Who is a child of God?

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.

1 John 3:1-3

There are moments with the Lord when His Presence comes so near, when His love is felt tangibly in quiet moments with Him, that I weep with gratitude for getting to be so close to Him. One day it hit me like a ton of bricks: it is the greatest honor of my life to have the Spirit of God dwelling in me! What an incredible and undeserved honor!

God the Father lavishes His love on us. He doesn’t hold back. If we find we can’t feel His love, we: 1) rely on the truth that we know from scripture that His love never ends, and 2) find out what wound, hurt, or sin in us is separating us from experiencing His love. The problem is never on His end.

It is common to hear people say that all people are children of God. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not what scripture says is true. This passage, among others, makes clear that followers of Jesus alone have the unique privilege of being the children of God. Paul makes this point emphatically in his letter to the Romans:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:14-16

When the New Testament addresses “the children of God” it is talking about those who have given their life to Jesus, have received the Holy Spirit, and have been adopted into the family of God. It’s our second birth, when we are born of the Spirit (see John 3:3-8), that makes us children of God not our first birth.

In the 1 John 3 passage above, John makes a clear distinction between children of God and those of the world. Those in the world will have a hard time with children of God just as they had a hard time with Jesus. Likewise, our adoption into the family of God causes us to want to purify our lives because Jesus Himself is pure. Being a child of God means we long to be like Jesus!

Forgiving God

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

We forgive because we are forgiven. We don’t wait for the other person to apologize or ask for forgiveness. The other person may have really done something wrong when they hurt us. It’s also possible that they did nothing wrong and it was just a perceived slight that hurt us. Either way, forgiveness is not based on the other person but on our reception of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Forgiveness is the only way to weed out the bitterness, anger and resentment in our heart.

But what if you’re angry or feel distant from God? What if God is the one who you believe harmed you? Can we forgive God?

I had this interesting moment with the Lord the other day in a worship service. We were all singing and the Lord began to speak to me about a friend of mine who was feeling distant from God. I heard God speak to my heart and say, “He needs to forgive me.”

When I heard it, I couldn’t make sense of it initially. Forgive God? But why? “God, you don’t ever do anything wrong. Why would he need to forgive YOU?”

Then the Lord gave me a mental picture of a father kneeling down to his young son. The son was upset with his dad. His dad didn’t do anything wrong, but the dad knew that in order to restore the relationship he would have to be the one to ask the son for forgiveness. It wasn’t about the father doing anything wrong; it was about restoring the relationship and mending the heart of the hurting son.

“But, God, what does he need to forgive You for?”

Then I heard the Lord whisper, “I didn’t meet his expectations. He feels distant from me because I failed to meet his expectations. You need to tell him that I am asking for his forgiveness.”

Sensing that I was still uncomfortable with the idea of doing this, the Lord explained further. In an instant, He gave me a download of understanding. It wasn’t that He explained it all with words. It felt more like a surge of understanding.

What God reminded me of is that this is what God does. This is what Jesus did on the cross. He died a death He didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t do anything wrong. He lived a perfect life. Yet, He took our punishment. This is what God does. Even when He doesn’t do anything wrong, He takes the first step toward us. He’s not concerned with what is “fair” to Himself. He’s concerned with mending relationships and healing hearts. He just wants to be reconnected to His sons and daughters. So He bends down on one knee and asks His son forgiveness for not meeting his expectations (even though those expectations were probably false expectations).

It made more sense now. But before I would go and talk to my friend, I wanted to know where the expectations came from. The Lord told me that his family mistakenly taught him that if he did everything right, everything would turn out okay. This lie was planted early in life. And so he did everything right but things didn’t turn out okay. That’s when the feelings of betrayal, confusion, hurt and resentment entered in. Only by forgiving God would he be able to release the bitterness and hurt that has created a wall between him and the Lord.

The Father loves his son so much that He was willing to interrupt His other son right in the middle of worship to tell him all of this. He loves his son so much that He was willing to take a knee and ask His son for forgiveness! How great the Father’s love for us!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 

1 John 3:1

Some of you reading this may need to do the same. You may need to forgive God. Your mind has prevented you from doing so because you know He doesn’t make mistakes. But that truth in your mind has kept your heart distant from Him. What the Father understands is that your heart needs to forgive Him. Forgive Him for whatever that hurt is. Release the resentment, bitterness and anger you’ve been holding against Him. He’s getting on one knee before you, taking your hands, and He’s asking His child for forgiveness. Will you forgive Him?

If you don’t know what to say, try something like this:

Father, I was hurt by this ______________. And now I have felt distant from you. I hear You today asking for my forgiveness, wanting to mend our relationship, wanting to heal my heart. So right now, God, I forgive you. I choose today to forgive you. I release the anger, bitterness and resentment. I put aside any feelings of rejection. I take your hands. I want to be close to you again. Thank You for bending down on one knee and asking for my forgiveness. It feels funny to say I forgive you, but I know it is what my heart has needed. Thank you for understanding what my heart needed in order to come close to You again. You are a loving Father. Thank you for loving me through this. Heal my heart. Mend my wounds. May I experience Your love flow into my heart again through your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’s name. Amen.