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Sermon for April 14, 2024 – Third Sunday in Easter

Welcome to this week’s episode, a special rerun from our Speaking of Life archive. We hope you find its timeless message as meaningful today as it was when it was first shared.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 3021 | Jesus Goes Viral
Jeff Broadnax

Have you ever seen a video that moved you so much or made you laugh so hard that you just had to share it with someone else? If so, you may have participated in making that video “go viral.”

When a video “goes viral” it spreads exponentially with little effort or expense. This is a dream come true for advertisers or artists. In fact, many try to produce this phenomenon by implementing various strategies or tactics but there is no sure way of guaranteeing a video will “go viral.” It only happens when the video connects with people in a significant way and it is shared.  A particularly moving video can get shared around the globe and viewed by millions in a very short time.

We could say this is similar to how the Gospel gets spread around the world. It’s not that someone came up with some brilliant marketing strategy–or perhaps some ONE did–but rather it happens when a person has seen and been moved by Jesus. That personal encounter, I call those divine appointments, leads to a natural sharing of the Good News of who Jesus is and what he has done. Like seeing that amazing video, seeing Jesus compels us to share with others in hope that they too will see Jesus. He’s just too good not to share.

Unlike a video that goes viral, seeing Jesus is not a short-lived experience. It’s a lifelong relationship of seeing and coming to know him and his Father by the Spirit, day in and day out. The more we turn to him and come to see and know him the more our witness of him will naturally flow out of us. We won’t need any fancy marketing campaigns. We will just tell that epic story as we experienced it.

Listen to the interplay between experiencing God personally and witnessing to him publicly in this Psalm:

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:1-8

When we see Jesus, we will also see that Jesus is the true Witness in the World. He has known the Father for all eternity and knows just how good he is. Since Jesus sees the Father, he is compelled to share him with us.

We could say that Jesus is the Someone who shared the “visual” of his relationship with the Father. Let’s celebrate the One who shines the light and love of the Father and join in on Jesus going viral.

I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 4:1-8 • Acts 3:12-19 • 1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48

This week’s theme is new identity, new power. In our call to worship psalm, we are reminded that we can rest in peace knowing that the Lord hears us when we call. The reading from Acts recounts Peter reminding others that healing power only comes from Christ.  Our epistolary text from 1 John explores the implications of our identity as children of God. The Gospel text in Luke records the startling appearance of Jesus, who confronts the disciples with the reality of his resurrection and charges them to be his witnesses to all nations.

Being Who You Are

1 John 3:1-7 ESV

For today’s message on the third Sunday of Easter, we will remain with the Apostle John’s writings, only we are going to change books. Instead of looking at John’s Gospel, we are going to look at a letter John wrote to a close community of believers who had been exposed to some false teachers. These false teachers were former members of this community who left and took some followers with them. So, John is writing to remind those who remained loyal to the community of believers the truth that goes back to “the beginning.” This Truth, as John begins his letter, is Jesus himself, who came down as the Incarnation to bring us into eternal life. So, for the season of Easter, we can read John’s short passage today as a reminder of the new beginning we are given in Jesus on account of his resurrection. Easter changes everything. And one of the key changes it makes for us is defining our true identity and helping us live out of that reality every day. John reminds them, and us, of whose we are, so we can live being who we are.

I’m sure we can all recount times in our life that our identity has been challenged. A time of crisis or challenge can shake our beliefs down to the roots and cause us to question who we are. When it comes to the reality of our identity in Christ, this becomes an issue of having our faith shaken. In the wake of false teachers who have inflicted losses on those John addresses as “little children,” John knows he needs to build their faith by reminding them of who they are in light of their relationship with the risen Lord. This letter is included in the canon of scripture as the Holy Spirit knew we too would need this constant reminder. As was stated in last week’s sermon, the Easter season is a time when the church can once again revisit the biblical witness of the risen Jesus along with the blessing that comes to those who put their trust in him. John is trying to restore the trust of his “little children” in Jesus, by writing a letter that we now can read for restoration of our own. As we read, we will discover some beautiful blessings that come to those who live in trusting obedience as “little children” who belong to the Father on account of the risen Lord.

As a backdrop, it is good to be aware of a hideous practice that was common in the Roman Empire at the time of the writing of this letter. John is writing to people who understood the Roman practice that took place when a child was born to a Roman family. The child would be placed on the floor at the father’s feet. If the father accepted the child, he would reach down and pick the child up to indicate that the father has accepted the child as his own. The child would then become part of the family, taking on the family name and all the benefits thereof. If the father did not choose to accept the child, he would walk away, leaving the child to be cast out on the streets. This barbaric practice may have been the norm in the culture of the time, but it was not the message of Good News about Jesus’ Father. This is why Christians during that time were known to rescue these abandoned children that had been so inhumanely cast out. John, in this passage, grounds our identity in the Good News that the Father has reached down into our humanity and lifted us up in his Son, Jesus Christ. The Father is one who loves all his children, and he never turns his back on us. This is a Father we can trust, who places his name on us, and who gives us all the blessings that come with that trust.

If we are going to grow in our trust in the Father, we must come to see more and more who he is. Is he like the Roman fathers who may or may not turn us away and leave us for dead? Or is he the Father Jesus reveals to us? This is a big reason Jesus had to come in the flesh. The Incarnation provides for us a revelation of the Father. Everything we see Jesus do and say reveals something about who the Father is. Understanding God as Trinity is essential for this understanding which the early church grasped and passed down to us. It springs from Jesus’ own words to us when he says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” On this biblical and theological foundation we have the historically orthodox understanding of Jesus as the self-revelation of the Father. Jesus never does anything or says anything that would contradict the Father’s own heart and character. It is from this foundation that John is going to boldly proclaim the love of the Father for us and remind us what we have been given as his children.

Specifically, as we go through the passage, we will be able to see four aspects of our identity as children of God.

  1. Peace
  2. Permanence
  3. Personhood
  4. Participation

A reminder of who God is as our loving Father can safeguard us against the lies and deceptions that false teachers, and the evil one pulling their strings, use to lure us away from the community of faith. If you have struggled with your faith and identity because of some confusing rhetoric from outside the church, and even more disturbing, from within the church, then listen to John’s words of affirmation of who we truly are in Jesus Christ. We will be reminded that we are the Father’s children who have been claimed, loved, and eternally embraced in the death, resurrection, and ascension of his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin with the first verse of our text to see the first of four realities about our identity established in Jesus Christ:

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. (1 John 3:1 ESV)


There is no conflict between being “called children of God” and actually being his child. Our identity as belonging to the Father is not in label only. The Father calls us children and we know the Father does not tell a lie. Being a child of God is the most fundamental truth of our identity. We may not always experience being known by others in this way, but it does not change the reality of who we are. We cannot expect the world to tell us who we are. We do not belong to the world; we belong to the Father. The world with all its allure will clamor to have you place your identity in anything other than Jesus, the true Lord and King of this world.

The next verse contains two realities regarding our identity in Christ:

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. (1 John 3:2 ESV)


Being a child of God is not a potential or some idealistic dream for the future. It is our identity “now.” We may not fully see our identity now, but we can trust that it is who the Father made us to be. We are included in the Sonship of Jesus and therefore share in the very life and relationship between the Father and his Son in the Spirit. Our identity of being a child of God will never be revoked any more than Jesus will cease being the Son of the Father.


The full revelation of who we are as children of God is grounded in a face-to-face relationship with Jesus. Our personhood is fully seen in the person of Jesus. We are not fundamentally “individuals” but rather persons in relationship. We do not realize or actualize our own identity from a center within ourselves. Our identity is centered in Jesus Christ. When we look elsewhere, we remain confused about our identity as children of God.

The final four verses give us our fourth reality regarding our identity along with some implications of living this reality out in our daily lives:

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (1 John 3:3-7 ESV)


The Father did not claim us as his children just so he could put us on a shelf for decoration. He created us to be a real participant in the divine life. We are made to participate in the very life the Son has with his Father. As we participate, we are truly being who we are intended to be. This is the good life of faith, hope and love. We don’t have to create this life for ourselves. We can participate in it as blessed children of the Father for that is indeed who we are.

Children receive all their Father has to give them. They do not have to earn it by making a name for themselves. The Father’s name has already been placed on them. The lie we may be tempted to believe is that the Father really wants slaves, not sons and daughters. This is a false teaching deeply embedded in our world, tempting us to ground our worth and value in what we can do or produce (for the Master) rather than who we are as children of the Father. If you ever seen the 2005 Batman movie, Batman Begins, you may recall the scene where Batman reveals his identity to his childhood girlfriend by saying, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” This can illustrate how we too can go through life hiding behind the mask of “good works,” finding our identity in what we do (or don’t do). Like Batman, we can become vigilantes by taking of the fruit of “The Knowledge of Good and Evil.” We decide for ourselves what is right and wrong and choose to be the source of our own identity. But, unlike Batman who lives a double life, we do not define ourselves by an identity we can carve out by our own works. We do not achieve our identity, rather we receive it from the one we belong to, our Heavenly Father.

This is the context John has in mind when talking about sin. Sin, which is nothing short of thinking and acting as if we are not the children of God, has no place in the life of his children. When we participate in sin, we are not participating in the life we have in Christ. We are not receiving our identity he gives us in his Son. In short, sin reflects an identity of one who does not trust his Heavenly Father, but rather trusts in himself instead. In resistance to God’s gift of grace, we are trying to achieve our identity for ourselves, in one way or another. However, the Father has placed his name on us. John’s pronouncement that sin is lawlessness can serve as a backdoor reminder for us to live out of the true identity of who we are in Christ.

The word “lawlessness” used in this passage comes from the Greek word anomia. That word shares the same spelling of the Latin word anomia that is in many words we use today, only it means “without name.” John is not making this explicit connection, but interestingly enough, the Latin meaning of anomia does convey what lies at the root of lawlessness. When we forget that our Father has placed his name on us, making us his children in Jesus Christ, we will act out in lawlessness, not trusting the Father’s word to us, and relying on our own word to ourselves instead. We will live like people “without name” continually grasping to make a name for ourselves. Thankfully, we are not without name. The Father has lifted us up, claiming us, placing his name on us and giving us full fellowship in the family. John doesn’t want us to be deceived about our true identity. He wants us to live out the identity we have already been given in Jesus Christ.

The Weight of Glory w/ Jon Ritner W2

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April 14—Third Sunday in Easter
1 John 3:1-7, “The Weight of Glory”

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Program Transcript

The Weight of Glory w/ Jon Ritner W2

Anthony: Let’s pivot to our next pericope of the month. It’s 1 John 3:1-7. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the Third Sunday in Easter, April 14. Jon, we’d be grateful if you’d read it for us, please.

Jon: Absolutely.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us. Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves even as he is pure. Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous.

Anthony: Verse 2 heralds, the children of God haven’t appeared yet as they will be. And as I was thinking about this, it reminded me of C. S. Lewis’ great sermon, The Weight of Glory. And in that, in part, he wrote, “There is no ordinary people, or there are no ordinary people. You’ve never talked to a mere mortal.” He furthers his case by saying, quote, next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Really, can this be true, Jon?

Jon: Yeah. I love that image of viewing every person you meet with this kind of holiness, the sanctification of almost like sunglasses that you could put on that would allow you to see them not just as who they are, but as who they are becoming and who, in Christ, they will ultimately be.

And there’s a relational optimism that comes with that. There’s an ability to believe the best about someone. That ultimately would make me feel incredibly loved if someone treated me that way, if someone constantly gave me the benefit of the doubt, if they believed that I was a work in progress and not yet to be judged, so to speak.

And you would hope that the church would be some of the best in the world at doing this. And yet I think it’s one of the areas we really struggle with. And part of it, to me, goes almost back to a theological starting point of whether we view those around us through the lens of Genesis 1 or Genesis 3.

It’s become very common in the evangelical world and from a reformed theology to start our anthropology from Genesis 3, and to believe that humans are inherently sinful and fallen and corrupt and everything they do is—even if it looks good, it comes from a bad motivation. We are sinners first and foremost in need of redemption. And yet that’s not the origin story of humans.

The origin story is Genesis 1. We are made in the image of God, that we have inestimable worth, that everything about us cries out something about the nature of God that can be discovered and understood. And then after that, there was a fall.

But I believe that there is still the potential to look at any human being around you and identify those traces of God’s goodness in them, whether it’s in their motivations or in their actions, or even in their longings, that they’re not able to live out with perfection. And so, what I hear in this text here is John inviting us to see the world, not as it is, but as it will one day be, and to treat every person, not as they are, but as Jesus would want them to be.

In Brussels, even I had a friend who I heard him using a phrase over and over again. He didn’t call people Christians and non-Christians. I finally said to him, you keep using this phrase. Why are you call people not yet followers of Jesus? Who are you talking about? You mean non-Christians?

And he said to me, yeah. He goes, I used to use that phrase non-Christians, but I realized it was a binary, inside outside language. And I prefer to believe that Jesus is calling everyone to him, and that they’re on a journey. And I want to have an optimism towards that person, that what I see now is who they are now. And it’s only because they’re not yet a follower of Jesus.

And so, I thought, man, what an incredibly optimistic way of referring to someone who is not living a life that honors God. He’s doing exactly what John says here, viewing them through the lens of who they will one day be. And what that does, I think, is gets to the C.S. Lewis quote. It confers back on them the value of being made in the image of God, of being a sacred and holy individual who reflects God’s presence in the world, even though that presence has a way of being corrupted and bent that is not perfect.

Anthony: I heard it said that love is the ability to see another person, not as you want them to be, but as they are, and offer them genuine warmth that they belong to the family of Christ.

And it gets to the heart of a conversation I had with a friend over a meal a couple of days ago. And I was saying to him, I think a good starting point with our neighbor is mutuality. And in mutuality, we see them as being people of dignity, of worth, of value. We respect them. We honor them.

That’s good, but I think to take it to the next level, to really embody the heart of our Lord is kinship, is seeing that we actually belong to the other. Not separate, but we belong to the same family.

And as you said, all of us are made in the image of God, and they too are included in his love, whether they recognize it or not. And to relate with people that way. That’s my brother, my sister; they may not know it, but I know who they are. And it just transforms the way that you interact with people even if they’re not acting the way you want them to. I don’t always act the way I want to, so somebody is going to have to show me grace over and over in my life.

So, it just seems to me, we live in a very disconnected world, Jon, and we’ve got to do better. We’re recording the day after the Kansas City Chiefs held their celebration parade for winning the Super Bowl. And there was a shooting someone died. Children are injured gravely. We’re just so disconnected, and we don’t see the value that God places on every human being to our detriment, I think.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Can you think of a time in your life where your identity was shaken on account of some crisis?
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is the self-revelation of the Father? What’s at stake if he is not?
  • The sermon claimed that the first reality regarding our identity in Christ is “peace.” Discuss the peace that comes when what we are called is who we are. Why might it be hard to believe that we are really children of God, and not just “children” in name only?
  • The second reality was “permanence.” What difference does it make knowing that being a child of God is not a potential or future dream but a present reality that will never change? How might this change how we live each day?
  • The third reality was “personhood.” What difference does it make to know that our identity has more to do with our relationship with Jesus than some “individualistic” self-determination? Who can better tell us who we are? Ourselves, or our Creator? What are some implications to your answer?
  • The fourth reality listed in the sermon was “participation.” How would you discuss the difference between receiving our identity from the Father, with that of achieving our identity for the Father?
  • Discuss the statement from the sermon, “When we participate in sin, we are not participating in the life we have in Christ.” How would you describe sin from the context of being a child of God?

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