I have been reading about the biblical concept of adoption and what it means for us to be adopted by God the Father. It is a promise of the good news that when we entrust our life to Jesus Christ, God gives us the privilege of being sons and daughters of his family. We are adopted into his kingdom. Uh, John 1:12 puts it this way, “But to all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” A right. Privileges. This is a legal adoption. This is a moral adoption. This is a full adoption.
Wayne Gruder in his book on Systematic Theology, which is no small read, mentions fourteen benefits or privileges that are ours in Christ Jesus through the Ministry of Adoption. These are pretty radical I would say. One of those privileges is especially important for all of us to put into practice on a daily basis. This practice is when we pray, we develop the habit of referring to God as Father or our heavenly Father as opposed to just praying, “oh, dear God” which is very general.
Jesus himself taught us to do this. When he was teaching us how to pray, he said, “When you pray, pray this way. Our Father who art in heaven…” or heavenly Father. It is a great discipline to develop, especially for those of us who are insecure or fragile in our personality. To develop that habit of always saying Father or Heavenly Father frames everything in our prayer. Out of that, our life and our identity as children of the Heavenly Father through our faith in Jesus Christ builds up properly. Romans 8 puts it this way, “You have received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry, Abba Father.” To call out to God as Abba Father is a transformational, radical idea that is unleashed through the power of the gospel.
I’ve seen this one biblical truth transform many people in the world. Perhaps one of the clearest examples happened in China. Some years ago, I was teaching on adoption to some people, and I invited one of our board members who was visiting the work in China to come up and share his own personal testimony.
John Cissel has been on our board at Passion Life for a number of years. I have known John for over 30 years. I know his personal story of adoption and so I invited him to come up and share his story. He got up in front of the fellow Chinese seminary students, and said, “I have been twice adopted (referring to how he had been adopted as an infant by loving parents and then later on how he was adopted by his Heavenly Father).” This seemed to be rather straightforward, but as soon as he was finished a young woman came up to him weeping because she was overcome by his testimony.
I asked, “What is the problem?” She replied, “I have been adopted twice as well. You are the first person I have ever told this to.” She was probably in her mid-twenties at this point in time. You see, in China, as in many parts of the world that are yet uninfluenced by the impact of the gospel on the culture, adoption is always a negative thing. It means that you have failed in some way to be able to produce your own children, so you have to go out and get somebody else’s child. There are all kinds of racist ideas that get mixed up in these things too. “You go outside your own blood and you get somebody else’s” is a common remark made about adoption because of all these terrible pagan ideas that come in. She was adopted and she was told from the time she was a little girl to never tell anyone that she had been adopted. It is a matter of shame. It is a matter of guilt that you were adopted.
John’s testimony was basically taking the biblical view and just cutting through all those unnecessary chains that this woman was carrying It was quite liberating for her. As it turns out, I was back in that part of China a year later. This same woman came back and carrying her baby. I asked, “What brought you back here today?” And she said, “I just wanted you to know that my husband and I, after learning the biblical view of adoption, went out and we adopted a baby so that we can turn this shame into a testimony about the gospel of adoption.”
One of the most viable ways one can take this biblical idea and to see its transformational power begin to work within the church is mediating an adoption for the baby who was going to be aborted. This has both a biblical and practical foundation. We have seen that many times in China.
So, I just want to remind you, today, that adoption is our privilege in believing and trusting in Christ. This practice of adoption that we take to the world is a sign of the life-changing power of the Gospel and, eventually, the transforming power of the Gospel on individuals and on the culture. To God be the glory.