1 John 3:1 – What a Father

1 John 3:1 – What a Father

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1NIV

Father…

What images, thoughts, or feelings instantly come to mind when you read that single, powerful name?

For some of you, it may be a trustworthy, super-hero like figure whose strong hands held you when you cried and taught you to play football.

For some of you, it may be a mysterious, empty title…a looming, dark figure with no face whose presence was made loud by its absence from birthdays, holidays, and the victories of life.

For some of you, this is a dangerous name…a name filled with booming, angry voices, pain, and fear.

For some, this is a bitter title, symbolic of empty promises and unfulfilled longing. A figure, while present, who made you feel like nothing more than an uninteresting footnote in his life.

Depending on which father you had, the concept of being the “child of God”, a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father…may be difficult to understand. Even if you had the best of fathers, he wasn’t perfect, and for many of you, the idea of a father hasn’t been much of a positive experience in your life.

Yet John writes “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1A ESV [emphasis mine]).

To understand what he means, I think we need to head over to Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15. Jesus is trying to help people understand just how incredible the love of God is for His people. So He tells the story of a man with two sons. One son is faithful and good and continues to help his wealthy father work the land. The other son essentially tells his father “you are dead to me” by taking his inheritance money from his father and running off to live the high life on the money. Naturally, the money runs out, and he finds himself starving to death, feeding pigs in the countryside just to survive. And suddenly he comes to a realization in Luke 15:17-19ESV, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.'”

Already we’re getting a taste of what kind of man the father is. You see, there are a few problems first century hearers would have expected this young man to face on returning home. One is he was merely a second son. You only need one son to inherit the family estate, so there is no pressure on the father to accept the boy back, despite what he had done. Second, the son had insulted his father’s honor by demanding the inheritance before his father’s death, leaving the family work, and running off to spend the money on “frivolous” things (we can safely infer gambling, prostitution, and the like). It would have been expected the father would, at the very least, disown the son, and there would have been no surprise if the father had the son killed on sight to preserve his honor.

With all this, the son is still willing to go home and ask his father for work. That implies something the son knows about his father’s character: he is kind, he is merciful, he is loving, he is forgiving… The sons knows what his actions deserve, yet he still does not doubt his father will allow him back safely. Yet even then, the son underestimates his father. Not only does the father not demand the punishment due for his son’s behavior, instead “his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:20, 22-24ESV).

Not only does the father not demand the life of the son for the evil he has done…the father welcomes him with open arms, running to him to end the separation that much sooner. The father celebrates the son’s return, not even bringing up what happened in the past but living only in the joy of reunion. Despite everything, the son is cared for, loved, cherished, and welcomed…without restraint.

And that is the kind of Father our Heavenly Father is. When John writes we have been “showered” with love by God calling Himself our Father and we His children, that is the kind of loving relationship we can expect with God.

Not a distant, faceless, empty absence in the joys and sorrows of our lives.

Not an angry, judgmental, hurtful shadow looming from the darkness to “get us” when we mess up.

Not a disinterested, blessing-dispenser who’ll snatch us up when we die but otherwise has washed his hands of the intimate details of our lives.

This God…this Father cares about every detail because He cares about you. This God wants you back, despite how bad a mess you’ve made of your life. This God is walking with you into the challenges, celebrating the joys and victories, and looking forward to when you can look Him straight in the eyes as He says, “Well done.”

What great love, indeed.

  • How do you feel and think about your experience with earthly fatherhood?
  • Do you see yourself sometimes viewing God through the lens of how you have experienced fatherhood? How?
  • How would it change the way you view your life to see God as a “good Father”, not matter your personal experience with fatherhood?
  • Challenge for the Week: Spend some time reading passages where God calls Himself “Father” or us “Children”. Make a list of all the good things it means to be a “child of God”. Put the list where you can see it as you prepare for your day.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – You’re Not a Waste

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.'” – Ezekiel 37:1-14ESV

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find out some interesting things about this blue ball we live on. For example, the deepest point on earth is the Mariana Trench, which is about 35,462 feet deep. Do the math. That’s almost 7 miles below the surface of the ocean. The creatures living out their lives there look like something out of a horror film. It’s hard to believe they share this planet with us.

Another interesting fact: according to a November 15, 2017, article in Forbes entitled “The Number Of Earth-Like Planets In The Universe Is Staggering – Here’s The Math”, there are potentially 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe with the potential for at least one planet similar to Earth. That’s 21 zeros after the 19. I’m not even sure how to say a number that big. Yet, so far as we can tell, Earth is the only example among all these with the opulent existence of life. And not just mere micro-organisms, but beautiful, complex, astonishing life.

Now that I’ve got fixed firmly in your mind how incredible creation is, take a look at Ezekiel 37:4-8:

“Then [God] said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them…”

Did you pick up on the enormity of what just happened here? Ezekiel was an ordinary man living in 6th century BC Babylon among his fellow Jewish exiles after Babylon conquered Israel and Judah. He would only live about fifty years, prophesying the coming redemption of Israel that he would never see. Yet the same God who thought up the weird creatures in the Mariana Trench, the same God who thought it would be fun to make however-many kajillion (or however you say that number) stars and planets, but only inhabit one with life…chose to use this simple man to raise the dead. He could have easily done it Himself, but He chose to include Ezekiel in the display of His absolute authority over all life.

What does that remind you of? It reminds me of a mission trip I once went on with a group of high schoolers where we had to re-roof an 8/12 pitch house with cedar shingles underneath two layers of tar shingles. You have to have safety lines on everyone just to stay safe on the roof. It was almost one-hundred degrees and humid in the middle of summer in central Michigan. It would have been far faster and far easier for the experienced adults to rip right through that roof and get it done. But what was important to us wasn’t just re-roofing a house for someone…it was equipping the youth with new skills and confidence to do hard things. It took us a lot more brutal days under the sun, but because of that attitude, by the end of the trip, the kids were laying shingles with hardly any help from the adults, using nail guns and cutting shingles to fit like they’d been doing it all their lives.

You see…God is our Father, not just our Lord. We are His children. He says it over-and-over again throughout the Bible. There are countless times in the Bible when He could have easily done things Himself…and didn’t. Instead, He worked with and through ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary and transformed human history and human lives for the good by doing so.

And He is still doing the same thing today…through US. Through YOU.

You are not a waste. You are not a failure. Not now that God has come to live in your heart. The same God Who defeated Egypt through the power of the son of a slave, the same God Who defeated a giant through the arm of a shepherd, the same God Who defeated a conquering army through two women not trained for battle…choses to work through you every single day of your life. He choses YOU.

  1. Do you ever feel like God doesn’t really have a use for you? Why?
  2. How do you feel knowing the God of Creation works through you?
  3. How might it impact the way you view your life if you view yourself as just as important to God as the heroes of the Bible?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Read Ezekiel 27:1-14 every day and pray for God to give you eyes to see the ways He wants to work through you this week.