Recent Sermons

Children of God
Robert N. Stradling
Scriptures: John 1: 4, 5, 9-13 (CTW: Psalm 103:8-13)                                                                
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him.
11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become
children of God.
13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan,
but a birth that comes from God.       -New Living Translation
         A church was having its Christmas program one evening.  It was a play about Jesus’ birth where all the parts were played by children, except for the baby Jesus.  Instead of having a baby or doll in the manger, they hid a light bulb there.  At the appropriate time in the play, all the lights in the sanctuary except the one in the manger were to be turned off, so the light of Jesus would shine out for all to see.  But when they came to that part in the play, the older boy who was in charge of the lights turned them all off – including the one in the manger.  There was silence for a second, then one of the shepherds said in a loud stage whisper, “Hey! You switched off Jesus!”
      Our scripture for this morning tells us that Jesus is the light and the life of the world.  Yet a lot of people have ‘switched off Jesus’ in this life.  If we switch off Jesus we miss the greatest chance we have in life.  The chance to become ‘children of God.’  Today we focus on John talking about the light and how we become children of God’s light.  But what does it mean to be ‘children of God?’
Is it just that God is our maker?  Some people use it that way, and then all it means is we are part of God’s creation.  But John doesn’t mean it that way.  Other people say it means that since we have God as our Father, we have all His power to do whatever we want.  Is that really what Jesus has in mind for our lives as God’s children?  Over the next few weeks we will talk about how we become God’s children and what it means to God that we are His children.  But we need to start with understanding Jesus’ light if we are to understand the Father and become His children.  After all, Jesus said the Father and Him were one.
      Do we really understand what John means when he says that Jesus is the life and light of the world?  If we do, I think we will want to switch Jesus on in our lives every day.  A traditional reading of verse four says, “In Him was life.”  Christ is the source of all life.  The first and most important meaning is, “The Word gave life to everything that was created.”  Our created life comes through Christ.  He is the source.  We are here because He made us.  We continue to live because He supports our existence.
But John also means that spiritual life comes to us in Christ.  And to make sure we don’t miss that idea he adds, “His life brought light to everyone.”  Light in the Bible refers to God and His purity.  To real spiritual life.  The psalmist says of God that “He wraps himself in light.”
In the beginning, when human beings were created through Christ, we were given both physical life and spiritual life – a life of open and free communion with God.  Adam and Eve walked in the light of God in the Garden.
But then darkness, separation from God, entered the world.  When our foremost ancestors pursued their own ways instead of God’s, shown in their choice to eat the forbidden fruit, the darkness of separation from God entered their hearts.  And in that darkness, they no longer really understood the light very well.  They no longer felt close to God.  They couldn’t see His face and endure it.  So they hid from God.  And God entered the Garden calling out, “Adam, Adam, where are you?”
Too often we are like them.  We no longer feel close to God because we have chosen to live in ways that are separated from Him.  So we hide, afraid of the light.  While all the time God calls out for us, “Where are you?”
One day before I was a pastor I was talking to an acquaintance.  She told me she wanted to know God.  But she had done so many things wrong in her life, she didn’t think she could be close to Him.  I tried in my fumbling way to tell her Jesus had died for her so she could get back to God.  So she could be forgiven.  She responded, “I can’t come to Jesus until I straighten out my life first!”  Though I told her Jesus came to forgive her first, then He would help her change her life, she couldn’t seem to understand that.  She thought she had to fix her life first herself to come to God.
Too often, the darkness does not “understand” the light.  The NLT has translated this word as “overcome” and I’ll get to that in a second.  But the same word also means “understand.”  We need to see first that it is very difficult for someone stuck in darkness, away from God, to understand the light.  They have a hard time grasping the grace that God offers.
Sometimes that is the fault of Christians.  Too many of us tell people that they have to straighten out their lives, either leaving out the grace of Christ’s forgiveness, or only adding it at the end.  But Jesus’ forgiveness must come first.  The Word’s light must penetrate us before we can become light ourselves.
The darkness cannot “overcome” the light either.  That is the other meaning of this word.  When Adam and Eve turned away from God, He promised that her descendant would crush the power of darkness in the form of the serpent’s head.  To fulfill that prophecy Christ came into the world, born to us in Jesus.
One summer, a heavy thunderstorm was shaking a house.  The little boy living there woke up and was scared by the lightning and thunder.  He ran into his parent’s room, shook them awake and said, “I’m frightened.”
His Dad said, “Honey, don’t be afraid.  Go back to bed.  We are just across the hall.”
The boy said, “But I’m still scared, could I get in bed with you?”
The father replied, “God is with you.  He’ll be there right in your bed.”
Then the boy answered, “But I need someone with skin on!”
That boy knew what we all really need.  Someone with skin on.  To hold us and comfort us.  To make things Ok in life the way a loving father or mother can by holding you in their arms.  But we also want something more.  Someone powerful enough to control the storm.
And that is why Jesus was born to be life and light into our world.
He knew we needed more than just the prophets telling us about God.  We needed God to come and put His arms around us again and hold us.  We needed God with skin on.  As our life.  As our light.  And Jesus came to be that.
But He also came to give the life and light back to us.  To return to us the closeness to God we lost.  So we could walk and talk with God as our friend again.  To make us into God’s children again.  We can be held in God’s arms and see Him face to face without fear – but rather a feeling of love.  That is real life.
So we need to let Him take away the darkness.  Take away the things in our lives we are ashamed of.  Take away the guilt we feel because we have done things we feel bad about.  Take away what hurts us, and what we fear.
Replace the darkness with new things, new ways of living we can be happy with and proud of.  Things we can really enjoy without secret shame, but instead have real joy about.  A new life with goodness, purity and purpose that is real.  That is light.
He came to make us children of God.  What does it mean to be a child of God?  It means we are really reborn spiritually so we live our lives in Him.
Christians talk about being “born again.”  Jesus says in John 3:3 “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  The word translated ‘again’ can also mean, ‘from above.’  It means that we are reborn spiritually.  So we want to know God, love God, and have God’s love live in us.  It’s really what John is saying in verse 13 here:  We. . .  “are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”
Now to some people being “born again” means just praying a prayer or walking down an aisle to proclaim you believe in Christ’s forgiveness.  And that is a way to start.  But what happens next is critical.  Because it can’t have been just a flash of emotion, or a moment of intellectual conviction that means little to you after that day.  It has to be life changing.
Some people, I fear, pray this prayer and think that means everything is Ok with God so that they can go back to the same sort of life they had before, with their hearts and minds still set on themselves.  They haven’t let God change their focus towards Him.  They haven’t really repented that they did not want God as their Father.  So while they want to be forgiven so they can avoid a fiery forever, they don’t really want to become God’s children.  But God is not saving us so we can continue in sin, He is saving us to return us to that relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the garden.
The problem with many people is that they prayed the prayer as an expedient fire insurance plan.  The only difference in their lives is now they go to church on Sunday.  During the week they have no desire to know or follow God.  They aren’t letting God make them into His children.
But if you really believed, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and you will be changed!  If there is no change in you, you need to think about what your prayer was really about.  God is the center of the life of a Christian.  Not second, or third, or tenth, as He seems to be in many religious people’s lives.   But first.
If you became a child of God when you believed, think what that means.  Does a child only think of its father or mother once or twice a week?  No!  A child knows its Father, runs to Him when they are hurt, and tells their Father about all the good and bad things that happened in their day.  A child asks their Father for help when they need it, rejoices in doing good and fun things together, and loves to be held on their Father’s lap.
Is that what your relationship with God looks like?  It is what God wants it to look like!  When you are born of God, and you become God’s child, that means you are meant to be as close to God as a child is to the most loving parent in the world.  Or even more.
A little boy’s father came home from work one day exhausted.  He sat down, picked up the evening newspaper and began to read.   But the little boy wanted to play, and kept interrupting his father’s reading.  At first the father kept putting the little boy off.  Finally, the little boy got up on the couch next to his dad, wrapped his arms around him, hugged him, and said, “I love you Daddy.  I’m glad you are home!”  With that a tear rolled out of the father’s eye.  He was so glad to be loved by his little boy.  He put down his paper, hugged him back and played with him.
We become like that little boy when we love God.  Of course God never ignores us.  But we will joyfully play with God, talk to Him, and give Him a big hug.  We will tell Him we love Him all the time, because we’ve been born of God and become His child.
That’s what Jesus came to do for us.  To give us physical life, spiritual life, and the light of a soul being made pure.  To make us back into children of God, back in the arms of our loving Father again.
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