But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1
I have three small sons. I love them. Having children brings a lot into your life. It changes what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and who you do it for. Nothing is the same as it used to be. Going out to dinner is different now. Heck, going out at all is different now. I think we’ve taken less luggage on a weeklong trip to southern California than we have on a trip to Wal-Mart with three kids. But we do it all with absolute, unhindered, authentic, love and joy because they are our children. We love them and nothing can change that.
My sons have certain privileges as a result of being my sons. They have access to me in a way that really no one else does. They control a part of my heart that no one else touches. Even their smile affects me in a way that no other smiles do. As my children, they have full rights to everything in our family. I don’t charge them rent, they eat for free, they have endless toys at their disposal, they have everything – and more – that they need. Everything I do and think goes through the lens of their present and future situation. How will this affect them? How will this set them up for success or failure? What am I showing them? What will this do for them now and in the future?
Having children also changes the way I have thought about being a child of God. Throughout scripture, especially in John’s gospel and letters, we are told that believers are children of God. John opens his account of the gospel saying that for those who have received Christ, God gave the right to become children of God. Later in his first epistle, he says that because of the Father’s love we are now called children of God, and not only called, but actually are children of God. Not just mere name-sake but Spirit-sake. We’re in, and nothing, or no one, is changing it.
So, if my sons have that much access, that much privilege, that much right as my child, what do believers have as children of God? A few thoughts:
1) As children of God we are co-heirs with the firstborn, Jesus. Romans 8:16-17 says “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Jesus of course is preeminent in everything but by God’s grace, we are co-heirs with Christ! This is amazing. When we feel the weight of this, the second part of verse 17 – provided we suffer – becomes endurable. Suffering is a small price to pay in light of what we now receive as children.
2) As children of God we are adopted into a family filled with brothers and sisters in whom we get to rejoice. We are transferred into a family full of brothers and sisters. They enhance everything for us – even our enjoyment of God. I love the way C.S. Lewis discusses the impact of community in his book, The Four Loves:
“Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.” In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves.” For in this love “to divide is not to take away.” Of course the scarcity of kindred souls – not to mention practical considerations about the size of rooms and the audibility of voices – set limits to the enlargement of the circle; but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3) The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”
3) As children of God we are brought into eternal life. My children will receive the best I have to offer them. I’ll try to pay for their college tuition. I’ll help them out when they needs some cash. I’ll give them the best opportunities I can afford. But God gives us eternal life. It is far better to be God’s child.
4) As children of God we have rights to the Father. He hears our prayers. He draws near to us when we need him. When we cry out in the night, he comes to us. As Tim Keller says, "The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access." He loves us and he pays attention to us. He knows our needs.
5) As children of God we have the joy of God. Hebrews 12:2 says that for the joy set before him he endured the cross. We are his joy. My sons have my joy right now. They had it when we found out we were pregnant. They had it more when they were born and I finally saw them. It is ever increasing. God’s joy over us is also ever increasing - not because of what we do or don't do, but because his love is of an increasing nature. And therefore our joy is ever increasing. Don’t we all long to make our earthly fathers proud? Our Heavenly Father is proud of us all the time and not because we did anything to earn it, but just because he has chosen to look on us and see Christ. We will never be ashamed again.
6) As children of God we don’t stop being children when we misbehave. The gospel is bigger than our sin. Grace abounds. When one of my sons misbehaves I don’t stop loving him. He’s not less of my child when he misbehaves. He’s still my child. When we become children of God, we never, ever lose our childhood. We can’t. It’s impossible. Once a child, always a child. Forever and ever. Jesus paid for us. He stands in heaven mediating the new covenant for us. He will come back to get us. He will redeem all of the earth for us. He will give us everything that he has. Therefore, when we misbehave, when we sin, we should look to our Father and find in him the love he has for his children. There is peace in that now and forevermore.