Who Am I ? - Adopted in Christ
Topic: Gospel Passage: Ephesians 1:3–1:6, Ephesians 5:1–5:2, Romans 8:17, John 1:2
Who Am I? Finding Our Identity in Christ
Grace Community Church
May 15, 2016
Adopted in Christ
Let's turn together to Ephesians 1. When I was 6 years old my mom and dad got divorced and I lived with my dad and would visit my mom a couple times a year. She moved to Illinois and got remarried, and at one point she and my stepfather moved into a carriage house on an elderly couple's estate. My mom made a very unusual request of me the first time I went to visit them there. She told me that the elderly couple was extremely strict and really uptight about who they allowed to rent the carriage house and one of the things they didn't allow were families with young children so she said if they happen to ask who you are, if you tell them you're my son they might get upset and we'll have to explain that you don't live here, etc, so it'd be a lot less complicated if they do ask who you are, to just tell them you're a friend of the family. That'll avoid a lot of headaches with them.
Being 8 years old, I thought this was pretty cool! To me it was like being sent on a super secret mission. The next day I was outside playing and sure enough I saw out of the corner of my eye the elderly couple walking towards me. I was so ready. I kept reminding myself "I'm a friend…I'm just a friend…". They strolled over to me and said hello, and then they asked me the question I had been waiting for: "and who might you be, young man?" Trying to sound as casual as possible I replied, "Oh, I'm just a friend of my mom's."
We are in a series on our identity in Christ and this morning we are going to look at the amazing, awesome, life-changing truth that in Christ we are more than just a friend of God, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
In love we are adopted in Christ
The Apostle Paul steers us into really deep theological waters in these verses, and it can raise a lot of questions that we're not going to deal with this morning, but the bottom line is that God chose us in Christ long before we were born, before the world was made, and in love God chose to adopt us as His children through the work of Jesus Christ. To be saved is to be adopted as a son or daughter in Christ.
But look at the two words at the end of verse 4 that describe what motivated God's heart to save and adopt us: in love. Adoption is one of the most beautiful pictures of love that we can possibly imagine. Adoptive parents choose a child that was not their child and then bring them into their homes and their hearts and their family as their very own child and love them. An adopted child is every bit as much the true and genuine child of the adoptive parents as a biological child is, and so it is with God's adopted children. 1 John 3:1 says, See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. I like the way the NIV translates it: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! There's no possible way that God could love us more than to adopt us and call us His children. God didn't trickle a little love on us - He lavished His love upon us by making us His children!
Many of you remember how in 2008 singer and songwriter Stephen Curtis Chapman and his wife lost their five year old adopted daughter Maria through a tragic accident. At the time Chapman shared a touching story about how they had come to adopt Maria. He had just returned from a tour in China and opened an e-mail containing a picture of him saying goodbye to a little orphan girl and this is how he described what he saw:
"As [the e-mail] opened, it was this picture of me kissing Maria goodbye in that parking lot in China about two weeks earlier," said Chapman. "And it was instant. I knew that that was a picture of a daddy kissing his little girl. It wasn't just a guy with a little child that needed a home, it was a daddy and a little girl. It was just so clear when I saw it."
He knew at that moment they were returning to adopt Maria. It was the love of a daddy for a little girl that was not his girl, but who would become his little girl by the precious act of adoption. That is the tender picture we see in this passage: in love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ. The gospel isn't the story of an impersonal God making an impersonal choice about us in eternity past. The gospel is a loving Dad seeing His sons and His daughters and choosing to adopt us as His own beloved children.
The most formative and influential power in a child's life is the love of their parents. It provides roots, security, confidence, and self-worth. The love of a parent, or the lack thereof, has a tremendously powerful shaping effect on a child. If you grew up knowing the unconditional love of a mom and dad, you know the impact that has had on your life. If you didn't know that love, if you grew up in a home where mom and dad didn't express their love for you, maybe the opposite - they expressed constant disappointment with you, God wants you to know this: in love God adopted you as His beloved son or daughter. Let that be your roots, your security, your confidence, your self-worth. That is our identity, in love we are adopted in Christ. That is more real, and more powerful than any earthly parent could be. Benjamin was born in a small village in Africa with the words: father disown on his birth certificate. Sarah was also abandoned by her father and horribly abused by her step-father. Melissa was aborted and left for dead at the urging of her grandmother. These are all terrible, painful things, but they aren't the last word, or the most important word, over the identity of these precious people. Because before they were born, before their parents were born, they were loved and precious in God's sight. And if our lives have great value in God's sight, we have great intrinsic value, no matter what anyone else - or everyone else - says.
Maybe someone here this morning never felt the love of your father or your mother and it seemed to leave a hole in your heart - a deep craving that maybe still drives you in ways. Maybe it left you feeling less than a whole person, like you don't have the roots that you feel that others have. Maybe your parents spoke words over you or did things to you that wounded you deeply, and shaped your thinking towards feeling you're not valuable, not worthwhile, not loved. You need to know that that simply isn't true. Allow the Holy Spirit to reach deep within your heart and convince you that your heavenly Father loves you beyond words, that He doesn't see you just as some person He's going to allow into His kingdom, He sees you as His daughter, as His son, and your heavenly Dad moved heaven and earth to adopt you as His own.
As God's adopted children we enjoy all the privileges of being a part of His family…and all of its responsibilities. I've often told our kids that they have the privileges of being a part of our family and they have the responsibilities. My kids don't have to ask permission to come into our home, or eat food in the refrigerator, they don't have to ask to use their bedrooms, or to use anything in the home. It's their home, their food, their room because they are a part of our family. At the same time they have certain responsibilities as part of the family and it's the same thing with being adopted into the family of God.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 1:12
That word "right" - translated "power" in the KJV, means the power to act with authority. Through faith in Christ we have the right or authority to be children of God. That right comes with privileges and responsibilities. And that's not a matter of the privileges being a good thing and the responsibilities being a bad thing. Both are important parts of being in a family. Let's look at a few privileges and responsibilities that being a part of God's family brings with it.
Christians have the privilege of being co-heirs with Jesus Christ and the responsibility of sharing in the suffering of Christ
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Rom. 8:17
Everything that belongs to God belongs to Christ and therefore belongs to us. That's what Paul means when he opens Ephesians saying that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Nothing has been withheld from us.
Have you ever visited a friend for an extended time? If you're like me, no matter how welcome the person makes you feel, you just don't feel the same freedom that you feel when you're in your home. It's a little uncomfortable going to the refrigerator, eating their food, or using their TV, or whatever. You're a guest and it's not your home. We won't be guests in heaven, it will be our home and everything will belong to us.
But Romans 8:17 adds a responsibility that honestly I think most of us would rather wasn't there: if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. That's not a fun verse but it's an important part of identifying Christ as our Lord and we need to see it as one of the responsibilities we have if we're a part of the family of God.
Paul's not saying that our suffering needs to be added to Jesus' suffering in order to qualify us for his kingdom. We aren't saved by our suffering. But if we confess publicly the name of Christ as our Savior, we have to expect to suffer for that name and we have to be willing to suffer humiliation and mocking and even persecution for the name of Jesus.
We don't need to look for persecution. We don't need to want to suffer or find ways to introduce suffering into our lives as if it was necessary for us to be saved. But we need to openly bear the name of Jesus - our elder brother - and we need to be willing to endure the rejection, hatred, mocking, and even physical suffering that he endured rather than disown Christ as our Savior. Jesus tells us that when we are hated and cursed and really bad things are said about us because of our confession of faith, we should rejoice because great is our reward in heaven. Don't avoid being spoken against or treated badly because of your faith in Christ, welcome it as evidence that you're a part of His awesome family.
Christians have the privilege of calling God our Father and the responsibility of acting like our Father
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
If we belong to the family of God, if God is our Father, there should be a family resemblance. Just like a young son or daughter is shaped and formed and influenced by their mom and dad's example, and they take on characteristics of their parents, so we should act like our Father in heaven.
But notice the order: imitate God as beloved children. Some of you might have had dads who made you constantly feel that you never measured up, that you had to perform and achieve before they'd be happy with you, and you could never quite do enough to satisfy them. As a young child - and maybe even to this day - you tried to meet their standards in order to be loved by them. That's not how God deals with us. We are to imitate Him because we are a beloved child, not in order to be a beloved child.
The most important way that we are to look like our heavenly Father is love. Look at verse 1 a little closer with me: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Love should flow through us because so much love has flowed to us. We are beloved children, and our big brother Jesus loved us and gave himself for us, so love permeates each of our lives and it permeates the atmosphere of our family.
A TV show that I enjoy watching occasionally is Blue Bloods. It's about a family, the Reagans, that for generations has been entrenched in law enforcement in NYC. But they have a family tradition that every Sunday the entire family gathers for a nice dinner together and talk about whatever issue is big in their lives. What is clear is that there is a set of values, codes, and honor, that permeate how they see life and how they want to represent the Reagan name. God's family has a set of values, priorities, codes, and things that heaven honors that should be what we want to emulate and how we want to represent our God and Father. How we want to represent our Lord, Savior, and elder brother, Jesus Christ. And the first value on that list is love. Next week Aron Osborne will be unpacking for us how we are to walk in love. Walking in love is the most important way that we are to resemble our heavenly Father.
Someone might say, what if a person prayed a prayer but there's been no change, no desire to know God or grow closer to God? What if there's no family resemblance and no desire to imitate the heavenly Father? I think then that person needs to ask the hard question of whether they have truly been born again into the family of God. We aren't saved by praying a prayer, we are saved by being born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and when that genuinely happens there will be a growing family resemblance.
Christians have the privilege of being disciplined by our Father and the responsibility of welcoming and responding humbly to our Father's discipline
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Discipline is never fun- but it's so necessary for the training and shaping of a child's character. Discipline is painful short term but avoids a world of hurt long term. And it's an expression of a parent's love. The Lord disciplines the one He loves. If God doesn't discipline you, then you are illegitimate and not sons (or daughters) - vs. 8.
The Lord is never, ever cruel or abusive in His discipline. It is always loving, and for our good. Our souls need to be corrected - don't ever think it's a good thing to live uncorrected. Our flesh wants to promote how right we are and avoid being corrected but that is so foolish. It's like the infant who stubbornly insists on walking towards a busy highway, unaware of the danger that lies ahead. God loves us enough to discipline us when we rush headlong in a direction that will destroy our lives and others. And sin always leaves a wake of destruction.
Not too long ago the topic of discipline - and dare I say it? spanking - came up in a family discussion. At points we were laughing about memories centered around the kids needing discipline. When administered appropriately in a loving way discipline doesn't drive a wedge or create a distance between a parent and their child, it is an expression of love that later in life, the child grows to appreciate. They belonged enough, they were loved enough to be disciplined for their own good. God the Father disciplines all those whom He loves and calls His children.
It can come in many forms, but when something is spanking your soul, don't fight it, learn from it. Submit to the discipline and allow God to shape you that much more into His image. The short term pain gives way to long time fruit of peace and well being as we are trained to live a more Christ-like life.
It's important to recognize that we are adopted "in Christ". Sometime ago I received a note with a check in it. The note said that there was a settlement and those who were named in the settlement received a portion of the settlement. The check I received was only for a couple dollars but I got that because my name was in the settlement. But the riches of Christ - the riches of being adopted so that everything that belongs to God belongs to you, is only "in Christ". Only possible through what Christ did for us by dying on the cross. If you are in Christ, you are God's beloved child and all of Christ's spiritual riches belong to you.
If you're not in Christ, won't you come to him today and give your heart to Him? John 1:11-12 says 11 He [Jesus] came to his own,[a] and his own people[b] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
But to all who did receive him. Will you receive him by faith this morning? Let's pray.
More in Who Am I?
July 3, 2016Who Am I ? - I Am a Citizen of Heaven
June 26, 2016Who Am I ? An Ambassador for Christ
June 19, 2016Who Am I ? I Am Secure Because I Will Never Be Forsaken by God Part Two