The Kind of Love You Need (I John 3:1)
Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: 1 John 3:1
Children's Lesson [click here]
I. The One Who Loves You Best
Think for a moment about the kind of love that you want in your life. Think for a moment about the kind of love that you need. What does that love look like? What does it feel like?
Some of you have been loved well, throughout your life. If you have, please remember, for you there is always a temptation to take love for granted. In contrast, some of you have been loved poorly, or not loved at all. For you, there is always the temptation to doubt that you could or should be loved... by anyone.
This morning, God wants to reveal to you or remind you of something astonishing; and it has to do with love. Are you interested in knowing what that is? Okay, how does this sound: the kind of love you need most is wonderfully and only available from the one who already loves you best.
Let's see how God's word to us this morning reveals that very truth. Turn over, if you haven't already, to a passage from Our Bible Reading Plan last week, I John, chapter 3.
II. The Passage: “To Each is Given” (2:28-3:3)
Now, there's a lot I could tell you about this letter we call “I John”. And I will share some of those things with you this morning. But I'd like to begin by getting straight to our main text. Look with me at the first line of I John, chapter 3, the first half of verse 1:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
What should we do with a statement like that? I think we should two things, the two things we always want to do with God's word. First, we want to make sure we understand what is being said here, and second, we want to wrestle with how what's revealed here should change us.
1. A “Kind” of Love (3:1a)
In regard to that first goal, we discover several key ideas when we consider this verse in the context here. The first of those ideas come directly from the verse itself: John is writing to his readers about a “kind” of love. Do you see that? And make no mistake, that's the word he uses here. The word in the original language is the same word found in Matthew 8:27, where the disciples, in the now still boat on the now calm lake, asked, “What sort [what kind] of man is this that even the winds and sea obey him?” It's the same word used to describe Mary's inner question when the angel Gabriel visited her while still unmarried. Luke 1:29, “...she tried to discern what sort [kind] of greeting this might be.” And its the same word Luke uses again, in 7:39, where we read how the Pharisee hosting Jesus was sure that, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort [kind] of woman this is who is touching him...”
So what sort of love, what “kind” of love is the Apostle John talking about here in I John 3:1? The answer is clear, isn't it? It's fatherly love; that is, it's love given by a father, with the result being that we are now called his children. But it's even bigger and better than that! It's love given by a heavenly Father (capital “F”), with the result being that we are now called “children of God”.
Now, let me point out something to you: there seems to be something going on in the church to which John writes, some idea being disseminated, discussed, and believed, some idea that would limit this truth about this love that calls us children of the Father. The first clue that points to the presence of some limiting lie is the qualification John adds to his opening statement in v. 1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God... [And what is John sure to add?] ...and so we are. (that is, we are not simply called God's children... we really are God's children)
In many places in his writings, the Apostle Paul also talks about being children of God. But for his Greco-Roman audience, he often used the language of adoption. But please don't miss the fact that John is not talking about adoption here. He's not telling his readers that God calls you his children, (whispering as an aside) even though you really are not. No. John is talking about new birth. How do we know that? Look at the verse right before 3:1. I John 2:29, “...you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” That word “born” is used ten times in this very short letter. And it's usually used in the phrase, “born of God”. And John even repeats this point in the verse after 3:1... (3:2) “Beloved, we are God’s children now...”!
So let's stop and step back for a moment. Toward what “kind” of love is John directing our attention? Love given by a heavenly Father, with the result being that we are now called “children of God”... called that because that is exactly what we are. By grace, born again. By grace, born into God's family. By grace, born from above for a new, divine destiny.
Linger there, brothers and sisters. Don't be too quick to file this away in the folder, “Things I Already Know”. Do your very best, right now, to consider and appreciate (using Paul's words in Ephesians 3) “...what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of this kind of begetting love; this kind of life-giving love; this identity-bestowing love; this family-forming love; this child-nurturing, child-protecting love; this “I will never leave you” love.
There are different kinds of love, aren't there? We know this. We know someone who says, “I love NASCAR”, or “I love peanut butter”, or “I love Harry Styles”, or ”I love the way you do your hair”, we know that's different from a friend or a grandma or a husband who says, “I love you.” We know brotherly love and romantic love and platonic love are all distinct. But even the world knows there is something different about the love of a... parent: “I know you're scared because your mom and I are going through a hard time right now, but nothing will ever change the fact that you are my child, and I will always love you; I will always be here for you.”
That's the kind of love that even secular parenting classes and coaches call unconditional. I hope you had or have that kind of unconditional love from your mom and/or dad, and I'm very, very sorry if you did not or do not. But here's that astonishing news again: the kind of love you need most is wonderfully and only available from the one who already loves you best. Think about it: only God can give you love that is truly, that is exhaustively, that is consistently, that is and eternally unconditional. Only He can love you perfectly, at all times, and in every way. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us...”
2. God's Love and The World's Hate (3:1b)
But there's something else in verse 1 that we need to grapple with. Look at the second half of that verse: The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
That's kind of a bizarre thing to add to such a quotable, such a 're-tweet-able' statement like we find in that opening sentence. What in “the world” does the world have to do with this child-begetting, this family-forming, this truly unconditional love of God? Well notice the exact wording here: John wants them to understand “why the world does not know us”, that is, recognize us? Recognize us as what? As children of the living God. As sons and daughters of the divine.
Okay, so how does the world see us then? Drop down to v. 13, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” There it is. That I believe is the second clue pointing us to the influence of this limiting lie. It seems that some of the disciples in this faith family were not only concerned about how the world saw them, but they were surprised by the world's opposition to and condemnation of believers. It seems like someone was persuading them to believe that this opposition and condemnation was an indication that they needed less holiness and more world-liness; but as John reminds us, we're hated because we belong to the One who was hated first.
3. His Coming (2:28; 3:2-3)
This moral, spiritual friction is also evident in a final element I'd like us to consider. Notice the theme that's bracketing our main verse in 3:1. We see those brackets in 2:28 and 3:2-3. Let me just read that entire portion, with a special emphasis on the beginning and end:
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. [3:1] 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.  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.
Did you notice the repeated phrase and repeated idea there? 2:28, “when he appears”. 3:2, “when he appears”. The return of Jesus is the bracketing theme here. What does His return have to do with God's child-begetting, unconditional love for you? My best guess is that the limiting lie that was at work among John's readers was a lie that pushed our identity as God's children out of the present and into the future. And in doing that, it changed the equation concerning how we are to live in the world today. But as John will go on to argue, if we are God's children today (and we are!), then we are called to a 'family resemblance' today. For those who have a righteous Father... practice righteousness. And if our Father is love, then we will also love, just as he loves. How could we not? Thru Jesus we now have heavenly DNA. Amen?
Notice how John is honest with them about what the future holds: (v. 2) “what we will be has not yet appeared”. He's saying, 'I don't know. It's not clear. But what is clear about our future state is that we will be like Jesus, more fully than we could ever be in this life.' “...We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” But notice how that future transformation also produces a transformation now, in the present: “And everyone who thus hopes in him [present tense] purifies himself [present tense] as he is pure.”
The Apostle doesn't want his readers to disconnect the present from the future, or the future from the present. Instead, he wants them to understand that their identity as God's children is a present reality; one that should radically alter both their perspective and practice. John goes on to emphasize this connection between identity and practice a few verses later in 3:10... “By this [i.e., lifestyle] it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil...”.
III. Can You “See”?
One of the distinct features of John's letters is the way he affectionately refers to his readers: (2:1) “my little children”. And he uses that language six more times throughout this letter. Like the other apostles, John was not only used to help lead these men and women to new life, but also to care for them as a spiritual father. But when he gets to 3:1, he wants to make absolutely sure that they understand their ultimate identity is not as his spiritual children, but as God's.
Do you understand that this morning? Is that the air you breathe? Is that the water in which you swim? Is that the fuel that powers you forward? Whether this concept is new to you or not, please don't miss the very first word of our main verse: It's a directive. It's an imperative. It's John saying, “See! Look! Behold! Don't miss... the kind of love the Father has given to us!”
Do you understand this morning that you were made to be loved? All of us were. Some of you absolutely know this to be true, but you're tempted to settle for other kinds of love; or you're tempted to exaggerate other kinds of love. Others of you, if you're honest, have come to resent the fact that you were made to be loved, because you haven't been. And now, the truth is, your heart is guarded from every kind of love.
Brothers and sisters, friends, wherever you are, do you hear God speaking to you even now through what John wrote back then? He's revealing to you, or maybe reminding you, that this is the kind of love you need most. All of us need this kind of love. The love the Father has given us. The love that makes us His children, forever and ever and ever. But John is writing to believers... so this is key: to see, to look, to behold this kind of love should be heard as a daily directive. Why? Because we too easily look away. Either we know of this love, but don't experience it, or we haven't truly grasped the extent of God's love, or we judge it, in the moment, to be inferior to some other kind of love. And in light of what we learned this morning, we know not 'seeing' has moral implications, on our lives and witness. What might you do this week, or even now, and throughout this day, to “see”? To regularly look, to behold, to gaze upon, to feast your eyes on the kind of love the Father has given to us? Don't settle. “See”! Receive!
The kind of love you need most is wonderfully and only available from the one who already loves you best. Now you might be asking, “How could I really be a child of God? I know who I am. I know what I've done. Could God really love me like that?” The answer is yes, here's how John explains it in the next chapter: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (4:9–10) The fact that I could be, that you could be, a child of God is only possible because of Jesus. As John wrote about Jesus in the opening chapter of his Gospel: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) Let's pray this morning, for eyes to “see” this amazing kind of love, and hearts to receive Jesus... the One who is coming again, in order to bring us home, forever, to God our Father.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)
August 7, 2022Your Survival Kit for a 'Jesus-less' World (John 14:25-27)
July 31, 2022Hearing the Voice of Jesus (John 10:22-27)
July 24, 2022Seeing is Not Believing (John 4:46-54)