More Than Adopted – Accepted

Romans 8:12-25closeRomans 8:12-25 Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Future Glory 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (ESV) closeRomans 8:12-25closeRomans 8:12-25 Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Future Glory 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (ESV) Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Future Glory 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (ESV)

In the series “Grace is for Everyone”

Something that I’ve noticed about life is how we become so accustomed to something wonderful and then we take it for granted.  We become almost indifferent to things that are important in our lives.

For example, many of us take for granted that we have abundant food and clean water.  We take for granted that there is an atmosphere to protect us and clean air for us to breathe.

The same thing can happen in our Christian faith.  We hear so often that we are children of God, that we’re part of God’s family and that we will inherit eternal life. We hear these truths so often that we just sort of yawn with indifference at something so wonderful.

As we continue our series through the New Testament letter to the Romans, we are challenged not to take for granted our life as children of God and recipients of God’s grace that is available to everyone.  So far, the Apostle Paul has reminded us of our condition as people separated from God by sin and that there’s nothing we can do about that on our own.  We need help, and God has given us a free gift of grace through Jesus Christ to set things right between us.  Last week, in the first part of chapter 8, we heard that God has changed our identity. We were people “in flesh,” dominated by selfishness, but now through God’s grace, we are people “in Christ,” whose lives are renewed and led by the Spirit of God.

The gift of the Spirit in us gives us new life. It also works in us to change our sinful nature and restore in us the image of God in which we were created.  This is not something that happens all at once or automatically or even easily, because our old nature with its mindset and habits resists the change.  But the Spirit works in spite of those unhealthy and unholy parts of our lives to transform us into a reflection of Jesus Christ.

In addition, the Spirit convinces us of our new status and relationship with God.  Paul tells us in verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”   Notice that this is a present-tense statement, indicating this is our current reality when we are in Christ and God’s Spirit leads us.

If we are led by the Spirit, then the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in us and permeates all of our decisions and lives.  The Spirit leads us not just on Sunday morning in worship, not even all day Sunday, but throughout our entire lives.  We listen to the Spirit, seeking direction and following guidance.  Our identity has changed.

We are “children of God.”  He says that we have been adopted by God.  Paul is aware there is no Jewish tradition for adoption, but, as a Roman citizen, he knows of Rome’s well-developed process for adoption.  The adoptee became part of the new family; all ties to their previous family were broken. Any obligation or debt was cancelled – they were free.  The adoptee gained became a permanent member of new family, with all of the authority, responsibilities and privileges. They were now under the authority of a new father and belonged in the new family.  Even slaves could be adopted into the family they had served and become children of the family.

When Becky and I were engaged to be married, we talked about growing our family, and we discovered that each of us had, as single adults, thought about adopting children.  So, after our marriage, when we learned that growing our family biologically was not a realistic possibility, we began investigating adoption.  We completed waves of paperwork, submitted background checks and references, disclosed financial information, and considered child characteristic checklists. After a long process with some twists and turns along the way, we were approved and invited to submit our profile to agencies with children to place.  This went on for months and months, with no response.  We wanted children so badly, but were turned down with no reason given, except that we were new to the system and unproven.  It was so discouraging.  All along we’d been praying and asking for family to pray, and so we redoubled our efforts even as we struggled to hold on to hope.

That’s when our social worker told us about an 11-year-old boy who needed a new foster home, and we agreed to meet him in May 2015. And soon after, Josh joined our family, and on October 31, 2016, his adoption was finalized. He is our son.

In our desire to adopt children, we were willing to do anything we could to realize our dream – to bring children into our family.  It took time, completion of paperwork and legal process, patience and lots of perseverance to accomplish the adoptions of both our children.

How did God make our adoption happen?  God saw our need, that we were indebted to the flesh and sin. God loves us so much and desires to make everyone children of God that God took action to overcome the gap that separates sinful humanity from God.  God sent Jesus Christ into the world, and in love for us, Jesus gave up his life to bring us closer to God.  Our debts have been cancelled; we are free and we are claimed as children of God.  That calls for a response.

In our process to adopt Josh, there were multiple conversations between him and his social worker, between our social worker and us, and between us and him about whether or not he wanted to be adopted by us.  We had a choice, and so did he.  In the end, we all chose each other.

There was an older gentleman at our previous church who met Josh at one of our nursing home services.  He, too, had been adopted by a pastor’s family, and he shared with Josh what someone had told him once.  He said, “I wasn’t adopted, I was chosen.” He said that made all the difference to him.

In love, God chooses to offer grace to everyone, and God gives us the choice how to respond to the offer of adoption as daughters and sons of God.  When we put our trust in God and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are adopted and accepted into God’s family – all because of grace.

Timothy Paul Jones tells the story of integrating his 8-year-old adopted daughter into their family.  She came to live with his family after she had been rejected by another family. One of the ways they lived out their rejection was taking their biological children to Disney World, but leaving their daughter at home with a friend.

Jones and his wife decided to take their children, including their newly-adopted daughter, to Disney World for a family vacation.  But something unexpected happened about a month before the scheduled trip.  Their daughter became downright rebellious. She stole food; she lied when it was easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults at her older sister. As the departure date approached, she became more disruptive.

A couple of days before the trip, Jones pulled his daughter onto his lap to talk with her.  “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”  He had never entertained that thought, but in light of her comment, her behavior made sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way to Disney, so she was living in a way that would keep her from going.

Jones asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded with tear-rimmed, wide, brown eyes.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us. There may be consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong, but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”

At the end of their first day at Disney World, Jones asked her, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”

“Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I good; it’s because I’m yours.”[i]

It isn’t because we’re good enough that God has adopted and accepted us; it is because God is good and loving.  God has accepted us as full-fledged members of God’s family – God’s very own children.  There are no second-class children in God’s family.  Even on those days when we struggle, stumble and question whether we are truly God’s children, the Spirit of God that dwells within us assures of our status.  No, we aren’t good enough, but we are God’s own beloved children.

So God is no longer some far off, mysterious, almighty Being of whom we are afraid.  When we were in flesh, we were slaves to sin, and sin’s companion is fear.

Now, as God’s own children, we are no longer afraid, because God is our Parent.  Paul writes, “When we cry, “Abba! Father!”it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs…” (8:15c-17a).  Paul says that we cry “Abba! Father!” to God.  The term “Abba” was a familiar and intimate way Jewish children addressed their father.  It would be like someone calling their father, “Daddy”, or “Papa.”  Now Jews were familiar with God as Father, but they would never have dreamed of addressing God as “Abba.”

But Jesus prayed to God and called God “Abba.”  For instance, on the night we was betrayed, Jesus prayed to God in the Garden of Gethsemane this way: ““Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36closeMark 14:36 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (ESV) closeMark 14:36closeMark 14:36 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (ESV) 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (ESV) ).  As children of God, we are brothers and sisters with Jesus, and so we share the same intimate relationship with God that Jesus had.  God is our perfect, holy and loving Abba.

By God’s grace, we are more than adopted – we are accepted as children of God now … and there’s more to look forward to.  Paul says we are heirs with Christ; that means there’s an inheritance waiting for us.  God gives us grace now, and there’s more to come.

That’s important, because Paul reminds us that in this world marred by sin, there is suffering, tremendous suffering of all kinds.  We experience that now, along with the joy of God’s grace, and with all of the creation, we long for God’s redemption to come fully and bring glory.

Our adoption is effective now, but there’s more to come.   Josh and Hannah are our children now – their adoptions have been finalized, but there’s more to come.  Someday, they will receive the inheritance from our estate that is theirs under the law; it isn’t theirs yet; they have to wait for it.

In a similar way, we are adopted and accepted by God now, and there’s more.  One day, we’ll realize our adoption fully when we inherit eternal glory with Jesus Christ and God redeems the creation.  That means we enjoy God’s grace in the midst of life’s joys and sufferings now, while we also look forward with hope to the glory yet to be revealed to us.

All this is a gift from God that is available to everyone, a gift for which Jesus gave up his life.  Therefore, receive God’s grace, recognize you’ve been adopted and accepted into God’s family, and live each day with hope for eternal life promised you in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

[i] Adapted from Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, Proof: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (Zondervan, 2014), 81-84 as cited at https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/gods-love/.

 

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