Heirs of God
adoption, Galatians, self-image
We’ve spent a huge amount of time in Galatians hammering home the point that we are made right with God by what Jesus has done on our behalf and not because of what we have done. The theological shorthand for this is “We are justified by grace and through faith alone.”
This morning we want to look at something even more wonderful (if that is possible) than our justification before God. We are going to look what is called our adoption in Christ.
When parents adopt a child it is a special thing. Adoptive parents are often asked, “Do you have (or plan to have) any of your own children?” Adoptive parents will quickly say, “This child is my own child!”
Adoptive children are chosen. Often these children have been through a rough road. Yet, the adoptive parents, understanding the “baggage” still chose to love their child (ren). Several of you are adopted. I know you are not “second class” children. Instead, you likely feel very fortunate and blessed.
Russell Moore draws a great illustration,
Imagine for a moment that you’re adopting a child. As you meet with the social worker in the last stage of the process, you’re told that this 12-year-old has been in and out of psychotherapy since he was three. He persists in burning things, and attempting repeatedly to skin animals alive. He “acts out sexually,” the social worker says, although she doesn’t really fill you in on what that means. She continues with a little family history. This boy’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather all had histories of violence, ranging from spousal abuse to serial murder. Each of them ended their own lives. Think for a minute. Would you want this child? If you did adopt him, wouldn’t you watch nervously as he played with your other children? Would you watch him nervously as he looks at the knife on the kitchen table? Would you leave the room as he watched a movie on TV with your daughter, with the lights out? (Moore, Adopted for Life , 29)
Moore continues to point out that WE are this troubled child! God saw our stains and addictions and yet did choose us to be His own! It is an amazing gift that we have been given.
In Galatians 3:23 on through Galatians 4:7 Paul uses two illustrations to help us understand the purpose of God’s Law and drive home the point that we are wonderfully blest and often guilty of living beneath the privilege that has been given to us. The first illustration is in 3:23-25
23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
The first illustration is that of a guardian or parent-like figure. A parent’s job is to safeguard their child. They set up boundaries and re-enforce those boundaries with appropriate punishments and/or rewards. The goal of such guidelines is to prepare the child for a healthy and productive adulthood.
When the child reaches the stage of adulthood the role of the parent or guardian changes. Though they may still be asked for advice, they will function more as a peer now.
Paul said God’s Moral Law is like that. Its goal was to teach us what a holy and God-honoring life looked like. It was designed to get us to hunger for the forgiveness and new life God offers to those who believe.
When we become a follower of Christ we, if you will, reach adulthood. It doesn’t mean that our relationship with God’s Law ends, it means it changes. We turn to it now for guidance. We look to it to know God more fully. No longer do we look at the Law as a checklist that needs to be completed so we can get our allowance. Instead the Law becomes a foundation on which to build our new life in Jesus.
The second illustration is in chapter 4:1-7
Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
It is always a privilege and a gift to be named an heir to an estate. You may be given something small or something big, but whatever you are given is something you did not deserve. It is a gift. It means you were remembered and considered to be someone special.
When I was in college my roommate was the beneficiary of a Trust. I never did know the details of the trust (it wasn’t any of my business) but I know he did not have access to the trust until he was twenty-one years old. If he needed money he needed to talk to the Trustee, plead his case, and hope the Trustee saw it the same way that he did.
The whole point of the Trust was to safeguard both the money and Kim. A large amount of money given to someone in their youth would likely be squandered on all kinds of things. The trustee’s job was to protect the heir until they were deemed old enough to grasp the responsibilities of what was left to them.
God gave us the Law to prepare us for the responsibilities of being heirs of Christ. If you will, the Law served as our Trustee. The Law introduced us to the Holiness of God. It showed us what God expected. The Law was designed to teach us how to live, and to help us mature spiritually. It prepared us for a new freedom that would be ours in Christ. We will talk more about this freedom next week.
The Incredible News
It is incredible concept: we are children of God. As you red through the Bible we see that we are given peace with God, unrestricted access to the Lord, we are made joint-heir with Christ and the Bible says we will reign with Him (whatever that means).
Paul anticipates a question: How do we know are adopted as His children? He gives us two proofs of our Sonship. The first proof is that God has given us His Spirit. When we receive God’s provision of eternal life through Christ we are granted His Holy Spirit to live inside of us.
The problem is that we can’t see the Holy Spirit because . . . well, He is Spirit. So, how can we know that we have Him? The Bible gives us several evidences that the Holy Spirit is in our life
- We have a new sense of assurance or intimacy with God. We are told the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee” of our inheritance and that He testifies to our status as a child of God. (Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:16ff)
- The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth. We begin to understand truth we did not understand before (John 14:17). Where you used to read the Bible and nothing made sense . . . now you find that frequently the Bible comes alive! You understand. You get it!
- We see God-like character traits (called fruit, Galatians 5:22) begin to develop in our lives. As you survey your life you begin to see that you seem more patient, loving, and kindness comes a little easier. You begin to feel for the hurts of others.
- We are used by God in unique ways. The Bible calls this “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12-14). The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do things that make an eternal difference. He may give us insight, or a burden to pray, or the ability to explain complicated truth in ways people can understand. He may give you a heart that connects with people or a skill that can be used to make a huge difference in the life of others.
- The Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers. In Romans 8:26 we are told the Holy Spirit helps us by praying with groaning too deep for words (and don’t we all need it?). In other words, we may not know just how to pray but the Holy Spirit does and sends up the right prayers.
- We have God’s presence always. Jesus told His disciples that it was “good for Him to go away”. The reason? Because then the Father would send the Holy Spirit. Jesus could only be in one place at one time. The Holy Spirit is with every one of us ALL the time. Those times when you “feel God’s presence” . . . that is the Holy Spirit reminding you that you belong to Him.
The second proof of our sonship is a new sense of intimacy with God that causes us to cry out, “Abba, Father”.
There are only two people in the world who can truly call me dad. They have access that is unparalleled. My children (their spouses, and their children) can call me at any time and I will respond. This is because of the nature of our relationship.
I love the stories of when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States. People say they would go into the Oval Office and find John Jr. hiding under his dad’s desk. No one else could get into the Oval Office without strict security. However, the child has access unlike anyone else. That is the kind of benefit that you and I enjoy with the Father. We can come to Him at any time and find Him eager to welcome us. We don’t have to go through a priest, pastor, or youth leader. We can come to Him directly.
Who Can Be Part of the Inheritance?
The problem that often plagues us is that we hear these words and conclude they are not meant for us. There always seems to be some reason why we don’t think God view us as joint heirs with Christ. Let’s return once again to the end of chapter three and these wonderful words,
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29)
The gospel is without discrimination! In this world that loves labels, the Lord tosses them all aside. The Lord does not relate to us on the basis of our ethnic origin, our citizenship, our socio-economic position, our employment, or our gender. We could expand this definition but hopefully you get the idea.
The Lord does not see the scars. He does not see the failures. He does not relate to us on the basis of any of these surface issues. His only concern is for those who have turned to Jesus as the one who alone can save us. Paul says ALL who are united in Christ are beneficiaries of His estate. No matter where you have been or what you have done, or how people view you . . . if you put your hope and trust in Christ we put off the old and put on the new. Because of Jesus none of us is who we used to be.
It’s amazing news that should change our perspective. It changes the way we look at life and it should change the way we look at each other.
Do you ever dream of what you would do with a million dollars? In Russell Moore’s book: ONWARD: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, Moore writes,
I often cringe when I hear Christians talk about the lists of things they want to do before they die: “I really want to go sky-diving, at least once, before I die” or “I want to, just one time, climb Mount Kilimanjaro before I’m too old to do it” or “I want to see the pyramids, before I’m gone.” There’s nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to do these things, but often the hidden subtext is: “You only live once.” The assumption behind this is deeply un-Christian, the idea that our span of life is merely the next ten or twenty or a hundred years. But, if Jesus is telling us the truth, our life planning ought to be about the next trillion years, and beyond. (p. 52)
Moore also made the interesting observation that we talk about life beyond the grave as AFTER-life. As if it is something not-quite-living. The truth is that what happens after we die is the TRUE-life.
We spend too much of our time living beneath our privilege. Like the Galatians we are given this great inheritance and we leave it untouched so we can go back to living on the streets. It is insane! Once we are given this inheritance we don’t have to live like servants anymore! We become children of the King, joint-heirs with Christ!
As I said, these truths should also change how we look at each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see past skin color, clothing, titles, and even reputations? Wouldn’t it transform the world if we looked at a person’s heart rather than at the car they drive or the home they live in? Imagine what would happen if we saw each other the way God does: as people who are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Imagine seeing in others the potential, the treasure, and the value that God sees in each of us.
It’s a good challenge for us isn’t it? It is time not only to see ourselves differently, we need to see those around us differently. We must see that others are worth the time and effort it takes to tell them about Jesus. It is worth the time to let them know that they have an inheritance that is theirs for the taking.
Do you need an attitude adjustment? I know I do. We can call on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at any time. We don’t come to Him in prayer, attend weekly worship, give of our resources or read the Word because we think this is what we HAVE to do. We do these things because it brings us into contact with our Father. This is the best part of our inheritance. These things are not DUTIES, they are privileges. If we could get that through our heads, our attitude would be so very different.
We need to stop living as if this life was all there is. We need to stop talking about when life is OVER and start talking about when we get to live with Jesus! It is time we got excited about our inheritance! We too often make Heaven sound like it will be a boring place. This notion of clouds and harps has no Biblical merit. Instead we are told we live on the New Earth under the new Heavens. Tears will be gone because the things that are evil and the things that hurt will be no more. Life will be what it was meant to be. It will perfect. We will be fulfilled. We will know an inner peace we can only dream of right now.
If we understand that we are His ambassadors, if we get that we are now part of His family we would live with greater confidence, deeper joy, and a fuller sense of satisfaction. We would tell world!
©Copyright May 15, 2016 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche