08-28-05-Who We Are-Being A Child of God-part 2
We are looking at who we are by examining some of the names that are used to describe a believer. Last week we looked at how Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 that we are to be like “little children.” This week we are going to look at what it means to be a son/daughter of God.
When we look at children, we see distinct stages that every child goes through. Starting at birth where we are totally dependent upon our parents for everything. We grow to the stage of crawling, walking, and standing up. Then with this newfound freedom we begin the discovery of the world around us as a toddler. As we continue to grow, we reach an age of learning we call pre-school or kindergarten. This is what we would usually call “little children” and we looked at some of their characteristics last week—let’s review them quickly:
4. Teachable—Loves to Learn
But we don’t stop at being “little children” we continue to grow in our physical abilities as well as our mental abilities to the point that we become mature young adults.
Romans 8:14-17 (NIV) 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship (or adoption). g And by him we cry, “Abba, h Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 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.
There are two ways to become a child in a family—natural birth and adoption. Though some may argue that an adopted child is not truly a child of the family, by law he is as much a part of the family as if he had been born naturally into the family. Even more than the law, though are the feelings of the parents. If you ask a parent who has adopted a child, to them that child is just as much a part of their hearts as the other natural born children. They have taken him into their heart as well as into their home.
The first thing we must realize as children of God is that we are adopted children. To us that may seem like we are not fully accepted, but just as natural parents take adopted children into their hearts, so God takes us into His heart. When a person is born again, he is not born into a position of slavery. Rather, he receives the spirit of adoption; that is, he is placed in God’s family as a mature son/daughter. This means that we do not have to wait a certain amount of time before we can enter into our spiritual inheritance; it is ours the moment we are saved, and it applies to all believers, men and women, boys and girls.
In Galatians 4:4-6 (NIV) 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, a Father.” and Ephesians 1:5, the word means “son-placing”—that is, the act of placing all believers as mature, adult sons with all the privileges and responsibilities of sonship.
We have been given the Holy Spirit of God to bear witness or testify that we belong to the family of God. Every believer is a child of God in that he is born into a family of which God is the Father. We receive the adoption as children by faith.
John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God”;
Gal. 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”
Many years ago I was meditating on this passage in Romans and the Holy Spirit showed me something I had never seen before. He asked me the question why in verse 14 and 15 are we called sons, but in verses 16 and 17 we are called children? I have to be honest and say that I did not know why at the time. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit ask you a question and you sat there dumbfounded—well this was one of those times. Then He said, “The Father has many children, but not many sons.” So I began to study what is the difference between being a child and being a son of God.
The word that is used for children is “teknon” and shows birth or adoption. It means we belong to the family. But the word that is used for sons is “huios” which stresses the dignity and character of the relationship or shows maturity. So although we may be born into the family (as children), we may not show the evidence of our likeness to the Father by our conduct or character (as a son) due to a lack of maturity. As children of God we want to please our Father and grow up to be sons and daughters of God so that others will see the image of the Father in us.
Sonship=Maturity. So what are the characteristics we can use to tell if we are showing the signs of sonship? Or how can we show that we are God’s sons and daughters?
1. Trust—No Fear
We saw this characteristic as a little child, but it becomes much deeper as we mature. We not only learn to trust God with the little things such as food, clothing, and shelter; but with the big things like finances, careers, and health. We learn to trust our Heavenly Father without any without fear and anxiety because we know He cares for us and has our best interest in mind.
Fear and anxiety are an indication of either doubting that we are children of God—i.e. whether we belong to His family—or it is a distrusting of God’s power, His watchful care for us, or His goodness. How obviously this is contrary to God’s Word! Therefore we must let go of every worry and allow the Lord to care for everything.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Psalm 37:5 (NLT) Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.
2. Bearing the image.
How often do we say a child looks like their parents? As children we show the image of our parents in our eyes, hair color, complexion, etc. In fact, as we get older and look at pictures of our family, it is often said that we are the “spitting image” of out parents. But as sons/daughters, we show that we are the image of our parents in more than our looks. We show it in our speech, mannerisms, and actions. We imitate what we have been taught and desire to grow up to be just like our parents. Maybe we learn the same job as our father did, or go to the same school he did, or even talk like he does.
The Lord also creates His children according to His image (cf. Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). He makes us as partakers of His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and “followers of God, as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). As a believer we can know that though we were once children of darkness, we are now children of light. We can have the eyes of our understanding enlightened (Eph 1:18) by the Holy Spirit. Our hearts can be united with the will of God and it is our delight and desire only to do His will in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Our speech can be that of our Father—the Words recorded in His Holy Word—that we speak just as His Son, Jesus would. We are being conformed to the image of Christ as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us (Rom 8:29).
As we grow up we learn to respect and honor our father and mother. We are also taught respect for all authority (e.g. teachers, policemen, etc), because this leads to a peaceful society. Our earthly parents are not perfect, but we still respect them because of who they are. When we loose respect for our parents we are headed down a slippery slope that leads to destruction.
There has recently been a program on TV called Brat Camp. They took 9 teenagers who were in serious trouble and through a series of exercises and living in the desert in the winter taught them to have self-confidence and respect for others. Most of them had lost their respect for their parents and were into drugs and a very destructive lifestyle. Now we may not agree with everything they did in the show, but we can support the fact that they taught these kids to cherish and honor their parents.
As sons/daughters of God we should have a strong desire to honor and worship our Heavenly Father with a humble heart. We should continually meditate and acknowledge the awesomeness and the great glory of our Heavenly Father. We should show that respect for Him to others through our lifestyle as well as our words.
Malachi 1:6 (NIV) “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty.”
4. Obedience—Submission to Discipline
One of the toughest lessons we learn as children is to be obedient. Because of our fallen natures we are born with the seeds of rebellion and as soon as we are old enough to walk, we begin to express our disobedience. Of course, our loving parents train us to be obedient and teach us that there are consequences for disobedience. We learn that when we disobey we are subject to discipline. Now as a parent, I never enjoyed administering discipline (i.e. the paddle), but I did use it to teach my children right from wrong. We lovingly called our paddle, the “Pow-Pow” and I can promise you that my children knew that when Dad got out the Pow-Pow it was going to hurt. As our children become more mature, the discipline changes to time out, taking away privileges, etc. However, we must never lose sight of the purpose for the discipline—to teach right from wrong.
Obeying God as our Father is just as important to our spiritual growth as obedience to our parents was to our physical growth.
1 Peter 1:14-16 (NIV) 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” a
We must show our humility, meekness, moderation, love, fear, and obedience toward God, as well as our patient submission to His disciplining hand—so that men, seeing our light, may glorify our God.
“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
We must submit ourselves as a child to the chastisement of the Lord as being the chastisement of our Father. The Lord deals with us as His children when we misbehave and do not keep His commandments. He will punish us with the rod of afflictions. If we rise up against this punishment, murmur and complain, or say “I am not a child of God, God is not my Father, because God hurts me; if He were my Father, He would have compassion on me; He would deliver me from this punishment”— then we are saying that we know best and we are not being submissive to His discipline. Instead it is best that we be quiet, and humbly submit and say, I will “Humble myself therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt me in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).
Hebrews 12:5-10 (NIV) 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” a 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”
5. Love the family of God
Brothers and sisters may fight and speak bad about each other, but no one outside the family dare do so. Those are fighting words! We will stick up for a family member, even when they done wrong or are the black sheep of the family.
How much more should we as sons/daughters support those who are in the body of Christ? Not just our church, but the whole family of God. I think this is one of the saddest things I see in the church (universal), that we do not love and support one another (e.g. Baptists fight against Methodists, etc.). Yet we are all part of the same family. We should live as sons/daughters of God in mutual love and peace, so that men may see that the Spirit dwelling in us differs from the one dwelling in them.
John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As God loves us with an infinite, eternal, and absolute love, His love grows in us as His children. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is a real and dependable mark of sonship. “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him” (1 Cor. 8:3). Paul was strongly motivated by the love of God. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Yes, anyone who has faith will manifest this love. “...faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6).
Now, please don’t feel condemned if as you examine yourself in the light of these characteristics you find yourself lacking in some of them. There is a process that we must go through to become sons/daughters. It begins with our spiritual birth and ends with our going home to heaven. In between that time we are changing and growing day by day in ways that sometimes we can’t see. But the Father knows exactly what He is doing to help us to grow into maturity as His sons/daughters.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV) 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
There is one more truth in the passage that we started with in Romans 8:17. That is that we have an inheritance with Christ as children of God. Notice that our inheritance is tied to the fact that we belong to the family, not to the level of our maturity.
As children of God we are the benefactors of all the covenant blessings that God has for His children. Of course, the primary blessing is that of our salvation—which is what brings us into the family of God. Paul says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Our inheritance consists of sound wisdom (Prov. 2:7), riches and righteousness (Prov. 8:18), and a kingdom which the Lord Jesus has appointed unto us (Luke 22:29). It is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4), a glorious inheritance which is “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). It is an eternal inheritance; “that...they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). It is beyond our understanding and beyond words what exactly our inheritance is, but we know that it is all good!
So as let us continually strive to grow into maturity as sons and daughters under the loving guidance and care of our Heavenly Father.
g Or adoption
h Aramaic for Father
a Aramaic for Father
a Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7
a Prov. 3:11,12