Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Adopted: Our Father

How do you refer to God? Some will say God, or Lord, or Savior, or Father, or something similar. Some may remember the movie Noah that came out a few years ago. One of the best ideas in that movie was the notion that the earliest humans called our God – Creator.

A great number of years later, God met Moses on the mountain and said to Moses that He should be called YHWH (Yahweh) when Moses was talking the Israelites. Fast forward many more years and Joseph was told that his son should be named Jesus (which means Yahweh Saves). The idea is that our reference for God moved a personal name (Creator) to a a series of letters which the Israelites struggled to even write without special consideration (YHWH) to a more personal God again – one who saved His people. God’s name expressed a reminder of the covenant He made with the people.

But in the New Testament, the language changes drastically. Before I explain, let me state that throughout the Old Testament, we can find instances of God referring to Himself as a Father who cares for His children (c.f. Exodus 4.22-24). And, as I just mentioned, the New Testament begins with a story that shows how Jesus got His name. All of this is a part of the covenant between God and man. But now, with Jesus on earth, and preparing for His return to heaven, we are provided with a new – intimately personal – term for how we might refer to God.

That term is father. Imagine for a moment that Jesus had not taught the Lord’s Prayer. Imagine that you had never read any words of Jesus talking to God and calling Him Father. If that were the case, imagine how bold you would have to be to call the God of the universe, the God who created all things, the God who holds your eternal destiny in His hands…imagine the audacity it would take to call that God – Father. But that is what He welcomes us to do. Why? Because He not only wants to be our God, but He truly wants to be our Father. He not only covenants with us as God, but He adopts into His family as our Father.

Of all that we might be thankful for at this time of year, understanding that God wants us to intimately know Him as a father might be among the most significant reasons for us to give thanks. For God has not just offered us a means of salvation, but has offered for us to become a child of God. With that, let us now turn to the actual idea of adoption as it is mentioned in the New Testament.

Although the idea of adoption is prevalent throughout all of Scripture, the word itself is only used a handful of times in the New Testament. The Greek word (huiothesia) means receiving into relation as a son. That is, we become a child of God. But what is God’s intent? Did He develop this thought later?  Let’s explore these questions.

Adoption Revealed Our Father’s Purpose (Ephesians 1.5)

It takes a lot of purpose, planning, and persistence to adopt a child today. A great deal of paperwork must be done. Background checks must be performed. Interviews must be conducted. And, often, a great deal of waiting is then involved with timeframes being several months to a couple of years (or even more depending on the exact situation). Well, God’s plan for our adoption was very purposeful, and Ephesians 1 sheds some light on God’s purpose. Verse 5, in particular, is a verse which is loaded with theological insight. But before I unpack that verse, let me first read verse 9. Notice that Paul says God’s ultimate purpose was a mystery, but has now been made known. That purpose was to send Jesus so that we might be reconciled to God to be with Him forever. It was God’s plan for “the fullness of time.” That is, He always had this plan. Now what always means is a matter of considerable debate among many theologians, but what is not debated is that God had a plan. With that idea, let us return to verse 5.

First, God predestined us to be adopted.
This is not a new plan. We saw that in verse 9 with the phrase the fullness of time. But verse 5 shows us that His plan of redemption (v. 7) has been in place from before time began. That is, God made a way for all of us to be adopted. Yet, as we saw two weeks ago in the contrast between John 1.11 and 1.12 some choose to receive Jesus and some do not. Does our choice negate the sovereignty of God? No. In fact, in some way it enhances it. God made a plan and carried it out and made a way for all, yet some will not choose to receive the gift He has provided. Just like some people will return their Christmas gifts for something they want (or something they think is better) many people refuse to receive the gift of Jesus thinking they can find something better than the gift that God, who desires to be their Father has given them.

Second, our adoption is because of Jesus.
This could not be more clearly stated – both here and in John 14. In Ephesians 1.5, Paul says that our adoption by God (the “he” that begins the verse) is through Jesus Christ. In John 14.6, Jesus said that no one – NO ONE – comes to the FATHER, except through me. Again, Jesus is clear that the Father is only accessible through Him, and God’s plan, as stated by Paul in Ephesians 1 says that our adoption by the Father is through Jesus. Do multiple ways to heaven exist? No. Jesus is THE way. We become God’s child through Him – and Him alone.

Third, God’s will purposed this.
God predestined us to be adopted because God purposed us to be adopted. His will and His purpose are in complete harmony. As I mentioned above, we must still receive His gift – He does not impose it upon us. But, if we understand the significant of His gift, how could we not receive it?

What is that gift? Let’s look at another verse for our answer.

Adoption Required Our Father’s Payment (Galatians 4.5)

During the first point, I mentioned that the adoption process requires a great deal of persistence during the process. Well, it also costs a great deal. While some adoptions may require about $5000, others are much higher costing more than $30,000. In many cases, grants, loans, and tax credits can help offset the cost, but the overall expenses are very high.

But for God, the cost of gaining new sons and daughters cost His only begotten Son. Verse 4 says that God sent Jesus when the fullness of time had come (there is that “fullness of time” phrase again), God sent His Son to be human (born of a woman) to live by God’s law (born under the law). Why? To redeem all those who are under the law (that is, under God’s law) so we MIGHT receive adoption.

Jesus had to live by the law to free us from the law. That happened. He was sent for that purpose and He fulfilled that purpose. But to redeem something means to pay for, or exchange for, something else. The perfect life Jesus lived meant He was worthy to pay for anything that was otherwise unworthy. And we, humanity, are a part of, and the reason for, all that is unworthy. Our sin makes it that way, but Jesus paid the price, Jesus redeemed us – not just to save us, but so we were worthy of adoption. Again, like the first message in this series, God is more than a judge who can now declare us “Not Guilty.” He desires to take us in, as a Father, and love and cherish us as a child. And He can do so because He paid the price by the sending of Jesus, His Son, so we might then choose to become His children.

I will post further on this passage during the week of Christmas. This verse does lead directly into our next thought which is found in Romans 8.

Adoption Restates Our Father’s Position (Romans 8.15)

Romans 8 is arguably the greatest chapter in the Bible. I certainly believe it is. It is a chapter that speaks of God’s overall redemption – not just of man, but of all Creation – and does so by showing the love that He has for us (particularly at the end of the chapter) and thus the intimacy we can have with Him. And that is what adoption brings.

Consider a family that has been persistent in the process and made the necessary payments for adoption. Now, the day is drawing near for the adoption. To this point, they may have a picture, and they may know a name, but they do not know the child. More importantly, the child does not know them. But soon, a relationship will develop. The prospective parents will no longer be waiting for a child, they will now have “my child.” It will no longer be a child who is “there” (wherever that may be), it will be “our child” in “our home.”

Romans 8.15 captures the essence from the child’s perspective. The child does not know the parents. Perhaps the child is fearful of the new surroundings. But Paul writes that being adopted is becoming free – in this case, free in the Spirit to know God. No longer will the parent be just another adult in a sea of faces, but eventually select adults will be parents. Specifically, the female will become mother and the male will be father. But over time, as the relationship grows and trust is developed, mother may become “mom” just as father may become “dad.”

This idea is powerful and shows the true intimacy God, our Father, desires from us. But let me take this one step further. Let us assume that the family who is adopting already has their own child or children. That biological child may already call his/her parents mom and dad. But true adoption extends that same right to other children who are not the biological offspring. Notice what Paul writes in Romans 8.15, adoption allows some to say Abba and others to say Father. This is an unfortunate translation that is found consistently in English Bibles, such as here and in Galatians 4.6. Paul is not saying that you can either call God Abba or Father depending upon the moment. Instead he is saying that Jews can call God “Abba” and Gentiles can call Him “Pater” which is the Greek word for father. In other words, God’s chosen people and those who are considered as outsiders all have access to the same God. And that same God, because He is Father will welcome His sons and daughters no matter the language, the culture, the background, etc. because for all who receive Him, He has adopted them as His own.

In other words, He is not just the God of the Israelites because of an ancient covenant. He is not just a God to be feared because His wrath is so great. He is not just a God of the Old Testament who has changed His mind on whom He likes or dislikes. God is not just a covenantal God. No, He is more than that. He must still be considered the Almighty God, but His position can now also be considered as that of a loving Father who wants His children to know Him intimately. In short, He is the Father. He is our Father. And in a personal way, He is my Father.


So to recap, the Bible says that adoption is part of God’s eternal plan which has been revealed to us through the work of Christ. Adoption has been secured for those who receive the gift of God’s Son who satisfied the payment God required for adoption. And adoption has provided us a way to rethink how we can view who God is – not just as Creator and Judge, but as Redeemer and Father. It is to this loving, personal, and yet corporate God that Jesus taught us to pray. And that prayer we were taught does remind us that God is more than any earthly father could be, but, like a human father who loves his children, is deeply concerned with our daily affairs – what we have to eat, how we respond to others, and how we live our lives, not just for any reason – but because we are children of God.


The JOURNEY letter for today is U, because if you are a child of God, you are not alone. We must remember we are but one brother or sister among millions, or perhaps billions, whom God has claimed as His own. As such, we have a responsibility to unite with other Christians across the globe to love and serve our God – not just as Lord, but as our loving Father.

NEXT STEP(S): LEARN. Once again, our step this week is to memorize 1 John 3.1. The overall goal will be not only to memorize the verse, but to LEARN to understand it, so we might LIVE in light of its truth, LOVE others because of it, and ultimately LEAD others to embrace it as well.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“Jesus Is My Brother” by Rick Sons

Most people will never know another human being on this earth for as long as they know their brother or sister. It makes no difference whether you and your siblings fought constantly while growing up, you lost touch as you got older, or remained incredibly close and connected from day one – your connection to your brother or sister will always come first. The sibling relationship is life’s longest-lasting relationship. For most of us, it is longer than our ties to our parents by a quarter of a century. It is longer than our relationship with our children, longer than a spouse, and with the exception of a few lucky men and women, longer than a best friend.

Children in the United States are more likely to grow up with their siblings than with their fathers. As I stated before, over the course of their life most children will spend more time with their siblings than they spend with anyone else, including their parents.

Here are some famous brothers from history.

The Wright Brothers

The Marx Brothers

Walt and Roy Disney

The Sons Brothers

Wait maybe that last picture is more infamous than famous. Bill and Bob are my younger brothers. We are very close and Bill and I even have a music ministry. I would like to take this time to introduce you to my Big Brother.

He is without fear; in fact, the sounds of His voice causes men to tremble. He is loving and compassionate. No matter what I do, He is there, He always has my back, and He forgives me. My Big Brother is generous and will give all He has, up to and including His life, so that I can be free from my sin and the sin of the world. People of the world look up to Him and kings and leaders of the world bow down to Him. My Big Brother sits at the right hand of God. My Big Brother’s name is Jesus.

You might think it is funny that I call Jesus my Big Brother but that is what He is.
Jesus is the first begotten in the Spirit and the only begotten in the flesh. The Bible clearly presents Jesus Christ as being one with the Father. Jesus set aside His rights as God and took on human flesh to dwell among us. A few passages also refer to Jesus as our Brother.

Hebrews 2:11 says, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” The word translated “brothers” is the word used for blood relatives.

Romans 8:29 says, “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

In Mark 3:34-35, Jesus declares that those who follow Him are His brothers: “He looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Jesus is our elder Brother and we, like Him, are in the image of God. There are some who believe that since Jesus is one with God and the Holy Spirit He is our Father, not our Brother. But as stated in Romans 8:29, Jesus is the firstborn Son of God among many brothers.

We know that Jesus is God’s Son, thus making Him God’s child. We are all the offspring of God in the sense we are products of the creative work of God. Acts 17:25 says that not all men are the children of God in a personal sense as a father with a son. Scripture teaches that God only dwells in those who have put their faith in Christ. Others who are God’s offspring by creation have been separated from Him because of sin. This is where my Big Brother came in. My generous Big Brother gave His life for me and His siblings so when a person turns to God by believing in Him, they are spiritually regenerated, born anew, and given new life. We are God’s children because God said so.

1 John 3:1-3 says, “The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children. The reason the people in the world do not know us is that they have not known him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and we have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him, because we will see him as he really is. Christ is pure, and all who have this hope in Christ keep themselves pure like Christ.”

I feel that many of us have a difficult time having a true relationship with Jesus because we see Him as more of an authority or a father than as what He really is – our brother. Think about it. Growing up, didn’t you tell your brother things you didn’t tell your father? Who did you go to for advice when you did something you knew you would be punished for? As I grew up, there were times when I felt I needed to protect Bill and Bob from the people and dangers of the world or even our school. That is what big brothers do. Younger children are comforted by knowing that they have an older brother watching over them. Many times you will hear children say, “My brother is bigger than your brother!” Younger siblings are proud and look up to their older brothers. Fellow believers, you are my brothers and sisters too. If you have not yet met my Big Brother or know what He can do, just call His name because He is always there. Then you will see the biggest brother on the block!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Adoption: Living as Orphans

The number of orphans around the world is staggering. Some estimates suggest over 15 million orphans live in orphanages or on the streets around the world. In the US alone, over 400,000 children are in foster care. The truth is that orphans do not choose to be orphans, but once they are orphaned, a mentality sets in that makes it hard to escape. A child might be adopted, but their mindset is still that of an orphan. It is a mindset of scarcity. It often becomes a mindset of hopelessness. This is the work of the devil, for Jesus says that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10.10). But Jesus offers a life of abundance (John 10.10) because God is a giving God – a giving, and loving Father.

The challenge is the difficulty in moving from a mindset where scarcity is the norm to one where abundance is possible. And the truth is that many people have much more than they realize yet continue to live with the mindset of an orphan. Amazingly, this idea is quite true for many Christians as well. For an orphan, this mindset is usually the result of a harsh reality. But for the Christian, such a mindset is a lack of faith, a lack of trust, and a lack of understanding the reality of the grace that the Father has for us.

As we will see today, this mindset is nothing new, but it is one that must be changed. And changed it can be when we truly realize how benevolent our Father in heaven truly is.

The story this week is likely familiar to many reading this post. Basically, a father has two sons. The youngest one comes to ask for this share of the inheritance. He leaves and squanders it by living lavishly (the basic meaning of the word prodigal), and eventually returns home where His father greets him, and orders a celebration because of his return, much to the chagrin of the older brother. The story is known as the prodigal son and is found in Luke 15.

That is the basic story. The story, however, is a parable that Jesus told and thus has some important principles for us to understand. Today, I want to view this story through the lens of adoption, and specifically the nature of how we choose to live as orphans instead of choosing to fully embrace the goodness of our Father.

An Orphan Mentality Always Wants More (Luke 15.11-16)

I summarized the story above ago, but now let’s break down a few important points from the beginning of the story.
  • The youngest son asks for his portion of an inheritance.
  • A few days later he leaves with all he had and goes to another country.
  • He lives it up for a while, then finds himself broke.
  • He has to get a job which would have been unthinkable to a Jew.

Why? Because he has an orphan mentality. Please understand, I am not criticizing those who are orphans. Orphans do not choose to be an orphan. In the movie, Annie, Mrs. Finnegan facetiously make this very point: “Why any kid would want to be an orphan is beyond me.” But whether, or not, someone is an orphan, any of us can have the attitude of one. The attitude represents those who focus so much on their own desires (and sometimes needs) now that they abandon all other thoughts.

The idea is to “get while the gettin’ is good.” When an opportunity exists, you take it – even against bad odds – because you do not know when you may have another opportunity. Consider Oliver Twist. In the movie, Oliver, Oliver is eating and asks Mr. Bumble for some more gruel (porridge). Bumble thinks he must have misunderstood because no one would dare ask for more. When Oliver asks again, “Please sir, I want some more” he is chased around the room in order to punish him.

The truth is that orphans generally have very little and thus guard it. You might remember Annie being asked for her sweater. Her reply: “Will I get it back?” However, as we see from the story in Luke 15, those with an orphan mindset may receive a great deal, but will soon squander it. We must consider that this son had plenty. We find out later in the story that the father has servants so this family is not destitute. But what the son had was not enough – at least not for him. Living with his father day by day and receiving whatever benefits that may have had was not enough. Instead, he went to his dad and said “give me everything I am due. And give it to me now.” The father did so, and the boy left. But he squandered all he had. Then when the crisis came – the famine in verse 14, he had nothing left, not even a father to help him. So he got a job, yet was still so hungry that he was willing to eat with the pigs.

Are we any different? Doesn’t God give us blessings upon blessings? We may not have all we want, but most everyone here has all they need. Jesus taught us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6.33). What were these things? Food, clothing, and shelter – the basic needs of life (vv. 25-32). But we desire more because we stop looking at the kingdom and start focusing on what we don’t have – just like an orphan. For instance, this week, many will spend time with family and/or friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. But some will not give thanks and a few will even get mad because someone else ate the last piece of pie (although the angry person already had two pieces).

Certainly, some have more than others. But we have all been given much. Many around the world have yearly incomes of less than $1000. Most everyone in the US earns more than that in a month. Indeed, in the US, we have been given muchm, but many still have a mentality that we must have more.

An Orphan Mentality Can Give Way With Hope (Luke 15.17-24)

This second part of the parable is really about hope. We cannot miss the fact that the son “came to himself” – that is, he got his head screwed on straight. This son realized that the servants who worked for his father were in far better position than he was. So, he decides to go home, repent of his sin, and ask to become a servant.

But the reality is that he had no way of knowing how his father would react. Or did he? As I have mentioned countless times before hope in the Bible is not a wish or dream, it is a certainty. Let me explain it this way for this passage. The point here is that the orphan mentality can shift with hope, not by hoping. Hoping is to say something like, “I hope my dad will listen to me” or “I hope my dad will hire me as a servant.” However, true hope is different.

True hope is to have some sense of assurance of what will happen. This boy may have been the younger son, but he was old enough to be given a sum of money, and allowed to travel to another country. Therefore, he knew something about his dad. He saw how his father treated the servants. He saw how his father cared for him and his older brother. Thus, he could have some sense of hope that his return was not in vain.

And, of course, it wasn’t. Upon his return, the father saw him, had compassion (love in action) and even ran to him to embrace and kiss him. He gave him a robe, a ring, shoes, and prepared a feast. Remember last week’s post was about grace upon grace. That is what this is. The son had some hope that his father would at least be willing to listen to him or he would never have returned. But it was more than listening, it was loving. It was a true reconciliation. The son was challenged to change his mindset from being fearful of not having enough to being treated in an extravagant way.

This reaction is all the more remarkable because of the reason the father gives. “For this my son was dead, but is alive again.” Really the inverse is true. Remember, the son asked the father for his inheritance. Some individuals may give away a great deal of their estate while living, but for someone to ask for it is to say, “I wish you were dead. Father, you are dead to me” Effectively, that is what this young son said to his father when asking for his share of the property. But here, in verse 24, the father turns it around and says, “My son was as dead to me, but now he has returned. Let’s party!”

Again, the father’s reaction is an example grace upon grace. The father not only welcomes him back, but does so with the full rights as his son. The son had some bit of hope causing him to return. But with real hope we, like this son, can overcome having such a minimalist mindset. It is that type of hope that allows us to realize that the sun will come up tomorrow. No matter what you are going through today, the next tomorrow is only a day away.

An Orphan Mentality Prevents Us From Celebrating With Others (Luke 15.25-32)

The final portion of this story focuses on the other brother. This older brother remained home with dad while the younger one went off and squandered his inheritance. But make no mistake, the older brother has the mentality of an orphan as well.

Notice what these verses say about the older brother.
  • He heard music and dancing, but he got angry and refused to go in.
  • He questioned his father’s motives being jealous of how his brother was treated.

Did you catch that? His brother was home, and they were going to have steak, but he would not go in. This brother who lived at home and had all the benefits, but still had an orphan’s mentality. Specifically, I think we can hear him thinking three distinct thoughts.
  • I have been here working hard and he comes back to a party. That’s not fair. What’s my reward?
  • Dad already gave him his allotment, but now that he is back, I bet dad gives him even more which cuts into my share.
  • If I can’t have it, no one can!

The older brother had the same mindset as the younger brother except the older brother didn’t run off with his inheritance. But he still complains to dad that he wants more. And like his younger brother who chose to live elsewhere instead of with dad, the older brother, by not going to the party, misses out on a part of the father’s generosity. Would the younger brother have welcomed his older brother to the party? Almost certainly, because he now had hope just like when Annie invited all of the orphans to a party at Daddy Warbucks’ house.

The truth is that both boys are sons who are deeply loved, yet lived like orphans. One left and the other didn’t, but both have a similar mindset. However, their father loves them both and both of them benefit from their relationship with their father. In fact, the father does not withhold anything they are due (v12, 31).

Consider our place in this story.

We are like the younger son in that God has so much for us, but we turn our back and go our own way until we find ourselves in such a bad position we have to return to Him. Many do not return, but thankfully so do – including some reading this post.

We are also like the older brother. We struggle when others seem to receive certain blessings from our Father. We ask, “Why me?” or perhaps, “Why not me?” instead of being grateful for all that we have already been given which should help us know more will come our way.

But aren’t we thankful that God is like the father in the story? We are not the biological children of God, but He loves us, and has compassion upon us. He did not kill the fattened calf; rather, He allowed the perfect lamb to be killed – for us. Having fulfilled that promise, will He not fulfill all of His other promises – such as Jesus coming again and our going being at home with Him for eternity? And in the meantime, will God, our Father, not provide for us and care for us until the end? Certainly, He will. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4.19: “And my God will supply every need of your according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

We may want more, but we can be satisfied knowing God will provide all that we need.
We may need hope, but we must realize only God’s promises are worth considering.
We may find life unfair, but we will celebrate with others when we see them as God’s child too.


Let me state again that I have no intention to denigrate orphans or children in need of care. That is not my goal at all. In fact, the Bible says we are to care for widows and orphans. Why? Because orphans do not choose to be orphans. Most every orphan becomes an orphan through the death of their parents or caregivers or because they are abandoned. That is not the fault of the person who becomes an orphan. And for those who become orphaned, the mindset that develops seems quite natural – always wanting more, trying to find hope, and persisting with a mindset even when in a home.

But the tragedy is for those who are not orphans who choose to have the same mindset. This is true of humanity in general, and worse, it is true for many Christians who have a loving Father who has already given so much and promised more to each of His children. We have a choice to live with a mindset which only expects little because our focus is on ourselves or we can choose mindset that expects God to be God.


The JOURNEY letter for today is Y because for you to receive all He wants to give you, you must first receive Him. Just as the younger son turned back to his father, when we seek our Father, we discover a love that insists on sharing with us all that is His. But the process begins with us realizing and making a claim as to who Jesus really is. Jesus asked His disciples, and He asks us here today, “Who do you say that I am?” Your response is the key to everything else to follow.

NEXT STEP(S): LEARN. Once again, our step this week is to memorize 1 John 3.1. The overall goal will be not only to memorize the verse, but to LEARN to understand it, so we might LIVE in light of its truth, LOVE others because of it, and ultimately LEAD others to embrace it as well.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Adoption: Grace Upon Grace

In Fiscal Year 2016, the United States Sentencing Commission received information on 67,874 federal criminal cases in which the offender was sentenced. Almost 12,000 more individuals were resentenced or had the sentences modified. Thus, nearly 80,000 criminal cases (the vast majority related to drug, immigration, fraud, or firearms) included a sentencing of some kind – and that is just at the federal level. Effectively, that means that in each of these 80,000 cases, the defendant heard a verdict of guilty – at least, to some degree. Most of these verdicts resulted in jail time with an average sentence around five years. (1)

In a country with a population of well over 300 million, the numbers may not seem too disproportional. However, what is important to us at this moment is that you and I are not among those for one reason only – the grace of God. Romans 3 makes clear that no one is righteous (v .10) and that we all sin (v. 23). Sure, those of us gathered today may not have committed certain crimes, but if circumstances were different, we could have, and be facing time in jail. However, by the grace of God, we did not and hear about these statistics rather than being a part of them.

Now, what I want you to imagine is that what if each of those 80,000 cases had been declared “Not Guilty” instead. Whether the case was heard by a jury or not is somewhat irrelevant. But, whomever determined the judgment, the judge proclaimed the defendant “Not Guilty.”

Ultimately, as Christians that is what has happened to us. The difference for us is that we are guilty, but Jesus paid the price. He served the sentence. And the wages (the sentence) of sin is death. But Jesus defeated death and thus those who place their faith in Him do not die, but live forever – not because of what we have done, but because of grace.

I realize we just had a sermon on sola gratia, by grace alone, four weeks ago. And I realize that the word grace is in the title twice. But what may surprise you is that grace is not the ultimate subject today. Grace is necessary to realize the fullness of the subject, but grace is simply a step. In fact, as great as grace is, as amazing as grace is, it is simply the avenue to what God really has for us.

Over the next several weeks, we will explore this great gift God desires for His children. In fact, that is it, He wants us as His children, and thus the grand idea – the great gift – available because of His grace is: adoption. As we will see in the coming weeks, even if you have never really thought about the idea of adoption, it is a foundational core of those who believe in God – for whenever we call Him Father, or talk of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we imply that we have been adopted by God. So, as we unpack this great gift over the next seven weeks, my prayer is that we will better understand what the Bible says about adoption and what it means for us now and for eternity.

Adoption Is Made Possible By Jesus (John 1.1-12)

Some who read this may have parts or all of this passage memorized. It is a great passage, but let me start with verse 12 and then summarize the previous eleven verses. Verse 12 says we have been given the right to become children of God. Why? Because Jesus came and died? How? By believing that to be true and our only source of salvation. It is Jesus that we are to receive, the name in which we are to believe (v. 11, cf. Acts 4.12).

Why should we believe in His name? The preceding verses give us a great deal of information.
  • He was there in the beginning. He was with God. He was God.
  • All things were made through Him.
  • Life was in Him. He is the light of man. He drives out darkness.

The reason John wrote this version of the gospel is to show that Jesus was real – that is, He is God, but He came as a human. Verse 10 paints a very clear picture. He was in the world…even though He made the world…but the world did not care. Not even the chosen people of Israel cared.

But those who do recognize who He truly is become the true children of God.

Adoption Requires a New Birth (John 1.13)

Each person is here today because two individuals – one male, one female – engaged in procreation. The biology behind the birthing process is known and understood. Therefore, when you are born, you have a father and mother.

But with adoption, a child receives a new parent or set of parents. Such is the case with God’s children. Verse 13 makes this contrast clear. John begins by writing of a natural birth – where blood, the flesh, and man’s desires are involved. He then wrote that adoption requires a birth available from God. In John 1, we are not given any real detail of what that kind of birth would be, but John 3 answers the question fully – we must be born again.

Like Nicodemus, when we first hear a phrase like being born again, we should have questions. Nicodemus asked how it was possible for a grown man to enter his mother’s womb. Jesus responded that a person must be born of the Spirit (John 3.5). Jesus response fits perfectly with John 1.13 which, again, states that the being born of God is different from birth related to the flesh. Because the Holy Spirit is God, then the new birth through the Spirit is of God. And thus, when we are born of the Spirit, we are born again, which means we are born into the family of God – that is, we are adopted as a child of God.

But now, let me show you why I am preaching this series. As I consider the idea of adoption, in a theological sense, I am becoming convinced that adoption is a greater gift than salvation.

Adoption Is a Compounding of Grace (John 1.14-18)

In the previous point, I mentioned we must be born again to be adopted by God. Adoption requires us to be born of the Spirit, but that is only possible because Jesus came in the flesh (v. 14). For God to send His Son was an act of grace. For the Son, Jesus, to die for us was an act of grace. But if that is where the grace ended, something would be missing.

Consider the following. Suppose someone finds an animal that needs to be saved from something (e.g. the cold). After the animal is brought in from the cold, the person realizes it is likely hungry and thirsty, but s/he has “saved” it so let it fend for itself. In fact, let’s take this a step further and consider that the person does not have room for it, so s/he places it right back in the cold without any protection. Technically, the animal was saved, but then put it right back in (or near) the same conditions in which it was found.

The initial rescue was successful, but if nothing else was done, the potential for the animal to find itself in need of help again is very high. Would we say the rescue was complete in that situation? Of course not. The rescue would be complete if the animal is able to be warm, get food and water, and perhaps receive medical treatment, at a minimum.

With that in mind, consider the rescue (salvation) that Jesus provided? Many are happy to know Jesus died for them. But is that all? What if Jesus saved you, but then put you right back in a position of sin? What if His death saved you, but then He abandoned you? If that were true God’s grace may have saved you, but what kind of salvation would that be?

John 1.16 is one verse that helps us to know that Jesus did not rescue us for the purpose of then releasing back to our own troubles.* I must admit, I am enamored with this verse. “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” What does that mean?

* It is important to understand that trusting in Jesus does not remove us from our troubles and make life perfect – not in any way. But the difference is that having trusted in Jesus for salvation, His promise is to be with us as we have times of trouble in our lives.

Well, God’s grace saved you, but He offers more grace beyond that. Saving you was not the fullness of God’s plan. It was/is definitely a part of the plan, but He has something even more – the “fullness” mentioned in this verse – in store. To make sure we make the right connection, let us compare verse 12 and verse 16.

In verse 12, John wrote that those who receive Him get the right to become God’s children. Verse 16 says we receive from His fullness grace upon grace. The word receive is repeated. This word is the Greek word lambano – a word that is found many times in the book of John. So, if we receive Him (Jesus) we are saved (by grace), but the fullness of His gift requires more grace – grace upon grace – and that fullness is our becoming children of God. (To further elaborate, notice verse 11 contrasts those who do not receive Him – paralambano, in the Greek.)

So, grace is given for salvation, but more grace is needed, and thus supplied for us to become children. God was not content with merely saving His creation, but to claim it – to claim us – as His very own, just as He did in the very beginning with the man and woman in Eden.

Finally, notice how this passage ends. It ends by contrasting a knowledge of the law to truly knowing God. Again, the idea is grace upon grace. Apart from Jesus, no one has ever perfectly kept the Law given to Moses. It requires God’s grace for us to overcome the law. But simply overcoming the law does not necessarily mean knowing God intimately – at least not without more grace. Again, grace upon grace. What an awesome God we serve!


Let me now return to the idea of the criminal cases I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Remember, some 80,000 criminal cases last year ended with a verdict of guilty. But I asked you to imagine that the verdict had been not guilty – not because they were not guilty, but because the sentence had already been paid. Again, that is precisely what Jesus did for us.

But here is the twist for us to consider. Suppose, again, in each of those courtrooms the “Not Guilty” verdict was made. What happens next? The judge goes home. The defendant is free, but free to do what? Again, the defendant admitted guilt, so perhaps s/he had been incarcerated for months waiting for trial. Perhaps the person has nothing left – no place to go, no food to eat, etc. The defendant was saved from the sentencing that comes from a guilty verdict, but to what end? The judge’s job is complete.

But God is more than our judge. He wants to be our Father. God, unlike a human judge, does not just declare the person innocent, He invites the person home. He invites all people who receive His Son to eat with Him…to share with Him…to live with Him – as a child of God.

That is adoption. That is why I believe adoption is another step beyond salvation. Many earthly judges have “saved” a person because of verdict, but they will not be involved in the person’s life from that point forward – let alone for all of eternity. But God wants to do just that. He not only provided a means to save us, but He grants us all the privileges we can imagine as co-heirs with Christ – a term we will explore in a few weeks.

That my friends, is grace upon grace. That is, at least, a part of what John meant when He wrote that it is from God’s fullness that we have received all we have received – and all we will receive in the future. Let us be thankful for God’s grace. But let us be even more thankful for His grace upon grace. Let us be thankful for the opportunity to truly be a child of God!


The JOURNEY letter for today is Y because for us to receive all He wants to give you, you must first receive Him. We must never chase what God has for us over Who God is to us. To chase things is idolatry, but according to John 1.16 and other verses we can be certain that if we embrace God then He will embrace us and give us more than we can know possible. Why? Because we are His children. But it starts with You making a claim as to who Jesus is. Jesus asked His disciples, and He asks us here today, “Who do you say that I am?” Your response is the key to everything else.

NEXT STEP(S): Learn. This week’s step is to memorize a verse we will touch most every week during this series. The verse is 1 John 3.1. The goal will be not only to memorize the verse, but to LEARN to understand it, so we might LIVE in light of its truth, LOVE others because of it, and ultimately LEAD others to embrace it as well.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mission: God Possible

This week’s entry relates to our church’s need to raise capital for two specific purposes. Portions of the script have been modified. The sermon can be heard in its entirety at the church website.

Most people who have spent much time in a church recognize three aspects. First, the church will have some sort of worship service with a certain routine established. Second, at some point someone (e.g. the pastor) will ask for money. Third, most church business meetings are horrible.

Well, today, we are fulfilling the first aspect. In a few moments, I will ask for money fulfilling the second. So, let’s have a little fun at the expense of the third item for just a moment. Again, many church members loathe business meetings. But as I have said here before, and as I teach students each semester, we must realize that business meetings are biblical. The first thing the apostles did after Jesus ascended to heaven was call a meeting to replace Judas. And Acts 15 was more of a convention with Paul and Barnabas coming from Antioch for a meeting which shaped the church for years to come.

Some meetings are very helpful, and some churches do them very well. But not all. In fact, a recent blog provided a few examples where the meetings were a disaster. Let me share a few of the details.

Business Meeting (Mis)-Adventures*

  • Dead body in dumpster. One church had a prolonged business meeting on whether or not to put a lock on their dumpster. There was no resolution. Within the week someone put a dead body in the dumpster. The church voted overwhelmingly and immediately to put the lock on.
  • Donuts. A church once had a two-hour meeting discussing donuts.
  • Lawnmower blades. One multi-hour church business meeting focused on what type of lawnmower blades to purchase.
  • Record time for a business meeting. A world record may have been set at one church business meeting began at 7 pm and took a break at midnight to resume the next evening. The point of contention was the type of wheels to put on a people mover, standard or chrome.
  • Vote to close closes. The congregation of a church called a business meeting for the singular purpose of voting to close the church. Due to lack of interest, not enough members showed up to have a quorum. I have no words.

* These five items were adapted from a blog by Thom Rainer. See the following blog for more items.

So, we can be thankful that we are not subject to that – at least, not today. But today, we are officially kicking off our capital campaign. Why? Two reasons. First, we need to replace a chunk of the funds we have recently spent related to the heating/cooling and electrical issues. Second, in March, the church voted to approve some renovations to the sanctuary – which originates with the need to replace the carpet.

You may recall that we were going to begin this process at the end of August. In fact, on the last Sunday of August, I preached from 2 Samuel 24 as a precursor to set up this day (click here). During that message, I mentioned that God had spared us because we were set to vote immediately following the morning service to approve a contract to begin the renovations. Thankfully, we learned of the severity of our heating and cooling problem just a few days before and were able to forgo the vote, delay the capital campaign, and evaluate the overall situation.

Now, a little more than two months later, the time has come. The work on the HVAC and electrical systems is complete. The bills have been paid. The numbers are better known. And now is a time to act.

So, as we launch our capital campaign today, let me remind us that God has not changed, and because of that we must respond. To do that, we will spend a little time in Genesis, a little in Matthew, and finish in Hebrews 11. But we will start in Ephesians.

3P’s  (x2) and Our Response

God Had a Purpose (Ephesians 1.7-10)

In the beginning, God created… Why? We might literally spend all day uncovering this answer, but Ephesians 1 provides some insight. READ Ephesians 1.7-10. In short, God created the world for the sake of Christ, that we might know Him and that we, and all things, would be united through Him.

God Had a Plan (Genesis 1)

1 Corinthians 14 states that God is a God of order. Notice the creation accounts. First, God created light which is necessary for growth. Then He created water, which is necessary to live. Eventually, God created man and woman in His image so that we could be stewards of all He created. If God created man before He created water, we could not have survived…in fact around 60% of the human body is water, so we could not have even existed.

God Made a Promise (Genesis 3.15)

Ultimately, mankind did not live up to the charge we were given, so God made a way to fix our most serious problem – sin. A lot of debate exists on when God developed His plan to save us, but we know with certainty that the plan was only revealed after the man and woman partook of the fruit. We must realize that God was often with them (Genesis 3.8), but sin broke that relationship. God made a way for the relationship to continue – and it began with a promise.

God Has a Purpose (Ephesians 1.7-10)

God’s purpose began with Creation that the world might know Christ. That purpose has not changed. The word mystery which once was has now been made known (v. 9). The Old Testament gave hints and clues about Who was to come, but now we know – or, at least, can know. God’s purpose has not changed.

God Has a Plan (Matthew 16.18)

His original plan was to create, now it is to build. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” He has been doing so for nearly 2000 years and will continue to do so until He returns. This plan included Christ, who is the Purpose, coming to die, so that He might live, and can now build through us. Because we are made in His image, we can do what He wants done as the stewards we were originally called to be.

God Has a Promise (Matthew 28.20)

God spent time with the man and woman in the Garden. He promises to be with us always, if we will choose to be with Him. As we talked about last week, He desires to reform, conform, and transform us and will reward those who have faith. God’s promise to Adam and Eve was that He would make a way in the future. Jesus was, and is, that Way, and His promise is to be with us always.

So, God had a purpose and still has the same one. God had a plan and has added a new element – the church. God made a promise and has now made a new one because He already fulfilled the old one. So what is our response? And how does all of this fit with a need to raise capital for Fairfax Baptist Church?

Our Response To God’s Purpose Is To Make Disciples (Matthew 28.18-20)

Again, God had a purpose to make Christ known, and He still has the same purpose. Those who know Christ and follow Him (which is the obvious implication of being in Him (Ephesians 1.7) are called disciples. Jesus final words according to Matthew were to make disciples. How? By going, by baptizing, and by teaching others to observe all that He commanded His disciples. The same is true now for those who follow Jesus – we are to go, to baptize, and to teach others to observe because we are His disciples. God’s purpose is to make Jesus known – and our purpose is to make sure that happens by making disciples.

Our Response To God’s Plan Is To Be Effective Stewards (Matthew 16.19; 18.18-20)

Jesus said He would build His church, but He told Peter that the keys would be given to Him (this is why the Catholic Church has a pope – it all relates back to this verse). However, in Matthew 18, Jesus talks again about binding and loosing, but uses a plural “you” meaning all of the disciples.

Thus, it is the job of the entire church to steward what God has entrusted us. Just like Adam and Eve were entrusted to steward Creation, so have we been entrusted with the church – and for you and I that specifically means Fairfax Baptist Church. When we see something wrong, we need to address it – in unity. And that brings us to our final point.

Our Response To God’s Promise Is To Live By Faith (Hebrews 11)

God was in the Garden with His creation. Jesus promised to be with His followers forever. How do we respond? Let us look at some examples from Hebrews 11. What I want you to notice is that the people mentioned here DID something, and that is what faith requires. Faith is not simply thinking or believing something to be true, it is acting on what we believe. Consider:

  • Abel – offered (v. 4)
  • Noah – constructed (v. 7) 
  • Abraham – obeyed and went (v. 8)
  • Sarah – conceived (v. 11) 
  • Abraham – offered (v. 17) 
  • Isaac – blessed others (v. 20)
  • Jacob – blessed others (v. 21)  
  • Joseph – told of the future (v. 22)
  • Moses – chose mistreatment over comfort (v. 25)
  • Etc.

The point is that the great people of faith acted on their belief in God and thus their stories are worth telling. The question for Fairfax Baptist Church is will our story be worth telling in another 50, 75, or 100 years. And today, that story begins with a need to give.

A Call to Action

So, here is the crux of the matter for us today. God has a purpose and a plan and a promise. As we do our part, we grow as individuals, bond together as a church, and expand God’s kingdom (maybe in numbers, but certainly in influence). While the church is really the people, the building is our rallying place, and it needs new carpet. While the carpet is up, we can make a few modifications to the platform area. And if the carpet comes up, we need to have a plan for seating – to restore or to replace.

We also need to replenish a portion of the savings we recently spent. We have recently benefited from having a reserve on hand, and over time, it will be nice to rebuild all of that reserve, but for now, we simply need to replenish a portion and then complete the work that has already been approved by the church.

So, what does this mean and how does it relate to God’s promise?

First, the Finance Team has agreed to the following campaign which consists of two phases.

  • Phase 1: Replenish a portion of the savings used for the recent work
  • Phase 2: Cover the cost of the renovations related to the carpet and seating

Second, I ask you to give. Remember faith requires action. We are a people of faith, and now we must act. The truth is that some here will not benefit greatly from what is to be done. But that was true of those who helped make this building possible in 1955 and we are the beneficiaries 60+ years later. Hebrews 11.13 gets straight to this point for those who live by their faith.

Now, let me get specific here based upon conversations with several people. Some general thoughts expressed are:

  • Build Savings Quickly. Some of you want to get the savings built up quickly. That is why the Finance Team has made this the first priority – or Phase 1.
  • Renovations Now. Some of you want to get moving on the renovations very quickly. That is why the goal for Phase 1 is quite modest.
  • Avoid Debt. Most everyone wants to avoid debt to complete the renovation. I cannot say for certain what will or will not happen, but I do think that the church should authorize any loan before any loan documentation is signed.
  • Impossible! Some of you think these numbers are impossible. And maybe they are for us, but we have a saying around here that comes straight from the Bible – “But God.”

Now, let me give you a few thoughts from myself and the Finance Team.

  • Ministry Takes Precedence. Frankly, we tightened the budget for 2018 to help compensate for the added costs. But the ministry of this church has gradually expanded most every year since I came, and the goal is to continue to move forward, not backward. That is, we will seek to be strategic in what we do as a church, but this capital campaign cannot get in the way of what God calls us to do within and without the church walls.
  • Above and Beyond. Given the first point, giving to this campaign needs to be above and beyond your normal giving. I certainly hope you give a regular offering and even a tithe or more perhaps. But some also give to Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, MMO, OCC shoeboxes, piki piki, etc. We all have a finite amount of money, and the church’s budget comes first, then extra missions, then the campaign. That said, if, on average, if we each gave $5 extra per week ($20 per month), we would have more than enough within 3 years. I can save $5 by not stopping at the C-Store once per week. So, I save money, the church is repaired, and I am healthier as well!
  • How to Give. We realize that some of you have a preference. I mentioned this in the portion above. So, let me help us with the “How to Give.” We need to be united, and the campaign is designed to do that with the two phases. So, if you give to the campaign, the first set of money will go to the church’s savings until we reach the Phase 1 goal of $10,000. To give to the campaign, simply write on your check or envelope “Campaign” or “Capital Campaign” or “Mission: God Possible” or something similar.

Some of you will want your monies to go Savings. If so, simply write on your check or envelope “Savings” again understanding that all of the first monies collected with go there as well.

Finally, some of you want to see the renovations started yesterday. If so, you can give directly to that part of the fund by writing on your check or envelope “Remodel” or “Renovation.” We have the money to start the work on the platform and a portion of what is needed for the carpet, but we must determine what is possible regarding the overall timetable.

What is the timetable? Well, how big is your God? I just mentioned that with $5 extra per week per person (based upon 50 people), this is possible within 3 years. I know $5 per week is a lot for some, but that averages out to just $750 per person over 3 years. I think someone is going to give $750 this month. I think we will complete Phase 1 this year. I really do. And I think God wants to show us that “But God” is more than a couple or words, but a lifestyle in which we should engage. So, I have proposed and the Finance Team agreed, that the campaign will last no more than 18 months. That is, by the first Sunday in May 2019 (May 5), when I am completing my 8th year as your pastor, we will have raised all the money and then some. And, I truly believe we will have the funds even faster than that.


I began this message by discussing God’s purpose, plans, and promise. I then shared what our response must be in a very general way to each of those pieces. But in a very particular way, we must act on our faith now. And, specifically, that relates to raising funds for our church. The timeframe and the amount may be seem impossible, but not with God. Again, this is not  mission impossible, it is Mission: God Possible.


The JOURNEY letter for today is Y because You must respond in faith. Jesus still has a plan for this church, and His promise is to be with us. Each of us, that is, YOU must believe and respond.

NEXT STEP(S): Live: Our faith requires us to live, and this living is our partnering with God to do far more than we can ask or think or imagine. So begin by praying about your action in this campaign. We are truly counting on God to provide the necessary funds and we must all be willing to sacrifice a little or a lot. Whatever you decide to contribute, know that others will benefit from your giving just as you benefit now from those who have given in the past.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformed and Always Reforming

In 1934, the Baptist World Alliance meeting was held in Berlin, Germany. The Alliance was formed in 1905 and currently consists of over 100,000 churches and approximately 40 million members. (The Southern Baptist Convention is not a part of the Alliance). During the 1934 meeting, pastors from around the world attended including one, named Michael King, from the state of Georgia, in the United States. While there King had a chance to learn more about the great work that Martin Luther did some 400 years prior. As a result, upon his return to the States, Michael informally (i.e. not legally) changed his name to Martin Luther King as he also did of his eldest son, Michael King, Jr. (The birth certificate for Martin Luther King, Jr was officially changed in 1957).

Like Luther, Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr. both led a movement to bring light where darkness was prevalent. Martin Luther King, Jr., in particular, did so through peaceful protests following the lead of Ghandi. However, as I have mentioned several times during this series, Martin Luther led a protest against the sixteenth century church that was not a direct assault, but rather began as an intent to reshape the understanding of the church and the people. Essentially, 435 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. set about to do the same thing. As such, both men were ostracized by many, threatened by some, and had to exhibit extreme courage to withstand the pressures of their day. God knew what was needed and gifted both men to lead their respective reforms and to have a dream of seeing what is possible, not just what was.

However, what is possible is still ahead of us. Just as our country has a great deal of work to do regarding race relations, the Church still has work to do to become all that God intends. And work is a key word for us today. The work begins within us, it continues through us, and is completed by God for us. But even as we are the recipients of the work, and the work if primarily done for us, ultimately the purpose is for God.

Today, I want to do two things. I want to share from the Bible that God’s work is not done yet. And I want to close by looking at a hymn written by Martin Luther over 485 years ago.

One last time, I want to remind you of the definition of Reformation.

Reformation (Re – Form – Ation)
RE – from a Latin word; has an element of “again” or “again and again”; a backward motion (like retrace or revert); return
FORM – to construct or frame; to arrange or organize
ATION – an act of process

In prior weeks, we have looked at Scripture as the source for the reforming process of the Church to return to its roots. However, today, we will see that the process is not done. Just as the reformers cried out, “post tenebras lux” (after darkness, light) they also believed in the idea of semper reformanda – always reforming. In fact, the full expression is ecclesia reformation, semper reformanda secundum verbi Dei. That is, “the Church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.”  (1)

As we will see today, the church, that is, you and I, must be reformed, but it is God who is ultimately doing the re-forming (notice the statement is “being reformed” – as in, something or Someone else is responsible). So what evidence does Scripture provide for the idea of being reformed, yet always being reformed? Let’s look at three ideas.

Being Reformed by God as We Work. Philippians 2.12-13
Would you like to please God? The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please Him. But for those who seek Him and draw near to Him, there is a reward (Hebrews 11.6). Consider the following verses.

In Philippians 2.5-11, Paul wrote about the humility of Christ. Yet because of the humility of Jesus, His is the name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess. See, Jesus had to do His part, but then God honored Him for doing so.

The same is true for us. In verse 12, we are called to work out our salvation. Paul writes that we do this by being obedient to what God wants from us. But notice the promise – as we do our part, God does something greater. As we are obedient, God works in us so that what we do brings Him pleasure. As we follow God’s desires for us, we can do more of what He wants from us. We do our part, and He does His. Related to the Reformation principles (the five solas), we can understand it like this.

  • We don’t work to earn our salvation – we are justified by faith alone (sola fide).
  • We don’t work to get God’s attention – rather we are saved by grace alone (sola gratia).
  • We don’t work because what Christ did was insufficient – He did all that was necessary (solus Christus).
  • We work because Scripture says those who call Jesus Lord will do what He alone has said (sola Scriptura).
  • And we work for the glory of God (soli deo Gloria).

As we do work, God works in us. As we light our light so to speak, God removes our darkness. As individuals we can begin to claim post tenebras lux (after darkness, light). And when we, as individuals, all shine brighter, the church shines brighter as well.

Being Conformed by God Until We Are Like Christ. Romans 8.29-30

Many people believe that becoming a Christian makes life easier. In fact, many pastors, church leaders, and well-meaning people may say something similar when talking to others. But it is not true. It will certainly make our eternity better, and our perspective can bring joy through pain, peace through challenge, etc., but easier is not the right word.

Why? Because we are not like Christ, and God’s goal, per these verses is to conform us until we are in the image of Christ. Now, on the one hand, we know this is possible because we were made in the image of Christ (Genesis 1.26-27). But on the other hand, sin is a part of our lives, and thus we need to be molded, shaped, stretched, squeezed, pulled, popped, etc. – all of which sound like they would hurt – and thus we resist. But God does not give up. No, His promise is to continue until we are conformed to Christ’s image.

Thus, He begins a work. We may join Him, and He continues the work. We may resist, but He will continue the work. Over time we will be reformed, and conformed, and eventually we find ourselves fully transformed.

Being Transformed by God Until We Are Complete. Philippians 1.6

The third aspect is our complete transformation. Notice this verse says that He began the work within us. He initiated the change. He scheduled it. He is implementing the change. But that change is not complete. You may be a Christian, but you are still not in the image of Christ – not yet. But someday. When? On the day of Christ Jesus. That means when He returns. On that day, you, and all, other believers will be complete.

In fact, this promise is for the church, not the individual. As I have stated often, most of the New Testament is written to the church, not the individual. The word you in Philippians 1.6 is  plural in the original Greek. Of course, individuals will be made complete, but the promise is that the Church will be made complete on that day. What a glorious promise that is!

So, the church is being reformed now, and will continue to be shaped until she has conformed to the image of the Bridegroom, and will then be transformed into a perfect state for all of eternity when Jesus returns for His bride. And then we will no longer need to be reformed. We will be complete, just at this series is now set to be finished.


This week we come to the end of this series on the Reformation. For some of you that is a very good thing because history is not your cup of tea. However, while this series has shared some historical facts and covered some historical figures that made the Reformation possible (or necessary), the truth of the Reformation is as important today as it was 500 years ago when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Some of you may recall that we began this series with a message that outlined the series title – post tenebras lux. Ultimately, it is Jesus, that is the light. Ultimately, it is He that reshaped the Church five hundred years ago, and it is He that continues to shape the true Church today. Church, we have issues to overcome, but all things are possible with God if we live as light of the world and love as Jesus commanded us. As Martin Luther King, Jr once said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Post tenebras lux (after darkness, light) is possible, because Jesus is the light and the love the world needs. And that is why, once again, our JOURNEY letter is:


Because of what Jesus did, we are able to live. And that is our Next Step again this week.

NEXT STEP(S): Live because you are being reformed by God…allowing yourself to be conformed to Jesus…knowing God will complete the transformation at the proper time. How do you do this?

  • By Grace Alone (sola gratia) knowing you are saved by grace and nothing you can do (Eph 2.8-9)
  • By Faith Alone (sola fide) knowing we are justified by the righteousness of God, not our own (Romans 1.17)
  • In Christ Alone (solus Christus) knowing Jesus paid the full price for all sin, and by Him we are saved (Acts 4.12)
  • By Scripture Alone (sola Scriptura) knowing we find our truth and direction from God’s holy Word, not from the edicts of man or anywhere else
  • For God’s Glory Alone (soli deo Gloria) knowing that all we do, even down to mundane tasks such as eating and drinking can be done for God’s glory (1 Cor 10.31).

If we live by these principles, we will each find ourselves closer to becoming the person God wants us to be, which will help us become the people God wants us to be.

(1) (