Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Adoption: The Home Life

Video games have changed the way children play games, but a similar theme exists to yesteryear. Games of war, rescue, racing, or sports still dominate. When I was growing up, if I was with friends, I was either playing sports or cowboys and Indians or war. While we were playing for dominance of a kingdom or territory, many of the girls I knew were on the inside of their kingdom pretending to be a princess or even queen. Again, the forms of games have changed but the basic premise remains – conquer something or someone. Or play a game to save the princess or something similar.

The goal for the boys was never to pretend what it was to live inside the kingdom. Sure, we might have been knights with a king to direct us, but it wasn’t about living in the walls. The only time we gathered with the king was to hear the game plan for attack and then go attempt to defeat our enemy. The reality is that the girls may have had the better idea. I am not suggesting I want to dress up like a princess, but rather, we cannot always be out in the battle fighting, we must know how to live when the battle is not raging. We must understand the expectations of the king when we are living as his subjects within the walls of the kingdom or even the castle.

And such is the case with God. But God is more than king. As we have seen so far in this series, God is our Father. Thus, we should want to know how our Father wants us to live as He welcomes us into His home. At a minimum, we should be curious how He wants us to respond to Him – and why.

If God is our Father, then what does that mean for us? What should that mean for us? Well, the answer to those questions has, at least, two parts. The first part must consider how we should respond to the Father for having adopted us. That question will be our focus this week. The second question can then consider how we should treat others because we have been adopted by our Father in heaven. That question will get consideration next week.

The reality is that the Bible covers both questions in much detail. We will only scratch the surface over the next two weeks. Our primary passage today will be from the Sermon on the Mount which will be our focus for the first several months of the coming year beginning December 31. Today, however, I want to focus on a few verses from Matthew 5 and 6 from the mindset of living with our Father in His home rather than with Him as the King and us living in His Kingdom. The principles are largely the same, but as I mentioned last week, the idea of God being Father is deeply intimate. God, as King, does not reveal intimacy at all.

So, if God has adopted us, how might we live as His people? How might we live in His home? And specifically, how are we to respond to Him as our Father? To gain a little perspective, we can begin with the first verses from one of the most famous passages in the Bible.

God is a Personal Father (Exodus 20.1-2)

In Exodus 20, God speaks to all the Israelites and gives the The Commandments. The commandments are not our focus although they could serve for part of my point today. The focus we need to see is two-fold:
  1. God brought them out of slavery and made them His people. This is adoption language. Last week, in Romans 8.15, Paul wrote that once adoption takes place the fear of slavery should be gone. We are now God’s child, made so by the Spirit, and thus we can call Him Father.
  2. God did not just give commands, He gave them a relationship. This is extremely important. In fact, it is the single most important part of the Ten Commandments yet most people miss it. How do I know it is missed? Because people say, “Well, the Bible is just a bunch of rules.” Wrong. I would suggest that it is the foundation of a relationship. Notice how this passage begins. First, Moses is not up on a mountain my Himself (like Charlton Heston taught so many – see Ex 20.18-21). God is speaking to all the people, but it is the first words He says that are important. The first words were not the first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me.” No, His first words were “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In other words, “You know me. I am the same God. You can trust me. And since you can trust me, here is what I expect of you.”

Again, this point is extremely important. It means the Ten Commandments is not a set of rules by which we must live; rather, they are the basis for a healthy relationship with God (the first four) and with others (#5-10). In other words, they mark how we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and how to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.

So, with that as our background, let us know look to the premier teaching of the New Testament to understand what our home life will be like with our Father.

God Is a Demanding Father (Matthew 5.44-48)

While God is personal, His expectations are high. In Matthew 5.48, Jesus says that we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an impossible standard to meet. Perhaps, if we look at the context, we can get a little bit of a break. Maybe Jesus’ words don’t quite mean what they appear to mean at first context. Well, this teaching began with what we call Beatitudes. Then, we are told to be salt and light. Then Jesus says that the Law is permanent (at least until someone lived it perfectly,which He did). And then, Jesus goes through a list of commands and shares that we should overcome anger, lust, marriage issues, while keeping our promises, and not retaliating when we are wronged. Then, in the words immediately before He says we are to be perfect, Jesus says that loving our friends is not enough – we must love our enemies too. So, I guess when Jesus said we are to be perfect, He did not mean some watered-down version of perfect – He meant absolute perfection, which shows just how demanding God is. We are not only to act perfectly, but we are to be motivated perfectly. What we do matters, but who we are matters even more. Is it possible to be perfect?

With Jesus, the answer is yes. Now, I do not mean that we will not make mistakes or that we will not sin. What I mean is what Jesus meant – we can be perfectly righteous. In Matthew 5.18, Jesus said that not one stroke of the Law would pass until it was perfectly completed. Jesus did that, and thus all who place their trust in Him will be found righteous – perfectly righteous (see John 19.30, Romans 2.13 with 3.26 and 5.19 as well as 8.4).

Why must we be perfect? Because that is how we bring Him glory. We have reviewed this verse in part many times, but Matthew 5.16 is the verse which supports our Vision to be “a large church in a small town.” Again, the premise of that is not how many people are a part of this church, but how much influence we have within the community. If the people of a church are not filled with righteousness, then the Father will not be glorified by what they do. Thus, we need to be perfect – we need to live righteously – not for our sakes, but for God’s. And we need to live righteously not just because He is God, but because He is our Father. That means He not only commands us to be righteous through some set of rules as our God, but desires the best from His children as Father.

And that leads directly to our next point.

God is a Trustworthy Father (Matthew 6 and 7)

Throughout Matthew 6 and 7, Jesus constantly gives reasons why the Father is trustworthy. In the beginning of this portion of His sermon, He says you can do things for the accolades of others or you can be truly rewarded by God. In Matthew 6.1, we see the benefits of being perfect. Notice these words are the next words that Matthew records for us. The chapter break might make us miss this, but Jesus gives us the how to be perfect in the verses that follow the command to be perfect. Jesus says specifically that some pretend to be righteous by doing things others will see, but we cannot fool the Father. However, when we are authentic, He will reward not only our efforts, but also reward us for our efforts. That is, we can trust that God will provide for us.

Later in Matthew 6, Jesus says we need not be anxious about what we have or how long we will live. His point is that God is a caring Father. Just as a loving earthly father provides and protects his children, so too the heavenly Father will provide and protect His children. Again, we can trust Him. Remember, Jesus made a statement elsewhere about having the faith of a child. Well, little children aren’t worried about getting a job so that they have food to eat. No, they trust that their parents will provide for them. Human parents may struggle to provide due to any number of reasons, but God has innumerable resources at His disposal.

So, as God’s children, what are we to do? How are we to respond to our heavenly Father. Let me share ten responsibilities we have to the Father as revealed in Matthew 6 and 7. Besides each of our responsibilities, I will share why we should respond to God in this way. It has to do with God being personal, demanding, and trustworthy.

  1. Give to those in need. (Matthew 6.1-4) Because God will provide.
  2. Pray with intention, not with empty phrases. (vv. 5-13) Because God really listens.
  3. Forgive others. (vv. 14-15) Because God forgave you.
  4. Fast to keep yourself pure and seeking God. (vv. 16-18) Because God is sufficient.
  5. Focus on your eternal home, not worldly goods. (vv. 19-24) Because God stuff is eternal.
  6. Trust God to take care of your needs. (vv. 25-34) Because God cares for His Creation.
  7. Make sure you are clean before judging others. (7.1-6) Because only God knows all.
  8. Know that God has your best interest at heart. (vv. 7-11) Because you are His child.
  9. Treat others as you desire to be treated. (vv. 12-14) Because God made you free.
  10. Beware of those who try to deceive you. (vv. 15-20) Because God died for you.

These ten points are the crux of the rest of Jesus’ sermon. He concludes by saying that not everyone who calls Him Lord is truly a part of God’s family, and ends with by showing that trusting in the Father is like building on a rock, not sand.
So, why do so many people struggle with God being their Father? Many do not have any experience with having a father or at least not a good experience with a father. They do not know the personal, trustworthiness of a father. They may know what it is to have a demanding father, but not one that makes demands because of love. But God is not just a father, He is the Father. And as the Father, He sets the model for what all fathers should be. Remember, Jesus said to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. We may not be perfect as fathers (or mothers), but we can be thankful that we have a Father who truly is.

Again, I realize that the Sermon on the Mount is truly about kingdom living, but if our King is also our Father, then it is about home-life as well. We are to live righteously because we are His children. In fact, you may remember a verse that received a great deal of attention when we did our series on Spiritual Disciplines a couple of years ago. The verse is Ephesians 5.1 which says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” As we imitate God like a small child imitates a parent, we will indeed become more like Him – even to the point of perfection. We are to be perfect because God is perfect. But we cannot be perfect on our own, thus Jesus died so we could be. Again, this isn’t perfection as we usually think of it (perfection in doing), it is being perfect in righteousness (perfection in being) which is only possible through Christ. That is, it is only possible when we are adopted into God’s family, which is made possible through Christ (John 14.6).

Just like little boys and girls used to pretend to fight for a kingdom or live in a castle, as followers of God, as children of God, we must consider what it means for us to live with according to our relationship with God – not just as King, but also as Father. As Father, God is intimately personal as well as being the standard of truth. While He may also be extraordinarily demanding, we can know that His demands are made not to us as slaves; rather, He demands much because He loves His sons and daughters so much and wants the absolute best for us.

That is why the JOURNEY letter this week is:


Jesus taught the first disciples that they were to teach others to observe. It is not enough to know what God wants or expects from us. We must be doers of the Word, not just hearers only (James 1.22). We have all seen fathers get angry when a child does not behave. God is no different, except that His anger, and even wrath, is perfectly just. God doesn’t take out His anger on you because He had a bad day at work. However, the Bible promises that He does discipline those whom He loves (Heb 12.6). In fact, that verse also say He chastises every son whom He receives. That is, every child He adopts as His own.

So, we must observe, but not out of fear. Instead, we are to observe because of love. And that leads us to our Next Step that we might understand this verse so that we might know how much our Father truly loves us.

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.

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