know by God’s Word that your sorrows are part of this world which is passing away. By faith, you know of the love that your Father has given unto you. You’re His beloved child, and so His kingdom of heaven is yours forever.
Sometimes, thanks to Old Adam, you’re going to like that world that doesn’t know Jesus—you’re going to like it better than the Lord who has redeemed you. The temptations are many. You know your weaknesses better than anyone else, and they are too often measured not by how hard you resist them but by how much you indulge them. If sin were always terrifying and its wages immediately evident, this would be less than a problem; but all too often sin looks necessary if you’re “really going to live your life” in this world. To be honest: Sometime sin looks more desirable. Old Adam is so near-sighted he has a hard time seeing anything beyond himself and his own comfort and appetites.
Old Adam will do his best to make grace and eternal life look boring and burdensome, and to make sin interesting and desirable. But you know better. You live by faith. Despite the pleasures that this world promises, you know that they will pass away with the world, and a better kingdom is yours. Behold God’s love for you. He’s made you His beloved child, and the kingdom of heaven is yours.
That’s what God says to us in today’s text, and that’s what we rejoice to confess—to say with Him. You’re going to see a lot of stuff in this world—some that seeks to seduce you from your Savior, some that seeks to repel you from Him. But by God’s grace, you know better. For now, you live by faith—but the Lord is at hand. He is as near as His Word, declaring that you are His beloved child for Jesus’ sake.
This is so, because the Holy Spirit has washed you by water and His Word in Baptism, so that you might be God’s beloved child forever. Christ feeds you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. For Jesus’ sake, you are beloved children of God. His kingdom is yours, and you will see Him in His glory. You are blessed. You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.