Why Do We Need Physical Rest?

TGPblog315x851final

This was originally posted at The Gospel Project site. To see the entire series click here.

The Need for Physical Rest

As we get older, it is inevitable that we will wear down physically. In turn, our need for rest and recuperation becomes more noticeable. At least, that’s been my experience in the last few years. When I do not get as much rest as I need, I become impatient and irritable towards my family and friends. So, the older I get, the more I cherish rest. Many nights I collapse into the bed exhausted, and sink into the mattress from the weight of the day’s activity.

Physical rest repairs and rebuilds the body and mind. When we exert ourselves physically or mentally, we long for the restoration of our energy. Researchers have shown that both the physical stress of manual labor and even the emotional stress of a desk job require subsequent rest for the body and mind to recuperate.

Many of us need more rest; we live in a culture that forfeits rest to chronically overwork. Studies have shown that the average American doesn’t get nearly enough sleep for what their body requires to function at peak performance. This scientific information is good and all, but research can only offer observations about rest and our need for rest. The Bible, on the other hand, can actually offer the deeper reasons for unrest and lasting motivations for rest.

A Theology of Rest?

What actually drives us to unrest is rooted in our hearts, usually idolatry. For example, the workaholic sacrifices rest to the god of success, power, and productivity. This pattern can be seen in almost all areas of our life. The good news is, God is not silent about our need for rest nor has He left us without good reason or motivation for rest. The Bible is very clear that humans need rest, and interestingly enough, rest teaches us something about God.

Physical Rest is a Gift from God

God building in the need for rest in the lives of His creatures is a gift of grace. In Psalm 127, we read that God “gives to His beloved in his sleep.” The nights that I sleep well lead to mornings when I am most refreshed and days that I am most productive. Let’s face it; the anxieties of everyday life can wear us down to the point of physical and emotional fatigue. I am thankful that the infinite God granted this finite man the need for rest. In fact, it is impossible for a finite being like you and I to live well without rest.

Physical Rest Reminds us that We are not God

Again, the psalmist proclaims that God will “neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). How different from us? We need rest. If we do not rest it has massive implications for our physical, emotional, and mental health. However, God does not need rest. Not only is God all-powerful (not needing rest), He is ever-watchful (watching us while we rest). For some of us it is a scary thing to consider that we lay down all control and consciousness when we sleep. The most powerful people in all of humanity spend a third of their lives asleep, as helpless as an infant, and the world still progresses. Simply put, we are not God.

Physical Rest requires us to Relinquish Control

God handles the world quite well while on His own. God is sovereign over our world while we are awake, even more so when we are at rest.  John Piper once said, “…Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign.” We’ve all heard the hard worker wax all self-righteously about his/her early morning and late night working hours, as if they run the world. How silly. It’s better to work well and sleep well, rather than to sacrifice rest in an effort to stay in control.

Lying Down and Laying it Down

God intended sleep to be a gift, a time every day where we remind ourselves that we are not God, and that God is in control. If you are like me, you probably have trouble sleeping when you are worried about something. Well, Jesus is pretty clear on the fact that worrying accomplishes nothing (Matthew 6:27-29).

So, I’ve learned that when I lie down to sleep it helps me to say to myself, “God, I am powering down, even though there is a ton to do, and lots to worry about, You are awake, working, and in perfect control, so I trust You to handle what I can’t.” It helps me rest well knowing that everything is in His hands.

I Just Received My First Book Contract!

about_main_image

Last night I signed my first book contract. If you cannot tell by my picture below, I am thrilled. I will be writing a 12-week study on the book of Hebrews for Crossway‘s “Knowing The Bible” series. I am not only excited about publishing a Bible study; I am also excited about the series as a whole. Here is the vision for the Knowing the Bible:

The Knowing the Bible series is a new line of Bible studies designed to help Bible readers better understand and apply God’s Word.

Each study covers one book of the Bible over 12 weeks, making practical applications and connections between the passage and the rest of Scripture. The series is edited by theologian J. I. Packer, and includes contributions from an array of influential pastors and church leaders. Perfect for both small groups and individuals, these gospel-centered studies will help you see and cherish the message of God’s grace on each and every page of the Bible. Each study includes:

  • Reflection Questions designed to help you engage the text at a deeper level
  • Gospel Glimpses highlighting the gospel of grace throughout the book
  • Whole-Bible Connections showing how a passage connects to the Bible’s overarching story of redemption culminating in Christ
  • Theological Soundings identifying how historic orthodox doctrines are taught or reinforced throughout Scripture

I am thankful for Dane Ortlund and Crossway, who are granting me this opportunity. Pray for me, that I write well for the glory of God and the good of the church!

photo (2)

Reflections on Fathering an Adopted Son

CBMW

I recently had the privilege of sharing part of our adoption story at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website. My post was focused on “Fathering an Adopted Son”. Here is the conclusion:

I count our adoption as a great privilege and stewardship granted by God. When we celebrate birthdays, watch movies as a family, and wrestle like superheroes I am reminded of the beauty of adoption that brought us together as a family. This child who was once an orphan now loves me and calls me daddy. When I look at him I don’t see our differences, I see my son. The first time I held him as a baby in the agency house on a hillside in Africa, I fell in love with him. As we stood in front of the judge in Addis Ababa and she pronounced that we were his parents, I felt the weight of the profound task of fatherhood.  Though I am not a perfect father, here are two things I do know: God providentially arranged for Solomon to be in our family, and I am called to continue the Christian heritage passed unto me by my own father – both in gospel word, and kingdom deed.

Through our adoption I have learned many things about fatherhood, and more importantly, many things about the gospel. My prayer is that our story would encourage all who read it.

A Theology of the Beard…?

To beard, or not to beard? This has become a popular question. And it would seem that many men are choosing to let their beards grow. You might notice the style experts reporting on the dominance of beards in popular culture over the clean-shaven perfectly smooth face. Not too long ago a campaign for Gillette starred three cultural icons sporting facial hair – yes, remaining facial hair in a razor commercial. Why? Because the beard is a phenomenon. And the beard phenomenon is not only growing in popular culture but also in Christian culture.

spurgeon-said-bgmOne might argue that the recent popularity of beards in Christian circles is a demonstrative protest against the decline of gender differences in our society. Maybe the growth of beards in Christian circles is cultural or contextual mimesis of hipster trends. Perhaps the popularity of the beard is simply an appreciation for it as a masculine ornament. At least one thing is clear, beards are continuing to grow in Christian circles. Perhaps you’ve seen the website Bearded Gospel Men? In case you missed it, Leadership Journal recently ran an article titled The Beards of Ministry in which they proclaim, “the beard is back in a big way. Along with celebrities, bike messengers, and your local barista, pastors are no exception to the glories of facial hair. The ministry beard has a long and glorious history among preachers, theologians, and everyday men of the cloth.” (Don’t miss their graphic)

The beard does have a long and rich history. For the Ancient Israelites in the Old Testament a full rounded beard was an ornament signifying manhood, a source of pride.[1] The Hebrew men carefully maintained their beards. For the more affluent men beard care was ceremonial. While we don’t find too much in the Bible concerning beards, there are a few descriptive passages to read while twirling your chin hair;

  • For the Israelites in the Old Testament the beard was never to be shaved, only trimmed (Lev. 19:27; 21:5). The only time a beard was to be shaved was in the circumstance of an infectious disease (Lev. 14:9).
  • As a sign of lament, men in mourning would often shave or even pull out their beards (Ezra 9:3; Is. 15:2; Jer. 41:5, 48:37).
  • The prophet Ezekiel was instructed by God to shave his beard as a sign of desecration and shame, pointing to the coming destruction on Jerusalem (Ezek. 5:1).
  • Since the beard was a symbol of masculinity in ancient culture it was a grave insult to damage someone’s beard. Once on a mission, David’s men suffered grave humiliation when their beards were half shaved by the Ammonites. They didn’t return to Jerusalem until their beards had grown back (2 Sam. 10:4-5).
  • Isaiah depicts the pulling out of a man’s beard as emasculative and shameful (Is. 7:20, 50:6).

There is not much in the Bible concerning beards. Even so, theologians and preachers have taken up the subject of beards. Augustine once argued that “there are some details of the body which are there for simply aesthetic reasons, and for no practical purpose—for instance… the beard on [a man’s] face [which is] clearly for a masculine ornament.”[2] Similarly, Charles Spurgeon contended that growing a beard is “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.”[3] So, what are we supposed to do with all of this? I am not sure. This post was written for fun and theological novelty. Clearly, God does not command all men everywhere to grow their beards, nor are beards the quintessential mark of  masculinity. But maybe the thought of a beard will grow on you…

Continue reading “A Theology of the Beard…?”

In Honor of Will Toburen: The Transition to Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

Today marks the end of Will Toburen’s pastoral ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Will’s legacy will continue at Calvary for many years to come. Will served as an Associate Pastor and Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary for well over a decade. He will now join the pastoral team at the Summit Church in Durham as the Executive Pastor for Discipleship Ministry. I’ve talked with the Summit’s pastor J.D. Greear recently and he, along with the rest of their team, is excited to welcome Will to their staff. What a great addition to an already stellar team!

photoWhen I came to Calvary as a seminary student in the Calvary School of Pastoral Leadership in 2006, Will along with Al Gilbert immediately pulled me in and began investing in my life. These two men have a very special place in my heart (and heart of hearts). They have both shaped my own life and ministry in ways they may never fully know. As for Will specifically, I view him as an older brother in the Christian life. A much wiser brother.

Will’s belief in me, his loving support, and his timely challenges have been formative and affirming – something that every Christian needs and few have the opportunity to receive. Not only has Will become a dear friend, he was part of our wedding ceremony, supported our adoption process, and always encouraged me to grow in ministry through preaching, teaching, and dozens of other ministry opportunities in the local church. Since I cannot be at Calvary for his last Sunday, or attend his going away fellowship, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Will here.

Will is a gifted preacher. I would put him up there with almost anyone. While Will is one of the best, he will never seek his own fame – he gladly points to the Father. I watched Will bring passion and humility to the pulpit for almost 7 years. First and foremost, Will always preached with Jesus as the center of his sermons. Will understands the gospel and works hard to apply the gospel through every text he preached. Will was also humbly honest from the pulpit. One of the things I valued dearly in his ministry was his willingness in admitting where he had failed and where he could work harder in his own personal life. Unlike some preachers who believe that one must always “have it together” to maintain strong leadership, he lead through repentance and humility.

While he was strong in the pulpit, he was so gentle with the people. Calvary loves Will. He grew up at Calvary. He was taught in Sunday School by many of the people who eventually sat under his preaching. I could always sense the mutual endearment when Will would visit some of those dear saints in the hospital or when he would stand by them as they slipped into eternity. I have watched Will weep with those who weep, hold congregants hands when they needed a pastors love, and celebrate the joys of life with many of the people. These are lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. When I think of servant leadership – many of my lessons were learned under Will.

As a West Campus team we would meet once a week to pray, plan, and hold each other accountable. Each week Will would not only ask us hard questions, but he would also ask for our feedback on his life and ministry. He was always quick to go above and beyond to serve others. He rightly sought chances to grow and learn from others, even guys like me who were well under his ministry age. As I look back I can only conclude that Will wanted to be the most God honoring pastor that he could be. He wanted to preach the word with clarity and with Jesus as the hero. He also wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit when it came to his own life. And being open to allow others to speak into his sanctification process speaks volumes of his character and love for the church.

Strong in the pulpit, gentle in the hospital room. Always growing, and desiring others to grow. Like all of us Will has his faults, but he acknowledges them seeking to grow in the gospel. More importantly, Will loves Jesus, loves his family, and loves the church. I am grateful for our years of ministry together. I am also thankful for our friendship. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this gentle giant of the faith.

I love you as a dear brother Will, and pray that God would continue to bless you as you begin this new chapter. Rock that sweater vest in your new ministry setting.

The Funniest Oil Anointing Story Ever…

In light of pastor appreciation month I wanted to share this video clip from one of Will Toburen‘s recent sermons. This story is famous around our church. I love and appreciate Will’s friendship, leadership, and gospel-centered preaching – I also appreciate his humility and sense of humor. Enjoy!… and share the joy with others.

The Beauty of Our Adoption into God’s Family

Click Here for PDF 

Introduction

In his classic work Knowing God, J.I. Packer poses and answers a very simple, yet profound question that gets to the heart of our faith. He writes:

“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…[He continues] If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.”[1]

Now, within this room we have various experiences concerning fatherhood; experiences that will influence how you approach the topic of fatherhood. Some of us have had wonderful fathers and see that God is like that, only more so. Some of us would say: my father disappointed me over and over. But, I pray, you will see that God is very different. Some of you in this room have never known what it is to have a father on earth. Hopefully, after considering the doctrine of adoption you can have a renewed thankfulness to God that you have a Father in heaven. In many ways the doctrine of adoption is one of the great theological categories that has been ignored in recent church history. For this reason, I would suspect that many Christians have at best a weak sense of their own sonship. Or, as puritan pastor Thomas Manton said, “years may transpire before the believer who is adopted by God may know that he is adopted, have a deep sense of feeling of it.”[2] Perhaps far too many people experience a relationship with Father God that seems somewhat remote and distant, failing to realize the intimacy and freedom we have in the gospel.

A Story of Adoption

I will always remember the moment that Laura and I received Selamu into our care. We were in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our driver came and picked us up from the guest house we were staying in and drove us through the city into the hills and up to a gated house. It was a house full of orphaned children and infants. Laura and I stood outside the gate while one of the agency case workers went inside, walked up to the second floor, and picked Selamu up out of his crib. He was in a room with about 6 other babies. Over the next few moments we could hear all of the women behind the gates kissing on and saying goodbye to little Selamu. Our worker opened the gate, walked out into the street, and handed us our son, Solomon. For what would happen next, I was woefully unprepared.

We turned and got back into the van. We got situated. Laura was holding Solomon. And as the van pulled off, Solomon started screaming and crying frantically. This little child had no clue what was going on. We were pulling baby Solomon away from everything he had ever known. But after a few minutes, he reached his little arms around Laura’s neck and tightened his grip, holding on for dear life. Sure, Solomon was holding on to Laura, but what really mattered, was Laura who was holding on to Solomon. And Laura and I knew where we were going. We also knew that he was our son. It’s been a year now since Solomon was placed in our arms and the stranger the he wrapped his little baby arms around in that frightening moment in a van in Ethiopia, he now knows as “mommy.” That is the beginning of Solomon’s story with us. There is also a beginning to our story as a people.

A Biblical Theology of Adoption

If we start at the very beginning of creation, you know that God lovingly creates Adam and Eve. They were created in the image of God and thus were the living images of God on earth. Adam bore a relationship to God much like a child to a parent, begotten by the Father. Yet when Adam and Eve sin and break fellowship with God, they are cast out of God’s presence and away from his care. In essence, Adam and Eve orphaned the whole human race. Yet, we are not merely orphans, our plight is much worse, we were orphaned into slavery under sin.[3]

Ever since then, the human race has not intimately known the love of the Father in the purest sense. And yet, even though the relationship was broken at the fall, very quickly we see the adoptive love of God. Several generations later God chooses Abraham and proclaims, through your offspring I will make you a Father of a mighty nation, a nation that will be a blessing to the whole world. As the story continues, people are fruitful and multiply. Out of the many nations there is one nation that is small and weak, from the seed of Abraham, Israel. God adopts Israel as “son” through a covenant relationship, and redeems Israel from slavery. Several times in the Old Testament God calls Israel “my son.”[4] The imagery is that of a tender and loving father raising his child, disciplining his child, and showing mercy to his child.[5] Out of Israel God raises a King, David, to whom God promises “I will be a Father to him, and he shall be my son to me,” speaking of David’s offspring.[6]

Seen here, the promise made to Abraham is set by the adoption of Israel, narrowed by the lineage of David, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true son of God that will succeed where God’s first son, Adam, failed. Jesus is the one who is from the family of Abraham who will be the blessing to all nations. Jesus is the one from the royal lineage of David who will reign on the throne forever. Now “adoption is never used of Jesus because he had always been a son of God by nature, and unlike us, he does not need to be adopted…into a new relationship with God as Father.”[7] But we do. Our first parents orphaned us. In the New Testament it is very clear that when you repent of your sinfulness and place your faith in Christ, you are adopted.  You are brought into the family of God. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:26, “…in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” As Children of God we find our identity from the Father, our intimacy from the Father, our imperative from the Father, and our inheritance from the Father.

Galatians 4:1-7

[1] I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, [2] but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. [3] In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. [4] But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

[6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Our Identity from the Father (4:6a)

You often hear people say things like “all people are children of God”. However, “the idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere.”[8] Now, there is a sense in which all human beings are God’s offspring by virtue of being made in his image,[9] but the language that Paul uses here in verse 6 reveals a much deeper kind of relationship. The Greek verb translated adopt literally means “to place as a son.” According to Paul, sonship to God is a gift of grace.[10] It is not a natural, but an adoptive sonship.[11] We are made sons through the work of the unique son of God, Jesus Christ, because he came, as we just read in verse 5, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. So the gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but being born again. As John 1:12-13 tells us,

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Do you see why this is important? What we see in verse 6 is a declarative statement: “You are sons!”[12]  In the ancient world, if we were to look at adoption from a legal context, most cases would be that a “wealthy childless man might take into his family a slave youth who thus, by a great stroke of fortune, ceased to be a slave and became a son or an heir.”[13] Slaves are bound to work for their master; sons are free to serve the Father. Either we are serving our flesh, and we are slaves to sin, or we are serving our Father, and we are slaves to righteousness. So, the “image of adoption [here] is a particularly well chosen one because it illustrates, in a way nothing else can, the nature of our relationship to God in Christ. As an adopted child is not the natural offspring of his adopted parents, but neither is his/her presence in the household an accident. His parents have deliberately chosen him and made him a member of their family. [That child is brought into the family by an] act of will that is sealed in love and self-sacrifice.”[14]

There is such assurance and security in the Father’s love for us because adoption is a declaration God makes about us. It is irreversible, dependent entirely upon his gracious choice, in which he says:  ‘You are my son, today I have brought you into my family.’”[15] So we have absolute security and stability in the family of God. We see that our identity is found in our position before God. We have been made sons. “Just as a child does not worry about getting fired for disobeying the rules…so we know that God’s affection for us is deep”[16] and abiding. If adoption is about anything, it is about belonging, a belonging where God as Father pulls you into his loving household and declares you are mine! This should give us a secure identity in who we are. We are the children of God. There is no need to define ourselves because we are not our own creators. The creator alone has the right to define his creation. Our identity is something given to us from the father. So, if our identity is set, how do we experience our identity?  “God the Father sent the Son in order that believers might have the position of sons and He sent the Son in order that believers might have the experience of the same reality.”[17]

Our Intimacy with the Father (4:6b)

Some pastors and theologians have argued that adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers, namely because of its relational context. Consider it this way, “…in a court of law a person may be acquitted by the judge of all charges against him; but this acquittal does not make the person a member of the judge’s family.”[18] So, yes – when God justifies us and forgives us of sin, he also gives us the identity as a child of God, but “he [also] sends his Spirit that we might have an experience of sonship.”[19] Interestingly enough, ancient “adoptions required a witness of the transaction.”[20] Paul is arguing that the Spirit gives witness to our adoption in Christ. The Spirit of God confirms and authenticates. He gives us a deep-seated persuasion of our identity as sons and daughters of the living God.[21] How does the Christian experience this security of relationship with God the father? Paul suggests that one of the ways a Christian experiences this reality is through prayer. In verse 6 the verb “cry out” denotes a loud or earnest cry.[22] Based on the construction of the Greek it seems that it “…is the Spirit who cries out to God the Father on behalf of the believer,” or better yet, through the believer.[23] It is the indwelling Spirit of God that teaches the believer to come to God as Abba.[24]

Not too long ago, Laura and I were sitting in our driveway as Solomon was outside playing. All of the sudden, Solomon let out a glass shattering scream, the kind of scream that every parent dreads. Within seconds, he was in my arms – whimpering and shaking. Oh, by the way, he had seen a worm. Dads know these moments all too well. Children can remember these moments also. When the thunder and lightning is too loud. When the child falls and gets hurt. When your child wakes up from a nightmare. Who do they cry out for?

The word ‘Abba’ is “an Aramaic expression that may have been derived originally from the first syllables uttered by an infant.”[25] It is the term of familial intimacy, endearment, used by children towards their Fathers. Moreover, Abba is the term that Jesus, the unique son of God, himself used[26] in addressing God.[27] I think “…something of shock is implied in using this word as an address for God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth…The sense of awe and holy wonder that accompanied the praying”[28] in this manner. It’s almost as if when saying Abba, one is to experience the joy of sonship, a feeling that God was drawing him into an almost frightening intimacy.[29]

We do not serve a distant God. There is free access to our loving Father through Jesus Christ. Our adoption is the basis of Christian prayer. The Father is always accessible to his children and is never too preoccupied to listen to what they have to say. Because of the personal nature of the relationship, prayer should be free and bold. Most of the time, children do not prepare speeches to their parents. There is a spontaneity and freedom to express themselves transparently because of the security of the relationship. When Solomon talks to me it is not mechanical or even formal, it’s warm and free. And trust me, the boy likes to talk. Even though he can formulate well-articulated sentences, he feels secure enough to just ramble – because he knows I care. Just as a child calls out automatically to the nearby daddy when there is a problem or a question, so shall we, as children of God, call on our heavenly Father.  Just as a child does not doubt the security and openness of daddy’s strong arms, so we, as God’s children, have an overwhelming boldness and certainty in our Father’s loving care.

Far too much we stand back “at a distance [and are] very formal; but the little child comes running in, rushing right in, [and grabs ahold of his father]. The child has a right that no-one else has…it is instinctive.”[30] Perhaps we should “imitate the…child who is not afraid to ask his parents for [things openly], because he knows he can count completely on their love.”[31] We are free to take our problems and desires to him without fear of being ignored or rejected. We also know that the Father will answer us according to our best interest. See, this is a total experience, embracing every aspect of our lives and filling us with the joy of knowing that we are loved, and that we can rest in his presence knowing that we are safe in his everlasting arms. Moreover, we have a new authority over sin and the evil one, our adoption removes the fear that is at the root of much of our disobedience.

Our Imperative from the Father (4:7a)

God’s purpose was both to redeem and adopt; not just to rescue from slavery, but turn slaves into sons. No longer are believer’s “relationships determined by…race, rank, or role.”[32] They are secure in the family of God. Now, “in the ancient world family membership was the primary context of social, religious, economic and political security and fulfillment. To move from one family system to another was an event of life changing importance.”[33] By implication, when brought into a new family – new expectations were placed on you as a son or daughter. So what is Paul saying when he argues that we are no longer slaves but sons? In verse 3 he argues that all of orphaned humanity is enslaved to the “elementary principles of the world.” In other words, we are enslaved to the broken and evil worldly philosophies, legalistic ethical systems, and distorted freedoms of the flesh. When you were enslaved to these things you worked for them. They held you in bondage, you did their bidding.

Essentially, as sons and daughters of Eve you are born into a family of orphans who by their very nature are enslaved to the depraved systems of the world. Therefore, it is quite natural to act as one far from God. But something happens when one is adopted into the family of God. See, adoption brings with it benefits as well as responsibilities of family membership.[34] When an orphaned child is placed into a new family, “the adopted child inherits a new family narrative and is expected to live and act in accordance with that story and its ancestral heritage.”[35] As believers we have all been given the status as God’s sons[36], and thus have been granted the freedom and power to use sonship responsibly. Just because God adopts you freely by his grace, it does not mean that you can abuse his grace and behave anyway you want. Remember Romans 6:1-2:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! Paul also writes in Ephesians 5:1; 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.

“If the church is the family of God’s adopted sons and daughters, then it is they more than all people in earth who ought to reflect and mirror”[37] a likeness of God before the watching world. “As witnesses to his grace and beneficiaries of his love”[38] we are to respond in worshipful obedience. In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches that children of the Father are called to reflect their family likeness in their conduct. How we behave, what we say, and the things we do all advertise who we are.

Consider Solomon. Solomon loves to please Laura and I. He is a picky eater, and by picky he always wants cookies and candy for dinner, much like his father. Not too long ago Laura made his dinner and he would not touch his peas. I didn’t get it. He has eaten peas before, and told us how much he liked them. But there in that moment he decided that he didn’t want them. Once he realized that Laura and I wanted him to eat his peas because they are good for him and because it would make us happy, he ate them with joy. He even said “Daddy, Mommy, watch me!” Solomon’s obedience does not make him more of a son, but he loves for us to delight in his loving obedience. His obedience is nothing more than trusting us; that we know what’s best for him.

What motivates us to live like a son of God? I think Jonathan Edwards was very wise when he argued that the root of all human action is the affections. “By affections he meant something deeper than feelings. He saw them as the fundamental loves and hates of the whole person.”[39] The affections are the source from which our behaviors flow. If the love of the Father will not make a child delight in him, and delight in pleasing him, what will?[40] We are not to behave as slaves, but as sons. If we are children of God, there should be a family resemblance. We should take great delight in living in a way that pleases the Father. And when we don’t, his love also allows us to accept the Father’s discipline and change accordingly.

In Paul’s world, royal children had to undergo extra training and discipline which other children escape, in order to fit them for their high destiny. It is the same with us as children of the King of Kings. The clue to understanding the Father’s discipline is to remember that in our lives you are being trained for what awaits you; you are being molded into the image of Christ.[41]

Our Inheritance from the Father (4:7b)

In the time Paul wrote this letter, it was the firstborn who inherited the Father’s “estate,” and it was his right to determine how much each of his brothers and sisters would get. In Colossians we read that Jesus is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through him and for him.[42]In this way, Christ, as firstborn, holds all the rights to His Father’s kingdom. He owns everything! Everything was created for him. What does Christ do for us as fellow children of the living God? He lovingly and graciously makes us co-heirs with him.

Being in Christ makes one a son of God and thus an heir of God. How often do we reflect on this glorious truth? When one is adopted in Christ, they cease to be a slave and receive all the legal and financial privileges within the Father’s estate as a result of God’s grace.[43]This is why Peter writes in his first epistle, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”[44]How often do we set our hope on the grace that is to come when Jesus returns? When Jesus returns he will overwhelm us with his grace. As the Father’s beloved children we will enter into our inheritance and that of our co-heir, Jesus Christ. In the new heavens and the new earth God will be fully ours to enjoy and be satisfied forever. But for now, it is clear that our sonship is just beginning. It is evident in the Bible that although believers already experience an official status as sonship in Christ through the Spirit…such sonship has not been revealed publically to the cosmos.[45] As Paul writes in Romans 8:15ff,

 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

Church, there will come a time when our sonship is declared climactically through the resurrection of our bodies.[46] Just as we read in 1 John 3:1-3:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

There will be a day when our status as children of God is evident to all creation; a day when we experience our sonship in purity and fullness, much like what our first parents experienced in the presence of God before the fall. Why do we allow our lives to be so dominated by our problems, temptations, and sins? Why do we often forget what lies ahead? Why can’t we, like Paul, proclaim For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. I pray that God would teach us to look upward and forward to our final adoption. This is not merely a possibility or likelihood, but a guaranteed certainty, a promised inheritance. Since Jesus rose from the grave this promise was made secure. As we look forward we long for the experience of heaven, a family gathering. On that day a great host of the redeemed meet will together in face-to-face fellowship with the Father-God and Jesus. If you are a believer, and so an adopted child, this should satisfy you completely beyond anything in this world.[47]

Continue reading “The Beauty of Our Adoption into God’s Family”