We are continuing our sermon series, Love Is the Answer. We are going through 1 John and seeing how love
is the basis of the life that we live with God. Last week, we talked about this special relationship that we are
invited into with God. It is not something distant, far removed, but where our lives are intricately woven
together through love. When you see the word “fellowship” or “communion” in your Bibles, that is the kind of
interaction that it means. It is the kind of close relationship that Jesus had with his disciples. John invited his
community into that kind of relationship with God and each other, and he invites us to be a part of it too. The
way that one Bible translation worded it was, “We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!”
(1 John 1:4)
Today’s text shows us the basis of this loving relationship, from 1 John 3:1-7.
I really love the wording in The VOICE translation, which I will be using today. Hear the word of the Lord!
1 John 3:1-7 (The VOICE)
1 Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children
of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize
Him, the world does not recognize us either.
2 My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children
now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears,
we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. 3 All those who focus their hopes on Him
and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure.
4 Everyone who lives a life of habitual sin is living in moral anarchy. That’s what sin is. 5 You
realize that He came to eradicate sins, that there is not the slightest bit of sin in Him. 6 The ones
who live in an intimate relationship with Him do not persist in sin, but anyone who persists in
sin has not seen and does not know the real Jesus.
7 Children, don’t let anyone pull one over on you. The one doing the right thing is just imitating
Jesus, the Righteous One.
Sin, sin, sin: We hear that word a lot in the church. It appears often in our English translations of the Bible,
in 393 verses, sometimes multiple times in a single verse. In verses 4-6 of our reading today, it appeared six
times. There’s a couple of problems with this word.
- It’s really only a word that is used in church these days. It might be appropriate or technically accurate to refer to things as “sin” in the secular world, the world outside of the church community, but nobody does. If they do, it’s rare, and then it usually has some kind of religious connection anyway. So, it’s not a word that we use in our daily lives outside of our religious lives.
- The other question is do we really know what it means or what it is referring to in our Bibles. We may think that we are all working from the same definition, but what if we are not? We may have added a lot of baggage to the word that was never intended.
So, let’s look at this word “sin.” In both Hebrew and Greek it comes from terms that mean to miss the mark
in a kind of target shooting. With the Hebrew it is with the throwing of spears and the Greek with archery.
You were aiming for a target, and you missed.
Does that mean that we should regard this whole thing like a game? We’re aiming at this target of living a life
that is pleasing to God. If we miss, no big deal. It just means that we don’t have a medal to take home? No, it’s
every day. We have a hard enough time with the Ten Commandments, just a part of the 613. Now, not all the
commandments had requirements every day, but still. What is the consequence of missing the mark? Some
of the commandments have specified punishments, but that’s not what I’m talking about. With many of the
commandments, like the Ten Commandments, breaking them could result in the fracturing of the entire
community. More importantly, the consequence of missing the mark of any of the commandments, large or
small is a fractured relationship with God.
One of the things that we get with Jesus is a way to have those missed shots moved back to the target. The
relationship is repaired. So is this thing about sin all about fulfilling rules and commandments? No, it is about
relationship. It is about community, a loving, encouraging, uplifting community. Eliminating those things that
hurt each other and ourselves allows us to live in freedom.
The problem is that this idea trying to live the life that stays on target has gotten a bad reputation. That sounds
paradoxical, doesn’t it? You look in the media and contemporary culture, and trying to live a “good life” sounds
stifling, glum, and full of drudgery, the opposite of freedom. It looks like it is impossible to have any fun. They’re
so uptight. Let your hair down. Try it. You’ll like it. *wink*wink*
I have to admit that I have known people who call themselves Christians that think that being good means that
you have to give up anything that sounds like fun, but that is not how the Bible describes the good life.
The life that God offers in the Bible is a life of abundance. Does that mean that everyone has a lot of money and
can do whatever crosses their mind? No, but abundance can come in many forms.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). When
you follow the travels of Jesus through the gospels, you see it demonstrated many times. In the feeding of the
5000, not only has Jesus fed all these people (actually well over 5000 and realizing that there are only about
7000 people in all of Wallowa County). So, not only has he fed all of these people, but there were twelve baskets
of leftovers. There wasn’t just barely enough. They didn’t have to ration to make things stretch. There was MORE
than enough. Then, in the feeding of the 4000, the same thing happens again. Not only were all of the people fed
until they were satisfied, there were seven large basketfuls of leftovers. Abundance.
It’s interesting. In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as described in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus suggests to
fishermen, his prospective disciples, to cast their net, and they catch so many fish that the net was breaking.
There’s so much, and it’s so heavy that they have to ask others to come and help. (Luke 5:1-11) Then, after Jesus’
death and resurrection, the disciples have returned to Galilee and decide to go fishing. They don’t catch anything
all night. They’re ready to give up, and a man from shore suggests that they make one last cast on the right side
of the boat. Again, there are so many fish that the nets are tearing. That is how they recognize that it is Jesus,
from the overabundance provided in his presence. (John 21:4-8)
I love how Isaiah describes God’s abundance in chapter 55, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And
you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to
Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2, NKJV)
I really don’t know where the idea that the Christian life can only be one full of misery comes from. Jesus does not
promise that our lives will be trouble free, quite the contrary. (c.f. John 16: 33) And, it has it’s tougher moments
towards the end, but when you look at Jesus’ ministry, throughout his journey, it is full of … parties! There is the
wedding in Cana where Jesus transformed water into about 120 gallons of good wine! Talk about abundance.
(John 2:1-11) There was the dinner party at Matthew’s house. (Mt 9:9-13). The gatherings at Mary and Martha’s
house. (Luke 10:38-42) He dined with Pharisees. (Luke 14:1). He invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for
dinner. (Luke 19:1-10) What a party that must have been at Lazarus’ house after Jesus raised him from the dead!
Yes, a life with God, a life where we are trying not to miss the mark … in other words a life without sin, can be
fun, can be enjoyable. Otherwise, why would the Apostle Paul encourage us to “Rejoice in the Lord always”?
Many people have the idea that something has to be bad, off the target, in order to be fun. Why is that? Think of
that mischievous look on someone’s face when they contemplate doing something wrong. Our culture has a
positive connotation with that look, that little half smile, a raised eyebrow. I have the same problem, too. What
is the attraction? The idea of getting away with something. Is there exhilaration? Is it the fear of doing something
risky? The excitement of getting away with it? Is it merely an adrenaline addiction?
Maybe not thought out as detailed as this, but is it the idea that God is trying to keep something good from me,
and I’m going to outwit, circumnavigate and have that fun that is being kept from me anyway? It all goes back to
the Garden with Adam and Eve. God told them that they could have ANYTHING in the Garden, this garden of
infinite variety and goodness. There was just one thing that should leave alone. What was the problem? Is God
keeping something important from me? Something that would help me, make me better? I look at it and analyze
it. There doesn’t appear to be any problem. I’m going to go for it.
Just like in the Garden, the rules, the target is for our benefit. It is there to protect us, to protect our friends and
neighbors. God loves us. God isn’t trying keep us from good things. God is GIVING us something good. God is
giving us freedom, freedom to live a good life. But, we think that we know better, our powers of observation and
reason are … dare we say it, better than God’s. We can’t see or understand why God shapes our target the way he
does. It can seem random and haphazard. So, we don’t even bother trying to hit the mark. Miss it? So what. We
know better. The problem is that we don’t know better.
I take us back to another part of Isaiah 55 where God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are
your ways my ways … As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my
thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
This is something that gives me a lot of comfort when I don’t understand the whys of a situation. God can see
what we can’t. God can know what we can’t know. God’s perspective is so much bigger. God can see the big
picture when we are caught up in the small details. Who do we trust more God or ourselves?
We can also suffer from the opposite problem, low self-esteem. We have missed the mark so wildly and so many
times that there is no use to even try. Why should we even care? Because, as John tells us, we are children of
God! That is a high honor. That is what connection with Jesus gives us. That is what allows us to have this close
relationship with God despite missing the mark. We can’t give up trying. That’s the “habitual sin” the “moral
anarchy” that today’s Scripture passage talks about. (1 John 3:4, The VOICE) That kind of life keeps our relation-
ship with God in a fractured state. It doesn’t have to be that way because God has claimed us as children of God!
But what does it mean to be a child of God? The New Testament describes it in two ways. In John 3, Jesus talks of
being born again by water and the spirit. This is different from our natural biological birth. When we are born again,
we have become children of God. (c.f. John 1:12-13) The Apostle Paul describes it like an adoption.
From Galatians 4 starting at verse 4, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,
born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you
are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are
no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
Here the term “adoption to sonship” refers to a legal term meaning the full legal standing of an adopted male heir
in Roman culture. For our purposes it means that women also have all those rights and privileges as well.
There is an interesting difference in process of adoption between the ancient Roman culture and western culture
today. Now, we more commonly adopt babies or at least children who have not reached the legal age of an adult.
In the Roman culture, it was much more common for the upper classes to adopt people who were full grown and
had shown some potential.
At that time infant mortality was very high, and with no immunizations or treatments for childhood diseases, even
under the best of circumstances a large percentage of children did not live to reach adulthood. Therefore, a
wealthy and powerful person would not take the risk of adopting a baby of child. They would wait to see how the
child turned out. Someone may realize that their biological children don’t have the aptitude or interest to take
over the family business. Maybe that is a high official or a nobleman. Julius Caesar adopted the man who would
become Caesar Augustus. He was named in Julius’ will as his successor.
When Paul is talking about adoption, this is the custom he was talking about. Even as people without power or
position God chose us anyway. Despite missing the mark in so many ways, God still chose us.
Even in our modern understanding of adoption works, again, before we could do anything to earn it (and we could
never do enough to earn it), we babies in the spirit were adopted by God.
My cousin and his wife could not have children, and they decided to foster some children. They went through the
application process. They had interviews. Their house was inspected for safety and adequate space. They passed
all the tests, and three children were placed in their home, two boys and their sister, ranging in age from 3-8. Their
biological mother was in jail, and it didn’t look like she would be out any time soon.
After a couple of years with this situation my cousin and his wife had fallen in love with these great kids. The
mother had relinquished her parental rights, and my cousin and his wife began the process and procedures to
adopt these kids It took about five years before they received final approval.
Imagine the happiness, the joy, the bliss when they arrived at the judge’s office to make it all legal. Waiting all that
time, but finally it happened. With the wave of a pen their legal status changed, and they received all the rights and
privileges of being a part of the Johnson family. If that is how it was for my cousin and his wife, can you imagine
the outpouring of love and the celebration when a new child of God is brought into the family. You are a child of
We are children of God. God has claimed us as children of God! But we are also children of God. We are
constantly growing and developing! We are learning and changing. We are being transformed by being in
relationship with God. As that relationship develops our desire to hit the mark increases. We see more and more
the freedom that God gives us. However, as is so often the case, the more we learn, the more we realize how
much more there is to learn. This is a lifetime process. One that can be full of joy!
Many of you have grown children or know people that you think of as your children. Some of these children have
grown children. Your child is a functional adult, has been for quite some time. Do you still think of them as your
child? In the same way, you will always be a child to your mother and father. You will always be their baby. We
sometime chafe under that idea, but it’s true. If you live to be 150, you will still be God’s child. You will be loved
like that, and also there will always be things to learn.
This is the way that God loves us, while we were still people seriously missing the mark with God, Christ died for
us. (c.f. Romans 5:8) Once we have been claimed, we have the chance for that loving relationship with God. And,
as it says in Hebrews 13:5, “God will never leave us of forsake us.” God will love us with an everlasting love.
(c.f. Jer 31:3)
Love has always been the answer!