My daughters bear a striking resemblance to me and an even more striking resemblance to each other. They are three years apart in age, and the younger one looks exactly like the older one did at the same age. When I show up at their school, their teachers say things like, “Yep, they’re yours alright.” The family resemblance is strong.
Family resemblance isn’t just genetic, though. It’s spiritual too. In 1 John 3 we are told that we are children of God, born of Him. As a mark of God’s great love, we are His children. Jesus explained this to Nicodemus as being “born again” (John 3:3). This phrase is one that has almost been clichéd out of any meaning, but think about it: born again. Nicodemus was a religious teacher and he was utterly baffled by this imagery. We should be too. How can a person be born, grow up, then be born again? By the Holy Spirit, Jesus says. That’s how. Our new life as children of God is a miracle of the Holy Spirit; we are remade as people.
In being made new—in being born again as God’s children—we take on a family resemblance to Christ, God’s Son. If we are His children, we are no longer marked by sin. We don’t look like sin; we look like Christ. This doesn’t mean that we never sin. It means that the defining characteristics of our life—the things that stand out, what people remember us by, and the shape of our personhood—are holy and Christlike. If someone met Jesus, they would look at us and say, “Yep, you’re His.”
Practically, what this looks like is to be “doers of the Word” (James 1:22). We know what it means to follow Jesus because He told us. We know what it means to pursue holiness because He told us. It’s all in the Bible. And as children of God, we go from just being hearers and knowing something about it, to living by it. It’s the family story and the family expectations.
Being a child of God means being transformed. That is what “born again” means. It’s more than a profession of faith; it’s a new life in the Spirit. And it’s a life that resembles Jesus as we live out His Word daily. Yes, we will sin. But when we do, we know that we are still family and that Christ has made a way for us to be forgiven and accepted as children of God.
Written by Barnabas Piper