We Are Family

Ephesians 1:3-10:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[a] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he[b] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

When we adopted our son, we didn’t just hop on a plane bound for Ethiopia, pick out a kid, head back home and voila! We are a family for happily ever after.

No, there was a meticulously intentional process we followed: We completed a home study, which included three home visits from a social worker; we completed physicals; we completed pounds of paperwork in triplicate that was all notarized and sent to the government of Ethiopia as part of our dossier. We submitted to criminal checks, financial checks, credit checks, medical checks, and driving record checks (no, not kidding).  And then … then, we had to go through the Immigration process with the FBI fingerprinting process, pre-applications, full applications, all culminating in an in-person visit to the US Embassy in the country of Ethiopia to swear that all the information on the pre-application and the full application was correct and true.

Of course, that is just the paperwork side of the adoption process. Rather than being matched with our son by a referral from the agency, we chose our son, having seen him on a “Waiting Child” video our agency had put together and distributed to the “waiting families.”  And, once we “chose” him, we then had to make a personal commitment to him. Even though we’d never met him and all we knew of him was in the background file on him provided to us by the adoption agency, we signed a “Letter of Commitment.” Effectively, we made him a promise that we would pursue adopting him and him alone, and that in so doing, we would become his parents and he would become a full member of our family.

After we made our commitment to him, we went through several more months of waiting for our file to make its way through the Ethiopian court system and once the court certified our file, he was legally named our son. At that precise moment, he was given our last name and became our legal child and responsibility – and we still hadn’t even met face-to-face.

With this as our story, it is likely not surprising to you that I find many parallels between our adoption process and the verses in Ephesians 1:3-10. In this passage, the Lord is saying to me:

He has established a process by which He made us a promise and through which we have full participation in His family.

The Preamble

First, I just have to say that I love Paul’s preamble to this collection of verses. He says in verse 3:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

For me, this is a great sum-it-up sentence. I hear Paul (in my imagination) saying: “Listen, we really can leave it at this: Christ is every spiritual blessing we need. The end.”  But as Paul seems to be inclined to do – he elaborates and gives us a much more detailed description of God’s plan for bringing us into His family and what that means for you and for me.

He has established a process

It is in verses 4 and 5 where we see the Process outlined by which God brings us into his family. It is two-fold, but simple: he chose us and he adopted us.

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[a] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

He chose us. HE chose us. He CHOSE us. He chose US.

Sinners. Haters of Jesus. Abusers of His creation. “Rejectors” of His Word. “Ignorers” of His commands. And He chose US! Before creation, God looked down from heaven and chose us. He chose me.  Jesus in my life was His plan for me before He created the heavens and the earth.  Jesus in my life was always his plan for me.  I didn’t just “happen” into this Jesus who saves my soul from eternal suffering … He sought me out.  He chose me. He chose you.

But it is precisely because we are sinners – haters of Jesus, abusers of His creation, rejectors of His Word, and ignorers of His commands – that we are not naturally born into God’s family.   So, in love (verse 5), God developed this process through which the criteria of justice and holiness required to be a member of God’s family could be met — that is, through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ on the cross — and as a result of that process, we are adopted into His family.  Because of Jesus, we are an unnatural (not by birth) member grafted into God’s family.

He made us a promise

Just like once we had chosen our son and were completing our process of adoption we had to make a commitment to raise and love our son as if he had been born into our family, God does the very same thing for us.

In verse 6 and verse 7, Paul writes:

6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

As part of this adoption process by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, God makes us several promises.  First, He promises us that our adoption is by His grace.  Remember, when I wrote to you last about the first two verses of Ephesians, Paul says “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:1-2)  Remember that grace is God’s unmerited (unearned, undeserved) favor.  You can’t earn grace – that’s an oxymoron.  But yet, God promises us that we don’t need to try to earn our way into His family – indeed, we cannot!  No, He promises us that we will be adopted by His grace to us – freely given.

Let me pause and ask a question:  When something is freely given, is it yours?  If I show up to a birthday party for you and bring you a present of great worth, and I tell you that it’s for you, and you know in your head that it is for you, and I hold it out to you and you can see it with your eyes, but … you refuse to receive it and claim it as your own … is it really yours?  Do you own it?

No. Even a “freely given” gift is not yours unless and until you receive it and claim it as your own.

Friends, God’s grace is promised to us.  It is freely given.  God is holding out to us His unmerited favor in the form of His beloved son, Jesus, so that we might be adopted into His family.  And then continues to show His grace to us in so many ways in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  He tells us about it in His Word, and by His grace, He does not desire for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  But, we must receive God’s grace.  It’s not enough just to know about it.

So, how do we receive it?  Verse 6 says “…his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (emphasis mine). We are adopted into God’s family by God’s grace when we receive Jesus Christ himself.

And as a result of receiving this promise, freely-given by His grace, and thus being adopted into God’s family, in verse 7 God also promises that we have redemption (the punishment we deserved was paid for by Jesus instead, and thus, we are “redeemed” – Galatians 3:13) and forgiveness of our sin (Psalm 103:10-12).

We have full participation in His family

When we adopted our son, we became much more aware of what was required to be “a family.”  We had never purposefully considered this notion before because with our biological children, there was a natural-born instinct providing the mysterious, unmistakable, yet indescribable connection that creates bonds, attachments, and affections.

But, this was not our experience with our adopted child, so we had to really think about how to deconstruct the behaviors, habits, and (even more difficult to address) thought-patterns or strongholds from previously traumatic experiences in order to even begin constructing the positive behaviors, habits, and thought-patterns that would lead to affection, bonding, and attachment — all necessary ingredients for becoming “a family.”

It was through this process that we boiled down “family” to two core aspects: the rewards and the responsibilities.  God shows us the same thing in verses 8-10.

8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he[b] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

The Rewards of God’s Family

Verse 9 gives us the “rewards” of being adopted into God’s family:

• He lavishes us with all wisdom and understanding
• He makes known to us his will, purposed in Christ

To refer again to my post from Ephesians 1:1-2, I am reminded that God equips us for the place where He has called us.  He adopts us into His family, and then, he doesn’t just provide us with wisdom and understanding to learn how to be a part of that family.  He doesn’t even just freely give us wisdom and understanding.  He lavishes us with all wisdom and understanding.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “lavish” as:

“expending or bestowing profusely; produced in abundance; marked by profusion or excess.”

Excess wisdom.  An abundance of understanding.  More than we could want or need.  What a wonderful reward for being a member of God’s family!

And what could be the reason for needing all of this wisdom and understanding that the Father has so graciously lavished upon us?  He says (verse 9) that he makes known to us his will, purposed in Christ.  I believe this means His will is for us to know Christ.  And I do not mean just to know of him, but to know him personally through the Scriptures.  Why do I think that?  Because …

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among them. (John 1:1, John 1:14)

The Word – the Living Word – the Bible from Genesis to Revelation – is The Word – it is Jesus revealed to us!  And, having been adopted into God’s family, God has lavished us with all wisdom and understanding in order to know His Word — to know “the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

May I encourage you for a moment?  Do not let yourself be intimidated by others around you who may seem to you to be more wise or knowledgeable in the Scriptures than you.  If you have received Christ as your own, then you are adopted into God’s family, and as a result, He has lavished you with all wisdom and understanding to know the Living Word – to know Him.

The Responsibilities of God’s Family

We are often heard telling our children: “There are many privileges of being an Armstrong, but there are also responsibilities.”  In this household, you don’t get to just reap the fun stuff, you are expected to be a fully participating member of the family.  This means, you contribute to the wellness of the household by doing chores, you help out when you are asked, and you respond to others with respect and kindness.

I believe God has a similar expectation for us, but at much more significant level:

10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

As part of God’s family, we are now, and will be for all of eternity, under the lordship of Jesus Christ.  That is why we worship Him.  That is why we obey Him. That is why we yield our will to His. (And remember, it is an oxymoron to say, “No, Lord.” He is either your Lord, or He is not.  But that’s a whole other topic!)

I could really go on and on about what it means to me to live under the lordship of Jesus, but if I had to sum it up, I think I would quote what Jesus said was the Greatest Commandment:

“‘Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’…And to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

In keeping this commandment, we know Him and we are making Him known to the world around us.  I believe that is living under the lordship of Jesus – I believe that the responsibility of being in God’s family.

In my welcome message, I mentioned that I have never found a way to share “our adoption story” without betraying the confidences of our son’s personal history.  The same is true for the details of the months immediately following his “homecoming.”  So as much as I would love to conclude this writing by sharing with you the miracle that has taken place within our four walls as we have learned how to be a “grafted” family, I will not.  I will say this though: We are still learning how to be a grafted family.  And daily, it is a great comfort to us to know that, just as God established a process by which He made us a promise and through which we have full participation in His family, we followed a process, we made a promise, and we are now experiencing both the rewards and the responsibilities of participation in our grafted family.  It is not for the faint of heart.  But, by God’s grace, we are living under the lordship of Jesus Christ and it is “more precious than gold, than much pure gold.” (Psalm 19:9-10)

Think About It:

  1. Have you received God’s freely-given gift of grace by receiving Jesus Christ?
  2. Having been lavished with all wisdom and understanding, are you seeking to know The Word (Jesus) by deeply reading, studying, and applying The Word (The Bible)?
  3. Will you engage in both the reward and the responsibility of being grafted into God’s family?
Advertisements

4 thoughts on “We Are Family

  1. Julie – this is powerful. That is an amazing parallel – your earthly adoption story and our heavenly one. I had never seen that angle before. Just this week, I was reminded of how we are grafted into Jesus as The Vine – the only source of life. I have watched the Armstrong family. Long before your dear, adopted son joined you…the decision you and Mike made to “graft” your lives, marriage and family to Jesus was the one that established you as His perfect place to send out yet another Armstrong “shoot!” — love tracking the process with you. Thanks for sharing the insights God is giving you!

    Like

  2. Julie-

    A lovely entry. It reminded me of my favorite verse. Many people have signs in their houses that say “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” But for me, the key part of that chapter is this: “Choose, this day, whom you will serve.” It’s a choice, every day, all the time. An active choice.

    Like

Let Me Hear From You

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s