This past Sunday at Calvary, I preached a sermon from John’s story of Jesus, focusing on Jesus’ concern that we know and understand God as our Father, and all that follows from that cataclysmic reality.
I pointed out that I have probably learned more about the importance of our Divine Adoption as sons and daughters of God from the theologian and author, J.I. Packer, than anyone else. And one of the key places he has expounded on this doctrine is in his book Knowing God, in the chapter entitled “Sons of God.” As a way to continue to soak in this doctrine that we studied in Sunday’s sermon, I’d like to give you the conclusion of that chapter, which he gives the caption, “The Great Secret.”
May Packer provoke us all to a deeper experience of our adoption into God’s family.
It is a strange fact that the truth of adoption has been little regarded in Christian history. Apart from two nineteenth-century books, now scarcely known (R.S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God; R.A. Webb, The Reformed Doctrine of Adoption), there is no evangelical writing on it, nor has there been at any time since the Reformation, any more than there was before. Luther’s grasp of adoption was as strong and clear as his grasp of justification, but his disciples held to the latter and made nothing of the former. The Puritan teaching on the Christian life, so strong in other ways, was notably deficient here, which is one reason why legalistic mis-understandings of it so easily arise. Perhaps the early Methodists, and later Methodist saints like Billy Bray, “the King’s Son,” with his unforgettable approach to prayer—”I must talk to Father about this”—came closest to the life of sonship as the New Testament depicts it. There is certainly more to make of adoption in Christian teaching today.
Meanwhile, the immediate message to our hearts of what we have studied in the present chapter is surely this: Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of—a happy life?—yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honoring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter.
May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.
To help us realize more adequately who and what, as children of God, we are and are called to be, here are some questions by which we do well to examine ourselves again and again.
- Do I understand my adoption? Do I value it? Do I daily remind myself of my privilege as a child of God?
- Have I sought full assurance of my adoption? Do I daily dwell on the love of God to me?
- Do I treat God as my Father in heaven, loving, honoring and obeying him, seeking and welcoming his fellowship, and trying in everything to please him, as a human parent would want his child to do?
- Do I think of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, as my brother too, bearing to me not only a divine authority but also a divine-human sympathy? Do I think daily how close he is to me, how completely he understands me, and how much, as my kinsman-redeemer, he cares for me?
- Have I learned to hate the things that displease my Father? Am I sensitive to the evil things to which he is sensitive? Do I make a point of avoiding them, lest I grieve him?
- Do I look forward daily to that great family occasion when the children of God will finally gather in heaven before the throne of God, their Father, and of the Lamb, their brother and their Lord? Have I felt the thrill of this hope?
- Do I love my Christian brothers and sisters with whom I live day by day, in a way that I shall not be ashamed of when in heaven I think back over it?
- Am I proud of my Father, and of his family, to which by his grace I belong?
- Does the family likeness appear in me? If not, why not?
God humble us;
God instruct us;
God make us his own true children.
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