“Incognito royals” 1 John 3:1-3

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

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Amazing message we heard today from Jesus’ beloved disciple John. Truly amazing! If we only had these few verses from the whole Bible and if we somehow by God’s grace could fully understand them and vividly picture what future they portray for us… we would be the most hopeful, the most joyful people. Nothing could sadden us; nothing could take away our happiness.

Let us reflect on these verses and see how much hope and joy are given to us through them. I will read them for you once more so that the voice of the Holy Spirit still echoes in your ears as we try to grasp the magnitude of this message.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” Truly amazing!

How many of you have seen the movie “Coming to America”? It is an older movie from 1980ties starring Eddie Murphy. The plot is rather simple and quite lovely. Eddie Murphy plays Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda. What happens?

The young prince travels to the US incognito in the hopes of finding a woman who would love him for who he is, not for his status or wealth. So, he gives up anything that may betray his royal connections. He settles in one of the poorest parts of New York City, pretends to be an exchange student and finds a job in a local fast-food restaurant. And so, the journey begins.

Why would I mention this old movie? There is something remarkable about then main hero, prince Akeem. He and his trusted servant live in bad neighbourhood, they get robbed, in their workplace they are expected to do the most menial tasks and get humiliated and mistreated in many ways.

Yet, the incognito royal prince Akeem goes through all of that glowing like the happiest person on the earth. Whatever happens, he sees the bright side, whatever he is asked to do, he does is joyfully, he seems to never run out of hope and good and self-confident mood.

Those who don’t know who he is are often surprised by his attitudes and stature, they are attracted to his radiant persona. They are left wondering – what is it about this guy, why is he so different?

The answer to all that mystery is – his identity. He knows who he is. Beloved and adored son of his parents. He knows His significance – he is an heir to the throne of Zamunda. He knows what awaits him in future – he will reign over that abundant and luxurious kingdom.

How could he not be hopeful, joyful, confident, courageous, beaming out of the very heart of his royal persona! Do you see where this is going? This is about you. This is you. Incognito royals for a while living in a strange land.

For a while separated from the royal glory and abundance, for a while living among people who don’t know who you truly are, for they don’t know your true Father, who is in heaven. For a while needing to endure different hardships.

This is you. And even if we feel like surfing on the top of the world, everything going great in our lives, success and pleasures and joys abounding, still… this is nothing comparing to what our God has prepared for those who love Him.

Remember how John put it: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so, we are.” And so, this is who you are, children of God the Father.

There is no greater identity, no higher status, there is no more hopeful future, there is no more valid reason for gladness, there is no more definite security about what is to come than being children of God. And this is who you are.

You Father is not just a king over a little country. He is the Creator and Eternal Ruler of the Universe, of all the things visible and invisible. Every knee bows before Him, all authority is in His hands, the heavens and the earth, all are His.

And He gladly calls you – just dwell of this for a moment! – He gladly calls you, each one of you – His children. Once He calls you that way, that is who you are. That becomes your main, most significant and most enduring identity.

Children of God. So, we live as incognito royals in this world, and the world doesn’t know who we truly are. As John put it: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

The world doesn’t know our Father and it doesn’t want to know Him. The world goes on stubbornly denying that they live here as tenants, not as owners. This place, this bountiful planet doesn’t belong to them, the time they spend doesn’t belong to them, even their bodies and souls do not belong to them.

One day all of that will be required back by the true owner. Perhaps this is why the world is so spiteful towards their gracious and generous and incredibly patient Landlord. They recognize their own finite nature and limits and that there is no escape from the day when all accounts will need to be settled.

Perhaps that is why the world may be often so hostile to children of God. For they don’t really know our Father, they have only this perverted idea about Him, seeing Him as mere boring and hateful killjoy and bickering judge!

The world doesn’t know that He is our Creator, meaning, that He Himself personally and with Fatherly love and passion has formed and shaped each one of us in our mother’s womb. He is the true source of our live. He daily provides for us everything that we need for this body and soul.

More, even as we have abandoned Him, the very source of our life, and have become slaves of death and fear of death, He hasn’t abandoned us. He has promised that He never will. And He has done everything to rescue us from the jaws of death and to bring us back into His Kingdom of life.

He has revealed the incredible depth of His love by becoming one of us, by living among us, by giving up His live in the most painful and shameful death on the cross – so that only He can regain our hearts, our trust, our affections.

Not compulsory, but freely, when we learn what His heart and unconditional commitment towards us is in His true Son Jesus Christ. This is what our Father is like. The whole world, every human being long for what only He can give us.

That is, for true greatness, for deep meaning, for most amazing joy and pleasures, for unconditional acceptance and passionate love, for grand mission and honourable responsibilities, for future hope, and so on.

And, please, don’t forget that our God is the One who invented fan and humour and laughter and game and play and marriage and sex and friendship and beauty and camaraderie and affection and courage and wisdom and surprise and every other good thing that there is in this world. He invented them all!

The thing is, He wants to give all of that to everyone, to everyone! it is just that… people reject Him, mock Him, despise Him and so cut themselves off the only source that would bring them true and final fulfillment and happiness.

The fate of the unbelieving world is so tragic. But actually, I don’t think that our greatest problem is that the world doesn’t know our Father. I think even worse problem is that we tend to forget who we are. Yes, we Christians.

We may become like the prince Akeem, living in that strange land, and then gradually beginning to forget who we truly are, or choosing to neglect who we truly are. How does that happen?

When we get more and more overwhelmed by the immediate challenges and temptation of this world. When we are glued to our screens and newspapers, devouring every new and depressing rumour, every latest Internet fad, every latest conspiracy theory or latest global scare.  

When we don’t want, when we are not anymore reminded about who we truly are and what awaits us. I think that is our real problem, our real challenge. That we may be tempted to believe, that this world and this life is all that there is.

Then we want to focus more and more on here and now, we become too busy, too irritated to even listen when our Father in His love longs to engage with us. Just think about this phenomenon, it is rather puzzling!

Do you often hear Christian complaining, that they don’t want, that they are not interested in that worldly news and the flood of information that is poured over us? Somehow, we find more and more time to watch TV, or serf the Internet.

At the same time, and this sadly can be heard from time to time – there are Christians who seem to never have time, or desire, or interest to listen to God our Father and our brother Jesus.

Or to delve deep in God’s wisdom, or to marvel about His divine deeds – for us! – or to be encouraged and strengthened by His Fatherly love and unshakable commitment to us, or to be amazed reflecting on what He has prepared for us – what inheritance awaits us, or how we will reign with Jesus forever.

How can a Christian say that they don’t need or don’t want to hear that? That seems like us trying to deliberately forget our true and lasting identity and belonging. Such incognito royals are in danger of losing their true God-given self and settle for something puny and perishable. That is very sad…

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” We would benefit meditating on this every day.

What is prepared for you, what is coming, what you will be made like, what you will inherit, what your life in the age to come will be like – all of that vastly surpasses anything we can imagine, or dream or comprehend.

Reflect on this! When Jesus Christ appears in His divine glory to restore His creation, in the company of all the mighty angels and arch-angels and all the strange and frightening heavenly beings, you shall be like Him.

Pause and reflect! You shall be like Him. Aw, if only we could understand what it means?! What a wonderful mystery to marvel about?! What an incredible promise to meditate upon, to read about, to wonder, to discuss, to share.

This is said about you. About you! You shall be like the risen Jesus Christ. This is God’s promise to you from the very lips of the Holy Spirit. How can we not be curious and fascinated to learn more?

Therefore, “everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” How do we purify ourselves? This is not something we can do on our own. But you know the answer, we reflected on it extensively last Sunday.

“If you truly want to be my disciples, abide in my Word, for thus you will know the truth, and the truth will sanctify you and purify you and will set you free. Abide in my word!” This is Jesus speaking to you!

If you have been tricked to focus too much on this world instead of the world where we truly belong, if the evil one has bewitched you to be apathetic to Jesus speaking to you, if He has made you a fool who has almost forgotten His true and everlasting identity, then hear this call, return to Jesus!

He never leaves or abandons His own, even if we ignore Him or push Him away. He is faithful, He was wiling to suffer death for you, now He is willing to be patient with us as we struggle to respond to His invitation.

“Return to me! Abide in my words, and I will purify you! I will transform your life! I will fill you with hope and joy and peace and wisdom! I will fill you with my own Spirit! I will make you like a lighthouse, beaming brightly and walking through this life as incognito royals, for that is who you are!”

Today we are blessed in our Grace Forum to pool together our collective, God given wisdom and to prayerfully reflect on how we could become more diligent, more curious and more excited listeners of our Triune God.

How we could abide in Jesus’ words in our situation, with our needs and opportunities? How we could delight in who we are, children of God, daily and weekly, so that He can bless us, and to bless us He desires more than we know.

That is not by an accident that the Scripture says that blessed in the one who meditates on the Word of God days and nights. Such Christians are like trees planted at the streams of water, bearing richly their fruits in due season.

I pray today, dear Brothers and Sisters, that the same could be said about us: “Blessed are these people, these incognito royals at Grace, for they meditate upon and delight in the Word of God days and nights! And their fruits are abundant bringing blessings and joy to many.”

Amen.

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