This week lead pastor Keith Welton continues with lesson 3 in the 4-part sermon series The Good News. To listen to all the sermons in this series, click here.
We are in a series called The Good News, and we are talking about the heart of the Christian faith. We are in this series in large part because earlier this year I read J. I. Packer’ classic book Knowing God. It was a deep encouragement to me. It was eye-opening in several ways. One was his teaching on the importance of the doctrine of adoption.
God has done a profound work for us in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior of the world. He saves us from all the problems in the world and in ourselves. It is such a deep and profound work, that the New Testament uses many different words and images to convey all that God has done for us. Last week we saw the importance of the doctrine of justification. It is a word from the legal world, when a judge declares a person righteous, and in the Bible pertains to how God declares us righteous in Christ. All past sins can be forgiven. This is an important part of the Christian faith. I have studied it a lot, taught on it, heard others teach on it. It is a central idea to the Christian faith. But J. I. Packer said the first point about the doctrine of adoption is “that adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers, even higher than justification.”
“Justification is the primary blessing because it meets our primary spiritual need.” But adoption is the highest blessing because of the richer relationship with God that it involves (Packer, 206).
He further adds, “To be right with God the judge is a great thing. But to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”
This takes us from a sterile courtroom to the living room. From an impersonal connection with a judge, to an intimate relationship with a Father.
Many of you know God the lawgiver and judge.
Get everything done for the judge. You do what you need to get by, but you don’t love him. And today we are going to see that we should treat him as our loving heavenly father. Not just a person to do stuff for and process us through the system. But to know and relate to us. It is astounding that a judge would call a guilty person guilty, and then pay the fine they owe, and at that point declare them fully in line with the law. It is a step further for the judge to say, “And I will be a Father to you.”
Being adopted by God the Father is the greatest blessing you can have.
Adopted through Christ
The word adoption comes from Latin ad and option. “Add” and “choice.” It is to choose to add. It is used to denote a person being legally added into a family.
The biblical meaning is best stated by John Owen. “Adoption is the authoritative translation of a believer, by Jesus Christ from the family of the world and Satan into the family of God, with his investiture in all the privileges and advantages of that family.” In one sense we are all children of God. We are created in his image and called to serve him. But we have all turned from him to go our own way. We have followed the ways of the world. Jesus stated it in the parable of the prodigal son. The son took his inheritance from his father, treated his father as if he was dead and went off to “live it up” in another land. The prodigal was left in the muck and mire with no money, no home, no belongings, and eating what the pigs ate. He has nobody but himself in the world.
Sin separated us, but God the Father kept loving his children. He sent his son to die for their sin, to bring them back to him, and to show the full extent of his love for his children.
Jesus came to redeem. They had fallen into slavery, and he bought them back. Redeem is the purchase price paid for another to free them. The price he paid was his life.
We are forgiven. We are set free from the power of sin. We are accepted by the Father and brought into his family.
Slave market in Charleston.
People would be bought and sold for a price. They had done nothing wrong but were oppressed and stolen. Biblically, we were enslaved through our poor decisions, sold ourselves into slavery and traded the family of God for the world. Yet God would choose to redeem us, and to redeem us by paying the price of his own life.
According to Owen (208) adoption consists of five things:
- That a person was actually, and in his own right, of another family than he is adopted into.
- That there is a family into which he has no right to be grafted.
- That there is an authoritative, legal translation of him, by those with power, from one family into another.
- That the adopted person be freed from all the obligations that be upon him unto the family from whence he is translated.
- That by virtue of adoption, he be invested in all the rights, privileges, advantages, and title to the whole inheritance of the family into which he is adopted.
Every Christian should be able to relate to being adopted. You don’t deserve it, but God has had mercy on you.
The Son of God redeemed you that you might have his position. Saved by adoption through propitiation. Jesus was the Son of God. He gives us what was his.
Jesus took on him all that sin made ours, so that we might have all that righteousness made his
Benefits of Adoption
"Abba! Father!" combines aspects of supernatural authority and care for his people. He is not a stranger, not a teacher or boss with no interest in the person outside of work time. He is our primary caretaker, provider, protector.
Carer, Provider and Protector
He knows us. He cares. We pray to our heavenly Father. Your Father may have you do hard things right now. Jesus had hard things to do. All the disciples went through hard times. Much loss and suffering. But if you are a child of the King, he is going to take care of you.
- Provides direction. We read his word, not as the word of a city official limiting the freedom and joy of people, but as the wise advice and admonishing of a father to care for his child. Provision of Holy Spirit. If he has sent his Son to die for our sins, what is he now going to withhold from us?
- Inheritance. God has a wonderful inheritance for his children. What do you think Bill Gates might leave his children? I assume they will be well taken care of. I don't think they will be living on the street and scrounging for a place to park it. When you are adopted into a family, you have a legal claim to the assets of the family. In Christ, we become heirs!
- Slave to Son. Why would they use the term son? In this time period sons were promised the inheritance. A father’s inheritance would be passed on to his son. This communicates that in Christ God treats all of us as sons in the sense that we are promised his inheritance.
- There is a future reward coming to you. We will suffer now. There are times our earthly fathers have us do hard things to prepare us for something in the future. We see the purpose. God does the same thing. He disciplines us that it might yield a harvest of righteousness. I don’t know all the things you have been through. But he does. And he is able, and one day he will make all things right.
- Family. We have a new family in Christ. We are brought into a deep and abiding relationship with others who know God as their Father and awaiting a future inheritance, which they do not deserve, and that will make sense of all the hardship and problems now. I can’t help but think that how little we think about the blessing of having God as father is aided by how little we think of the church as a family. We don’t think about what he has secured for us. We don’t look to him as Father and we don’t look to others as family, whom we should love and care for, and who should love and care for us. What people weigh on your heart? That’s a church! March in and march out of church. Stop and connect. Related. Loneliness epidemic. We don’t dwell on God being our Father who is with us. Don’t dwell on others being our brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you are a child of the King then live like it. Some people like to hoot and holler and scream. Are you dejected and discouraged? Turn to your heavenly Father. Burned out and depressed? Look to your heavenly Father. Angry and confused by life? Turn to your heavenly Father. Feel hopeless and directionless, then turn to your heavenly Father. But if we can come to see what God has done for us, it leads to living differently. We have to see that.
You cannot add anything to what God has done for you. All we contribute is the sin that Jesus had to take away.
Receive what he has done for you. Bought by him, receive him. Humble yourself that you need him.
Many treat God not as a Father, but as a sugar daddy. This is the culture we live in. Come to God when we need something, not really interested in serving him, or knowing him, loving him. But will do a few things in order to get what we want.
Go to church and hope things get better. When they do, you just move on. You go back to your old ways, to your old family, to your old you. That is not living as a son. That is slavery to the world. It separates you from what God has for you.
You can be a child of the King or a slave to the world, but you can’t be both. You can’t live for the world and call God your father. You can’t abandon his children and claim the inheritance.
God has made a way for his children to come back to him. God has made it clear his love, his inheritance, his hands are open to all who come back to him, but you have to return to him with all your heart. You surrender.
Turning to God means turning from everything else, and turning to the world means turning from God.
What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest is that a Christian is one who knows God as Father. Not about doing things, but about a relationship. Rewired.
“The immediate message to our hearts of what we have studied in the present chapter is surely this: Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home, every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too” (Packer). God has taken you from the gutter and made you a child in his own house.
God invites us into his house, as his children, but we have to take and receive what he has done for us. Opportunity to take and receive.