Inclusion

Jesus includes all who believe in him into the family of God

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Read: Matthew 17

After Jesus and his disciples arrived at Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matthew 17:24)

“The children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offence, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:26b-27)

Reflect:

I think every time I have heard teaching on this story, the doctrinal emphasis has been on the fact that Jesus is identifying himself as the child of the King whose temple is in Jerusalem. That is, Jesus is proclaiming himself to Peter (and to Matthew, and others who overheard this conversation) as the Son of the Living God, just as Peter had earlier declared in his statement of belief (16:16).

This doctrine, that Jesus is the Son of God, is certainly demonstrated here. There is another vital doctrine on display as well.

Jesus uses the plural when he says “the children are exempt.” And Jesus gives Peter instructions that will yield funds to pay both Jesus and Peter’s temple tax, “so that we may not cause offence.” These plurals and this inclusive speech is very important.

Peter has just seen Jesus Christ transfigured in glory (17:2). He has heard the voice of God the Father speak from his cloud of glory telling Peter, James and John to listen to God’s Son (17:5). And now, with his allegory and his instructions, Jesus is declaring that Peter, too, is an honoured child of God; that Peter, too, is eligible for the privileges of an heir to the kingdom of God. Jesus has, by his words, included Peter as a fellow child of God, a fellow heir of God.

This is inclusion at its most valuable: adoption into the very family of God.

crux:

Jesus, the Son of God, includes all who believe in him into the family of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son Jesus Christ is indeed your one and only begotten Son.

By grace you have extended your family to include Simon Peter and millions of others, including me. Thank you for your grace.

Thank you for choosing me, calling me, for your welcome, your provision. Thank you for you mercy in including me, when you had every sovereign right to exclude me as I deserved. Thank you for adopting me as your own child.

Thank you for giving me a family of fellow heirs. Please help me to see my fellow believers as sisters and brothers in your great and glorious family. Help me to treat them as they deserve because of the honour they share with our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Please help us to love each other with your love.

Amen.

Know

As a child of God, I know the Father through his Son

Read: 1 John 5:13-21

We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:19-21)

Reflect:

These are the facts of the matter, according to John: We know that we are children of God, “born of God” (5:18); yet the world we live in is (temporarily) under Satan’s power and influence. We will always live in tension, at odds with the world around us, because we belong to God and are kept safe by him, yet our surroundings and our non-Christian peers are in bondage to God’s enemy, suffering under evil’s control.

Furthermore, we know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come. He has opened and renewed our minds so that we may understand Him Who is True, God himself (as far as limited human minds may understand such a glorious, infinite being).

The Son has come in the flesh and through him we comprehend the Father, in the same way as meeting my eldest son and observing his antics would enable someone to understand my husband’s personality and preferences.

We know God, therefore John instructs us to keep ourselves from idols; from false gods and from lies about God.

Crux:

As a child of God, I know the Father through his Son.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are true. There is no lie or falsehood in you. You are genuine, authentic, original, unique. You are the real deal: a god who is The God, the one and only God – not an idol, not a mirage. You are the only true God. I worship you.

Please keep me from idols, LORD. May I keep learning about you from your Son. May I understand you better as I learn about your Son. May I be strong in faith to stand firm and withstand the lies of the evil one who has control of the world at this present time.

May I be strong in faith to run away from idolatry, to pursue you and a closer relationship with you rather than seeking the cold comfort of the accuser. May I study diligently your word, reading all you reveal to me in it. May I not be distracted by false gods, false promises, false hopes.

May you be my all in all.

Amen.

Stop

I stop sinning because Jesus took away my sin

Read: 1 John 2:29-3:10

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:5-6)

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

Reflect:

John is blunt. Blunt, plain and clear. True Christians stop sinning.

We do not continue to sin. We do not keep on in our old sinful ways. Sin stops when a person is “born of God”. Sin stops when a person is called a child of God.

I am filled with questions.

If Christians stop sinning, why might we need a mediator and advocate in Christ (2:1)?

If I don’t think I’ve stopped sinning completely, does this mean I’m not really God’s child (3:9)?

If so, why did John assure me that “this is what we are!” (3:1)?

What does it mean to stop sinning, if “sin is lawlessness” (3:4)?

Is stopping sinning my action, my work, or is it a grace-gift of the Trinity at work in me and active for me – the Father’s love that calls me his child (3:1), Jesus removing my sin (3:5), the Spirit’s seed remaining in me (3:9)?

And how does this all fit together with Paul’s instruction to the Colossians (Colossians 3:5-10) which tells me to “put to death” that which belongs to my “earthly nature” and “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator”?

Oi!

Crux:

I stop sinning because Jesus took away my sin.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I confess that I am confused. I’m confused about who I am and what I do. But what I do see clearly in these verses is You: who you are and what you do.

You are the Father. You lavish your love upon me. You call me your child. I praise you!

You are Jesus Christ. You have taken away my sins. In you there is no sin. You appeared and the devil’s work (sin) was destroyed and obliterated. I worship you.

You are the Spirit. You anointed me. You seeded me with yourself so I may grow and bear spiritual fruit. You remain in me. I honour you.

LORD God Almighty, you are Father, Son and Spirit; you are Trinity.

Help me, please. Make your word, which you spoke to me through John’s epistle today, come true in me and come alive in my life. Stop my sin, LORD, I pray.

Amen.

Child

I live forgiven as a dear child of the Father

Read: 1 John 2:12-14

I am writing to you dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)

Reflect:

Growing up in a feminist culture, I am tempted to grumble at the lack of female nouns in these three verses. But women like me are addressed here, under the descriptor “children”. Should I take offence at such diminution? Never!

John clearly holds his “children” dear and close to his heart. So far in his letter, John has referred to his readers as “my dear children” (2:1) and “my friends” (2:7).  I too am John’s dear child because he proclaimed the gospel to me through his writings: in his Gospel, in his letters and in Revelation. I am John’s dear spiritual child, his offspring of faith. This is certainly nothing of which to be ashamed or dismayed.

Too, I am more than John’s faith-child, I am a child of God. I am not just John’s dear child, I am God’s dear child. Jesus has revealed the Father to me (John 10:38, 14:9) so that I might know God the Father (2:14) as his own adopted child (Galatians 4:4-5). His Spirit has taught me to call him “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6-7).

And then, what John says of me, God’s dear child, is immensely precious: My sins have been forgiven on account of the name of Jesus Christ. O what joy!

The knowledge of my guilt has been building from reading the last one-and-a-half chapters. Do I really walk in the light (1:7)? Do I truly live as Jesus did (2:6)? This guilt is washed away by the truth that my sins have been forgiven in Jesus’ name.

No, I do not always walk in the light of God. I do not constantly live as Jesus did. That is why I need Jesus.

But, Jesus has been faithful and he has ensured the forgiveness of my sins. He has done this through his identity (“name”) as “Word of Life” (1:1), granting me “eternal life” (1:2). Through Jesus, the Word of Life, I have been made acceptable to enter into the presence of my heavenly Father. Hooray!

Crux:

I live forgiven as a dear child of the Father through Jesus, the Word of Life.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty, Dear Abba Father,

Hallowed be your name!

May your name be great and sacred in all the earth. May your name be revered and worshiped by all people. May we no longer blaspheme, but know and rejoice in your name.

Thank you for your grace to me extended through Jesus, the Word of Life. As Peter said, “To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” I have none other but you. You forgave my sin and in that moment granted me eternal life. So though my flesh might die, my soul shall live as a new creation forever with you as your child.

I praise your name, O Word of Life, Jesus Christ.

Please grant me opportunities today to share the good news that in your name is forgiveness; that you love us as dear children; that in knowing Jesus we may know you, God my Father.

Amen.