If you missed pastor Josh Green’s sermon this past Sunday on adoption, you need to listen to it now. Click here to listen. The following is part one of two which is an attempt to follow up his sermon with some extra information and resources.
In his sermon, Josh labored to show how beautiful and gracious God’s adoption of us is. In J.I. Packer’s classic Knowing God, he has a wonderful chapter titled Sons of God. In it, he contends that the doctrine of justification (though primary and fundamental) is not as glorious and high a blessing as that of adoption. Consider this excerpt from Dr. Packer:
The free gift of acquittal and peace [justification] won for us at the cost of Calvary, is wonderful enough…but justification does not of itself imply any intimate or deep relationship with God the judge… you could have the reality of justification without any close fellowship with God resulting . .. but, contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship - he establishes us a his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.- pg. 207
To express it another way, if all the truth of the gospel were contained in a multi-faceted diamond, adoption would be the most brilliant and beautiful of facets, where God’s love shimmers the most. It is good to think on how God the judge forgave our sins in the legal realm, but it is unfathomable that the judge would step out from behind his bench with adoption papers in hand and take us home. But THIS is the doctrine of adoption.
And while we could do exposition on doctrine all day… doctrine is meant to lead to worship, and worship is meant to affect action.
This is expressly what the author of James says when he states, religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. - James 1:27
James says if we really claim to be children of the Father, we will busy ourselves visiting the orphan and widow.
Visiting seems like an interesting word choice at first glance. It sounds kind of touristy and weak, like window-shopping instead of buying, or spectating when we are supposed to be getting our hands dirty working.
But a quick word study reveals the rich texture of meaning behind this word. It appears at least three times in the book of Luke (1:68, 1:78, 7:16). The usage in Luke 7:16 is especially helpful in providing us with some insight.
Listen to the account from Luke 7:11-16
Afterward he (Jesus) went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"
There it is in verse 16, God has visited his people. The visit prophesied by Zechariah in Luke 1:68;78 and fulfilled by Jesus in chapter 7 (only to be completely fulfilled at Christ’s death and resurrection at the end of the book) entails much more than window-shopping. The visit we are talking about began at Christ’s incarnation, where he left the eternal pleasures of heaven and stooped to enter his creation. Secondly, the physical healing and resurrection detailed in the story of the widow’s son only anticipates a deeper healing that Jesus would accomplish by defeating the power of sin through the cross and bringing ultimate redemption.
So, this is a hint of the meaning wrapped up in the call to visit the orphans (taking initiative on another’s behalf, seeking the good of the helpless), that compassion in the heart (7:13) would lead to life-altering action on the behalf of the those who need it most.
Russell Moore explains it this way, Adoption is . . . mission. In this, our adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned and the fatherless.
And if adoption leads us to mission, it is a big mission indeed. It’s a mission only a Church convicted by the word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, and led by the example of God is big enough to accomplish.
In closing, listen to this quote by pastor Tony Merida that on one hand is overwhelming and on the other should galvanize us into action!
Today, upwards of a half-million children are in the foster-care system in America, and approximately 130 thousand of those children are immediately adoptable. With nearly 225 million professing Christian adults in America, no identifiable reason exists that all of these children cannot be placed immediately in the care of loving Christian families who can nurture them with he love of Christ as they grow to adulthood. - Orphanology, pg. 51
In part 2, I’ll list some books and other resources, some opportunities to serve, and ways we are corporately hoping to do our part in the James 1:27 challenge.