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Behold what manner of love the Father has for us....

Just like most of you here, I  begin each morning  in prayer. I cannot imagine leaving my home without first praying—now more than ever it’s scary outside.  And when I pray, I pray for many people and about many things, but if we’re being honest, one of the most important aspects of our prayers—or at least mine, is my conversations with God is about my own life.  I pray for protection, direction, wisdom, etc.  But I also don’t believe that I will somehow naturally evolve into the right kind of father, brother, friend, pastor, boss and neighbor I should be, so I pray earnestly about these things.  I have no confidence in my own instincts or abilities, so I beg for Him to help me. But lately, and even though my parents passed away years ago, I have been praying for Him to help me become the son I should be. Not the son of the late Lewis and Betty Barley, but the son to God that Jesus saved me to become.  It’s changing how I see myself and how I pray.


John said this: “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons and daughters of God. And that is what we are! ….”  I John 3:1, NIV.  That’s powerful stuff. Think about it this morning.  If you are born again, you are a son or daughter of God.  And there’s nothing Satan wants you to doubt more than that!  Jesus, The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.  But the question this morning is this: are you a good son or a bad son? A good daughter or a bad daughter?  I have three sons—sitting out there right now. They might not act like they are  a part of my family, but they are, and that’s not going to change.  But do my sons bring honor—or shame— to our family and our name? That’s a choice I cannot make—only they can make that decisions.  God can’t make me into a good son or you into a good son or daughter. He can adopt us and love us and bless us, but it’s a matter of choosing to be what He saved and adopted us to be—or not—and that’s the rub. Are you living like a true son or daughter?


I am always reminding my sons what a good son does or does not do. But here’s what a righteous son or daughter does, according to Ezekiel:

“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.—that is, he worships God.He does not defile his neighbor’s wife—that is, he is sexually pure in heart and deed

He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan—that is, he is generous, kind-hearted and helpful.He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked—that is, he responds to needs as he sees it and as he is able.

 

He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them—-that is, he treats every person with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender, color, language or  position in the community.

He keeps my laws and follows my decrees—that is, he listens to God, studies the Word to be sure that his actions are pleasing to God and does not hide behind the excuses of others who say, “No one told me this was wrong”, or “I forgot”…. (Ezekiel 18:16-17, NIV)


Now, that’s pretty simply and straightforward.  I want to be a good son this year and at least do these things, mentioned just now. Don’t you?  Would it not be wonderful to go through 2024 with the assurance that you are a son or daughter of which He is proud?  Don’t you want to know that His favor is shining and His face is smiling on you?


Do you realize that before you were born, God pre-destined you and me to become His own sons and daughters? It’s His will and His plan—but he leaves the final decision to you and me. Paul said, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will….” “Ephesians 1:5, NIV


So think about a child and his or her relationship with a father and you will get an idea of what God is trying to teach us, as His children.   If you are a parent, have you ever noticed how a child will sometimes ask you to do something they enjoyed doing again and again and again. To make a silly face, or skim a rock across a stream, or wrestle with them. “Children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want good things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up parents does it again until he is nearly dead. But grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be an automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them just like He does. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”  (Chesterton)


Being a son or daughter is to learn to be young again! It is to never be too old to enjoy a mountain stream, full of beautifully colored smooth stones, or get excited at the first snow!  It’s the ones of us who have forgotten to be a child that dismiss the things that excite a child.  In God we recover the wonder of innocence and wonder.


So as I was praying  several days ago, I  was considering this, and  I have made this a central part of my prayer in 2024: Help me to live like your son!  I want to have the mind of your first Son, Jesus, and do things that cause you to say that you are “well-pleased”!  I want to enjoy the joy of seeing things beautiful and like a child again.


Now if you and I are serious about being true sons and daughters, and  after prayer and studying the Word, what are we to do? Put the truth you’ve rediscovered into action!  You have no idea how many times my sons tell me, “sorry, sorry, sorry” throughout the day. But I remind them that whereas I forgive them—I have to forgive them—I want them to  stop having to say “sorry” all the time! Find the inner fortitude to do  what you’re supposed to do so that  you don’t have to say “sorry dad” all the time!  Well, the same should be true with me when I pray!  I should not be asking God to forgive me for the same bone-headed things I did wrong, or the good things I failed to do yesterday!


So as I have searched the Bible to see what a true son or daughter of child should be living like, several things come to mind:


Jesus is the only begotten Son—and He’s the ultimate role model and example of the perfect Son.   If I live like Jesus I will please the Father. What does that mean?  Well, in means that I don’t stir up trouble in MY home, within the church, or between friends and neighbors.  Jesus famously overturned the money changers’s tables, but before you use that as your excuse to start a fight at the next PTA meeting or the next business meeting at a church, remember that that was the exception, not the rule, to Jesus work on the earth.  And quite frankly His anger was directed at those that were turning God’s holy temple into a marketplace. His zeal was for God, not His pet project, nor his animus towards an opinion on some debatable matter.


Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.   Matthew 5:9. Are you one that brings peace… or are you one that disturbs or destroys the peace?  "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." As sons and daughters of God, and younger brothers and sisters of Jesus, we have been called to peace. When He called the disciples they found unspeakable peace, for He was their peace.    But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where we meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at the hands of wicked people—and it happens even in the USA .


The peacemakers will carry the cross with their Lord and brother, Jesus,  for it was on the cross that peace was made. Now that we are part of the family of God, the work of our leader, Jesus, is reconciliation!  We are called the sons of God as Jesus is the Son of God to continue the work!


Jesus told us the extraordinary things that we should do if we want to live as sons and daughters of God. Listen to this and ask yourself if you’re doing this:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven….” Matthew 5:44, NIV.  This is very simple to understand and very hard to dispute. But either it is happening in your life…. or it is not.  Please listen to me: I did not always do this. I often found myself asking for God to punish those that attacked me and embarrass those that abused me by embarrassing me.  But a change has come across me—-and blessings have followed—as I have made it my task to pray for those that I know don’t like me—the very ones that hope I will fail or am humiliated. I pray for them! I truly ask God to bless them, have mercy upon them, and give them good things in life!!!


Honestly, I do not know if their lives are better for my prayers…but I am. Resentment, a desire for revenge or to get even is being removed in my life. I have compassion on the very ones that have had no compassion on me. They may all still hate me, but I am becoming more like the perfect Son—my “Big Brother”, when I pray for these folks each day and ask God to not hold their insults  and attacks against them.  My hero, my brother, Jesus, is teaching me to utter His words, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing….”


We were not born again merely to escape hell—-although that’s quite a gift!  We were baptized and born again to become true children of God.  Paul said, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ… have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27, NIV) Again, do you see what Paul is trying to make clear to all  Christians? We are now able to address God as our Father.  God has told us, “"I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty."  (2 Corinthians 6:18, NIV)

The author of Hebrews put it this way:  “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…”. Hebrews 2:10-11, NIV


In terms of recognizing yourself as a son or daughter of God, let me close with this question and challenge. When you pray for something quiet specific, do you pray, “in the name of Jesus?”  Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples to pray in His name (John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–24). To pray in Jesus’ name is to acknowledge that our access to God in prayer comes only through Jesus.  He is the One that has made us acceptable unto God and has cleansed us and made us candidates for adoption!


Here’s good news today: God hears and will answer our prayers if we pray, “in the name” of the first born and only begotten Son.  God requires that. And even you don’t audibly say, “in the name of Jesus”, you must pray believing that God answers our just as if Christ were praying for us. This brings power and the “dunamis” of God(from which we get our word “dynamite!)  to your prayers—and I have seen some miracles in my life this past week as I have been reminded of my place as His Son and as I pray, knowing that it pleases my heavenly Father as I pray as one that believes in the work, words, love, death and resurrection of His beloved Son.  When you bless the Son—by your prayers,  words, deeds, and actions, your Father is very pleased with you…. indeed.

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