In the early 2000, Kelly and I lived in an apartment in Lithia Springs, GA. One of our neighbors was an man named Nadeem. Nadeem was from Iran and had a very different upbringing than me. It was interesting to talk to him and learn about his culture. Nadeem was also a Muslim, which was a very interesting because Nadeem was also an alcoholic. Now, Muslim's in Iran are fairly stric and drinking alcohol is forbidden, so I don't know how that worked, but Nadeem could often be found sitting on a bench outside our apartment building, which is how I met him. Nadeem was also married to as Catholic nun. I know. That doesn't make any sense either, but that is how Nadeem described her (I'm thinking she must have been a former nun because nuns are celibate and do not marry.)
The subtle disagreement we had was over what it means to be a child of God. The Christian Bible says Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. The Greek word the New Testament uses for “only begotten” is monogenes and means “uniquely born” or “one-of-a-kind birth.” The conception and birth of Jesus was unique—nothing like it had ever happened before and will never happen again in the future. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit and is the only one who has two natures—divine and human; all God and all man.”[i] Though is some sense all people are children of God, we are not children of God the way Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.
I hope you will follow todays message, because it is very important. It will takes some twists and turns along the way, but the destination is worth the drive; I hope you will stay with me. The problem is we are dealing with some half-truths and partial truths of the world and comparing them to the Whole Truth of God.
Many people in our world like to say, “We are all children of God.” Now, in a sense this is true. The world (and even the Church) has emphasized this claim over the last century to make some important points to help us deal with the serious problems of racism, war, and division in our world. The statement is true in the sense that God created us all.
Furthermore, there is no one race that is superior to any other race. We are all really one race. To speak of a black race or a white race or an Asian race is really technically wrong. The misguided idea that humanity is divided into different “races” began in the 15th century mostly as a way for Europeans to justify the conquest of other countries inhabited by Africans, Asians, and Native Americans (even the Irish). Since they believed they were different races of people, the subjugation of different races was acceptable (or even inevitable). "Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races…”[ii] Genetically, we are all one race. When we say the word race, what we really mean is ethnicity, culture, or people groups. There is no significant genetic difference between the different people groups of the world. We are all part of one human race.
Furthermore, according to Genesis in the Bible, God created all people through Adam and Eve--the first human beings. So to say, “We are all God’s children” is true in a broad sense. Christians who believe the Bible's account of creation accept that we all descended from the same ancestral parents.
Usually when people say “We are all God’s children,” they are calling on everyone everywhere to live together in harmony. It’s a noble call. We certainly do need to set aside petty squabbles and see all human beings as being part of one human family. Let’s treat everyone fairly and be done forever with racism and discrimination. Let us, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so passionately preached, “Judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.”
But in this series, we are comparing what the world says to what Jesus says. What did Jesus say?
42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Most people prefer to think of Jesus as a kind man gently holding a baby lamb. Quite often, that’s not the Jesus we see in the Bible. It’s not the Jesus we see in John 8. In John 8, Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees in Jerusalem and He’s telling the cold hard Truth. There are some people in this world who aren’t God’s children; they’re the Devil’s children.
Surely it's not good people who are children of the Devil. However, we need to asks a pertinent question. Who among us is really good? Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.”
Romans 3:10-18 is even harsher. “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace They have no fear of God at all.”
Romans 3 might seem harsh, but understand holiness and righteousness are not measured by human standards. They are measured by God’s perfect standard. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard." When we compare human goodness to God’s perfection, human goodness doesn’t even compare. Romans 3 describes you (and me).
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.” Remember, the Pharisees were the holiest people where Jesus lived. Everyone looked up to them as righteous dudes. They memorized the Torah--which is the first five books of the Bible. They sought to live good, holy lives that avoided all sin. Furthermore, they refused to associate with anyone considered sinful, unclean, or ungodly.
“But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw [Jesus] eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” (Mark 2:16)
Are we all children of God? The answer, according to Jesus (and Scripture) is a resounding no. Those who reject Jesus (and thus reject God) are children of the Devil. And really, everyone has done this.
There is a little used, but sometimes used, legal processing in American whereby a child can "divorce" there parents. It is called emancipation and it doesn't happen often. If it is determined that a parent is not truly advocating for the best interest of their child, a child can be set free from the authority of their parent. The parent then no longer has any guardianship rights over the child. Now, in our fallen world where parents don't always do what they should, it may be necessary for a child to "divorce" their parents.
Here’s the thing. God created us and He is a perfect parent that always looks out for our best interest, but we have turned our backs on God because of sin and rejected God as our Father. We walked away. We divorced our Heavenly Father. We have said, "I don't want to be beholden to You anymore. I don't accept God's authority over my life. I am walking away to go live my own life the way I want to live it."
By our sin, every person who lives has rejected (or divorced) God. We have walked away from the relationship. It’s not just prostitutes and notorious sinners. Even the supposedly good, holy people have turn their backs on God through sin. God is no longer our Father. Therefore, by default, we become “children of the Devil.”
It is only by the grace of God that we can return to a right relationship with God. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Why would God need to adopt us if we were already His children? Because people are not God's children before He adopts them through Christ.
The whole story of the Good News of God can be summed up in a single parable told by Jesus —the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. Jesus uses a powerful family story to analogize the relationship between people and God. The Father in the story represents God. The younger son represents the notorious sinners of the world. The older son represents the “good” people of the world who generally follow the rules, but have defective attitudes and perspectives. The story goes like this (I will add my comments in italics):
“A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’
The younger son wants to divorce his father and go live his life his onw way. He doesn't want to work on his father's estate anymore. He doesn't want to be subject to his father's rules and authority. He can't wait until his father dies and he can get his inheritance and leave. So he just comes out and basically says, "I can't wait for you to die. Give me my inheritance now so I can go ahead and leave."
So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
This is an amazing story of grace. The Father loves his son, despite the terrible, hateful way the son left. Now that the son has come home, the Father adopts His son back into the family. The gifts of a robe and ring and sandals are symbols that the has not a servant, but a son.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
The older son was angry. He thinks he is better than his younger brother. He thinks his Father (who remember is God) owes him a reward for being good. Do you think God owes you something for being good?
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
I want you to notice something important in this story. Jesus doesn’t tell us whether or not the older son ever went in to join the party. He did that on purpose. You know why? He left us hanging because most of us are the older son. We the ones standing out in the cold while all the prostitutes, gangsters, and despised sinners of the world are inside partying with Jesus because they already knew they were sinners who needed Jesus to forgive them. Meanwhile, so many times, we think God owes us something (especially if we are generally good people). That attitude is a great sin in and of itself. God doesn’t owe you anything. However, He still graciously invites you to receive His grace and come in to the feast. You are the one who decides how the story ends. You can choose to stay outside with your arms folded and pouting lips or you can let go of your pride, recognize your own sin, seek forgiveness just like everyone else, and go in and join the party. Are you going to come in and join the party?
Jesus left His church with a very special meal to celebrate what He did for us on the cross and to foreshadow the everlasting feast awaiting those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven. On the night He was arrested, Jesus sat down to a special meal with His disciples. At the meal, Jesus broke the bread and gave it to His disciples and said, "This is my body that is given for you. Take and eat." Likewise, after the meal, he took the cup and raised it to heaven and ask God to bless it and said, "This is my blood of the New Covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Drink it, and as often as you do, do it in remembrance of me." Ever since that night, this memorial meal has been shared by Christians as a way to remember Christ's death on the cross--a sacrifice that atones for our sins and makes salvation and a right relationship with God possible.
I invite you to come in and enjoy the Father's feast. Don't stay outside as a child of Satan. Come Home and be a child of God once more.