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Monday, November 14, 2011

Family Ties

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 11.19.11

“Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir by the aid of God, through Christ.” Galatians 4:7
Can you really imagine being adopted by God, being Jesus’ adopted brother?  What does that really mean?  I mean sure, it’s pretty easy to think of all the benefits that come to us by being children of the King, but do any of us think about what it is like for God?  He adopted these sinful, wretched, beings who reject His “parenthood” constantly.   Why would He put up with the grief?

Karen Moderow of Today’s Christian Woman gives one explanation:
“After an elegant evening out, I discovered--to my dismay--that my back collar was unbuttoned, exposing a three-inch triangle of flesh. I realized the parallel between my fashion woes and spiritual life. Despite the care I take with my appearance, I unexpectedly find myself exposed. My ‘unmentionables’--the sharp word, the critical attitude--show through. I have no more success making myself presentable to the Lord than I have at dressing. But there's hope. Although my own righteousness is like filthy rags, God has ‘clothed me with the garments of salvation, and covered me with the robe of righteousness.’ Good thing, too! Otherwise, I wouldn't stand a chance!”[1]
Aha!  That’s the only explanation:  God doesn’t see us, He sees Jesus who stands for us.  Isn’t that a beautiful mental picture?  If you or I stood before God by ourselves, our sinfulness would destroy us, but if we ask Him to, Jesus will stand in front of us, covering our filth with His righteousness. 

The way we avail ourselves of that covering is to be baptized.  I know, baptism alone won’t save anyone, but it is an important step in bringing yourself into harmony with Jesus – accepting His Brotherhood openly and without shame.
“In baptism we are initiated, crowned, chosen, embraced, washed, adopted, gifted, reborn, killed, and thereby sent forth and redeemed. We are identified as one of God's own, then assigned our place and our job within the kingdom of God.”[2]
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
Isn’t that exciting?  When we’re baptized, we are brought together into one unit, “the church,” the family of God.  Wow!

Do you remember that old crusade song by Bill Gaither?
“You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here, /  It's because we're a family and these are so near; / When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, / And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
“From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, / No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; /From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, / I'm not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!
Chorus / “I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood! / Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.”
Isn’t that a great song?  (It’s a great earworm too, isn’t it?  You’ll be singing it for the next week.)  I think sometimes we forget that if we accept God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother, we have to accept each other as brothers and sisters too.  We want the benefits without the responsibilities.
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace ... is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”[3]
“A March, 2011, issue of The New York Times featured a story about a 51-year-old ex-convict named Robert Salzman. After a horrific childhood, Salzman spent most of his adult life in prison. When he was released from prison in 2001, Salzman found it difficult to enjoy freedom outside prison walls, struggling to pay rent or doing stints in homeless shelters.
“Finally, in June of 2010 Salzman had a grace-like experience. While he was riding a New York City subway car, he was ‘found’ by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a writer and director who was searching for someone to play a tough-looking former convict for an upcoming film. After an audition, Green surprised nearly everyone when he gave Salzman a key role for the film.
“In the ensuing months Salzman found it hard to believe that he had actually been set free from his prison life. On one occasion, while filming with Green on location in a Long Island penitentiary, an exhausted Salzman fell asleep on a cot in the prison cell. When he woke up, he became confused and thought he was still a prisoner. Salzman started weeping in despair … until it slowly dawned on him that he was now a free man. Salzman was overwhelmed by the joy of knowing that at any moment he could walk out of that cramped cell and through the prison doors. On the other side of the prison walls he could enjoy his new life of freedom.
“As those who trust in Christ, regardless of our past, we can leave our slavery to sin and condemnation as we joyfully step into our freedom in Christ.”[4]
Have you and I forgotten that we’re free because we are the brother or sister of Jesus Christ?  Are we still sleeping in prison?
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 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,[Daddy] Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.”  Romans 8:12-17
We can call Him, Daddy…


[1] Karen Moderow, Roswell, GA. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."
[2] Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 4.
[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 2.
[4] Matt Woodley, managing editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Corey Kilgannon, "Sidewalk Is His Prison Yard," The New York Times (3-11-11)

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