“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, December 19th
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
1 John 3:1-2
London preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote to the venerable Scots preacher and hymnist Horatius Bonar requesting his picture. The aged Bonar wrote back: “Dear Spurgeon: If you had waited a little, you could have had a better likeness, for soon I shall be like Him.”
In today’s Scripture the apostle John cannot contain his wonder at the love of God that will one day make us like Jesus. Irenaeus, one of Christianity’s first theologians and martyrs, said, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, through his transcendent love, became what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself.” (Against Heresies)
John begins today’s Scripture exclaiming, “See”: behold, dwell on, focus attention on the love God has for us! God’s love, inviting us to share in the very life of Christ, is beyond comprehension. “We can no more ‘behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us’ than we can look with undimmed eyes right into the middle of the sun.” (Alexander MacLaren, 1 John: Expositions of Holy Scripture)
John revels in the vastness of God’s love for us, “that we should be called the children of God, and that is what we are.” John uses the Greek word potapos that literally exclaims: “of what foreign country” did such love come! John Stott captures the meaning of potapos: “The Father’s love is so unearthly, so foreign to this world, that [John] wonders what country it may come from.” (The Letters of John) There is nothing like God’s love for us in this world, in that He calls us His children.
And God calls us His children, because that is who we really are. For God to call us His children is not mere words, but the expression of reality. This is the incredible promise of God’s good news for all the people: “But to all who received Jesus, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). The good news means “it is by God’s initiative and power that we are born of God. We do not bring about this relationship any more than a newborn baby caused its own birth and gave itself life.” (Marianne Meye Thompson, 1-3 John) God makes us His children through His Son, not by our accomplishment but by His fatherly love. This is not wishful thinking or pretending; it is what the Father makes us and declares us to be. Period!
Yet, the world around us, the secular culture, does not understand God’s good news about what He is up to in our lives. “The reason the world does not know us”, John clarifies, “is that it did not know him.” Do not be surprised that the world will not confirm the wonder of what God is working in you. And do not be surprised that you do not always see evidence of it either. But, let John’s words reassure you: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
So, until that day when we are revealed in glory, we do well to focus on God’s love for us: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are.” We see that it is not so much the blessedness of being God’s children that John wants to emphasize, as it is the infinite love of God that makes it so. God loves you and me with an “out of this world” kind of love. Theologian Baxter Kruger says of such incomprehensible love: “Before such love, we can only stand amazed, astonished and thrilled. Christian faith begins with astonishment.” (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)
We are amazed, overwhelmed and astounded that God would so love us! It is good news of great joy for, literally, all the people!
- What does God calling us His children say to you about God’s love for us?
- What is it about God’s love for you that you find potapos, i.e. “so foreign to this world”?