For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Being Children of God

Family resemblance is hard to get away from, isn’t it? Take Nathanael my oldest son for instance. If you’ve ever met my wife’s youngest brother, Dan, you would know without a doubt that Nathanael is related to him. You may not know how, but the family resemblance is undeniable.

In fact, one of the only long lasting disputes between Cheryl and myself is over my first words when Nathanael was born. Standing there in the delivery room, holding that newborn boy for very first time only seconds after making his entrance into this world, Cheryl swears up and down that my first words were: “Oh, my goodness, it’s Dan.”

Now, I argue that Cheryl’s mind was a bit affected by the pain of labor and delivery as well as a few drugs, so her memory isn’t as accurate as she might think. But I do admit that somewhere in there I may have made a passing remark about how much our son resembled my brother-in-law. Anyway, the point is, we tend to look like our family, right?

In many, if not most cases, there is usually some clear resemblance to our parents, so that when we are seen together in public, folks readily know that we belong together. The same thing should apply to the children of God.

In 1 John we are given a host of assurances. “This is how we know…” John wants us to be sure of several things related to our God and our salvation, and so he gives us a series of tests. Among them, are some issues related to family resemblance. This is how we know we are God’s children, he says in essence, if we look like Him.

He spells that out pretty simply by saying: Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. . . 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. (1 John 3:7b, 10, ESV)

It comes down to family resemblance. Our God is righteous. Our Father is a holy God. Therefore, if we are truly His children, we ought to see a family resemblance. There out to be holiness and righteousness in our lives.

Of course, we know that in one sense that’s impossible. We have no righteousness in and of ourselves. Scripture is pretty clear about how God views our righteousness; like a pile of dirty rags; a polluted garment. As a friend recently reminded me, it’s not like the dirty rags that you keep around the house and find a use for in the garage or something. It’s a polluted garment, more like a dirty diaper that you throw out in disgust. That’s how God views our righteousness.

But the children of God are given the righteousness of God’s One and only true Son. His righteousness is placed on us, covering our sin, and we are then to live in such a way that we reflect that righteousness. His righteousness shines through us, so that people look at us and say, “You belong to the Father, don’t you. I can Him in you.”

And to do that, to see that resemblance is not just a matter of reflecting His righteousness, it’s also seen in our commitment to getting rid of anything and everything that will tarnish that image.

John puts it pretty bluntly. Maybe a little too blunt for some of us. He says in verse 6 of chapter 3 that No one who abides in him deeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Then in verse 8: Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil. And verse 9: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Children of God practice the righteousness of their Father. Children of the devil practice the sin of their father. So which one are you? Which one does your life show you to be?

Now I understand we have to be careful here. John is not in any way suggesting that we can someone achieve a sinless perfection in this life, and that short of that perfection we have no assurance of our adoption. That’s not what he’s saying. There are some who suggest that, but that’s not what the plain language here suggests, nor is that consistent with the rest of what Scripture has to say about our constant battle with the flesh in this world.

However… However; we have to be careful not to go to the other extreme either. There are too many who say, well, since we’ll never be perfect in this world, and since Jesus died for our sin anyway, we can just live however we want, because after all it’s covered by grace, right? And John’s clear response to that here is: that’s not the attitude of the true child of God.

Read Romans 6 among other things. We are dead to sin. How could we even think of living in it? I know we fight it. I know it rears its ugly head. I know we’re going to be tempted by it. But the child of God responds not by coddling it, or ignoring it, or excusing it, or even tolerating it. Our response to sin is to get rid of it; mortify it; kill it; avoid it; do all we can to get it out of our lives.

Again, so that we can bear that family resemblance. Does that characterize your life? As I said before, John’s letter here not only gives us a host of assurances, but it also serves as a test for us; to examine ourselves; to see if these things are the things we see in our life. So, how well does this describe you? Are we living as faithful children of our Father? Or are then some things we need to work on in order to make the family resemblance a little more clear?

My prayer is that God will give each of us an ever growing desire to live as faithful children, to rejoice in His adopting love, and to commit ourselves to living for the Father’s pleasure and glory in all things.


Gregg said...

Excellent post and exhortation, Brother! This message is missing from the "evangelical church at large" today.

Scott said...

Yes, Gregg, it is missing. And it also happens to be one of those things that is much easier to preach than to do. Thank God for grace!

Shepherd said...

Indeed, I believe this imagery goes back to the very beginning... man was created in the image of God, very much in the way that children bear the image of their parents. This image has been broken and scarred by sin, but by God's grace He has adopted us into His family so that we may become more and more like Him.

from The Knight Blog