November 1st 2020

Reading: 1 John 3:1-10

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

How great indeed! Over the centuries, knowledge of this simple yet profound fact has changed the lives of many. The New Testament documents countless people whose lives were changed dramatically by the influence Jesus Christ had, and later, how the power of God’s Holy Spirit could work, turning lives around almost, one might say, miraculously. Consider the Apostle Paul for one.

Known for his zealous persecution of anyone connected to ‘The Way’ as the early gathering of Christians were known, Paul’s life was literally turned upside down following that divine encounter on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9). If there was anyone ore unlikely to become a follower of Jesus it was Paul.

Prior to his conversion we are told that Saul, as he was known then, “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether man or woman, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” In the subsequent days, it must have been nigh on impossible for anyone to believe that he might be a changed man, and yet, we know that he was, and that he went on to become a prolific writer to congregations all over the Mediterranean region, promoting the faith, encouraging and challenging believers to live a more holy and circumspect life.

Our experience of coming to a living faith in Jesus may seem pretty small fry compared to that of Paul but is not irrelevant and certainly every bit as life changing. Remember if you will, that moment you first discovered the importance of Jesus in your life. Recall the time that faith went from being something you new about in your head, to being something you felt in your heart, when you realised the significance of Jesus in your life.

The moment you recognise the magnitude of Jesus’ willingness to face death on your behalf is life-changing, for in the blink of an eye you are humbled and moved to serve him in a far more whole-hearted way than you did previously.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”

Take a moment now, to consider what this means for you today.

Jesus came to earth and taught us both in word and action what it means to be called a child of God, and yet it wasn’t until he showed his willingness to face death and rise again from it that the depth of his love for us had any real and lasting effect on his followers. In the days immediately following his death, before the resurrection sightings, even the disciples were dismayed and afraid. That they were reluctant to believe the stories the women told about their experience of the risen Jesus at the tomb on the third day confirms the depth of their sadness and despair.

The reality of Jesus resurrection surprised the disciples, but it also confirmed their faith. Elated, overjoyed, they were inspired in service and determined to continue the mission he had commissioned them to carry on. Their lives were changed in a moment, and for the rest of their days they worked ceaselessly for the furtherance of God’s kingdom, certain in the knowledge that they were children of God.

From that moment on, lives have been changed and people have been motivated to serve God, not because of anything they might gain, but because of what Christ did for them. Their respective ministries have not been easy. In fact many in the intervening years have lost their lives because they dared to be a follower of Jesus, many still do.

Does your knowledge of Jesus inspire you in service today? How do you serve him? How easily are you discouraged when the going gets tough? Do difficulties and struggles challenge your faith or strengthen it?

In the early days of lockdown churches were forced to close their doors to physical public worship and in some quarters it was suggested that the church had abandoned its people at the time it was needed most. In my opinion the reverse was closer to the truth. The church building may have been closed but the work of the church had not, and in my experience, our work as Christians serving God in this place kicked into action in new and innovative ways. In many ways, the community of faith feels more alive to me now than it has for a long, long time and that, to me, is an inspiration and very real encouragement.

Who, or what has inspired you on your journey in faith? Are you driven or drawn in service? What I mean is, are you motivated by a desire to earn God’s favour, that is, driven, or are you drawn to serve Jesus because in response to his love for you, you can do no other?

The love that God has lavished on us is the love expressed for us in the life and death of his son, Jesus. His resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit continue to inspire us to live as one of his children. I can think of no other greater motivation. Can you?

Today I give thanks for those who taught me about faith – the teachers in Sunday School who told me the stories about Jesus, the various chaplains and ministers who helped me understand how to unpack the scriptures for myself, and for countless men, women and children, both closer to home and in lands much further afield. May you also find time in your day to recognise and give thanks for those who have been a positive influence on your journey with Jesus. Amen.

Please click on the link to listen to “How deep the Father’s love for us”.

How deep the Father's Love for us