Thank You: Adopted by God
9/25/2017 7:44:57 PM
“Thank You: Adopted by God”
September 17, 2017
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Galatians 3:26-4:7
[pic] I want you to imagine you’re a little boy living in Africa, Uganda to be specific. Your family consists of you, your mom and dad as well as an older brother. Life is good. Your family looks after you. But then your parents get sick. They don’t get better. They die, leaving you and your brother to fend for yourselves. Your older brother does his best to provide food for the two of you, but you wind up living on the streets. Both of you are dirty and hungry. Then your brother gets arrested. He is accused of being involved with drugs somehow. He goes to jail. Now you’re left on your own.
Every day you wander the streets, begging for food or money. You’re not alone either. There are other children in your city begging too. People are often callous. They don’t give often or much. You’re hungry.
One day, you find your way into a nice restaurant filled with people. You’re not sure how you got through the door without being turned away, but you did! You go from table to table, asking for food or money. At one table, a man sitting there looks at you and scolds you! “What are you doing in here? You are all dirty. You can see this is a nice restaurant. Why are you bothering people during their meal? You should stay outside!”
You burst into tear and run outside. You sit down in the dust beside the road. A few minutes later, the same man comes outside too and sits beside you. He apologizes for raising his voice. He apologizes for making you cry. Then he asks you why you’re begging, why you are so dirty. Where are your parents? Where is your family?
Words come tumbling out of your mouth. You tell him about your parents getting sick and dying. You tell him about your older brother being sent to jail. Now you have nobody to help you and so you spend your days begging for food.
[pic] The man is kind. He tells you his name is Robert. He says he is going to be right back, just wait here for a moment. Your hopes rise! You think perhaps he is going back into the restaurant to get you some food! After a few minutes, made longer by anticipation, Robert returns. You stand up to meet him, but then you’re disappointed. He doesn’t have any food with him.
Robert looks down at you. He says, “You don’t have a family any more. How would you like to come home and be part of my family? I just spoke to my wife on the phone and she says it’s ok.”
Imagine how you would feel! Imagine going home with Robert and meeting his wife and 3 daughters. It turns out his daughters are adopted too! You’ve gone from being an orphan on the street, begging every day, to having a home, a family, food and even clean clothes! What an amazing turn of events!
What would that do for your future? What would that do for your day to day experience of life? How radical a change would that be? How amazing would that be?
[pic] If, in your new family, you had to do chores each day, would you mind? If you were expected to go to church every week, would you complain? If your new family put expectations on you about how you would behave, how you would speak to your parents, how you would relate to your siblings, would you be happy to fulfill those expectations? Would your gratitude at having a new family mean that you were happy to contribute by serving? Your new family would have expectation, requirements and even demands on you, your time and your attitude. But, because they are your family, because you are thankful, you would learn these new requirements and live up to them to the best of your ability!
This is a true story actually. Robert, the man in the story, is a pastor in Uganda. He is also a friend of my parents. He went to the States to study theology and while there he got to know my mom and dad. Robert and his wife couldn’t have children of their own, and over the years they wound up adopting 13 kids! Then, two years ago, Robert’s wife found out she was pregnant- with triplets! When I met Robert a year ago, he told me this story of adopting one of his sons.
In Canada, the stories of adoption are rarely as dramatic as Robert’s stories of adopting his children. (There are actually other dramatic stories from his family too!) But even in Canada, adoption has a profound
effect on the future and day to day life of adopted children. Being adopted into a family changes your identity. It changes how you see the world, how you act, what your priorities are. It shapes the overall trajectory of your whole life.
Emotionally Healthy Discipleship
Did you know that you have been adopted too? Spiritually speaking, we all start out as spiritual beggars, dirty, starving and living on the street. But when we find Jesus and surrender to him, we are adopted into the New Family of Jesus! So if you love Jesus you are adopted! And you haven’t just been adopted, but you’ve been adopted into a royal family! You have been adopted by the King and given full rights as a royal prince or princess. You stand in line to inherit tremendous wealth! If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sin and brokenness, and if you have turned over to him command of your life, then you have been adopted into the family of God! You are now a child of God and can call God “Dad!” And, as an adopted child of God, as a member of Jesus’ family, as his brother or sister, you stand to inherit a portion of the kingdom Jesus will inherit when he returns! Isn’t that amazing?!? Isn’t that awesome?!?
But what if being in the New Family of Jesus comes with expectations? What if there are requirements for how we live and how we relate to one another as members of this New Family of Jesus? Are you going to fight against those expectations? Or, out of gratitude and thankfulness, will you strive to learn those new expectations and do your best to meet them?
We are doing a series this month on gratitude. We are talking about being thankful for all that God has done for us. Why? Because for most of us, living and growing as Christians is hard. We struggle to find the motivation to learn from the Holy Spirit and submit to his work in us. We struggle to grow and live up to the expectations that come with being members of the New Family of Jesus. So, we are talking about gratitude, being thankful, in the hopes of finding new and greater motivation for cooperating with the Holy Spirit to take steps towards being made like Christ. Today we are talking about being thankful to God that we have been adopted into his family!
These expectations include things like ridding ourselves of malice and deceit, things like putting others first, laying down our lives or taking up our crosses. It means learning how to love one another, not in terms of warm feelings for one another, or hanging around and having fun together, but actually changing so that our primary concern in life is not our own well-being, but the well-being of others. That’s what love is, agape love. Agape love is a divine self-giving love primarily concerned with the well-being of others, in particular their spiritual well-being.
Coming up in October and November we will be exploring a challenging, but practical series on Emotionally Healthy Relationships-how we relate to one another in the New Family of Jesus. Change, especially lasting, meaningful change, can be very hard to implement. This is true of the change expected of us as part of the New Family of Jesus too.
What prevents change? What motives change? My hope is that we can begin to develop an attitude of gratitude to God for what he has done and that this new attitude will motivate us to change as a response to what God has done. If we respond in gratitude, it makes the change less of a grudging change. It shapes how we see the changes, not as chores to be done, or as barriers to overcome, but as worshipful responses of thanks to God.
Last week, we talked about the fact that we have been redeemed by Christ. Jesus paid the price to set us free. We talked about how slaves in the Roman Empire would save their money to buy their freedom. They would take the money to a temple and a priest from that temple would take the money to the slave’s owner to buy the slave on behalf of the pagan god. The slave would then belong to that pagan god! But in that change, the slave would have freedom. Redeeming us means Jesus paid our price to be set free, a price not paid in silver or gold, but his precious blood. And as a result, we belong to God.
This week, we are talking about the fact that we are not only redeemed by Christ, we not only belong to God, but we are adopted by God. We are not just set free from slavery to sin, we don’t just become the property of God, but God adopts us as sons and daughters into his royal family and we are made heirs with Jesus.
To see what this looks like, please turn with me to our scripture passage today, Galatians 3:26-4:7.
What It Says
Let’s consider for a moment what this passage says. Our first verse says that we are all sons of God. It doesn’t say “sons and daughters.” Why is that? Because in the ancient world, only sons could inherit! So to the women here today, I want you to know that you are included as “sons” of God because you are going to inherit the Kingdom of God too!
In England, Prince William and Princess Kate, recently worked to have the rules in England changed. Before their son George was born, they worked to have the rules for who would become the monarch of England changed. It used to be that the oldest son would become king. If there were no sons, then the oldest daughter would become queen. So if there was an older daughter, but a younger son, the son would become ruler instead of his older sister. Will and Kate had the rules changed so that moving forward the oldest child will become king or queen, regardless of gender! So even up until our day there have been different rules for sons and daughters when it comes to inheriting. But in the Kingdom of God, in the New Family of Jesus, both men and women will inherit equally.
How is it, though, that we become sons or daughters of God? Isn’t everybody God’s child? Well, yes and no. We are all God’s creation, we are not all God’s children. We are all God’s children in the sense that we owe our existence to him. But no, in general we are not all God’s sons and daughters because we are all rebellious. We have all rejected God in the brokenness of our sin. So when the Bible says that we are sons of God it means that we have been reconciled to God, that we are no longer in rebellion and we have been welcomed back into the family.
How does this happen? It comes through faith in Christ. Baptism is our outward sign of that inward change of our allegiance from following our own path to following Jesus. When we respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in us and we submit ourselves to Jesus for the forgiveness of our sin and putting him in charge of our lives, we “clothe ourselves in Christ.” We put on Jesus over top of ourselves.
[pic] One way to think of this is like a uniform. Think of a police officer or a soldier wearing their uniform. When we see a police officer, we don’t just see the individual, we see the authority of the government to uphold the law. Similarly, when in uniform, a police officer represents the government. They have expectations and responsibilities placed upon them through the uniform. They are expected to behave a certain way, to help people who need help, to stop people who are breaking the law, etc. Putting on the “blue” shapes their identity, their responsibility and the expectations put on them. Similarly, when we clothe ourselves in Christ Jesus, we have new expectations and responsibilities placed on us in terms of helping people in need, loving people, relating well to people, even our enemies.
This new identity in Jesus, this new “uniform” so to speak, is more important, more foundational to who we are than anything else. It supersedes race (Greek or Jew), it supersedes social status (slave or free) and it supersedes gender (male or female). When we clothe ourselves in Jesus, we are Christians first, Canadians second; upper, middle or lower class third; male or female last. Our primary identity is to be as beloved children of God over and above any other factors that shape who we are.
In our text, Paul then makes an illustration about the role of the Law in the OT. He speaks about how children, before they come of age, function like slaves, under the authority of guardians and tutors, even though they technically own the whole estate. The Law in the OT served like a tutor and guardian for God’s people until they came of age in Christ. This was necessary for Paul to point out to the Galatians because of certain issues they were dealing with at the time about the role of the OT Law for Christians.
But for our purposes, zero in on what Paul says about how God’s people came of age and the role of the Law was fulfilled: At the right time, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons! Remember what we talked about last week about being redeemed- Jesus paid the price to set us free from slavery! The price was his precious blood, blood from the perfect sacrifice who was without blemish. But, in being redeemed, we were not set free to ourselves, but rather we were set free from our old master (sin) to become the slaves of Christ! Our ownership passed from sin and death to God.
And thank God he does not treat us as most slaves are treated. Rather, belonging to God, we are adopted too. We are made members of his family, not just servants in his household. We become sons, not just slaves.
As a result of becoming sons of God through Christ, we also receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts. That is, the Spirit comes to dwell in the very core of our being and identity- our hearts. Not just our feelings, but our thoughts, our wills, our desires, preferences and imagination!
In fact, it is the Spirit who cries out within us “Dad!” to God. So we are no longer slaves, but sons and heirs! We go from being spiritual beggars, dirty, starving and living on the street, to being royal princes and princesses, with a heavenly palace for a home, cleaned up and given shining white clothes and filled with spiritual food.
Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that something to be thankful for? When we stop to think about it, it can and should be quite sobering. It is even more sobering to me when I think about how often I take it for granted, how often I take being a child of God for granted. My daily life is not very well shaped by this reality. I don’t think much about my future with God. I don’t think much about my spiritual state before coming to Christ. I don’t dwell on my past as being a spiritual beggar. And as a result, I get lazy about the expectations and responsibilities that come with being a prince in the New Family of Jesus! I don’t put in the work to rid myself of malice and deceit, slander and gossip and the like.
But if my identity is in Christ, then I need to do better cooperating with the Spirit to live up to the expectations of living in the New Family of Jesus. If I’m clothed in the uniform of Christ, I need to do a better job not letting down the uniform. The New Family of Jesus works a certain way. I need to get on board with that. It’s been 30 years or more since I came to Christ. I really should be more mature.
What It Means
What does it mean to be in the NFJ? What does that look like? Some of you may be thinking that the expectations of being in God’s family are a list of “don’ts.” For instance, “Christians don’t drink. Christians don’t dance. Christians don’t smoke. Christians don’t play cards.” Etc. That’s not what I’m talking about at all! What I’m talking about is living up to the example set by our Dad, our heavenly Dad, and our big brother, Jesus. I’m talking about learning how to be a member of this new family so we look and act like the head of our family.
[pic] Families are funny. We all have our own idiosyncrasies. Every family has its own rituals, habits and expectations. Sometimes they’re intentional. Sometimes they’re not. Did you hear about the woman who always cut the ends of her roast before she put it in the oven? One day her husband asked her why she did that. She stopped and thought about it. She admitted that she didn’t know, it was just the way her mom always did it. So she called her mom to ask her. Her mom stopped and said she didn’t know either, it was the way grandma always did it. So the daughter called grandma to ask her why 3 generations of their family always cut the ends off their roasts before putting them in the oven. Grandma answered, “Oh, that’s because my pan isn’t big enough to hold the whole roast, so I cut the ends off to make it fit.”
I know when I got married to Amy I found out some of the things that her family does differently than mine. For one, they make a much bigger deal about celebrations, especially birthdays and Valentine’s Day. In her family, if it’s somebody’s birthday, they get to sleep in, they get breakfast in bed, and lots of presents! Let’s just say, this was not made clear to me in our pre-marriage counselling or in our wedding vows. We got married in July, which meant Christmas was the next holiday, followed by Amy’s birthday in January, Valentine’s Day on Feb 14th and then my birthday on Feb 17th. So I had 3 times to let Amy down before she got to demonstrate for me what it means to have a birthday in her family. That was a rough couple months for Amy. There was a lot of disappointment over my lack of enthusiasm over her birthday or Valentine’s Day. A lot of unmet expectations that year. We had a talk. The next year I think I had forgotten the talk. Or at least it hadn’t completely sunk in as to what it means for it to be “her birthday.” I think I’m starting to catch on now, 5 years in.
It can be the same way in the NFJ. We don’t know, exactly, what the expectations are. We often fail to live up to those expectations many times before it starts to sink in. Others, too, often fail to live up to our expectations of Jesus- people too. We can be disappointed as well. It takes time to figure this stuff out. We need to be taught, we need to be willing to learn, but most importantly we need to be willing to practice what it means to “clothe ourselves with Christ.”
Last Spring, our small group talked about the character of God, what God is like. One of the most important passages about the character of God is found in Exodus [pic]. When God enters into his covenant with Israel, when he gives them the 10 Commandments as part of their covenant agreement together, the Lord comes
down and declares his name to Moses on Mount Sinai. Remember, names in the Bible are not just labels, they are a description of the person’s character. So when God declares his name, he is actually declaring who God is. Listen to these words describing God as he enters into a relationship with his people: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6b-7a) This is our Dad! This is the head of our family. Do we wear the family uniform well?
Let me ask you, does the church in general have a reputation like this? When people speak of the church, not just our church, but “the” church, do they think in these terms: compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin? I know that has not been my experience of church as a whole. That is not how the church is thought of in the West.
But this is the head of our family! This is what God is like. This is what the New Family of Jesus is supposed to be like.
Can you imagine what it would be like if the church was known for being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love? What would that do for Christianity in the West? What would that do for our congregation if we were known this way? What would it take for our church to be known as “the church, the church, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin!”? I think that would be pretty awesome! I also know that it is pretty far away. I think we’re a good church. I like being here. I think we are maturing well, but I know we can’t claim this as our character. We cannot realistically say this is our nature, our name.
But our identity is in Christ. It is more important than being black or white or Asian or anything having to do with our skin colour. Being in Christ is more important than if we are blue collar or white collar, educated or uneducated, wealthy, middle class or poor. It is more important than being male or female, young or old.
So how do we get there? How do we grow so that as individuals but, more importantly, as a community, we can realistically say we resemble our Dad? How can we mature to the point that people will speak of us as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”? Because this is what discipleship really is. This is what is means to grow as a Christian. Because this is what Jesus is like too. Remember, Jesus is fully God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus is God enfleshed for our sake. And Jesus is who we are supposed to be following and modelling our lives after. The Holy Spirit is trying to work in us to be like Jesus, to be godly in character.
Well, this is where the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship material comes in. Specifically, Emotionally Healthy Relationships teaches us practical skills we can learn and develop into habits to help us be more compassionate and gracious, to help us be slower to anger, to help us abound in love and the like. EHR is about how we live in the NFJ.
In the course, we will learn about putting others first, inquiring how they are doing in a meaningful way. We will learn how to put others first by listening to them well. We will learn how to stop mind reading and clarify our expectations so that we stop slandering people in our minds and setting them up to fail.
Other lessons teach us how to discern the bad habits we have picked up from our earthly families and how to allow God to dig deeper into our character to root out the spiritual weeds growing there. There is a skill on how to examine our own hearts in order to let go of offenses and grudges we hold against others. There are skills about fighting clean instead of fighting dirty. Finally, there is a lesson on how to build these habits into our lives and how to develop a plan to make these become habits that shape our character instead of just good ideas we heard one time and thought would be nice.
This is the direction our discipleship is taking here at Priory. We want all of us to learn what it means to live in the NFJ. We want to learn what it means, give practical guidance on how to do it, and then practice, practice, practice. Our hope and goal is that by developing these skills, our hearts will change and then our relationships will change. These are steps towards being an Ex 34 church- compassionate and loving, slow to anger, etc.
So in order to do that, we need you. We need you to make this a priority. We need you to clear your schedules for 8 weeks on Tuesday nights and join us to learn and practice these skills.
We plan for our future in so many ways. We have goals for our careers, and so we go to school, take courses, work extra hours in order to accomplish those goals. We have goals for our finances. We say, “what do I want my job/finances/house to be like in 5 years?” We work harder, set budgets, save money, make investments so that in the future our financial situation will be better. We plan for retirement. We plan on getting a bigger house, or later downsizing our house and using the money we make selling our old house. We have all these plans and goals and we make commitments to these goals that shape how we live day to day.
Our goal at Priory is for each of us to be Emotionally Healthy Disciples of Jesus. Our goal is to be like Jesus, to be like God, like Exodus 34, but also so many other passages. We want to see people who are broken in sin come to wholeness in Christ. So we are asking you to think, “What would I like my spiritual life to look like in 5 years?” What steps are you willing to take now to attain that goal in 5 years? Are you willing to spend some Tuesday nights growing?
You have 2 “to do’s” this week. First, clear your schedule for Tuesday nights starting Oct 10th. Sign up for EHR.
Second, as preparation for the Spirit to work in your heart, continue to spend 2 minutes twice a day in quiet stillness pondering how thankful you are to God for redeeming you and adopting you. Set your calendar app in your phone, write it in your daytimer, whatever method you use for making sure you don’t miss a Dr’s appointment, use for this appointment with Jesus. Put everything down and away. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Take a couple deep breaths and ask God to make you thankful. Focus on what God has done for you. As your mind wanders, bring it back with a “Thank you” or “redeemed” or “adopted.”
Do this for 2 minutes twice a day each day between now and when we start EHR. Develop an attitude of gratitude in order to soften your heart for the Spirit to work in there to help you live out your status as a member of the NFJ. Amen.
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