Tommy asked me what I was going to speak on this weekend. I wasn’t sure. So I told him that if he had any suggestions he should tell me. He messaged me later and said, ‘salvation and assurance.’ So that is what I am going to do. This evening I am going to talk to you about how wonderful it is to be a Christian and tomorrow I am going to talk about how we can be sure that we are a Christian.
I want to talk about how wonderful it is to be a Christian by thinking about one of my favourite verses in the Bible. Behold, what many of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called sons of God. And that is what we are’ (1 John 3:1).
The command of this verse is to behold, to look, to think about, the love that God has for you. You need to keep on reminding yourself of how great God’s love for you is. One preacher wrote that you need to preach the gospel to yourself every day.
Think about what manner of love the Father has lavished on you. Apparently this is an idiom. An idiom is a word picture. Like the way someone might say, ‘it is raining cats and dogs.’ In the Greek it says, behold from what country the Father has lavished upon us. God’s love is from a different country, or we might say it is out of this world.
In the Bible God’s love is pictured as being like that of a father for his son, a mother for her child, a shepherd for his sheep and a groom for his bride. Think of the following verses. ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you’ (Isaiah 49:15). ‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young’ (Isaiah 40:11). ‘As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you’ (Isaiah 62:5). But there is a sense that all this pictures fall short of what God’s for us is like for his love is from another country. It goes infinitely beyond any comparison. No one loves you as purely as God loves you!
Of course the best place to look at the love of God is to look at the cross. Later in this letter John will write, ‘this is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and gave his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). ‘Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me.’
Now it’s the ‘me’ and the ‘you’ that makes this love so out of this world. The book of Romans tells us that by nature we were hostile to God. You might not have been aware of that hostility, but when God said, ‘you are evil’ you protested and said ‘no, I am a good person’. You would not accept God’s verdict on your sin. You tried to justify yourself. You acted as if Jesus went to the cross for nothing. You fell short of the glory of God. You were a sheep that went astray. You were an enemy of God. ‘But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).
So what did God do for us when he melted our hostile hearts and caused us to run home to him? He forgave us. Blessed is the person who sins are forgiven. He saved us from the coming day of judgement. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He treats us as if we had always acted like Jesus acted. But even more, he adopted us into his family. God didn’t let you out of the prison of your guilt; he brings you home and accepts you at his table. He has adopted us his sons. ‘Behold what manner of love is this that we should be called sons of God. One theologian writes, ‘in adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us to be his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.’ God gave his one and only Son that you could become a son. I say son, rather than son or daughter, because in that culture the son had all the privileges and the son was the heir. Whether you are a woman or a man that is the status you have before God.
Do you realise that your problem is not so much that you do not love God enough, although none of us loves God the way we ought, but that you don’t realise how much he loves you? We love because he first loved us. Behold, look and see what love God has for you and it will change your life. One of my great heroes is a man called John Newton. He was a slave-trader who became a Christian. He wrote the hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ At the end of his life he said, ‘there are two things I know: I am a great sinner and God is a great Saviour.’ That is beholding that out of this world that God has for wretches like you and me.