Audio Library

How Great the Father’s Love for Us

Second Presbyterian Church
Dr. George Robertson
September 17, 2017

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 

In 1993, a former White House advisor named Don Eberly and a child psychologist name Wade Horn founded the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI).  It is an organization that exists to education, equip, and engage fathers to be a positive presence in their children’s lives.  Wade Horn said of the Initiative’s early formation, “We realized that the growing absence of fathers was the most consequential social trend in our culture—for families and for civil society.”

In an essay published by the NFI, authors Martha Bayles and Jamin Warren illustrate this reality in the life of the famous rapper Jay-Z. On the song “December 4th,” he raps: 

Now I’m just scratchin’ the surface
‘Cause what’s buried under there
Was a kid torn apart once his pop disappeared
I went to school got good grades
Could behave when I wanted
But I had demons deep inside
That would raise when confronted
Hold on
Now all the teachers couldn’t reach me
And my momma couldn’t beat me
Hard enough to match the pain of my pop not seeing me, so
With that disdain in my membrane
Got on my pimp game
F*** the world my defense came


The absence of a loving father produces profoundly disturbing results.  You may consult NFI’s website to find them documented, but they can all be subsumed under three categories—apathy, irresponsibility, and insecurity.  If an absentee or harsh father can inflict such damage, what will knowledge of a God who lavishes love on his children do?  The Gospel is good news for you that God is not just a spiritual father, he is your father. When you know him as your father, you know him as one who loves you and you no longer can be apathetic, you will desire to please him. You can no longer be irresponsible; you will gratefully obey him. You no longer can be insecure; you have a certain, infallible hope that secures you. 


Lovingly Pleases (2:28)

The only people who are motivated to please God are those who know that he loves them. A child who does not know the love of a father can become apathetic.  I mean that in the literal sense of the word, that is, to lack feeling.  That numbness can result in care-less aggression; they do damaging things to themselves or others because there is no love to inspire them to do otherwise.  Or they can become utterly passive, having concluded that they are already judged to be failures.

John is not writing to a special class of Christians; he addresses every category of Christian the same way, “dear children.” Dear to whom?  To those upon whom God has “lavished” love. Allow me to remind you of some of the characteristics of the “dear children.” Some are disobedient (2:4). Some hate their brothers and sisters (2:11). Some love the world (2:15). Some are being deceived by false teachers (3:7). Some lack assurance (4:17). Some are turning to idols (5:21). All are sinning (5:16). Regardless of how disappointing, inconsistent, hypocritical, even repulsive these believers are, God still calls them and us “dear children.”

There is nothing by which we commend ourselves to God except the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And because of Christ, God calls us, “Dear Children.” Therefore, we love him and lovingly desire to please him because he first loved us.


Gratefully Obeys (2:29)

A second negative impact of fatherlessness is irresponsibility.  William S. Comanor, professor of economics at the University of California Santa Barbara, has concluded in his recent research the dramatic rise in juvenile delinquency over the last 30 years is directly correlated to the increase in divorce and particularly the lack of contact between fathers and sons.  In fact, he demonstrates that the biological father’s influence is of such critical importance to the positive formation of a son that a mother only family situation is preferable to the introduction of another father figure, whether a boyfriend or stepfather.

 A virtual fatherlessness is developing as well due to an overreliance on social media. Gillette’s Go Ask Dad campaign makes this point in a dramatic new video. They report that 84% of guys go to their phones for advice while only 13% go to their dads.

The same is true of our relationship with God.  If we think that God is far away and has no personal interest in us, then we will act irresponsibly.  We will not care about his requirements and we will have no concern to know what he commands in his Word. However, if we know God to be a Father who loves and delights in us as his children, then we will desire to imitate him. John’s logic in v. 29, that the children of God imitate his righteousness, only works for those who know the lovingkindness of God the Father.  In other words, those who know the love of the Father desire to love him in return by obedience.


Securely Hopes (3:2-3)

Finally, knowing God’s Fatherly love produces one who securely hopes. In 1 John 3:2-3, John shows us three ways that the father’s love produces eternal security in us.

1) Source

The love of the Father is not something that Jesus had to battle God for. The Bible makes it clear that the eternal design of God was not just to save us from our sins but to make us sons (Romans 5:8, 8:16, John 3:16). The great Puritan doctor of the love of God, John Owen, reminded his readers that Jesus never prayed for the Father to give his love to us.  He did not need to because as Owen said, “the eternal love of the Father is not the fruit but the fountain of his purchase.” 

2) Semblance

The reality of our sonship is captured briefly but brilliantly by John at the end of v. 1.  He says that the reason the world does not recognize us as their own any longer is because we bear so much the resemblance of Christ that it rejects us as it did him.  In other words, when you are persecuted or maligned for your faith you must take it as it encouragement—it means you look a lot like Jesus.  

3) Sight

When we see Jesus with our new physical eyes we will gaze on the one who is the yes and amen of all of God’s promises.  In an instant, we will be changed from those who are faithless in so many areas into those who are as faithful as Christ because we will be like him.  Meditating on that future day when we shall see that everything is just as he promised in Christ will move us to purity in the present.

 Regardless of your experience with an earthly father and regardless of whether or not you have lived as pleasing, obedient, secure sons and daughters, God offers you the free gift of his son Jesus Christ, through whom you become his sons and daughters. Go and live accordingly.