This article is a part of an extended series of articles. If a particular statement seems to be lacking sufficient support or clarification, we encourage you to go back and read the previous articles, as well as commit to reading the following articles as they are published. Thank you for your patience.
1 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.
1 John 3:1
Many of us believe that God is a Father who possesses great love for someone, somewhere, out there. However, we sometimes struggle to believe that this love is actually for us personally. It is often so much easier to have faith for others than it is to have faith for ourselves. Some of us may feel as though we are God's “step-child.” We believe that we are a part of God's family in some sense, but that his fatherly love for us is not actually secure.
“It is often so much easier to have faith for others than it is to have faith for ourselves.”
SEEING AND RECEIVING THE FATHERLY LOVE OF GOD
1 John 3:1 says this: “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.” The very first word found in this verse is the word “see.” This word is often translated as “behold.” It is both an exclamation and a command. As an exclamation, it reminds us that the love of God should so captivate our hearts that we often find ourselves bursting forth in praise. As a command, it reminds us that it is absolutely essential to regularly focus our gaze on the fatherly love of God as the primary source of motivation for proper obedience.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
The word “given,” found just a few words later in verse 1, emphatically points to the fact that God’s love cannot be earned. Rather, the love of God is to be received as a gift that stems purely from God's grace. We cannot vow to pay God back because the cost is infinite and God refuses to be in debt to any man. This means that human pride is the chief hindrance for receiving and experiencing the love of God in Christ. We will never be recipients of God's love unless we first acknowledge that we are hopeless sinners who do not deserve it. We must never forget that God is under no obligation to save us. He could have abandoned us in our plight with no means of salvation, in the same way that he chose to abandon the fallen angels. He justly condemned these fallen angels to the eternal fire without offering any chance of redemption. God was not required to save us, he chose to save us.
“Pride is the primary hindrance for receiving and experiencing the love of God in Christ.”
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
BEING SET APART BY THE FATHERLY LOVE OF GOD
Because God has bestowed his great love upon us as a gift, we are now called the children of God. The fatherly love of God does not merely provide us with a new title, it actually transforms us from the inside out. This transformation is so profound that it creates a visible distinction between the children of God and the rest of the world.
“The fatherly love of God does not merely provide us with a new title, it actually transforms us from the inside out.”
Notice 1 John 3:10: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” The apostle starkly divides the whole world into two opposite camps: 1) The children of God, and 2) The children of the devil. There is no third option. If through faith, we have “seen” and “received” God’s fatherly love as displayed at the cross of Jesus Christ, we have now become true children of God. Apart from this, a person is a child of the devil and an active enemy of God and the children of God. Due to this stark divide between the children of God and the children of the devil, the children of God have become foreigners and aliens in this fallen world. Therefore, a growing Christian will feel more and more like a stranger when he is in the company of the world.
“A growing Christian will feel more and more like a stranger when he is in the company of the world.”
13 ...And having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16
The entirety of John's first letter deals with the assurance of salvation. And when we speak of the assurance of salvation, we must recognize this as being synonymous with the assurance of God's fatherly love for us. This assurance is absolutely essential for any real relationship with God to exist.
1) What rhythms and practices have you set up in order to regularly see the Father's love for you?
2) What is your own biggest challenge when it comes to receiving the fatherly love of God?
3) In what ways do you feel like a “stranger” in this world?
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