So let’s start here. What are two important things you have to do this week? What are two unimportant things you have to this week?
Now that we have that done, let me ask you to think through this one. Why are the things you said were important, important? Why were the things you said we’re important not important…. (Pause). What made things important? Relationships? Power? Fear? Family?
Paul writes to the church in Galatia and says,
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26 -27 NIV11)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, of all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
So here’s Paul and he’s just made an assumption about that is important. Paul assumes it is an important thing, a good thing, even a necessary thing for us to be in Christ, to be children of God, to be baptized and clothed with Christ. Why would that be a thing, why might it be important to be children of God, adopted by God through faith?
Come with me on a bit of a journey. We’re going to look back at two of the great thinker-philosophers in history. One of them is name Augustine. You may have heard of him along the way. He wrote many things, but one of his best known works that actually changed and shaped the way people write even today is called Confessions, it’s a tell all book about Augustine’s life and how he came to the place where he believed that it is absolutely essential for people to be children of God, adopted by God, a people who are clothed in Christ and not just wearing him for a necklace. In one of his writings he said,
I desire to know God and the soul. Nothing more? No: nothing at all.
The other thinker-philosopher lived about 1,000 years after Augustine, his name was John Calvin. He too discovered along the course of his life the necessity of being an adopted child of God, being clothed in Christ. In his Genevan Catechism began by asking,
Q. What is the chief end of human life?
That human beings may know the God by whom they were created.
Why do Augustine and Calvin believe knowing God is such a big deal? Because says Calvin God is the highest good in the universe. For those longing for good, the good of truth, the good of love, the good of kindness, the good power used rightly, the good of beauty, the good of justice, the good of…well for those who are longing for good, there is only one in whom you find the highest of all good, it is in God. Our highest good or if you will, our best life comes in being united to God the father, being united to him as his adopted children. Our highest good is living in his house where we learn to mimic the life of our good father—where we aim to do every kind of good that this world needs.
So Paul is arguing that this is important because its about the very core of our lives, the very core of living well. But he also tells us something about this very important reality, that it doesn’t just happen, to be in Christ, to be adopted and live in the Father’s house we have to have faith.
Something to reflect on for a moment: what ultimately should we have faith in? When you think about where ultimately your faith lies, where do you put your faith, in whom do you put your faith? So think about it like this. I have this towel with me today. For our second piece of imagining for us today, think about this towel as representing faith. So I hold this towel on one side and I have …. hold it on the other. Now I say to her, I’m going to lean back, you hold the towel so that I don’t fall over and crack open my head. So in this where is my ultimate trust? It’s not in the towel, that’s connecting me to what I ultimately trust in, where my ultimate faith lies if you will. I am trusting that she won’t let go of the towel. I’m trusting that she has enough strength to hold the towel and my weight. I’m trusting that she isn’t going to be distracted or think that it’s funny to watch someone go crashing down on the floor. While the towel connects me to her, it’s not about the towel, the towel just connects me to the one in whom I ultimately trust.
Here’s the thing about faith. Ultimately faith is about trusting that God is the good father who has a heart that loves us, wants what is best for us, wants us to live in his house. Jesus brings this message home one day when he is teaching about prayer.
“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:7–11 CEB)
Faith is believing that God is the good Father who not only desires the best for his children but also has the power to bring about the best for his children. John Calvin puts it this way when talking about who is a true believer
Pastor: A true believer is firmly persuaded that God is good and is a kindly Father to him,
People: this person hopes everything from his kindness,
Pastor: she, trusting to the promises of God’s divine favor, with undoubting confidence anticipates her final and full salvation; as the Apostle says,
People: “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold on to our confidence until the end” (Hebrews 3.14)
A true believer: believes that God is the kind father, hopes all from his kindness, trusts God’s promises, anticipates the fullness of salvation — the day coming when all tears will be wiped away, when there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain, when, as C.S. Lewis puts it in The Last Battle,
And Aslan spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
But more than all of this is this one thing, this one amazing thing. The God who is our father in now living with us, we are fully, completely his children. We are his people and he is our God and we quite simply get to be with him. All the other good things, all the other wonders fade in the light of the realty that the Father has come and is making his home with us. The father of all good, of all beauty, of all wonder, of all grace, of all power, who is our shepherd, who is the fountain of all good. We now live with the father. We get a flavor of this again in The Last Battle when Lucy sees Aslan,
Lucy saw that a great series of many-colored cliffs led up in front of them like a giant’s staircase. And then she forgot everything else, because Aslan himself was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty.
When Lucy sees Aslan all else fades, for while there is so much wonder there is no greater wonder than Aslan. While there is so much love, there is greater love than Aslan. While there are so many amazing relationships, there is no greater relationship than the one with Aslan.
Faith is believing that God’s heart toward us is good. When we are assured of his good will toward us we find ourselves allured to God. We are powerfully and mysteriously attracted to him. We are powerfully and mysteriously attracted to living his ways—after all if he is good and he takes a deep interest in our welfare then certainly when he gives us a guide for the way of life, that must be a guide that is for our welfare, for our good and for the good of others whose welfare he has at heart as well.
But here’s the question. How do we know that God’s heart toward us is good?
Most of us have figured out that life is not just one great time where everything is going our way, where there is no struggle, no pain. Indeed, the older you get the more you find that life is filled with pain, struggle, and wondering about whether God has gone off on vacation and left you there twisting in the wind.
How do we know that God is good? How do we know that he’s not a tyrant? Again, if we take time not only to look at our lives but to look at the world it is not any unfair assessment to think that God may in fact be a tyrant, perhaps that’s how you see him today, not as a loving father who is concerned for your welfare, but as a tyrant. You see it is in your own struggles, you see it in weather that destroys communities, earthquakes that rob people of life and hope, you see it in unjust rulers, in widows and orphans who cry for justice and get none, you all of these things and it can feel like God is a tyrant.
How do we know that God is good? It all comes down to Jesus. We know that God is good because of Jesus Christ. All other goods in this world will come and go—at least until that last day when Christ returns and the only thing that is left is the good—but until that time all other goods will come and go, but the good of Jesus Christ who is sent by the father, that is a good that will never go away. Not only is this a good that will never go away it is the most important good, for through Jesus, through a faith that acknowledges Jesus, we are united with God. We know God is good because of Jesus. As we read in 1 John
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10 NIV11)
We know God as good because he sends Jesus into the world so that we can be united to him. Remember what Galatians said, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” It is in Christ Jesus, the son who God sends into the world that we find the way to be united to God, the source of all good. Indeed, this is part of how we know that God is good, not only that Christ dies for us, but that God sends Christ so we can be united to him.
God sends his son—it is something he must do if we are going to be united to him. Listen to what it says in 1 Timothy 6.
“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16)
God, the Father, lives in unapproachable light, no one has ever seen him or can see him. In other words, we can’t know God. He is too great, too high, too removed from us. The longing of Augustine and Calvin that we heard a bit ago can’t be met. They can’t be united to our highest good. they can’t have their best life which comes in being united to God the father, being united to him as his adopted children which is our highest good. For the truth is God is too big for us. We are 3 day old infants who can’t even imagine what nuclear medicine is, much less try to comprehend it. We are toddlers who have no clue how to take in a view of the Grand Canyon. We are small in mind, in life, in understanding. He is big in mind, in understanding, in glory, in majesty. He is too big for us.
Which is why the fact that we know him, that we can be united to him is so amazing. Here’s what the fact that we know him tells us: he want to know us and be in relationship with us, he wants us as his children. He wants it so deeply that what he does is he finds ways to tell us about himself that makes our adoption possible. And the central way that he tells us about himself is through Christ. John Calvin says it wonderfully,
In Christ, God so to speak makes himself little in order to lower himself to our capacity; and Christ alone calms our consciences that they may dare intimately approach God.
God makes himself little. Parents and Grandparents know what that’s all about. When a child is born you make yourself little. You don’t demand that the baby understand your speech, or that she understands the great philosophers or even Sesame Street. Instead, you become little. You make sounds, you talk in ways that get the baby’s attention, you touch the child so she knows she is not alone and that she is loved. You become little so that you can have a relationship with that newborn babe. You become little because you want a relationship, because you want that newborn to know that you love and treasure her.
In Christ, God so to speak makes himself little so that we who are babes can know the God who loves us, who wants to give us eternal life, who wants us as his adopted children. Who wants us to know him as Father, not as tyrant.
Whenever we wonder if God is a tyrant or if God is the good father that our hearts long to be united to and so find life, we look to Jesus Christ. John Calvin draws us into this way of seeing God the father when he says ,
In Christ alone we are to embrace God’s benevolence and fatherly love, and when we want reassurance that God is favorably disposed to us, we must fix our eyes and minds on Christ.
Because it is in Christ alone that we embraced God’s fatherly good will toward us and because it is in Christ alone the way we know God’s goodness toward us is not measured in living a long life or getting that house or having a great vacation—God may give those things and we celebrate them—but they are not the heart of his goodness toward us. Rather God tells us in the Bible that the heart of his goodwill toward us is that we can be assured that God will never fail us. One more rich and important thought from Calvin,
“Our chief security lies in the expectation of future life, which is placed beyond doubt by God’s word. Whatever our miseries and calamities which come upon us as children of God in this world, they cannot make his favor cease to be our complete happiness. Therefore when we want to express the sum of a life of blessing, it is the favor of God, from whom, as their source, all kinds of blessings flow” (p. 875 Book 3.2.?)
A couple of weeks ago I was at the IJM global prayer summit where we spent two day praying for justice in all different parts of the world. It is an amazing place to go and be. Both to hear the stories of answered prayer and to hear the ongoing pain and struggle in the world. On Friday evening we gathered with all 1700 people at the summit to pray for an end to slavery in India, a nation that has 12 million people enslaved. One of the powerful truths a we listened to how people enslaved workers in brick kilns, how they enslaved girls in brothels was the willingness of people to crush other people, to use others for whatever they could get out of them as basically human tools used for profit and gain.
Why would be treat others like this? Because they have a totally different understanding of life and what’s important. What’s important is getting whatever they can. What’s important is profit and gain. What’s important is not people but things. That’s what’s important. This picture is powerfully at odds with a life whose sum is this: Living as adopted children in God’s house enjoying his goodness and favor.
When this is what’s important in our lives then we are suddenly set free—for God’s favor is secured for us by Jesus Christ. We are set free from using others as human tools to get what we want, because we have what we want and what we need—the goodness and favor of God. We are set free to live in God’s house where we are generous and even outrageously generous because we have what we need—the favor of God. We are set free to live in God’s house and to live in the ways of that house where we love other deeply, risk for them greatly, pursue justice for them passionately, because we have what we need—the favor of God. We are set free to live in God’s house as his children who do our work, live in our neighborhoods, care for our families in ways that bring rejoicing, in ways the bring transformation even at a cost to ourselves—because we have what we need—the favor of God. We are set free to live God’s house where we worship him and carry out the day to day call to love our neighbor—putting aside so many of the calculations we used to make about what we will get out of this loving God and loving neighbor for we already have what we need—God’s favor, God’s goodness toward us.
So what’s important this week? As you live your life in God’s house as his adopted child what’s important this week? Important as you go to work, as you study, as you take a test, as you live in your neighborhood, as you practice generosity with the resources god has given you, as you… What’s important this week?
So we started off asking “What are 2 important things you have to do this week?”
How might you do those two things differently as an adopted child of God who lives in his house who enjoys his goodness and favor? Or as we make our way toward our last Sunday of celebration, this celebration of being wanted.loved.adopted by God, this celebration of how God is using us as his people who bring his love into the world—how will your generosity be impacted, your commitment to God’s mission through EverGreen be impacted because you are a child in God house who has what you need: the goodness and favor of God?