A fact that some of you may not know about me, is that when I was 19 my parents began fostering. It has been a wonderful journey where we have had the privilege to be a part of over 20 children’s lives in a time of great need. They’ve learned from us and we’ve learned a lot more from them. On the 11thJune 2012, my mum’s phone rang. It was social services asking if she could foster a 7-week old baby for a few weeks. A few weeks turned into a few months. Very soon, it felt as if he wasn’t fostered but was a part of the family. We loved him and he loved us. But eventually, just after we had celebrated his first birthday, he was taken away. We were left heartbroken. There was a palpable sense of loss over the next few weeks. But then we heard the news that he was being put up for adoption. At that point the grief was replaced with determination and mum and dad decided they would do everything, anything they could to get him back. After a long, complicated and emotional story in which my parents relentlessly pursued him at all cost and without wavering, willing to do whatever it took, we all sat in the court as he was adopted and became part of the family. As he walked back into our house for the first time aged 3, after we had been told he wouldn’t have any memory of us, he began humming a little tune we had always sang to him. He’d come home. It’s been wonderful, not without its ups and downs of course. Particularly considering he’s a pupil in the school I teach in, that has certainly led to a few interesting moments.
Adoption then, as you can imagine, is something that is very close to my heart and that is why today’s passage is one of my favourites. In it we read ‘you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”’ (Romans 8:15b). Adoption is the process by which we become part of another family, and God out of His amazing love for each of us wants us to join His. Just like my parents resolved to adopt my brother, God has an even greater resolve for each of us. He pursues each of us relentlessly to the extent that He came down from all the greatness of Heaven and died upon the cross, all so we could be provided with a way in. He loves us with an indescribable, all powerful, all-encompassing love that is completely undeserved and completely unearned and He will stop at nothing, nothing, to have a relationship with us. It’s when we accept this love, when we place our trust in Jesus and believe that He was the son of God, that he paid the price for our sins in full thus allowing us to re-enter into a relationship with the Father, that through Him we are forgiven and we become automatic members of His family. It’s now vital that we’re aware of the impact that being a member of this family has on our identity and how that same identity and all that comes with it can impact how we go about our lives. Fully understanding our membership as part of God’s family is an essential part of being a Christian and to help us fully understand that membership we can look to the three persons of the trinity.
Firstly, we look to God the Father. As we look at the world around us, we see Fathers who haven’t quite made the mark. I see this regularly through my work and the sad impact that it has on people. In today’s passage we read the words ‘we cry, Abba! Father!’ (Romans 8:15). To call God father at the time of Jesus was ground breaking. It denotes a close personal and loving relationship. In God, we find that we have an absolutely perfect and completely good Father. He promises that He will never leave us, that He will always support us and that He will always love us. He has an amazing and wonderful plan for each of our lives and He delights in us. We read in Zephaniah 3:17 ‘The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing’. What an amazing truth. Here we have the God who created the universe, who flung the stars into space, who told the sun to shine its light, who designed atoms and elements, who has unstoppable and unimaginable power telling us He loves us, that He rejoices over us, that He sings over us and most importantly He wants to be our Father. This great God wants to have a close, loving and intimate relationship with us as our Father. When we come to faith, we become God’s children in a very real way and, if we allow it, this truth will shape the whole way we look at the world and how we see ourselves. We need to allow the fact that we have this good and perfect Father to become a core part of our identity. We need to strive to comprehend this amazing truth each day and step into the reality that we are children of the King. We are royalty in His sight. We are precious and valued and loved. We are significant and we, as people who know His love, can partner with Him as we strive to see that same love spread from us to the world around as we seek to be the fulfilment of the prayer ‘your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’
Secondly, we look to God the Son. Jesus Christ. He is that love embodied. Into this world He came with the loving mission of seeing us set free. So great was His love that He was willing to pay the ultimate price; humiliation, betrayal, rejection, agony and death. He willingly and lovingly died for us and in doing so He took upon Himself, His good and perfect self, the sins of the entire world. As He hung on that cross, He had our names in His heart as He became the way for us to enter into our true destiny as people who intimately know the love of God in our lives. When He died, death could not hold Him. The stone was rolled away and the Son of God rose again now victorious over sin and death. And as He lives, we live. Not lives like before, but lives destined to shine His light brightly into this dark world, to be a beacon of hope for those who don’t yet know this awe-inspiring truth, to show the world that there is another way and His name is Jesus Christ. All the while, we have the unshakable assurance that when our time on this earth comes to a close, as we take our final breath, we will find ourselves seeing our Lord and Saviour face to face as we arrive home into His embrace, hearing the words already heard by those we have lost “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Finally, we look to God the Holy Spirit. The fact is as I, as we, look at our lives we are all faced with the fact that we do not always shine as brightly for God as we could. We look to the extent of our mission, a mission to go out into this dark and fallen world, to reach those who are lost and hurting and in pain, and it seems simply impossible. To me the idea that I can change the world, that I can bring hope and peace and freedom to hurting people and nations seems like an impossibility. That as I sit across from people who are broken and going through the most horrific of situations that I can bring love and joy and purpose. But the truth is that all impossibilities bow before the throne of God’s grace and goodness. God knows our weaknesses and our flaws and that is exactly why He sends us His Holy Spirit. The Lord, the giver of life. So vital is the Holy Spirit to our Christian lives that Jesus says in John 16:7 ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.’ It is preciously because of the Holy Spirit transforming broken people like us into people of loving significance and working through them in unimaginable power that we’re all sitting here today. He is the reason why the message of Jesus Christ didn’t just stay amongst a few people in Israel but has been heard by billions of people for over 2000 years and He is the reason why that same message is continuing its unstoppable advance day by day transforming, renewing and setting free all those who accept it and propelling them into their true destiny as members of God’s family. And as members of this family, we are called to be part of this unstoppable advance as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Christ, to proclaim the Good News, to see the captives set free, the blind given sight, the hungry fed, the weak defended, but most importantly, to see people come to accept the truth of God as we see demonstrated in Jesus Christ upon the cross and for them to join us in the family. Verse 14 of our passage today states ‘for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God’. We need to seek the guidance, the prompting, the empowerment and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead us as we go about our lives. It is when we do this we will see our situations transformed, our view of the world changed, our very selves changed daily into who we were created to be. And more than this, we will see God revive our families, our churches, our workplaces, our communities and even our nations and beyond.
This is what it is to be part of the family of God. A life of freedom, purpose and power but most importantly a life of love, joy and hope. And even when suffering and pain come, because they will come, we know that our identity is secure, that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, that we are significant, that we are known, and that in any situation we face, in any time of despair, we stand secure under the shadow of the Father’s love, firm in the victory of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let us now step out today, as beloved children of God, with an even greater resolve to see His will and purposes advance powerfully through us as we seek to shine brightly for Him.