1 John 3:1-3

In my opinion, this is the most exciting verse in the Bible because it demonstrates God’s extravagant love for us by calling us His children and then repeating it: "that is what we are". It is so matter of fact, with no conditions or doubts - just a simple statement. What sort of love is this that can know all about us - all our foibles and short-comings? Yet still God declares that we are His children.

John warns us that "the world" (those outside the kingdom of God) does not recognise who we are, but this does not matter because neither did they recognise Jesus as the Messiah, so they certainly won’t recognise us. Does it really matter when we are children of the King of kings? What an unsurpassable privilege! Of course, we are not in that position so that we can pat each other on the back, but we have been chosen as His children to live in this world "for such a time as this". We have a unique job to do as children and ambassadors of the King as He brings in His harvest during "the last days".

It's worth going back for a quick review of all that was said in Study Five about what it means to say: "My Father loves me". We saw there that our heavenly Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Our faith expresses itself through love and the love of God is "shed abroad in our hearts" by the Holy Spirit. This extract from "Word for Today"† (published by United Christian Broadcasters - UCB) helps to reinforce this for us: "Since God’s Love is the only 'perfect' love, it removes our fears. What are you afraid of? That you won’t get something you need, or that you will lose something you have got? His perfect love for us eliminates all dread. If we are afraid, it shows that we are not fully convinced that He really loves us." (1 John 4:18 - The Living Bible). Let's ask God today to give us a fresh understanding of how much He loves us, because what He loves He prizes, protects and provides for.

We are drawn to people who love us, so why is it so difficult for us to go to God in prayer? It is because we need a fresh understanding of His love for us! Paul writes: "I pray that you will be able to take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love." (Ephesians 3:18 - The Third Millenium Bible) Extravagant love! God cannot love us any more than He does right now! If we think to ourselves, "What does God’s love look like?", we only have to look at Jesus' death on the cross. If you and I had been the only people who ever lived, Jesus would have died just for us. "What does God’s love cost us?" It comes with no strings attached. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, so when we fail, we do not forfeit it. He never stops loving us! The Bible says: "Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love". (Romans 8:39) Once we feel secure in God’s love, we can begin to acknowledge our weaknesses, seek His help, grow strong and use the gifts that He has given us. When we know that God loves us based on who we are, not the colour of our skin or our life accomplishments, then we have the ultimate self-esteem - born of God’s esteem for us. Let's open our hearts and receive His abundant love!

Children of God

If we want to understand His amazing love for us, we need to start at the beginning and recognise, firstly, that God is our Father. We exist through His creative choice, both bringing us into the world and then drawing us to Himself. Like any father, God will provide for us, spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. He will only say things to us that are good for us. He will only want us to hear things that build us up. He will want to keep us close to Him, so that we are protected from wandering off and doing our own thing. He will give us guidance and instructions to train us and equip us for everything He has ready for us to do in our lives. He enjoys so much having an intimate relationship with us. He is concerned when we rebel against Him but, like a good parent, will allow us to follow our own path, even if our choices cause us pain, in the hope that we will return to Him. He is constantly looking out for our return if we do wander away and His arms are always open wide for us. As the perfect father, He is willing to give up for us His most treasured possession, that will cost Him everything. He is so excited when we have success and do things His way, yet doesn’t love us any less if we go off and choose our own way. What amazing love!

He trains us by increasing our faith through our ongoing dependence on Him. As we see all that He does for us and as we get to know His word better, we learn how vital it is to trust Him if we are going to have victories in our life. Being a child has so many advantages: we learn to depend on our Father and accept His love for us; we cling to Him and see that, in everything we face, we are not on our own; through experience, we learn that He will not let anything happen to us that is going to end in disaster. This is the central message of the good news that Jesus came to preach: we are God's children. This is wonderful, but we must not keep this truth to ourselves because the heart of the Father (who we love so much) longs for all people to know Him as their Father through Jesus. No other religion has this message; no other "god" can offer people the sure hope of eternal life. That is why, if we love our Father, we will also want to share this love and make Him happy by doing all we can to get the truth out into the world - not behaving like selfish children!

"But we know that when He appears [that is, when Jesus comes again], we shall be like Him. Even though we are God’s children, we are not yet completely like Jesus. But, when we see the glorified Christ, we will be transformed to be like Him because we see Him clearly." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Love languages

According to Gary Chapman’s book, "The Love Languages of God", God expresses His love for us in five "love Languages". When we allow Him to express His love in the "love language" of our heart, we will experience His love most intimately. Chapman defines the languages as:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

Words of Affirmation are constantly spoken to us by God through His written word, through prophetic messages and through conversations with other people. If this is how we are with other people, it is probably how we receive love from God. There is no point in God giving His love to us if we are not receiving it.

Quality Time is self-explanatory. God longs for intimate time with us, simply to declare His love for us in our spirits. Abraham was called a "friend of God" and God often spoke to Him and shared His concerns with him. (Genesis 18:17) Jesus frequently spent quality time with His Father. (Luke 6:12) If quality time is the "love language" we like to receive, having a quiet time is vital for us.

God is the greatest giver of gifts. We all receive the sun and rain, heat and cold, birds, animals and fish and the changing seasons, whether we thank God or not. (Psalm 19:1-3) But God’s spiritual gifts are never given automatically or because we deserve them; they are given as expressions of His love for us. We just need to ask and learn to receive, as we see how much He loves us. (Matthew 7:7-11)

Acts of service are what God performed for the "children of Israel". They include the system of law exemplified in the "Ten Commandments"; the miraculous provision of water from the rock, manna and quail; the defeat of enemies; and divine intervention to avert plagues, bring droughts to an end and heal various diseases. Jesus did an amazing "act of service" in sacrificing His own life through crucifixion, but also in performing many miracles to bless peoples' lives.

Physical touch is something that God often uses to show His love. He knows exactly how to get through if this is the "language" that we understand. We may be together with others or alone and quiet, but His presence is tangible. People can be "slain in the Holy Spirit" and feel the touch of God. Similarly, people often respond with raised hands and tears as they experience a sense of being deeply loved by God.

God is speaking these "love languages" around us all the time and it is worth finding out our own, primary "love language" to see how we show love to others and why sometimes they still don’t feel loved. The Bible is clear that God loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us even though we turned our backs on Him and walked our own way. That rebellion creates a gulf between us and the God who is totally righteous and holy but, in His love, He made a way to bridge the gap through His Son, Jesus Christ. None of us needs to go to hell, provided that we choose to accept the price paid for our sin.

Secrets and mystery

God shows incredible love in making us part of His family by His amazing grace. He is our Father, Jesus our brother and the Holy Spirit directs our close intimate relationship. This relationship goes unnoticed by most of the people around us because those who do not know the Father cannot recognise the Father’s children. People looking at churches do not understand what Christians are doing. They interpret it as boring or not relevant to them because they are blinded to the things of God’s kingdom.

"What we will be has not yet been made known." (1 John 3:2) Much about our future in Christ is a mystery and that is a concern for some, but we just have to look at the wonderful, loving Father to Whom we are trusting our future and focus on Him. As believers, we must not allow apparent hopelessness in our present situation or fear of the future to drag us down. We have the promise of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we forget that because we get so taken up with the intensity of current circumstances. We focus on a world that is passing away and forget the hope that we have in Jesus. Let's make it our practice to focus on Jesus and what He has promised. This will raise our spirits and purify us. It will cause us to live uprightly, separating us from sin and failure and lifting us up to joy and victory in Jesus Christ!

†"Word for Today" is a daily devotional booklet available from UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke-on-Trent. ST6 4JF. -

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