Many television shows have tried to depict the challenges of the blended family. Some of these shows have been very successful in their ratings and some endear themselves to our hearts. One of my wife’s many favorite all-time shows is The Brady Bunch. She still desires to live in their house, and, at one time, she wanted to have six children because of the Brady family. As you likely remember, Mike and Carol each had three children of their own, so when they married, the family had eight, plus the housekeeper Alice. Although the show depicts many of the challenges of the family coming together, it is only in the pilot-episode that the boys refer to their new mother as Carol and the girls calling their new father Mike.
The reality is that calling a parent by the title mom or dad is a big step for a child who is not the biological offspring. Natural-born offspring may resent a stepbrother or stepsister for making such a statement. A formal adoption of a step-child may make this idea easier for some natural-born siblings, but certainly not for all of them.
Adoption – there is that word again. Adoption is the focus of this sermon series, and we have seen that God has truly and formally adopted us. But is it truly right to call God by the title of Father? After all, this is the God of the universe – a mighty, awesome, and holy God. Dare we call Him by a term such as Father? Even if He agreed, what might Jesus, as our big brother, think? Might some exist jealousy on His part in sharing His Dad with us?
Of course, you are likely quick to answer, “No. Jesus is not like that.” Ok, but are you sure, or just hopeful about that statement? Yes, Jesus taught us to pray the words, “Our Father” but most everywhere the term Father is used in the New Testament is either with Jesus talking specifically about “my Father” or referring to His Father in heaven OR is mentioned in one of the New Testament letters. So, have we been misled by Paul, Peter, and others in thinking we can rightly refer to God as our Father?
Absolutely not. Again, Jesus told us to call Him Father in the Lord’s Prayer, but more specifically, in John 20.17, He gave explicit permission to use the term Father for everyone who follows Him.
The reason Jesus does so is love – a trait we will see He gets from the Father, that is, our Father – a Father that wants to be known.
The Only Son Wants Us to Know God As Our Father (John 20.17)
John 20 is the account of the resurrection of Jesus. After the women go to the tomb and then report what they have found (or Who they didn’t find!), the two disciples run to check. When they find the tomb empty, the disciples return, but Mary Magdalene remains weeping when she hears a voice. She soon realizes that she is talking to Jesus.
Jesus says that He has not yet ascended to the Father, and then says to go to His brothers and say, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Now Mary and the disciples would have had no problem with referring to Jesus’ God as their God. Most, or maybe everyone here might say the same. But what Jesus does here is two-fold. First, He makes it evident that the one true God is the Father, and second, that His Father is their Father. This statement cannot be rightly interpreted any other way. But does Jesus statement apply to the disciples (brothers), or to Mary and the disciples (those who lived with Him during His time on earth), or to all believers for all time?
That is a good question. So, let’s stay within the book of John, and go back to a key verse from the first message of this series. John 1.12 says this, “But to all who did receive Him” (that is, Jesus), “who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (If you need further clarification on this passage, I encourage you to see the post on that message here.)
So, the answer to the question about Jesus intentions relates to the word all. And, as I understand the word all in this context, the answer is all who receive Him – past, present, or future – or, in other words, his disciples, Mary, and us. Jesus invites us to share His Father with Him. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” may be a good song, but truly what a brother we have in Jesus!
The Only Son Promised Us the Holy Spirit So We Might Better Know the Father
So, having seen that Jesus has opened the door wide for us to call God as our Father, let’s turn to the middle of the of John to get a little more clarity. In John 14.17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, and then a few verses later in verse 26, Jesus says the Father will send the Spirit as Jesus has promised.
The language in this section is beautiful, but it can get a little confusing if you don’t pay close attention. Let me break it down for us.
- In verse 17, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will dwell within believers.
- In verses 18-21, Jesus says that He must leave, but He, and the Father will dwell with those who know and keep the commands.
- In verse 22, Judas (not Iscariot, he is already on his errand of betrayal), asks how Jesus will be with them.
- Then, in verses 23-31, Jesus answers that it is through the Spirit that He and the Father will be with them, teaching them, guiding them, bringing them peace.
So, Jesus promised the Spirit because will serve to guide us on behalf of the Son and the Father. In fact, the Spirit will indwell us (verse 17) to prove we are the children of God. That sounds good, right? I was planning on making that exact point during this part of the message, but then something caught my eye. I have to admit, I have read this passage at least one hundred times, but one word jumped off the page this time – a word I vaguely remember having read here before, but not with the importance it did this week. Look at John 14.18. What does Jesus say?
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Do you see what Jesus is saying? Right here, in this great passage on the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of preparing His disciples for His death and subsequent return to heaven, Jesus wants His disciples to know they are children of God. Effectively, Jesus says, “Dad will not leave you to fend for yourself. I/We will be here – in the Person of the Spirit.”
So, not only does Jesus want us to be able to call God our Father, but He wants us to make sure we know we will not be abandoned – ever, once we are a part of God’s true family. And that leads us to our final verses for today. We now move from the gospel recorded by John, to the first of his letters, where we see him referring to his readers as little children.
One Day We Will Be Like the Only Son Because We Know the Father (1 John 2.28-3.3)
John addresses little children in this section. These are not small, young, and undeveloped individuals physically; rather, John is addressing those who are young in the faith and still developing as children of God.
In these five verses, John addresses several important aspects of growing in our faith. Briefly, he says we can have confidence in Jesus and His return. We can know that all who are righteous are born of God – that is, they are His children, and should be known as such. We all should still be growing as one of God’s children because until Jesus returns, our development will not be complete. We must do our part to purify ourselves because we know Jesus is pure.
We could, and perhaps should, flesh out each of these aspects a little more, but today, I want to focus on the simple, yet profound, idea that we are children of God – little though we may be. Take a moment to read 1 John 3.1, if you have not done so recently.
John says, “See what kind of love the Father has…” He is referring to the idea that those who believe – that is, they receive Jesus (John 1.12) are born again – into righteousness. These children – little or big, immature or giants in the faith – become children because of the love of the Father. It is God who initiates the adoption and makes us children – see what kind of love He has! Therefore, we should be called children of God. It isn’t a mistake to consider yourself a child of God. After all, you are born again. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean you have been born into God’s family?!?!?!!! And so we are, John says! And so we are, indeed!!!!!
Some may not believe it or know it, but John says a reason exists for that. They did not/do not know God, and specifically Jesus, as the only Son of God. Again, this takes us back to John 1. I hope you are not tired of John 1.12 because within the sovereign plans of God, that verse is how we are adopted. But we cannot overlook John 1.11 which says many did not receive Him and thus are not God’s children. Consequently, according to 1 John 3.2, because they are not God’s children, they do not know us as His children. They may make fun or ridicule us. The may treat us unfairly and persecute us. We may not like this idea, but we are aware of it because we all know the kids in school who were teased because of any number of things including, INCLUDING, the family to which they belonged. John is saying here, little children, don’t be ashamed (2.28) at who you are, for who you are is a child of God.
Again, so much more could be said about these verses, so I encourage you to read through the rest of chapter 3 and 4 to see how we should respond as God’s children. It all boils down to one four letter word – love. As we love, we represent God and guess what, we become a perfectly blended family.
At the beginning of this message I mentioned the idea of blended families. In essence, marriage creates a blended family as we add in-laws. I remember a conversation when Linus and Liz (friends from Africa) were here about the term in-laws. He thought it was disrespectful for my daughter’s husband Sam to call me Andy. He told Sam, “You should call him, Dad.” Then he told me that I should call Sam my son. In further discussions, he told me a bit about their culture’s understanding of this aspect (much of which I do not remember). Sure, some people in America call their in-laws by these endearing terms, but should we? Ultimately, I think it is up to the individual, but I can say with some assurance that from a biblical basis we shouldn’t prevent it. God says the two become one, which means if I am the father of my daughter, and she is one with Sam, then I am his father too.
Actually, that is another reason that we can use the term Father for God. Yes, all those who do the will of God are the brothers and sisters of Jesus as we saw last week at the end of Matthew 12. But for all who know Christ, we are the Church, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. Thus, as we become one with Christ, not only are we adopted as individuals, but we are collectively presented before the Father as the spouse of the Son, giving us further right, and reason, to call our God, Father.
Before I reveal our JOURNEY letter today, I want to make one comment about the three points of the sermon today. The important part is that we know God, not that we know about Him. None of the points mention what we might or do know about God, but that we need to know Him – and know Him better. As we know Him better, we should want to know more about Him. But facts should never take the place of intimacy. I have said more about this on my blog the past two weeks, and will wrap up that series this coming week, but I want to make sure we, as a church, do not miss that point.
So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is:
JOURNEY: U – UNITE
We are to unite together because we are all a part of something far bigger than ourselves. We saw today that the Son and the Spirit are as involved in the adoption process as the Father, and, of course, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, represent what we call the Trinity – or, tri-unity. If God is perfectly united within Himself, it only stands to reason that He wants His children to be united with one another even as we unite with Him. So we attempt to unite. And we can do so realizing, as John says that we ARE the children of God.
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.
Next week, we will conclude this series by reviewing the benefit of being adopted. Let me just say that I do not think the reward is fair, but to turn it down would be truly be foolish.