Sunday, January 15, 2017

Adopted

It’s good to ask questions. Being curious is a first step to seeing the wonders of God. So, here’s a good question to consider. Why did Jesus come? There is, as you know, quite a list of good answers to that question. Here’s one that I’d like to help you think about this morning. Jesus has come so that we could be adopted into God’s family. Having received our newest members this morning, I thought it would be good for us to consider this part of the Gospel.

Listen to this from Paul.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4.4-7


Paul is using something familiar from Roman culture to explain the Gospel to those saints he was writing to: adoption. When it happened, adoption produced a very large change. I’ve read about cases where someone who had been a slave in a Roman household was adopted into the family. As you can imagine, his status changed quite a bit. As a slave, he could be ordered about by anyone in the family. But now, as a son, that is no longer the case. He is still under the authority of the head of the household, but there are now others who are under his authority. And not only that, but while he once called the head of the house, ‘Master’, now he could call him, ‘Father’. Paul is drawing on this to make his point about what Jesus has accomplished for the saints. Because of what Jesus has done, Christians undergo a great change. We are no longer slaves of sin and death. Now, we are sons of the most high God with all of the privileges that go with that.

Let me say that last sentence again, but in a way that I think will prove quite striking. Whatever it means that Jesus is a son and has God as His Father - whatever that means for Him, it means the same thing for you. You are sons of God. You are sons like He is a son. This is who you are. This is Paul’s main point. Jesus is a son. And you are sons.

That’s the basic idea of adoption. Let’s explore it a bit so that you can really enjoy it.

What if someone walked up to Jon or Lisa and said, ‘Come on. What are you trying to pull? Those aren’t your kids. They can’t be.’ How might Jon or Lisa respond to that? All that they would need to do is to show that person the kids’ updated birth certificates. And those updated birth certificates would show that JJ and Evie are Sabellas. And those updated birth certificates would have the authority of the state of New York behind them. Their status has changed, and there is something to point to to prove it.

Now, is there something that you can point to that declares that you have been adopted into the family of God? Of course, there is. It’s your baptism. Like JJ and Evie, your name has also changed. You’ve been baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The family name is yours. Baptism marks the change.

But we can’t leave it there. (And this is where it gets interesting.) You have been adopted into God’s family. Your baptism is the declaration of that fact. This is a great gift of the Gospel, a reason why Jesus has come. However - and this is a very big however - whether you enjoy this gift is up to you.

The Father will never kick anyone out of the family. But, as you know, there have been so many who have rejected the Father and have left the family. Here, think about the parable of the prodigal son. Now, it’s important to say that any who want to return to the family will be welcomed back by the Father. Again, think about the parable of the prodigal son. But if any want to leave, the Father will not stop them. It’s up to you to decide what you will do with the gift of being adopted into the family.

Now, that’s true not just in terms of staying or leaving. It’s also true in terms of enjoying the privileges of being a member of the family, privileges that became yours when you were adopted into the family. Consider the ones that Paul wrote about in that passage I read earlier.

You are privileged to call God, ‘Abba, Father’. Now, He is a really good Father. So, is it possible that you would call out to Him and find Him ignoring you? Will He ever be too busy, or think your needs as unimportant, or simply be too distracted to notice you? Is any of that even close to possible? The Father’s ear is always open to you. His eye is always watching you. And His heart yearns to do you good. You are, after all, His son.

But, will you take full advantage of that. Will you discuss with Him the issues of life you encounter? Will you ask for His take on what’s going on and how you can respond well to it? Will you enjoy the certainty that He is going to take care of you? Will you believe, in the details of life, that He is your Father? It’s a family privilege. It belongs to you. Will you believe this part of the Gospel?

Paul also wrote about the Spirit, that He has been sent into your heart. So, wherever you go, the Spirit goes with you. You are never alone. You are never left to figure things out on your own. You always have the comfort of the Spirit, whatever happens and wherever it happens. The Spirit has made His home in you. It’s a family privilege. It belongs to you. Will you believe this part of the Gospel?

Then, Paul writes that, as a member of the family, you are an heir, an heir of the Father. The inheritance is yours. But what is the inheritance? Here’s one rather striking way to answer that question. What does Jesus inherit? I’m sure that it isn’t some little nothing. Jesus will inherit something glorious. And whatever that is, you inherit it also. How do I know that? Paul wrote elsewhere that you are a fellow heir with Christ. Whatever Jesus gets because He is a son, you get because you also are a son. So, the future that you will experience will be breathtaking. It’s a family privilege. It belongs to you. Will you believe this part of the Gospel?

Then, there’s one more privilege that I want to talk about. But I want to spend a little more time on this. As a member of the family, you are blessed with the Father’s constant acceptance and approval. Please note those words: constant acceptance and approval. What the Father said to Jesus, His son, He says to you, His son.

You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Mark 1.11

The Father says this to all His sons. He says this to you. And He doesn’t say this to you once you’ve earned it. And that’s really good because even on our best day we wouldn’t be good enough to earn it. But you don’t have to earn it. Jesus has earned it, and He’s earned it for you. So, as far as the Father is concerned, it’s always true that,

You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

It’s a family privilege. It belongs to you. Will you believe this part of the Gospel?

Let’s make this real with a question. Who are you? Here’s one really good way for you to answer that question. ‘I am a Christian, a member of God’s family. That means that God is my Father, and He deeply loves me. Jesus is not ashamed to be called my older brother but rather relishes the thought. And the Spirit has gladly made His home in me so that He can always be right here with me. By the grace of God, I am a member of this glorious family.’

Now, let’s tweak things a bit. Let’s say that you’ve just done something stupid. I mean really stupid. Again. Now, with that in mind let me ask you that question. Who are you? Do you answer that by saying, ‘I’m this jerk who does stupid things. No one should care about me. I’m ashamed of what I have done, and I’m ashamed of who I am. I am such a loser.’

Some of you hear those words from time to time. Sometimes you hear it from others. Oh, they don’t say it in those words. They may not, in fact, say any words. Sometimes it’s just a look that speaks volumes. And what’s worse, there are times when you say those words to yourself, and you believe them. But, has anything changed? Are you no longer a son, a member of the family? Does the Father have a different attitude toward you now? Is Jesus now ashamed of His relation with you? Is the Spirit re-thinking His choice to live in you? What has changed? Nothing. You are still God’s son, still accepted, still approved. Nothing has changed.

‘But wait’, comes the reply, ‘I just did something really bad, really stupid. Something must have changed.’ Well, let’s work through this. Did you sin? Sometimes there was no sin. Sometimes it’s just a mistake. But let’s say you sinned. Ok. You know what to do when that happens. Repentance and faith. Let’s say that you’ve done that. So, what needs to happen now? Some penance? Really?!? No! The matter has been dealt with, and it is gone. Isn’t that what all those verses we read during the Declaration of Pardon say? So, what is the Father saying now?

You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

You are still a member of the family, still accepted, still approved. Nothing has changed. It’s a family privilege. It belongs to you. Will you believe this part of the Gospel?

Let me repeat something I said earlier.

You have been adopted into God’s family. Your baptism is the declaration of that fact. This is a great gift of the Gospel, a reason why Jesus has come. However - and this is a very big however - whether you enjoy this gift is up to you.

What I dearly want for all of you is that you will believe this part of the Gospel - in the good times and especially in the bad - and thus enjoy the privileges of being a member of the family.

Last thought. Why is this important? Here’s just one reason. This is important for the sake of confidence. We have been called to change the world. That is a huge and a glorious calling. But how can we do that if we are timid and anxious and continually beating ourselves up? Obviously, that won’t work. But if we are sure that we are members of the family, and if we have a decent grasp of what that means - that we are sons like Jesus is a son - if we believe this part of the Gospel, then we will pursue our calling vigorously and boldly deal with and overcome all the obstacles that evil throws at us. We will live with confidence and change the world.

No comments: