Updated: Apr 4, 2020
The Christmas season is commonly associated with gifts and generosity as expressions of love for our friends and family. Even Christians often emphasize the temporal gifts over the greatest Gift of love ever given. So I'd like to turn our attention to just how unfathomable the Father's love for us is, and why this Gift is cause for profound joy, love, and repentance.
First, some perspective: God the Father sent His only Son to a hostile world, in the form of a defenseless human baby, to be raised by teenagers. All so He could save the very people who hated Him.
As a father, I cannot even begin to comprehend the affection needed to send one of my children into a warzone; let alone one filled with religious zealots who hate me and my kids. But this is exactly what God did, and does, because He loves all His kids (even the difficult and rebellious ones).
It is with this fatherly love that the Holy Spirit speaks through the apostle John, "My little children". Think about that. The Creator of the universe regards those He loves as His children.
And as our Father, He is calling a family meeting. In this passage, God implores us to avoid sinful behavior. He knows it is poisonous to our well-being. The children have sinned against their loving Father. He wants us to know the consequence of our sin is death and separation from Himself: a reality we were not designed to experience. Ephesians 2:3 tells us, "...we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
So, what can we do to make this reality right? The answer is nothing. Our sin has created a cosmic wound between us and God. Nothing we do can mend it. God, however, is a loving Father. As such, He desires loving relationship with His children. So He made the way for us to be whole. He gave us the sacrificial gift of Jesus.
And this is important. Please take note of this. The Father is the author of salvation. Jesus drank the cup of God's just wrath on our behalf. But it was the Father who planned it. God did what we could not. He mended our broken family. And now Jesus, our big Brother, advocates for those who love God. We are no longer children of wrath but children of God. This is the Father-love of God for His children.
Therefore, it is important to examine ourselves to determine whether we know God…or simply know of Him. How can sinful creatures truly know whether they are the children of God? This question can be difficult for those who struggle with sin or who have tender consciences. John gives us the answer in verse 3: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments”
The Greek verb "egnōkamen" translated "come to know" is not head knowledge. It is an experiential, lifelong process of growing in relational knowledge of who God is and who we are. And so what John is saying here is a genuine Christian continues in a lifelong pattern of growing with God and obeying Him more and more.
God is telling us that we are to obey Him because we are loved. Not in order to earn the love He freely gives us.
If we recognize the depth of the Father's love for us in His Son, then as a little one wants to be just like mom or dad, we too desire to be in an affectionate relationship with our loving Dad. We do this by regularly studying God's Word, praying for God's will, and enjoying fellowship with God's family, the Church.
And so in your prayer time today, draw near to our Father and thank Him for sending Jesus to this world and adopting you. Examine your heart and your actions. Ask God where He wants you to grow. Confess where you've fallen short. Turn away in repentance. And rest easy knowing God's grace is sufficient enough to cover your sins.