This video is from a Disciple Now conference in Batesville, MS. Please forgive the video and audio quality
Last time we laid some foundations in our discussion about identity. We talked about what makes identity important; mainly that if we don’t know who we are, we won’t know how we’re supposed to live. And then we talked about how we’re beautifully made, but broken. And because of our brokenness we’re separated from God and in need of a Savior.
This morning we’re going to discuss one of the beautiful truths about being saved by God, which is adoption. At this point though, the discussion of identity shifts a little bit. All the things we talked about last night— that we’re made by God, known by God, broken, and needy—are true of everybody on the Earth. The things we’re going to talk about now are things that are true of those who are in Christ. We’re now talking about how our identity changes when we become Christians
Recently I read a biography of Steve Jobs, the founder and visionary behind Apple, the biggest company in the world. It was really interesting to read because he was a genius and a crazy person at the same time. His life was really interesting from beginning to end.
His life began when a man and woman met, had a child before they got married, and gave him up for adoption. This really had a strong impact on him, because he always felt abandoned, and he later abandoned one of his own children.
But the interesting part of the story is that a kind and loving family from California adopted him. And they really took him in and treated him like their own son. His dad was an engineer and gave him an appreciation for well-crafted things. And his parents made great sacrifices to give him every chance to succeed.
Now a huge part of his success had to do with the people who adopted him. They shaped him. Even the way they accommodated his every whim contributed to his attitude and belief that he could make anything happen.
The beautiful thing about adoption is that people who have no responsibility to somebody decide to take on responsibility. They see a child has nothing to offer, and they offer him everything they have. The child is needy and they agree to meet those needs. They’re not obligated to do it, but they do it out of kindness.
God’s adoption of people like you and me is similar in many ways. God does not have to adopt us. God is not obligated. We have nothing to offer him. We are desperately needy, and God has promised to meet those needs.
But the big difference is that God is not adopting random kids he meets. God is adopting rebels who have offended him. God is adopting criminals. God is adopting beautiful but broken sinners. There’s no adoption like God’s because there is no love like His.
Let’s look at John 1:10 to start our time together.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 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.” (John 1:10-13)
I. Born Into His Family
One of the most common assumptions in a country like ours is that everyone is a child of God. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that when we’re born, we’re not children of God, but enemies of God. And the Bible teaches something even more frightening, that we’re born children of the devil. This doesn’t mean that we have horns, but that we’re following the devil and that our actions look more like his than like God’s.
Now many people today would say that sounds ridiculous and intolerant. “Of course we’re all children of God,” they might say. Well, yes, we’re all made by God and in that sense we’re his offspring, but the Bible means so much more when it talks about being children of God. It’s similar to the difference between being a child’s biological father, but not actually being in their life, compared to being someone’s dad, loving them, playing with them, and taking care of their needs.
It’s not like being born into your family, which usually happens automatically. There has to be a change, a new birth, a conversion. You’re not a son or daughter of God because your parents are, or because your friends are, or because you want to be.
If we’re going to become a son or daughter of God, we have to be adopted into his family. But how does that happen?
If you consider yourself to be a Christian, I want you to ask yourself why. Every now and then I’ll be on a plane, and I’ll ask the people next to me whether or not they have a relationship with God. And they usually say yes, and I’ll ask them why. I’ll ask them what they base that on? Is it walking up an aisle, or repeating a prayer, or reading a verse?
The verse we just read says pretty clearly, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” Becoming a child of God happens when you receive Jesus. And how do you receive Jesus? By believing in his name.
So imagine God as this wealthy philanthropist who offers to adopt every single human being on the Earth as his child. And the only thing he asks is that you receive his son by faith. And you’re in the family.
What Does That Mean?
Now we notice he doesn’t just say “believing in his teaching.” He says “believing in his name.” There is a very big difference between believing in someone’s teaching and trusting in an actual individual. John is saying that receiving Jesus is trusting in the individual—believing in his name, and everything he revealed himself to be.
So friends, I want you to know that it is not enough for you to say, “I believe in some of Jesus’ teaching, I believe we should love one another, I believe we should go to church.” John is saying receiving him means believing in his name! Putting your trust in Jesus. All of Jesus.
In the end, there are two kinds of people when it comes to Jesus: Those who reject him because they love darkness and those who believe in his name.
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)
What Is True Faith?
Sometimes we think that faith is agreeing with some facts about Jesus. I know that’s what I thought. But faith is actually trusting him. It’s knowing the facts about who he is and what he’s done, agreeing with those facts, and trusting them—betting your life on them.
Have you bet your life on this? Have you been willing to throw everything away to know Christ?
You notice he tells us a little bit about what it means to be a child of God, describing them as those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
He’s saying if we’re going to be God’s children, we have to reborn. That means we’re made new. Our old self dies. The first time we were born we weren’t right, so we need to be born all over again.
John wants us to know that this birth is different than our first. He gives several qualifiers to make sure we understand that. “Not of blood”—he wants us to know that this has nothing to do with natural descent or ancestry. “Not of flesh”—he wants us to know it did not originate with human sexual desire. “Nor of the will of man”—he wants us to know that this birth was not initiated by man. This new birth is of God!
Born again isn’t just a phrase that people came up with. It’s a reality for those who’ve trusted in Christ. And it’s a reality that changes everything. God gives you a new heart, as well as eyes to see him, and his spirit dwells in you. You are a brand new creature.
The assumption that you’ll never be able to get past that sin is a faulty assumption. You are a new creature reborn into the family of God.
Something new has occurred. You’re not like everyone else anymore, so stop trying to be like them. You’ve joined a new team with new goals. We also have to realize that with new birth, we’ve been adopted into a family. So you have family members, brothers and sisters in the faith. Love them. Encourage them. We’re here to help one another follow Jesus.
II. Treated Like His Son
When a family adopts someone, they go to great lengths to make sure the adopted child doesn’t feel like they’re the adopted child. They don’t want them to feel different and awkward or like they don’t belong. Instead they want to treat them like their other children. In the same way, when God adopts us as his sons and daughters, he treats us like his only begotten son, Jesus.
Have you ever heard someone talk about a trust fund baby? This is somebody whose parents are rich, and just by the fact that they were born, they’re now rich too. So people resent them, because everyone else has had to work hard for the things they have. Maybe they enjoy their home and their comforts, but they had to work their whole lives. On the other hand, this rich kid never had to work a day in his life but he’s doing better than everyone else. He has all the benefits without doing any of the work.
Spiritually speaking, we are trust fund babies. Just by nature of the fact that we’ve been reborn into God’s family, we get spiritual riches. We’ve lived contrary to his law, and we’ve disobeyed him, but when we put our faith in Christ we get all the benefits Jesus received. Everything the work of Jesus accomplished is transferred to us.
Let’s talk about a few of those things.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus switched places with us. He was treated like us, and we get treated like him. Isn’t that amazing? When you’re adopted by God, you’re seen as righteous in him—not just as a dirty, worthless sinner, but as righteous.
It’s like someone switched out the test results. We get the A+ even though we failed, and Jesus suffers the punishment for failing.
I know sometimes when I haven’t been in the Word the way I should be, or when I haven’t been sharing the Gospel with others like I should be, I start to feel like God is mad at me. And then that keeps me from praying, because I feel like he doesn’t want to hear from me. In those times it’s helpful to remember that when he adopted me, he gave me the righteousness of Jesus.
So he’s not mad at me anymore; he’s pleased with me in Christ. My sin grieves him, but my spot in his family never changes. I didn’t do what it takes to get there, and there’s nothing I can do that will remove me. I just need to keep trusting and repenting.
This also frees me from the bondage of trying to please other people all the time. I really struggle with wanting everyone to think highly of me. And the thing that helps me most is to remember that I don’t need their approval, because I already have God’s. I’m already in good standing with him. I have all the approval I’ll ever need
It’s a prison to live your life based on what other people think. God thinks highly of you in Christ, so let that be enough. You have all the approval you’ll ever need.
2. Eternal Life
We’ve earned eternal death, but in Christ we get to live forever with God. We get the abundant life—life as it was meant to be lived. We get to live in perfect worship of the King forever.
This life is not all we have. Why do we live like that? We ignore the things that matter for eternity and chase after things that are enjoyable now. But why? This isn’t the best we get. This is the time we have on this earth to glorify God until we’re with him in heaven.
When we think this is all we get we have to do everything we can to just enjoy ourselves. But when we know this is just the preview we can spend our time investing in our eternity.
3. Fatherly Love & Care
I love my son dearly. And I would do anything for him. God loves us and will give us absolutely anything that’s good for us. So remember if there’s something you don’t have right now, it’s not because God isn’t able to give it. It’s because it’s not good for you.
Further proof of the fact that we are treated as true sons of God is the fact that we can never be separated from His love. We were united to Jesus, and Jesus brought us to the Father. Because we are in Jesus we can never be separated from God.
Question: So who can separate God’s children from Him? Answer: No one can separate God’s children from His love.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
There is nothing in all of Creation that can separate us from God’s love in Christ. We are his sons and daughters.
When you were a kid, did you ever have someone give you something, then try to take it back? My sister used to do this to me. She would have something that she didn’t really like, and then she would give it to me. It was trash to her. So I’d get it, write my name on it, enjoy it—it’s mine. Well now that I have it I’m really enjoying it, and now she looks at me enjoying it and she wants it back. Huh? Well whereas before I didn’t have any special attachment to it, now I do. It’s mine. I wrote my name on it and figured out fun ways to play with it. It’s similar with God. Now that we’re his, he claims us. He says, “Mine!” No one can snatch us away from him and his love.
We have to remember this when we go through hard times. None of our hard times can separate us from God’s love. Actually, sometimes those hard times are evidence of the fact that we are children of God.
God doesn’t just give us stuff, but he gives us himself. When we leave him going after sexual fulfillment, we’re leaving the real thing in search of a fake. You can meet with God and hear from him every day in his word. He will listen to your prayers and answer them. If you draw near to him he will draw near to you.
III. Conforming To His Son
He doesn’t leave us where we are. He makes us more like Him. So not only does he treat us like Jesus, but he makes us like Jesus.
We talked about being made in the image of God and being broken. Well Jesus is the perfect image of God, and God conforms us to his own image by making us like Jesus. We start to look like we’re in the family.
We talked about the kind of faith that’s willing to leave all and bet everything on Jesus. When God adopts us, he doesn’t leave us where we are.
I was talking to some students the other day about believing in Jesus, and one person said, “I believe, but I still want to have fun sometimes. That’s why I don’t always like being around Christians.” There may be some things that person believes, but the kind of faith the Bible is calling for is all of you. It changes the way you look at your sin. You turn from it.
Listen to what Paul says:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Those things are past tense. We’re not defined by those things anymore.
What would you do if you saw a baby telling her parent what to do? Crawling around a house ordering her parents around? You would think she was crazy! Why? Because they are the parents, but they are acting like the child. Itʼs sad when people have certain power and privileges but refuse to walk in them. It is even crazier for a Christian to live in sin. You have power over sin and you’ve been given the privilege to walk in freedom. Why would you ignore that power and walk in slavery?
As Christians, God has already made us holy. Now we are trying to make our lives to reflect who we are in Christ every day. If you are in Christ you are not a liar. You are not a homosexual. You are not a thief. You are a saint. That stuff has no power over you anymore.
I don’t know what people are struggling with in here today, but it’s important to understand that a status change has happened if you’re in Christ. I remember a season in my Christian life when I was caught in a horrible cycle of sin. And I felt like I was enslaved to my sin. And a big part of my growth was grasping this truth: that I don’t have to sin. I’ve been freed from past slavery
What God Cares Most About
The main thing God is doing in your life is making you holy. More than he’s concerned about your comfort, he’s concerned about your holiness. In Hebrews 12, the writer talks about discipline in our lives. Sometimes life will hurt. But it’s clear that when we go through tough times, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. Actually he loves us by giving us tough times. This word discipline that’s used basically means training. God is training us and making us more like Jesus. He is making us holy.
It would be unloving of God to not train us and make us more holy. It would mean that we’re not his sons. Sometimes he even throws discipline our way because of sin. When you sin, and there are horrible consequences, don’t take that as mere coincidence. You should consider that God is disciplining you. He is showing you what sin brings, and he is shaping you to make you more like Christ. It’s like we are scrawny, and trials make us buff. Jesus is perfect spiritual buffness, and God wants to make us like him.
Ultimately this is God’s work. He does it through our effort, but if you’re in Christ he can and will do it. So don’t overly discourage yourself. You may feel like you can’t change yourself, and that’s true. Go to the places where God has promised he will change you.
If you are a Christian, it’s important to know who you are and what God’s promises are for you. You have been adopted. You are a son or daughter of God.
My son gets a lot of benefits from being my son. I take care of him, provide for him, and make sure he’s fed. Those same privileges aren’t offered to just any child around. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be adopted.
The Gospel is the most exclusive and inclusive message in the world. These blessings only go to some, but are available to all. Trust in Christ. God will adopt you. He will give you things you’ve never earned—first and foremost a relationship with him.
1. What difference does it make if we’re children of God?
2. What kinds of differences should the people around me notice if I’m in God’s family?
3. What are you most grateful for about being a child of God?
4. How does the fact that you’ve been freed from sin change the way you fight it?
5. What role does God’s Word play in becoming more like Jesus?
6. What do you do if you’re not growing like you should be?