Sermons

We Will Be Like Him

Themes: 1 John

Chris Topping

Introduction

The other day someone said to me “You and your son are very similar – and not in a good way”.

Slightly harsh I thought but probably true in the context it was said as we had both been guilty of winding up the person in question.

The phrase “like father like son” is one of those that can really be double edged can’t it? And it is not always easy to work out how it is being used!

My response when my Mum says “You are just like your Dad” is always “Well you married him so it can’t be all bad!”

In our readings this morning we are reminded of how we are called, as the children of God to become like Him.

Context

Our reading comes from a short book at the end of the New Testament, 1 John. The book is a sort of sermon that the theologians think was written by John the Gospel writer. It may have been a letter but, unusually for New Testament letters, it is not addressed to any particular person or church.

The people who read or heard what John had to say were falling into error. They were being persuaded that Jesus had not really been God made flesh. They were being told that as God can have nothing to do with evil then God could not have become human in the person of Jesus. The consequence of that teaching is of course that if Jesus was not human then He did not really die for us and there could be no way that our sin was removed at the first Easter.

It was important for John to go back to the basics of the Christian faith as it appears that some leaders of the early church in the first century had deviated from what Jesus’ followers had been taught, had seen and knew to be true.

John’s aim in writing this was to encourage his readers to remember their calling and their inheritance and to make sure that they were exhibiting the character of God in and through their lives.

There are lots of angles that we could take when discussing this passage but I want to think about one small part.

Love

The reading we heard this morning starts with a wake up call.

“Look” “See” “How good is this then?” John emphasises something he wants us to consider. What he wants us to pay attention to is that God loves us and call us His children.

Those of us who have children love them even when they drive us mad.

You may remember Pete Gibbons had a phrase about John, his son. He would often say “I love him but I don’t like him.” This was usually because John had managed to do something that Pete would have wanted to do like coming home on the plane with the Liverpool football team from Madrid after they had won the Champions League final. Many parents will echo Pete’s sentiment. I love them but sometimes I don’t like them!

Here in our passage this morning we are reminded that love is at the very heart of our relationship with God our Father.

God loves us so much that He call us His children. It is absolutely clear that at the heart of the healthy parent/child relationship is “love”.

As I thought about this it seemed to me that we think a lot about the love that God has for us but I wondered about how we as His children love God?

In the passage Pam read to us John goes on to tell his readers that in time we shall be like Him – we will become like Him.

“Beloved we are God’s children now; what we will be has not been revealed. What we do know is this: when He is revealed we will be like Him”.

That is quite an amazing thought isn’t it –we will be like Him.

If we had carried on reading the passage we would have heard John explaining some of the ways in which we will become like God. We would have come to these verses

“We know love by this that He laid down His life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has

the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children. Let us love, not in word or speech but in truth and action.” [1]

John is clear that if we are to become like God then we will need to know what it means to love like Him.

We are told in the Old Testament scripture that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart with all our soul and with all our might [2]. In the New Testament Jesus describes this ancient Jewish truth as the greatest commandment.

How then do we as the children of God learn to love God and to love like God?

If “likeness is the proof of the relationship” then I reckon we need to understand more about what that means. [3]

Happily as I was thinking and reading around what to say today I came across a chapter in a book by Marcus Borg which is headed “To love God is to love like God” – I will say it again – To love God is to love like God. [4]

Much of what I have to say to focus our thoughts in the few moments we have this morning are drawn from this book which I hope you will find helpful. I am only scratching the surface here as there is much more to be said about learning to love God as this is obviously the work of a lifetime.

Loving God Means Paying Attention to God.

When we have a relationship with someone we have to pay attention to them, to get to know them and to actually listen and spend time with them.

I know you will find this hard to believe but there are occasions in our house where I am accused of not listening to what has been said and paying no attention to what is happening. I can assure you that this is not good for relationships – don’t try it – take my word for it.

Loving God means paying attention to our relationship with God – being intentionally present.

We can do this in a variety of ways – prayer, worship, reading the Bible, going on retreat, pilgrimage etc.

We need to consider how we are paying attention to God – if we profess we love God then how do our habits show that? If you are like me then spending time reading scripture, thinking and praying can be hard work. I have tried over the last year to make sure that before engaging in the busyness of the day to spend some time reading scripture with a daily plan – each day there is a small part of a Psalm and a New Testament passage to read.

It has been helpful to think of all those who have gone before us and to draw on their relationship with God. I have mentioned it before that I am particularly drawn to the Psalms and the depth of the words written hundreds of years ago which still reveal the very heart of our Father God.

Paying attention to God then draws into relationship and we then begin to understand what God loves.

Loving What God Loves

First God’s love does not exclude nor is it exclusive - it involves loving the whole of creation – just think about that famous verse from John 3 v 16 –

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

The whole of creation matters to God. The nonhuman world matters to God. So if it matters to God then there is every reason why we as good stewards of creation should not treat what they manage as if it belonged to them.

Second and critically important is that God loves everybody. There is no one who is outside of God’s love.

Seared into our hearts must be that phrase from Matthew’s Gospel that – “Just as you did to the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me” [5]

As Annette reminded us with those words from Richard Rohr being friends with Jesus means loving others. Loving God means participating in God’s passion for a different kind of world.

Mike reminded us in his talk to us last Sunday that one day …

“We will see the love, joy and power of God manifest in each of us as we live united as one, in heart and soul. Until then, we should keep looking, keep searching for the breakthrough of the Holy to the Earthly and try to be there and be swept up in all the Holy Spirit wants to do with us”

There will be opportunities to show God’s love and for the Holy to break in.

This week as we have the launch of Our Local Pantry we will be witnesses to that happening. It will be a tangible way that we reveal the love of God in our community.

As we show God’s love to those around us and allow the Holy Spirit to work we may not see all of our efforts come to fruition but we plant seeds that others will water.

There is a lot more to be said and understood about How we love Like God indeed there are probably several other sermons on how loving God leads to a deeper and deeper centring on God which will have to wait for another day!

Conclusion

So as I finish let me do so with a quote from Marcus Borg as he explains how we become more like the God who loves us as His children.

“What’s the Christian life all about? It’s about loving God and loving what God loves. Its about becoming passionate about God and about participating in God’s passion for a different kind of world, here and now.” [6]

Let’s keep searching for the breakthrough of the Holy to the Earthly - we are God’s children – may we be becoming more like Him.

AMEN

  1. 1 John 3 v16-18
  2. Deut 6 v4-5
  3. Message of John's Letters - Jackman - BST
  4. Convictions - Marcus Borg SPCK
  5. Matt 25 v40
  6. Convictions - ibid