Thought of Thoughts
One of my seminary professors would routinely tell his students, "The most important thought that you will ever have is the first thought you have when you hear the word, 'God.'" I think that he is correct. Our first thought about God tends to dominate our lives and living more than any other. I would guess that very few Christians first think of God as "Father" when the word "God" is uttered. How rarely are we astonished by the fact that, in Jesus Christ, we are able to call God our Father. And yet, this truth should stir our hearts with joy every single day of our lives. On what grounds can we make such an assertion? When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He began by teaching them to open their prayers with the words, "Our Father." Surely, Christ could have used other forms of address. He could have taught us to pray, "Our Sovereign," "Our Lord," "Our Creator," or "Our God." But He doesn't. Insteas, He uttered the personal, the relational, the most intimate of names--He taught us to pray to "Our Father." Here are seven reasons why your soul should rattle with delight with the idea that God is your Father.
1. Efficient Cause: As we read in Ephesians 1, "In love He predestined us for adoption." In love. We see the same thing in 1 John 3:1, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!" The efficient cause of our adoption is God's love and grace. Another way of saying this is, "There was absolutely no reason in us, or because of us, for Him to adopt us." In fact, He had every reason not to adopt us. Yet, He was moved, by Himself, to make us His children with all of the attendant privileges--not because of anything in us, but because of everything in Him. It was an act of sheer, free, immeasurable love and grace.
2. Exchange: A great exchange--the greatest of exchanges--occurs in our adoption. When we think about adoption, we immediately think about orphans. But God doesn't adopt orphans, He adopts enemies. He take His own personal enemies and makes them His children, gives them His name, and grants them His Kingdom. He cuts us off from Adam, removes us from the miserable estate we were in, and places us in the comfort of His own family.
3. Elite Status: We go from destitute and forsaken individuals to the most exalted status in the realm. A status almost beyond comprehension. He makes us heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), seats us above with Him (Eph. 2:6), and grants us the privilege of reigning with Him (Rev. 3:21). Our status is not that of a lesser child, but a co-heir. We need not jockey for position like Jacob and Esau.
4. Estate Immeasurable: Paul says in Romans 8:16-17, "we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--hears of God and fellow heirs with Christ." And, of what is Christ the heir? The writer of Hebrews says, God "appointed him the heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2). And we are fellow heirs with Him! We are amazed that King Ahasuerus would offer to Queen Esther anything up to half of his kingdom (Esther 5:6). We receive much more, an inheritance that Peter says is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1 Peter 1:4). It is His promise. And His promises are unfailing. Jesus said, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
5. Eternal: Our adoption is not for a moment, a day, or even a season. It is eternal. As Christ says in John 8:35, "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever."
6. Earnest: Not only has He made us His sons, not only has He united us to His only begotten Son, but He has sent His Spirit to dwell in us as a guarantee of our adoption. He takes up His residence in us. In Romans 8:16 we read, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." His mark is not only upon us, but in us. Earthly children may have their father's name, but believers have their Father's person.
7. Expense: I have two wonderful, adopted children. I cannot imagine life without them. I love adoption, but I always get a little nervous when well-meaning and well-intentioned Christians talk about adoption of orphans in this world picturing God the Father's adoption of us. Granted, this is the language the Lord chooses to use. But orphan adoption is only a slight glimpse of our adoption in Christ. We must be careful. People have said to my wife and I over the years, "What a wonderful sacrifice you made! You blessed those children by adopting them." It is a nice sentiment. I don't fault people. But I do always feel something of an inner recoil. We were not the blessing. They were the blessing. We didn't make a great sacrifice. We filled out a little paperwork, wrote a few checks, and expended a little energy. We gave very little and have received an enormous blessing. Whereas, He gave all that He might not receive but give enormous blessings. He sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 2), to live a life of humility (Philippians 2), to die a death of incalculable anguish, so that we might receive adoption as sons. The cost was incalculable.
As J.I. Packer said, "Sonship must be the controlling thought--the normative category...at every point."1 When the Christian understands what they have been given in adoption, Sonship can't help but become the controlling thought. He is our Father. We are His sons. May this truth dominate our minds, stir our affections, inform our actions, and rattle our souls with delight.
1. J.I. Packer Knowing God (Downers Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972) p. 190
Dan Cruver Reclaiming Adoption
Russel Moore Adopted for Life
Trevor Burke Adopted into God's Family
Nick Batzig, "Fear and Sonship"
Donny Friederichsen, "In You, the Orphan Finds Mercy"