While it was baking out-of-doors last Lord's Day, Pastor John gave us his seventh installment in Freedom in Christ. He began as is right by setting the tone from passages of Scripture. In this case, he read from the Book of Galatians chapter 3, verses 26 through 29: “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. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Then Pastor John went on to chapter 4, verses 4 through 7: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
Keep this in mind as we go on: getting adopted...becoming heirs.
By now in this series surely Pastor John has driven home to us the central lesson that being a child of God is through faith; as we believe, so we are. Pastor John illustrated the intimacy of the point through a facet of elementary sheep husbandry. Sheep identify each other primarily through their sense of smell. To us, all mommy sheep “ewes” look alike, and all baby sheep “lambs” look alike. But their powerful olfactory organs give them the necessary sense of individual discrimination. The sheep husbandsman knows that a ewe will look after her own lambs because she knows her own by their unique odor. Lambs who don't pass her smell test are not welcome to her care. In the case of a ewe who has lost her lamb, and a lamb who has been orphaned, the sheep husbandsman gets around the odor barrier by using a lamb coverlet of the deceased lamb to initially cover the strange lamb. In that way the smell barrier is overcome, and the ewe will accept the strange lamb as her own.
Very similarly, when Jesus died on the cross he gave us the covering we needed to approach God, so we would not be rejected by the Father. When we believe and follow the Christ we are "putting on" Jesus to mark ourselves as such. Pastor John recalled the time when as an adolescent he dressed up in the uniform of his favorite basketball team by way of his decided identification with them. So it is with us: we seek through our behavior, not to “earn” salvation which was already won for us by Jesus's sacrificial death on the cross, but to imitate Him in eternal gratitude.
In this present age that the Christ came to bring to an end, people divide themselves in all kinds of different ways and try to lord it over each other. By contrast, in the new age brought by the Christ, all people are fundamentally equal even if different: male female, race, class, ethnicity etc.
To further drive home the point about the quality of our relationship in Christ, Pastor John first read from the Book of Romans chapter 8, verse 15: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'”
In earthly adoption the parents choose the child, not vice-versa. So also: God chooses us.
The “prodigal father” says in face of his errant son's shame “no, you are my child”
...if you come humbly to Me.
That is it, fellows: if you are stripped of all of your previous pretensions and come HUMBLY before the Father, you are ever His child!
Pastor John told the story of the father and son with a big fish. In the story, the son was obliged to catch a fish large enough to feed the entire family, or he was banished from the family. How about that for a father, fellows? You don't expect your earthly father to treat you that way. So also, your heavenly Father does not say that we are loved and welcomed only if we do this thing and that thing and the other thing.
No, j\it is just a matter of humility before God and then our ever grateful best efforts thereafter.
Having such a Father in heaven through adoption through belief gives us the right to cry out “I need you; I desperately need you!”
At the end of the service Pastor John recounted the story of an American couple who went to an orphanage in Russia to adopt a couple of Russian babies. The babies and toddlers were accustomed to little adult attention every day. Their normal cries for attention went unheard, unheeded. The American couple were shocked by this abnormal quiet, and the listlessness of the children. They arranged to adopt two of the inmates, and had to fly back to the USA to await the complex paperwork for adoptions being completed. On the last day in Russia, as the American couple were leaving the orphanage, the younger of the two tiny children they were adopting finally understood what was going on and believed that...
….somebody cared about him. He fell back in his crib and let out a cry of (???) that shook his whole body.
So it is with each of us. With our true Father in heaven. If we believe.