Loved by God

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy."

Luke 3:21

As John the Baptist was preaching his message of repentance and preparation for the Messiah, baptizing those who responded to his call, Jesus came to be baptized. As John baptized him and Jesus was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on him and a voice from heaven said, "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy" (3:22).

The words of the divine voice connect the identity and ministry of Jesus to crucial passages in the Old Testament. In Psalm 2, for example, the Lord speaks to Israel's king, saying, "You are my son. Today I have become your father" (2:7). In Isaiah 42, the Lord says, "Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations" (42:1). Jesus is the divine Son who will reign over God's kingdom with justice for all nations. He is also the Servant of God who gives joy to his heavenly Father and whose suffering will lead to salvation (see Isaiah 53).

Hearing the divine voice clarified and focused Jesus' calling as the one who was anointed by God both to rule and to suffer. It also brought the reassurance of the Father's love for and delight in Jesus.

Jesus was the Son of God in a unique way. He knew the Father's love with intimacy and immediacy that we can't fathom. Yet, through Jesus, you and I can be beloved children of God. In John 1:12, we read that all who believe in Jesus "become children of God." This good news is reiterated in John's first letter: "See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" (3:1).

The knowledge and experience of God's love transforms us. I remember years ago praying for a young man who was deeply troubled. "Sean" had come forward for prayer after a worship service and only shared that he was struggling with deep discouragement and depression. As I prayed for him, I kept hearing the words of the divine voice in Jesus' baptism. Believing that the Spirit was guiding me, I prayed quite specifically that Sean would know that he was God's dearly loved son and that God took delight in him.

Immediately, Sean burst into tears, crying with deep sobs for a long time. I felt quite unsettled, fearing that I had done something terribly wrong. Finally, when he had gathered himself, he explained that he grew up in a home with a father who never communicated his love to his children. Sean always felt uncertain of his father's love. When he became a Christian, he quite naturally translated that uncertainty to his Heavenly Father. He had come to church that day with a longing to know that God loved and accepted him. Hence his response to my prayer.

Sean left that morning as a new man, more confident in the love of God. What he had known in his head permeated his heart. Though you and I might not have an experience like that of Sean, we can know by the clarity of God's Word and the activity of the Spirit that we are, indeed, God's dearly loved children. When we live for him, we even delight the heart of our Heavenly Father.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When have you experienced God's love for you? Do you yearn to know more of God's love? Have you asked him to reveal his love to you more fully?

PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for your strong words of affirmation for Jesus. Thank you for identifying him as your Son, the Messiah and Suffering Servant, the one who brings salvation, not only to Israel, but also to the whole world.

Thank you, Father, that through Jesus I may also be one of your beloved children. Help me to have confidence in your love, to live each day in the assurance of your love. May your love transform me and inspire me to live for you each day, so that I might give you great joy. Amen.

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