(My message for this coming Sunday)
Let's read Ephesians 2:1-10 together. Ephesians is a letter from the apostle Paul written to Christians in the church at Ephesus.
Witnessing the births of my two sons were simply amazing experiences.
I just stood there in awe of the miracle that God had performed in creating little lives and providing for all of their needs in a way that we, as parents, could never do.
Life and the forming of a new family, is nothing less than a miracle of God.
Aaron and Crystal Wilson, who attend the Ikoma Chapel, saw this miracle in another way, as they were given the wonderful privilege of becoming parents of Caia by adoption last year.
Through it they said that they experienced God’s great adopting love for them in a deeper and more powerful way.
If we think about it, all Christians have experienced an adoption into a new family.
Today I want to talk about that amazing adopting love of God that literally changes everything for us forever.
1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God”
Why does John seem to be so amazed over the love of the Father God, that Christians are to be called the children of God?
Many people think the Bible says that all people are ALL naturally children of God.
We tend to imagine that God looks at all of us as his sweet, adorable little kids, who, while we might have some problems and failures, we are generally good from birth.
But God’s way of thinking is often very different from our natural human thinking.
Though babies are an amazing miracle of God, it doesn’t take long to start seeing that people, even little people, are very far from perfect.
As kids near one or two years old, though they are so sweet and cute and amazing, they are far from being little angels who go about doing nothing but good.
Unlike adults, kids haven’t yet become sophisticated at masking their selfishness.
At one moment my son Noah will be doing sweet things for little Taka and at the next moment he’s pushing, hitting and kicking him to get what he wants when he wants it!
And I don’t think Noah is unique, because I see the same greedy heart in the elementary students I teach and, sadly, I see the same greedy heart in myself.
Though all humans are made in the image of God, as Gen. 1:27 says, our hearts (child or adult) are corrupted by our sin, stemming from Adam’s first rebellion in the garden.
Now when humans are born the Bible says that our hearts no longer resemble God’s heart of overflowing love.
Our thoughts are no longer pure and our hearts are no longer focused on God and his goodness.
Because of our sinful nature, inherited from Adam, we are separated from our wonderful and personal Creator.
We humans are not born as children of God.
Verse one says, “And you were dead in trespasses and sins”.
In a spiritual sense every human being is born completely dead in relationship to God.
The truth is that while every nation and culture has a vague idea of God, we are disconnected from God and are unable to see Him or truly interact with Him as our Father.
In Psalm 51:5, king David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
As a result of our nature, we naturally walk through our lives, just like Adam, in rebellion against God.
Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
Instead of delighting in truth and in goodness, as we begin to grow up, we delight in self-centered greed more than in God-centered love.
As we get older we may even begin to delight in the fact that “we’re not as self-centered as other people”, and by this we merely sin by our arrogance.
As our text for today says, we are not born as children of God, rather, sadly, we are “sons of disobedience” and “children under God’s wrath, just like the rest of mankind.” (v. 2,3)
Just as I am a son of Gene Wolter inheriting Wolter traits, so also am I a son of disobedience inheriting Adam’s traits.
This is what leads us to follow after Satan’s ways - our rebellious hearts want to be in charge just like Adam’s did.
Instead of following the true God who reigns over all and who is worthy of all of infinite love and attention,
we make our own gods – our religion, our work, our money, even our kids or our ancestors, and then we lose the immeasurable greatness of the real God who made us.
In our man-centered pride, we follow the “prince of the air”, as v. 2 says, the one who is the leader in rebellion against God; Satan.
Of course very few people would claim to actually consciously follow Satan,
but by copying him in our foolish rebellion, we all unconsciously become his little followers, his little children.
Jesus said it very bluntly, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.” (John 8:44a)
John, speaking by the Holy Spirit adds, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8)
By our self-centered pride over and against God, we begin to resemble someone completely different.
And because of that great dishonor, and rebellion against what we were made for, to image forth God’s goodness, we are under God’s just and holy wrath.
In our text, we see that our situation is so fixed that we are actually called, “sons of wrath.”
“Children of the devil… sons of wrath”? It cuts against our pride to hear such statements and we just want to run away and pretend that this isn’t true.
But if you run away now, you’ll miss the most amazingly good news that has ever been told.
There is Someone who has done something for us, in this dire situation.
Verse 4 has two of the most wonderful words in all the Bible, “But God”
We were dead to any sensitivity to God by our sins – completely deaf, blind, unable, unwilling to do anything for ourselves… but God.
Shockingly we were in devil-like rebellion against God, deceiving our own hearts, and slaves to Satan’s rebellion… but God.
We were children of God’s holy and just wrath against sin, condemned to eternal punishment in hell… but God.
These two words, “But God” are two of the most hope giving words in the Bible, and I hope you catch it today.
In God’s great mercy, love and kindness for us, God has done something amazing.
His amazingly good plan, is to rescue us, cleanse us fully, and make us new...
...and then to adopt us as his very own children, into his own family through the payment of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved.” (v. 4-5)
Because of God’s grace mercy and love alone, we have hope.
We have no hope in our own ability, or in our decision to pull ourselves out of sin and into God’s favor.
We were dead to God – having no interest or sensitivity to Him! Having absolutely no ability to come to God or even the desire to come to Him!
But God did something because of His great and amazing love and undeserved grace.
He MADE us alive in Christ Jesus freely by His grace, through His death on the cross and through his resurrection.
Romans 5:10, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”
All of a sudden, though still sinful people, just like everyone else, we miraculously become sensitive to God again through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And maybe for the first time today you are starting to sense His goodness to you.
By God’s grace we come to believe in Him and trust Him in what He did for us on the cross and begin to love Him.
By faith in Jesus Christ he then imputes his own righteousness to our account, so that we are forever declared righteous, or justified, before His righteous judgment.
In God’s mind, those who trust Christ are already seated with him in heaven because Christ has guaranteed it through his payment for all their sins, past, present and future.
And finally, as if it weren’t enough just to be rescued, God the Father has amazingly adopted us into His very own family as His own dearly loved children!
What amazing grace that we should be called the children of God!
And God has had this in his heart and mind before we had ever done anything for him.
Eph. 1:5 says, “In love he (God) predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
For most parents, adoption, understandably, never enters their minds until problems come up.
If they cannot have their own kids, then just maybe, just maybe, they would consider adopting.
But look at this: Your adoption into God’s family was not God’s plan B.
And for Caia, your adoption into the Wilson family was not God’s plan B.
Christian, or those who will become Christians, before all time it was planned that by your own will you would turn away, but that Christ would come.
Christ did not come to call the righteous, but those who are sick and desperately in need of a Father’s loving care.
Oh, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God” ! (1 John 3:1)
I know that I have been challenged here, and it has led Maki and I to begin to pray about what God would have us to do to help others know the love of the Father.
In a world with 42 million abortions every year, what would it mean for us to have a heart like God’s heart?
We didn’t earn the right to be born into our families.
Or if you were adopted, you didn’t choose to be adopted.
It was all by God’s grace that we were born or adopted safely into families.
Being born took a lot of effort from our mothers and from the doctor, and it took a lot of money from your adoptive parents if you were adopted, but none of this effort or money came from us.
And so it is with our new life of faith and salvation in Christ – God does all the work, and God pays the whole price, and He makes the choice to adopt you.
Of course adoption brings with it heavy costs.
But paying the price to rescue another is the essence of love!
And God loves to show- He loves to demonstrate His great love and grace to us sinners.
It is by unmerited grace that anyone comes to Christ by faith and are saved forever. (v. 8-9)
Now I want to try to bring some application to this today, especially to Christians.
First, the more we are in love with the gospel that saves us, the more we will be in love with blessing those who don’t merit our love. (say 2x)
However, the more we see ourselves as meriting the grace of God and all of this glory, the more we will continue on as selfish, inward-looking Christians, loving only those who love us.
Now this topic is especially relevant in the culture we live in today.
At no other time in history is it humanly wiser to have less children.
Throughout history it literally paid economically to have children.
Having more children would lighten one’s workload as well, and allow one to have an easier life as an older person.
But today many see children as a burden, as a roadblock to personal ambitions and dreams.
It is no question that parenting means making many sacrifices.
Even teaching Sunday school or babysitting will mean a sacrifice of time.
We will have more anxiety and less free-time and money if we care for children, but we will also have much much more joy.
When we look to Jesus, we see that, “for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross...” (Hebrews 12:2)
We must believe that in taking the harder path of giving love to children, there will be a greater reward.
In fact in Hebrew 11, God says that seeking the future reward is the essence of what faith is: “He who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
We must believe that when God calls us to do something hard, He amply supplies for every need and will someday reward us.
Jesus went to great pains to give birth to us spiritually, and then to adopt us, but for him he counted it all a joy.
The joy on Earth comes from multiplying our own joy in God’s love and goodness into the lives of others.
John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
There is no greater joy than giving our lives to build up young people in the truth.
Well does that mean everyone is called to be like Jim-san or Steve-san and have 5-7 kids and be full-time teachers or Sunday school helpers?
Does that mean that every Christian is called to adopt?
No, of course not.
But what it does mean is that we need to think and pray seriously about how we can express the massive amount of love we have received from God.
Now that we have received more love than we could ever imagine, in what ways could we give some of that away?
I would love to see an aroma of adoption or the Spirit of adoption fill this church and to see several people, take up the call to adopt personally.
Not because you feel that you need to, or that you should, but because you have a strong desire to spread God’s amazing love to one who needs love so badly.
Because you want to express the joy of your own adoption into the life of another.
And because you want to live for the greater reward of knowing God more.
I want to encourage you to begin to pray about adoption and see where God might lead you.
And for those of us not called to adopt a child, which is surely most of us here, how could we help those who are being called to be better equipped as parents?
One is by coming together as a great loving family of adopted kids every Sunday.
All of us, who trust in Christ, are adopted brothers and sisters in this great family with God as our Father.
Whether Japanese, American or Russian, we are all one family, with God as our Father.
Let’s live together in great love and closeness, remembering who we now are.
Let us adopt others, so to speak, into our own families, letting them into our homes and into our lives.
How about our hearts for the children of the world who are poor or who will never hear the good news of Christ?
In what ways could all of us be a part of caring for children from one of these areas, so that these children could also grow up to love the Lord.
My final call is to urge you to pray, even today, about what God wants you to do in this regard personally.
It will look different for each one, but may the same heart be in each of us.
May we love and nurture children, especially orphans, so that we can live out the gospel more clearly both for the world and for ourselves to see.