To paraphrase Ephesians 1:5, “We’ve been adopted as God’s children.”
Adoption is a legal procedure which secures a child’s identity in a new family. God didn’t choose to be our FOSTER parent. We don’t get kicked out of the family because of our behavior. In His infinite kindness, God made us a permanent part of His family. Nothing can undo the legal procedure that binds me to Christ. He died to redeem me. He signed the adoption papers with His blood!
When we face temptation we are called to follow the example of Christ. We are to respond with faith. But our ultimate hope is not in our ability to follow the example of Jesus. Only Jesus is consistently faithful. First and foremost we do not follow Jesus as our example. Rather we trust Him as our Savior. He is the faithful One, and we are faithful in Him.
When temptation comes, we seek to resist like Jesus. But when we succumb (and we will), we can look to Jesus. We can remind ourselves that God considers us faithful because we are in Christ, the faithful One.
The Church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private individual spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist to provide a safe haven for people to hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely to a heavenly destination.
The New Testament seems pretty clear that through the Church God will announce to the wider world that He is indeed its wise, loving, and just Creator. And that through Jesus He has defeated the powers that enslave it. And that by His Spirit He is at work to heal it.
The Church exists, in other words, for what we sometimes call “mission:” to announce to the world that Jesus is Lord. This is the “good news,” and when it’s announced it transforms people and cultures.
Israel demanded a king. Samuel had to appoint a king. We demand a king of our own lives and must appoint one. Who is king over our lives? Who or what will have our ultimate allegiance? It might be a person or ideology. It might be material possessions or ourselves–comfort, power, or pride. There may be a number of things competing for lordship. But something will rule our hearts. How will we decide?
We often choose by sight, not by faith. In 1 Samuel “people looked at the outward appearance.” As far back as the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:6 tells us, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
The good king is not the “best looking,” but the one with the humblest heart (Matthew 11:28-29). “Submit to my rule,” he says, “for I am lowly and so my rule is not oppressive. It is light. It is easy. So you will find rest for your souls.”
That’s the king I would like to choose. Some days I do. Some days I don’t. But some day we’ll all be bowing to Him.
Here’s a simple little prescription for character-building: carve out a little time for silence everyday.
Here in our noisy 21st century world, silence is highly underrated. Many of us can’t seem to walk from the front door to the car without a cell phone or an iPod in our ear. But, if we let all the distractions of a clamorous society separate us from God’s peace, we do ourselves a profound disservice. When I make time each day for quiet reflection with God, I’m rewarded.
When Jesus is on the cross and quotes Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is also describing his present, insufferable separation from his heavenly Father. From eternity past, Jesus had never known what it was like to be alienated from God’s presence. At some level, the Father turns His back on Jesus as He becomes the embodiment of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is forsaken by God, that is, He is abandoned, left without God’s resources or intervention, to suffer and die alone.
God’s abandonment may be harsh, but it is only temporary. After all, behind the cross is an empty tomb.
So Jesus knows intimately (magnified!) what being alone and suffering is like. He knows the worst that we can experience in this life.