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ADOPTED INTO GOD'S FAMILY

Ephesians 1:5-6
6th July 2003

When I first went to minister at the Cheltenham Church of Christ in Melbourne in 1966 there was an enormous, old building nearby. It was a children's home run by the Methodist Church. For 60 or 70 years they had struggled to keep this orphanage open but at last, financially unable to continue, it was sold to a Roman Catholic Order, St John of God. They continued to run it as an orphanage for an-other couple of years. Then the Myer Emporium bought their 90 acres in one of the largest land deals of the area, to build one of Australia's largest regional shopping centres. The Methodists were not as good as the Catholics in seeing a good deal!

As the buildings were being pulled down, some of the elderly people told me about the orphanage before the First World War. They told me of seeing 150 children walking two by two, hand in hand, in long rows going to school or going to church, boys and girls, with the girls wearing their pinafores. Ida Whytcross told me that she was an orphan and had been brought up in the children's home. She told me about the work they used to do scrubbing, gardening and milking cows. There was plenty of hard work. The food was plain but good and the discipline strict. All the time, a kindly matron used to say to her and some of the orphan girls, "Be good. One day someone will adopt you." She lived with the hope of being adopted. Many times cars would pull up at the orphanage and a man and lady would get out and they would come and talk to matron who would take them around to see the children and the children tried so hard to be so good. But it was always the younger girls who were chosen.

Ida told me that more than anything else she wanted to be adopted, but she was never chosen. One day at about the beginning of the First World War she came home from school and the matron called to her to come and be introduced to her new parents. She had been chosen and she did not even know about it. Then she saw her parents. They were two, very elderly people but they were parents. She went to a new home. They were wealthy. The other children must have envied her. She had her own room and dolls and clothes. They were lovely people and gave her lovely food. She went to a new school and met new friends. Just as she was getting to know her new friends she came home one day and found her new father sitting in the car. She ran over and went to put her arms around his neck. Inside the car she saw her suitcase and her coat, her bag of toys and her doll. She had not heard a word, but she knew she was being sent back. Her new father was very sorry, but his wife was too old to cope.

Ida was soon a teenager and the home made her a "monitor" which meant she helped with the younger children. She grew up to be a good woman, studied hard and eventually became a schoolteacher. She served in Victo-ria in some remote country schools. All of her life she was a hardworking, dedicated, single schoolteacher. Towards the end of her life she decided to come back to the Cheltenham area where she settled. She became a teacher in the school attached to that same children's home. She was a lady who loved children. She married late in life and had a very happy marriage for a short while until her husband died. She was a dedicated member of our church and a wonderful example to all.

One afternoon on a pastoral call, I said to her, "Ida what do you think made the difference in your life? You have always been a dedicated upright, Christian citizen but your insecurity and rejection in early life could have soured you as is has many others from such a background?" She replied, "I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was a monitor in the home and had to keep the small ones quiet when we went to church. We all went to church, two by two, with clean pinafores on. We filled up the front rows of the church. I didn't hear a word the minister said as I was concentrating on keeping the younger ones paying attention. Then I head him say: 'God has adopted you into His family. You have be-come a member of God's family by adoption'. Suddenly, I grabbed the news. I had been adopted by God. I belonged to His family. I was a different person. I suddenly realised that I had a family. I belonged to the family of God." As I sat in her lounge room, the late afternoon sun filtering through the curtains, my eyes were filled with tears. Ida had a family. She had been adopted at last by a Father who would never send her back.

We need to be part of a family. What many take for granted is what is desired most of all. The lack of a stable family affects the lives of many people. In a survey of psychiatric problems among university students 9% of all male students and 15% of all female students went through intense periods of depression, worry and anxiety, and physical illness for which there were no obvious causes. There were four basic problems: bro-ken homes, no supportive family life, lack of encouragement from people close to them, and no religious beliefs.

In the history of mankind, once you could think of yourself as the centre of everything. Then Copernicus said "This world is not the centre of the universe, with everything going around us. In fact, we are only one little planet on the edge of the universe that is so vast we can not imagine it. Instead of being the centre of everything, we are just stuck on a little planet somewhere on the fringe of things." Then Charles Darwin said "You are not a significant person. You have only evolved, you are only another created thing." Just as we got over that shock, Sigmund Freud came along and said, "You are not who you think you are. You are only a product of your heredity and environment, and you have little option over it." Suddenly people found themselves without that sense of personal dignity and significance that they be-longed here and that they were a somebody.

Many people in our community feel utterly orphaned and only wish that somehow, some way they could belong to a family. In these first verses of Ephesians, we discover almost every basic human feeling, understanding, psychological outlook and Christian doctrine. Here we have a fundamental truth. Ephesians 1:4-5 "Even before the world was made, God had al-ready chosen us to be His through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault be-fore Him. Because of His love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ He would make us His children-this was His pleasure and purpose." Let me break that into three themes that will help us realise we have been adopted into God's family through our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

1. GOD HAD ALREADY CHOSEN US TO BE HIS.

Choice is fundamental to the process of being right with God. Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." We were chosen by Him to be His disciples. But long before, God chose us to be His children. If you want to put it in theological jargon, "election", God's choice, is the consequence of the pre-destination of God's determination and will. Put sim-ply, "Even before the world was made, God had al-ready chosen us to be His through our union with Christ."

2. GOD WOULD MAKE US HIS CHILDREN.

"He would make us His children." That was the Fatherly desire, that we would no longer just be His creatures, but His children. God has chosen us from the beginning of time, as believers in Jesus Christ, to share His sonship through our adoption. This literally means that God has adopted us into His family. Paul uses this word "adopted" five times Rom 8:14, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5. Professor F.F. Bruce says: "In the first century A.D. an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature." Adoption (huiothesia) distinguishes the believer's sonship from that of Jesus and illustrates the Christian's change of status. We sense that we have been adopted into God's family and the reality of our adoption makes us cry, "Abba, Father"- "Dear Father". This was never used by the Jews to address God. Jesus alone used it. He used it in Gethsemane when he cried "Abba, Father, Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" Mark 14:36

It was the word He used in the Aramaic original of the Lord's Prayer. The Holy Spirit compels us to cry, "Abba, Father!" "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'" Galatians 4:6 Can anything be more beautiful in this world of cold steel and computers? Jesus, through the Spirit, has given us His own special name for God, and it has become our natural cry to a loving Father. We have been adopted into the family of God, sons and daughters of the Father, heirs of the Father and joint-heirs with the Son "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory." v17

The Scriptures teach that we are all creatures of God, made by the Father, but through Jesus Christ He calls some of us to be His children, and that through Jesus we can find Him as Father. We are creatures who become re-born and adopted as children. Picture in your mind that beautiful ceiling in the Sistine Chapel where there is Michelangelo's great painting of creation. See God's hand reaching out with a finger to touch man. Already man has been made. Physically he is there. He is homeo sapiens. God had made him from the dust of the earth but he is not yet man. The hand of God reaches down and touches him, and the Scripture says, "he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became man." So God created mankind, gave him the power to be man. God takes us and breathes into our nostrils new life, and we become children of God.

3. THROUGH JESUS CHRIST...

"Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be His through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before Him. Because of His love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ He would make us His children-this was His pleasure and purpose." "Be-cause of His love…" that is the motive behind every-thing that God does. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only son." God is love, and out of His love He seeks you to be one of His children.

The means by which God has decided to bring us to Himself is "through Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the mediator between us and God. He is of the same substance, the same nature as God and through Him we can come to the Father. God made us as His creatures and enabled us through Jesus Christ to be-come His children. "No one comes to the Father but by me." The whole key to the understanding of what it means to be adopted in to the family of God is to understand that when we become identified with Jesus, when we love the Lord Jesus, when we give our heart to Him, we come into Him and through Him we share in His inheritance and sonship. We become part of the family of God. When you were adopted into a Roman family you not only became another child, a member of the family, but you had instantly rights to your inheritance. God made us His family. We are His children, born anew, and we have the status of children of God. For He has adopted us and brought us into His family to share the inheritance of His Son Jesus. Now you are at home. You belong!

REFERENCES.

  • Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) 1997.
Wesley Mission, Sydney.