1 John 3:1-3
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 14, 2024

C.S. Lewis introduced me to how Christians see people, including themselves.  He said, “The dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you’d be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.  It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with awe…proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another…There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.” In other words, there’s a trajectory and a destiny to everyone’s life!

We who have entrusted our lives to Jesus were given a trajectory and destiny when God, in His love, adopted us into His family and made us His children.  God, in His love, blessed us then with a new identity and capability. “See,” today’s scripture says, “what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”  And we can no more stop God from loving us than we can stop the sun from shining on us.  Oh, we can put ourselves in a position where its light and warmth cannot reach us – say, by locking ourselves up in a dark “safe room” – but we cannot stop its sending its bright rays down upon us day after day.  The only question is whether we will open the doors and windows of our safe room and let in its radiance, that it might bless us. If we welcome the sunshine of God’s love into our lives, it changes who we are – making us God’s own forever – and it changes what we can do – making us capable of acting more like Jesus.  Jesus said this transformation of those taken into God’s family is like being born a second time; and John here in his letter refers eight times to this rebirth’s giving us the character and strength we need to do what is right, to love and to “conquer the world”.

God’s making us His children in this rebirth enables us to become, to use a hokey but fun analogy I picked up from Rankin Wilbourne, superheroes in a Spider-Man way rather than a Batman way.  Batman is a rich and well-connected man with lots of cool gadgets.  His powers stem from what he has.  By contrast, Spider-Man is an everyday Joe with but a couple of accessories.  His powers stem from who he is thanks to the bite of a radioactive spider which altered his inner nature.  In our being reborn as God’s children, we become more like Spider-Man than Batman.  For a force from outside of us inhabits us and changes our being and our possibilities.  Why, we can become more like Christ Himself for we are now different in our core identity and potential.  As this scripture says, “We are God’s children now” – chips off the old block, so to speak, with potential we didn’t have before.  But right now we’re more potential than fulfilled reality.  That’s why this scripture also says, “What we will be has not yet been revealed.” The fulfillment of our destiny is still to happen.

George Sanchez tells how his grandson once found an abandoned but un-cracked robin’s egg.  He and his mother brought it inside and put it in a soft cotton nest under a lamp, which kept it at the right temperature. In anticipation of the chick’s hatching, they placed a card in front of the egg that read, “Quiet!  I’m happening.”

Every child of God should have a little sign pined on their front that reads, “I’m happening.”  I could use one, so you could look at me and say, “Rob is still happening.  He still has a distance to go in the process of fulfilling his destiny to be Christ-like, but he’s on his way.”  And you could wear the same sign, and I could bless you with the same encouraging message.  We all have the same wonderful future to look forward to, and we can all give each other some patience and grace in a transformation that happens gradually.

A decisive change has already happened in every child of God, but the complete change awaits happening.  Between those two happenings, the faithful with steady persistence pursue Christ-likeness until that great day when, to quote this text, “we will be like him”!

How in the meantime do we bring more of the hidden change in us to light in observable conduct?  How do we, as the born again, grow in the realization of our potential to be “like him”?

We can do many things, but this scripture speaks of but one:  To duplicate Christ’s purity, we can “purify” ourselves.

To be pure is to be all one thing, without the intrusion of anything foreign.  Pure orange juice is nothing but the liquid from inside the fruit, with no flavoring or additives put in. Jesus was pure like that:  He was all one thing, without the intrusion of any ulterior motive or foreign agenda.  He was entirely dedicated to loving God and neighbor.  As children of God, we will one day perfectly match His purity.  So, mindful of our destiny tomorrow, we pursue that ideal today with all we’ve got.  We do that by believing that being pure like that is being who we really are and by putting more and more of our impurity behind us by more and more often doing the right thing.  In other words, we view ourselves as re-made children of God and then bring that mostly hidden reality out into the open of observable conduct.

In a beautiful but unintended analogy, neurologist Oliver Sacks told about a patient named Virgil who’d been blind from early childhood and who, at the age of 50 underwent a surgery that gave him the gift of sight.  But he found out that having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as actually seeing.  His first experiences with sight were confusing.  He could make out colors and movements, but he could not arrange them into a coherent picture.  Virgil had both to learn the perception power of the sighted and to un-learn the habits and behavior of the blind.  Dr. Sacks, with no apparent awareness of echoing scripture, put Virgil’s challenge this way:  “One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person.”

To become the Christ-like person we were born again to be, let us die to our old self and in the present put into practice our future destiny!

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