The Love The Father Has Lavished On Us
1 John 3:1-24
Key Verse 3:1a
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!.”
We have been studying the book of Revelation, and learning some truly remarkable truths in it. Last week we focused on the first 5 verses of Chapter 14 and considered the mark of those who have been redeemed by the Lord and set apart for him. They are marks that clearly distinguish them from all others. And I was moved by all such distinctions, but particularly by the New Song that fills the hearts of those who are blessed to know Jesus and his grace in their lives. I was also convicted to sing this new song of his grace throughout this past week. In spite of many difficulties and hindrances that might otherwise snuff out the new song from my heart and plunge me into a sullen mood, I prayed! I prayed that the Lord would help me to sing the new song of his grace at all times. It wasn’t easy. But quite honestly the moment I reflected on his grace in my life, nothing lingered in my heart but that grace, along with the love he holds for all of us. I found out that for his sake I would let my heart sing a song of grace rather than a song of bitter complaint. For his sake I would let my heart sing a new song of gratitude. For his sake I also wanted to consider his love for us— a love that outweighs all things in heaven and on earth.
In this book of 1 John, the subject of love is repeated endlessly. Also the subject of fellowship and unity in the love of Jesus— are at the core of the Christian faith— and must be embraced as powerful truths to live by. In his letter of 1st John, John wanted to expose the antichrist and what the antichrist does to deceive Jesus’ people. But John also wanted to solidify the bond we Christians have with one another in order to defeat the antichrist who is ever prowling to disrupt the work of love and faith which the Holy Spirit is ever doing among us. In this chapter 3, John gives us an outline about “love”. He first stresses the love of God for us— how we must accept it. Then he stresses to imitate this love among each other and in the Christian family. He does so for a good reason— when we practice love among each other, the world (which does not know love) will realize that we are children of God. Let’s then once again consider and meditate on the teaching about “love” for by this love we can be distinguished as Jesus’ people, the children of God.
Look at verse 1. It begins with these words: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” It’s a privilege to be called “a child of God”. It’s an evidence that God loves us. In this verse John relates “the love of God” to the fact that we are called “children of God”. How then did it happen that we came to be called “the children of God”?
The most famous of verses in the Bible, John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here again the “love of God” is related to his sacrifice of love— God sacrificed his Son— to save us from our sins. And it wasn’t easy for God to do so! No one can give away a child as a sacrifice for another person. For us, a son, or a daughter, is the most precious of life’s possessions. We cannot imagine anything dearer to us than the children God gives to us in his love. For parents, children are their life, their joy, their joy of life. If there were a choice between the world’s offerings and the health of one’s child, a parent would gladly give away not only the world but their own life in exchange for their child and the health of that child. [Lord Jesus once gave a good example of the power of human affection for one’s own child. He said in, “Which of you … if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:11-13] And if one had 10 sons and daughters he or she would cherish each of them as if each was the only one, giving them the best of life— even one’s own life.
In the same way, God loved Jesus more than anyone can possibly imagine. Yet God had a dilemma. God’s prize creation, mankind— us— were sinful and destined for destruction. And there was only one solution to our sin problem— that God should sacrifice his Son Jesus that my sins may be forgiven— that my soul may be regenerated and that my life may be not be destroyed in the fires of hell. It was a dreadful dilemma! What did God do faced with the dilemma to sacrifice his son or let his children perish? God loved his Son too much to sacrifice him. God also loved us too much to watch us perish in our sin. But we know the eternal story well enough— that God sacrificed his Son for the sins of the world. This truth should never become for us a drab old story, something to tire of hearing. It is a story written in pain and suffering, in love and in sacrifice, and it should never be relegated to the back our hearts and minds as something we “know”. We need to sing it in our hearts as a new song as often as we able to, for it is God’s love story with us. What God did in sacrificing his Son was the greatest act of love history had ever witnessed. God loved us! He loved you. He loved me. It was an unbelievable kind of love. How can a child of God, ignore this love in order to nurse a grudge— for example— or in exchange for a complaint we wont let go of, or to argue some injustice done here and there! In the face of what God has done in his love for us, all things melt away and nothing but a new song rises in our hearts. But God not only loved us! God, John tells us, lavished his love on us. In giving us life and forgiveness by sacrificing his Son, it was a love lavished.
“God lavished his love” on us. To “lavish” means an “outpouring of” and in this case, an outpouring of love”. It means “a profusion of love”, “going overboard— more than expected— way more than expected! We can see this outpouring of the love of God in the very life of the Lord Jesus. [John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus had everything in heaven— we cannot fully understand this, yet still we must consider what it means that Jesus had everything in heaven. But he renounced everything he had— his privileges— in exchange for becoming only a man. He did not get much in return for giving up everything in heaven. In this world, it is hard to give up a privilege for the sake of another person. But Jesus gave up all privileges. More than that, Jesus poured out his life to help suffering people like us, since sin gives pleasure but inflicts unbearable suffering on those who fall in it. And Jesus did all this, out of his love for us, as a reflection of the love that God wanted to lavish on us. It was an outpouring of love. In the end, Jesus laid down his life in order to bring us out of death into life. It was nothing but his love that did that— more than that— it was the outpouring of love— for unworthy sinners.
But it did not stop there. Verse 1 reads: let us read it: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” God made us to be “children of God”— his children. The meaning of this is too deep to discuss in one lecture. At a basic level, we can say that it is a great privilege to be called a “child of God”. In this for example, lies all the heritage we can imagine that belongs to God and those who are his children. Can someone please read Romans 8:15-17. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Once we were born to this world. As the children of men, we inherit what belongs to man. We inherit the name, the culture, the standing, the possessions of man. To the rich, there is an inheritance of wealth. To the poor, there is an inheritance of poverty. To the refined, there is an inheritance of social grace. To the base, there is an inheritance of humble standing. However, every single human being absolutely inherits sin from Adam as well as the consequences of sin. Human beings are born to sinfulness. And therefore they are also born to the condemnation of sin. And the fact is that no one is ever exempt from this fate— no matter what their human heritage may be. We have all inherited from Adam, our forefather. And The inheritance we received from him brings with it everything else that goes with sin, which is an inheritance of suffering and of shame and of all that sin brings with it. In other words, the reality is that there isn’t much good in our human heritage no matter who we are or where we come from or what we try to make of ourselves. And the great wonder is that while we cannot do a thing to change our inheritance, God could. So that is what God did. He sent his Son to change our situation— our inheritance. When we become children of God, the human heritage stops and our divine heritage and inheritance begins. And our divine heritage is really really great! One word, “lavished” helps us see with new eyes what God did in his love.
Our divine heritage is to call God “Father” or “Abba”. Ordinarily we are as far removed from God as the heavens are from the earth. But God— in Jesus— bridged the gap between us and God. Not only that, he gave us the privilege to become children of God who can and would and should call God Father. More than this, our divine inheritance is that we have also inherited the word of God— the word of life— which nourishes our souls and hearts and lavishes on us grace and wisdom— grace and wisdom to be able to live in this barren and dark and lost world. Our divine heritage is that we have been given the privilege to pray and to receive from God answers to our prayers. Our divine heritage is that we are shielded from the outcome of sin. Sin no more has control over us— we ask how! But think on that— think on the power of this inheritance if you suffer from low self esteem or don’t have much self control over what comes to your mind and heart here and there during the day. Or if you are prone to anger and to rash behavior and unholy thoughts, or to shame or to weakness that ordinarily cripples you. Think on that that sin no longer controls us. It is all out of the inheritance— your inheritance in Christ— your inheritance not later when you die but now that you are a child of God. There is much power in the inheritance God gives us out of his love. we do not have to give in to our emotions when our emotions flare up, or to guilt when our guilt wants to make us despair— and all other things that are common to us living in this world. We have inherited eternal life and the kingdom of God. We have inherited the Spirit of God who marks us as the property of heaven. Mostly that heritage is the heritage of God’s love. Look at what Paul said in Romans 8:31-39. Let’s read it. No matter what our human situation may be then, this truth and inheritance remains solid and eternal. Nothing can change it. It is the love of God, lavished on us his children. One day, we will be with Jesus in heaven and all that is his will be ours and all his privileges will be passed on to us. Praise God that he lavished his love on us.
How do we come to know the love of God? God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins. Then he raised him up from the grave and took him to be with him in heaven till the day he returns. This is the framework of the gospel. And God could not have revealed his love in a better way. It was the evidence of such great love. And God charged all people to believe this gospel by faith. It was a call to believe and trust the love of God— to believe and to hold on to a love that transcends our understanding— and a love that covers all his sins. He charges us to accept it, not with our minds and calculating thoughts and not according to whether we feel it or not, or see it or not, but he charges us to take it on faith. Faith is the gift of God for every human being— a gift so powerful— a gift that when opened and used can take us from the emptiness of a cold and loveless and despairing world and life to a world of warmth and of grace outpoured in such a way that we cannot deny it. God promised that whoever believes the gospel— by faith— will live and will be adopted, taken in, embraced, welcomes as a-child-of-God. The moment such faith forms in your heart— the love of God is born— and grows in your heart— until you— the child of God fully comes to know it personally deeply.
We come to know the love of God also as we witness the grace of God in our lives. The story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus is a wonderful story of God’s unending grace that shed light on his unending love. Peter denied that he knew Jesus, his Friend, his Mentor, his Teacher, his Shepherd. Jesus had loved him and served more than one can tell. But at the time when Jesus needed him the most, Peter turned his back on Jesus. He denied that he knew him. Jesus should cast Peter out of the fellowship of heaven. But Jesus came back to Peter after his suffering, death and resurrection and visited him on the shores of Lake Galilee to reaffirm his love for him. He also urged him to confess his love for Jesus so that this love relationship may once again be restored and strengthened. In this way, Peter grew to know the love of God that was greater than any sin he ever committed, or would commit. A love so great that kept him close to God and that kept him a witness to the love of God. We should know the love of God that he lavished on us, but we should also know that this love cannot be contained. God showers it on us and in turn we shower it wherever we go. But we must know it, accept it, meditate on it, sing it newly every day. Sing a new song of this love in your heart every day, and see how your life will shine with the love of God to others, even to those you cannot possibly love or be loved by. when we believe his love and taste it newly, we come to know the immeasurable love of God— that glorious inheritance.
Look at verse 1a again. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” Therefore, by the love God lavished on us, we have become his children. And so we must also have great joy and pride in being the children of God. Our God is the Creator. And we are the children of the Creator. As our God is holy, so also we are the holy children of God. Set apart to live with God now and forever. It is no small thing that God had called us his children and that we have confidence and pride in this glorious reality. But there is a problem! Verse 1b tells us, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” This is the heartache we must learn to face and accept as we live in this sinful world. As the children of God, we live by the word of God. We obey the will of God. We live our best a life that is pleasing to God. We devote our lives to the study of God’s word and to prayer. We also obey his command in preaching the gospel to the people of the world. The world and its people should recognize that the Christian is wonderful because they do what is commendable in love and sacrifice and devotion to God and to man. But the world doesn’t!
- Though we are the children of God, still we must live in the world. And there are many times that we feel that being a Christian is almost impossible. In such times the antichrist lurks like a vulture to discourage and tempt and lure the children of God to give up the life of faith and enjoy the world like all the other people who are perishing in their sins. Indeed the Christian life is not easy. It is not easy to remain faithful to the way of truth and light according to the teachings of our Lord. It is not easy to resist the terrible temptation of the devil. What can the child of God do? John gives us advice in verses 2 and 3.
- Read verses 2,3. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” According to John, the child of God can resist the world when his or her hope is in the right place, or in the right thing. In these verses there are two hopes that the child of God must have and adhere to. John uses the words “When he appears” and the words “We shall be like him”. These are the hope of Jesus’ “second coming” and the hope of “attaining to the divine nature of our Lord Jesus”.
- In this world, the problems a child of God has to face are many and serious. We have the problem of future security. This problem is indeed bone crushing in a world of constant struggle to survive. To a woman, the problem of marriage and settling down with the right person is very troublesome in a world where commitments are almost extinct. To a man, the problem of job security is also terrible in a world of terrible competition and strife for a little more comfort. Such problems gear the world and its people to hopes that are mundane. Such mundane hopes makes them despair and fall into many sins. But John tells us that we must hope and look forward to the second coming of our Lord Jesus. When we have faith that he is coming again we can overcome the weight of many problems that otherwise crush us ad drive us as well to despair and to sin. When we have faith that he is coming again we can also remain faithful to the God who called us to live holy lives of faith and mission. When we have faith that he is coming again we can live a life pleasing to God. Mostly according to John, the hope of Jesus’ second coming urges us to love God and to love our fellow Christians with the love of God. And so, when Jesus comes again we will see him face to face. And the Bible promises that we will all be changed to be like him. 1 Corinthians 15:49 says, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
- This brings us to the second hope John tells about– the hope of attaining to the divine nature of our Lord Jesus. In this world of sin, we carry with us the body stained by the sin we inherited from our forefathers. When we put on faith in Jesus, God forgives us our sin and cleanses our hearts from it. But it doesn’t mean that we sin no more. The battle with sin is endless as long as we live in this body of sin. Whenever we look at ourselves we tend to despair because of the power of sin working in our hearts to crush us and to discourage us from living the life according to the Bible truth. And many sincere people give up the struggle when it becomes too stressful. Paul had this struggle and recorded it in Romans chapter 7:14-25. But he had a hope to overcome the sin daily through faith in Jesus. John also tells us that we cannot give up the struggle. We must not give up the struggle when we Christians have a great hope that someday this struggle will end and we will be changed. We will be changed to a divine nature like that of our Lord Jesus. As long as we have this hope that someday “we will be like him”, we can continue to struggle against our sin. We can continue to hope that our sinful nature will not always be there– that the day is coming when God will finally clothe us with the divine nature of our Lord Jesus himself. This hope is crucial to our spiritual lives. It helps us overcome any problem, any struggle, pertinent to man’s daily life and sinful nature.
- Look at verses 4-10. In these verses John does not condone the sin that we struggle with. In other words, granted that in this body of sin, we will sin occasionally and lose to sin. But it is not license for the Christian to give in to sin nor to stop struggling. Therefore, the child of God must continue to resist sin and fight it. Why? Because sin is lawlessness and we are the people of God’s law. Because sin is offensive to God and we love him enough not to purposely offend him nor grieve him. Therefore, the children of God must keep themselves pure by their constant fight against sin. [We can do that when we humble ourselves and study the Bible with a humble heart to learn the heart and mind of God– to learn his will for us– to learn what our sins are– that we may live in repentance from day to day and offer ourselves to God in prayer, in faith and in mission time and again. So John tells us quite honestly that deliberate sin is the work of the devil. But those who are born of God do not keep on sinning. In other words, their lives are changed such that their daily purpose is not to live in the lawlessness of the world, but in the law of God– in his grace and truth. We know that we are the children of God when we love God and when we love our brothers. (9,10)]
Look at verses 11-15. Once again we must ask the question: “How do we come to know the nature of the love of God?” Read verse 16. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Clearly, God’s love is sacrificial. God sacrificed his Son that we may turn our hearts away from sin to God. In the same way, John tells us that to love God in return we must love others sacrificially. Therefore, to love God, is to practice God’s love to others. There are many people who say, “I love God” but continue to live in their own way. Sadly some who claim to love God love themselves more than they love God or others. There are those who say, “I am saved” but never stop to consider what that it is the will of God for those who have tasted the salvation of the Lord to also live by faith and fulfill their Godly mission given to them in the Scriptures which are evident. loving God is practicing the love of God. Practicing the love of God begins when we decide to embrace Jesus and his way of life— the way of self denial and self sacrifice— the way of servantship— the way of grace and truth— the way of faith and mission. We may not be able to adopt this way fully as we struggle with our sinfulness. But we agree that it is the right way to live because it is the way God set before us to live and willed us to live. It is truly love for God when we stand with God ready to obey him, and not ready to argue with him or to complain to him how we have been wronged or troubled— or how much better we are than others in our walk of faith and mission— how others should behave and so on and so forth. We must stand with God ready to obey him, ready to learn a new song every day, a song we must sing in our hearts and to others whenever God presents us with an opportunity. It is truly love for God when we also live such lives to be a light shining in the darkness of the world and an influence on our brothers and sisters and the world. It is love when we have learned to lay down our worldly life to the edification of our fellow Christians and to the obedience and glory of God! This is love!
In verses 16-24 John tells us also that love is not an emotion but clearly a practical manifestation– even in little things– as little as sharing a piece of bread with a needy brother. Read verses 17 and 18. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” We Christians should not love with words but with actions John says. It is a practical love that God loved us when he gave us his Son to help us and to heal us. In the same way we can practically love others when we extend our hand to serve them and help them in their need. And when we give them the word of God and pray for them, we can be sure that such love is glorious because it is the love that gives life to a dying soul.
Finally, look at verses 19-24. When we consider how great is the love of God for us, and how lacking our love for him and for our brothers is, it is hard to escape the prodding of our conscience. At times we feel condemned in our hearts and at times we don’t. But at such times, John tells us that we must not allow the condemnation to rule us. Rather he tells us a wonderful truth, that “God is greater that our hearts and he knows everything.” (20) It means that God’s grace and love is greater than our feelings of condemnation and our thoughts of failure. It also means that God who knows everything, also knows our weaknesses and failings– he knows our struggles and our earnest effort to live according to the truth– and he also knows that he loves and that we love him. This we must believe and give praise to him. Furthermore, John also tells us that at such times, we must turn our hearts to prayer (22), because God is able to help us grow in his love and in the love for our fellow Christians. God is able to lead us by the hand until we overcome our sins, until we can love him and until we can love others practically. To this end we must strive. To this end we must continue the struggle against sin and learn the truth that God lavished his love on us so much so that we are indeed his children and we will indeed grow in our inner person to become like him. May God help us fathom the love of God, and may God help us practice this love practically in our life. Amen.