Adopted by God
Family. The very word should evoke warm and positive feelings. Sadly, the reality is that for many of us it does not. Often, the thought of family generates shame and difficult memories. Many have come from broken homes and dysfunctional families, where there are pain and embarrassment over their upbringing and lineage. By the way, more on this important subject can be found in my book, Fulfill Your Dreams.
If you are one of the fortunate ones who had good parents and a healthy home and family life, I rejoice with you and encourage you never to take your natural family for granted—thank God for this gift in your life.
However, whether you have come from a good home with a rich family heritage or from a more challenging family history, I have great news for you: as a Christian, you are now part of God’s family!
The Revelation of your Acceptance
God’s family lineage begins with Jesus, in Whom there is no sin, no imperfection, and Who radiates the glory of God in faultlessness. The revelation of your adoption into God’s family and kingdom is vital to becoming the person God ordained you to be. To understand your authority as a believer begins with an understanding of your complete acceptance and adoption into God’s family.
Consider how the Father sees Jesus, His only begotten Son. Remember, Jesus, eternally co-existent with the Father and the Spirit, came to earth in human flesh to restore us to God. In Matthew’s gospel, we read that Jesus was affirmed and loved as a son by the Father: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:17).
Before Jesus performed a single miracle, God the Father affirmed God the Son as a son. Jesus’ identity is not in his performance; His identity is rooted in Sonship with the Father, and as such, He is a partaker of his Father’s identity.
Paul describes the depth of God’s love for us and the completeness of our adoption into God’s family in his letter to the Romans:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory…” Rom. 8:14-17 NLT
The Father has always wanted a family. Your new life in Christ gives you a place as a son or daughter in the Father’s family. You are not working for His love and acceptance. No performance is necessary to earn His gift of new birth. Your new birth in Christ provides placement into the Father’s house. Complete acceptance and adoption through grace is an unconditional gift.
Our Acceptance Empowers Us
Good works will be the fruit of your walk with God—these things flow out of your confidence in God’s love and acceptance—but they are not needed to qualify for your place in God’s family (Eph. 2:10). From your relationship as God’s adopted daughter or son, you learn to “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (Phil. 2:12 NKJV). Again, we are not working to earn God’s acceptance; rather, our acceptance into His family empowers us to walk faithfully with Him and live a holy life.
In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his new family. He became a full heir to his new father’s estate. Under Roman law, an adopted child was guaranteed all legal rights to his father’s property, even if he was formerly a slave. He had the same rights and privileges as other biological children. He was not a second-class son; he was equal to all other sons in his father’s family. He could not be disinherited.
Likewise, when a person becomes a Christian, he or she gains all the privileges of a child in God’s family. We have been liberated from the bondage and fear of the law. You are not an orphan, a black sheep, or from a broken family lineage. You have a new family, a new older brother, Jesus!
Paul explains in verse 15 of Romans 8 that we don’t need to be afraid of God, as if He were a slave master. He chose to adopt us and love us unconditionally. Your adoption liberates you from bondage to and fear of the law. You were placed in God’s family, you have the full rights of His family, complete with His unconditional love. Again, you don’t serve God to earn His love and acceptance.
No Need for Striving
Pastor Jeff Voth recounts his story from bondage to freedom in his book Cavetime: God’s Plan for Man’s Escape from Life’s Assaults. Jeff describes how at age thirty-three he was rushed to the hospital with an apparent heart attack. After testing, the doctor told him, “Your heart is fine, you had a panic attack! Are you under a lot of stress?” The situation brought Jeff to a place of introspection and soul searching. He writes:
In addition to all of these pressures, I was a junkie. I was addicted to performance—my drug of choice. I saw life as one big competition to achieve, win, be the best, live clean, and do well at all costs. Of course, in the right context, these thoughts can be fine. But I believed—wrongly, I might add—that in order to be loved, I had to perform at a certain level. I had to do so at home, at the church where I worked, and in my relationship with God…I really believed deep in my heart that for God to love me (and for that matter, for people to love me), I had to earn it.”
Jeff’s striving to please others, earn acceptance, and validation brought him to the brink of collapse. The root problem: he didn’t understand how completely loved and accepted by the Father he was. Sadly, for many in society and our church cultures, they are caught in the same bondage.
Your adoption into God’s family has given you the privilege to live as an heir of God, and as joint-heir with Christ in the inheritance of the Father’s house. Through your union with Jesus you can claim, with confidence, your inheritance as His child and the rights to God’s promises and resources.
God’s love for you is complete; nothing will separate you from His love and you can find security in it. You do not have to strive to earn His love or acceptance. You need to love yourself as much as God loves you.
Paul explained to the Ephesians that we were chosen to be part of God’s family:
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1:4-5 NLT
Did you catch this, “holy and without fault in his eyes?!” God doesn’t see your failures, sin or past any longer, He sees you righteous and restored in Jesus. We can still sin and disobey God, but the power of sin is no longer our slave master, we have a new nature through new birth. We are now led by God’s Spirit and our desire is to live for Him.
It is a mysterious plan: before God created the world, we, who were in the heart and mind of God, were chosen to be part of God’s family—like Him, holy and without blemish.
In Christ, you have a new identity and a new family heritage. Permitting the Holy Spirit to renew your mind to the truth of your acceptance into God’s family and kingdom is essential in discovering your calling. When you agree with your new identity in Christ, you can begin to embrace the destiny God offers and live a separated life unto Him.
Individual identity leads to changed behavior; changed behavior will lead you into a successful and victorious life. This truth is realized personally, your family, and in our church families.
Our Adoption by God Frees us From the Fear of Judgment
One of the many benefits of your adoption by God is that you can be free from the fear of judgment. If you believe God is angry with you, you have not yet matured in your understanding of His love toward you or in your relationship with Him. Nothing can separate you from His perfect love. John writes:
This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:17-19 CEB
God’s complete acceptance provides confidence that in the presence of God you are free from the fear of judgment due to your past or present mistakes. As believers we are disciplined, but it is parental, fatherly discipline (Heb. 12:5-11). The shaping of your life by God, so that you mature as a son or daughter, shows you are genuinely born of God—He is your Father. God’s grace is limitless, but the nature of His grace initiates transformation and righteous living.
This passage in John does not relate to a fear of judgment for sin; Christ removed the eternal consequences of sin. Nor is it about character development. It refers to your position as a child in God’s kingdom.
In the NKJV, the translation of verse 17 reads, “…as He is, so are we in this world.” The Father completely loves and accepts Jesus—and He completely loves and accepts you, too. John says, “As He is, so are we in this world.” If we could get a revelation of this, as Jesus is now, in the presence of the Father, full of acceptance, that’s how we are now in Christ!
In verse 18, the English word “fear” is translated from the Greek word phóbos, which denotes both the fear of terror and the reverential fear of God.[i] We are to reverentially fear and honor God, but not fear the terror of punishment, which was removed in Christ.
This is a confidence, that in the presence of God, judgment will not touch your life! It’s about position, not character! Sonship is granted, character develops!
What are we talking about here? Not the fear of the Lord, which is clean and pure and wonderful. He is alluding to the fear of judgment, eternal separation from God. As we live in Christ, we are free from the fear of eternal judgment and separation from God.
If I live as a fearful slave, not knowing I’m an adopted son, I will fear God whenever I don’t measure up or perform well. Rather, His love should remove all fear. Jesus Christ has eternally reconciled us to the Father we never need to fear that judgment or rejection again. Again, if we are truly born-again, our desire is to obey and live for Him. As we walk with Jesus, we can be confident that His love and grace secures our relationship to Him always—no matter the circumstances! That’s unconditional love and acceptance. God’s love accepting me—not based on what I’ve done—based on what Jesus has done.
We love Him because He first loved us (verse 19). What a revelation this is—not as doctrine to the mind—but as revelation to our hearts and spirits. He took the initiative, broke down the wall that separated us from Him, and loved us. When we have received His love, fear leaves, and our motivation to live for God is love.
Jesus is the Way; the Destination is the Father.
Jesus said to him, ’I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’…Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” John 14:6,8 NASB
The English word enough in John 14:8 comes from the Greek word arkéō and means “to be filled with unfailing strength.” [ii] Arkéō also implies warding off negative thoughts.
Jesus’ ultimate mission is to bring us to the bosom of the Father—and it will be enough for us. We are filled with His unfailing strength and might. However, like Philip, many yearn to know the Father and wonder, “Does he love and accept me?”
Ask yourself the following questions: Do I see myself as a beloved child of God? Is He my Father, intimate and close? Am I dependent on God and others, or am I self-reliant and independent? Do I view authority as a source of pain or as God’s ministers for good? Do I strive for praise of others and acceptance, or am I assured God’s complete love and acceptance for me?
Yes, God loves and accepts you and it is enough when you learn as truth the totality of God’s love and adoption into His family! When you learn to recognize the Father’s embrace through your communion in the Spirit, His peace and strength fill you.
Knowing you are loved, accepted, and adopted into God’s family is essential to victorious living. It is foundational for faith to grow and prevailing prayer to function. I’ll continue with this important topic next week!
[i] Miles Custis, “Fear,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
[ii] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 598.
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church Message, Adopted by God, Pt. 1: