More Review of Our Fountain Privilege

Yesterday’s message on the biblical docrtrine of adoption from 1 John 3:1a can be summed up like this:

The reality of our status as those born of God and thus belonging to Him as children in His family is owed entirely to the love He as our Father has bestowed upon us. With that love, an alien love in that it is other-worldly, there is a glory to be surveyed, a gift to be savored, and a grid to be secured.

When I blogged last night’s follow up post to the message, my wife asked me to review the five parts of point three, the grid to be secured. Seems I flew through them quite fast! Here is that section from my manuscript in case you may have missed some of those items as well. 

He wants this grid, this way of thinking about ourselves, absolutely, positively secure. He wants us flabbergasted at the wonder/glory of the alien love behind it, like the prodigal in Luke 15:20, smothered by his father’s love upon his return from the pigsty.

He wants us anchored in a guaranteed certainty in hope of the future that with our adoption as children comes a promised inheritance of unspeakable eternal wealth (Romans 8:16-17).

He wants us solidified in our understanding that the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) serves to make us realize with increasing clarity the meaning of our filial relationship with God in Christ, and to lead us into an ever deeper response to God in this relationship (Packer, Knowing God, p. 220).

He wants us sobered and gripped by implications of our adoption for our growth in Gospel holiness because as sons and daughters loved by God He disciplines us in order to produce a harvest of righteousness in us as ones so trained by that discipline (Heb. 12:6-11).

 He wants us comforted, encouraged and strengthened in the assurance of our salvation knowing that the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children and that if children, then we are heirs (Rom. 8:16-17).

That, dear ones, is a grid. It’s biblical. It’s yours as adopted children of God. May it be secure as secure can be. Nothing matters more to your spiritual growth in 2010!

May the Holy Spirit work deeply in us this year to walk in the complete security of this oh so precious grid!

A Particularly Disturbing Question

ProdigalI have just finished reading Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Dutton, 2008, 138 pages).

In it he presents a treatment of the familiar story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He is inclined to rename the parable The Two Lost Sons. He believes that Jesus takes aim in the story at both irreligious outsiders and moralistic insiders. Both, Keller claims, are lost and in need of salvation. Jesus, in particular, he argues, targets moralists in telling the story to show them their need for the gospel as much as the younger brother types who give themselves to profligate waste.

Early on Keller tips his hand where he is headed with all this by offering his answer to the question why people like Jesus but not the church.

Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsider Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think (p. 15-16).

When I first read that I put a question mark in the margin. I am not entirely sure I agree with the logic behind Keller’s argument. I’ve learned to do that over time rather than just take everything that comes down the pike from a respected author (and make no mistake, I highly respect him – I just purchased copies of his book The Reason for God for several members of my family for Christmas).

My question to his question is does the conclusion in the last sentence from that quote hold water? I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since. Is the church in corporate worship as an entity of God’s called out ones supposed to be inherently attractional to either kind of brother? It seems to me that rightly done the church gathered may be offensive to either crowd and only attractive to the gospel enthralled given its unique purposes.

I haven’t come near to the end of my reflections on this question but I wonder if we simply need to be more concerned with taking the gospel of our extravagantly gracious God “without” to the lost (that seems to me to be the thrust of the story in Luke 15 as far as Jesus’ aim is concerned) and “within” the church more consistently rebuke both the wayward and the legalistic who think they know Jesus but deny hin by their actions until they do come to grips with the heart of the Christian faith which is gazing upon the glory of the grace of Jesus.

What do you think?

By the way, I recommend the book. Definitely a worthwhile read.

What Shall We Do to Be Thankful?

WatsonThe day before Thanksgiving seems to make such a question advisable.

The Puritan Thomas Watson contended in his book, The Godly Man’s Picture, that, among other things, the goldy man is indeed a thankful man.

Toward the close of his chapter on that notion, he raises the practical question as to what shall godly men, and women for that matter, do to be thankful. His answers are two:

Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness. A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God’s praise. He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, but I was shown mercy” (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was! How he trumpeted forth free grace! A proud man will never be thankful. He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving. If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, “Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich” (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude. O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself as the least of saints, and the chief of sinners—and then you will be thankful.

Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God’s love to you. Read God’s love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts. God’s love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: “Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever!” (Rev. 1:5,6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water. Hearts deeply aware of God’s love yield the sweetest praises.

What will work in us a spirit of gospel thanksgiving this holiday and beyond? Lord, grant us a sober perspective on our sinful condition AND a deep awareness of your stunning love.

Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me!

More on Adoption – Not a Fairy Tale

Earlier this week I made a post quoting from J. I. Packer regarding the doctrine of adoption and the way we are loved by God as sons because of being in Christ through faith.

God receives us as sons, and loves us with the same steadfast affection with which he eternally loves his beloved only-begotten. There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story–the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But, praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means. No wonder John cries, “Behold what manner of love!” When once you understand adoption, your heart will cry the same (Knowing God, IVP, 1993, p. 216).

This morning in our Oxford Club for men we raised the question as to whether or not Dr. Packer might overstate the case a bit when he writes, There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. Is there no difference at all between the affection shared by the Father and His Son within the Godhead in comparison with the affection we enjoy as sons through adoption?

John Frame speaks to the question in his book Salvation Belongs to the Lord:

Jesus Himself is the Son of God . . . . He has a unique sonship, a relation to God that we cannot attain. His sonship is higher than ours, and it is the source of ours, for it is only those who receive Christ (John 1:12) who gain the authority to be sons of God. In John 20:17 Jesus distinguishes his sonship from ours when he says to Mary, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Jesus never describes God as “our” Father in a way that equalizes the relationship between Jesus’ sonship and ours. Nevertheless, we are sons of God because God sees us in Christ, in his beloved Son. So, we share the blessings that the Father gives to his unique Son, Jesus (P&R, 2006, p. 206).

Of course this clarification takes nothing away from the astounding truth that God loves us as sons through the association we share with Jesus, our Brother. But it does help to recalibrate our thinking to remember the ultimately unique and ultimate sonship of the second person of the Trinity in relation to the first.

The recalibration notwithstanding, the immedidate message to our hearts from a consideration of adoption, as Dr. Packer reminds us (and I doubt Dr. Frame would disagree) remains the same. I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too (p. 228).

May we preach this message to our hearts every day and multiple times throughout the day until we finally go home to our reward and inherit the fullness of all our adoption secures for us in Christ Jesus. Then we will no longer need to preach these truths to our hearts for then we shall see Him as He and be like Him. Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.

Adoption – Not a Fairy Tale

John Owen, the Puritan divine, called the biblical doctrine of adoption “our fountain privilege.” J. I. Packer calls it the highest privilege the gospel affords to those who believe.

The London Baptist 1689 Confession of Faith defines adoption this way:

FOR the sake of His only Son, Jesus Christ, God has been pleased to make all justified persons sharers in the grace of adoption, by means of which they are numbered with, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God. Furthermore, God’s name is put upon them, they receive the spirit of adoption, and they are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace and to cry ‘Abba, Father’. They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by God as by a Father.He never casts them off, but, as they remain sealed to the day of redemption, they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation (Chap. 12).

Knowing GodIn Packer’s book Knowing God, he writes of what he calls deep insights from the Epistles of the New Testament that adoption gives us. First on the list is that our adoption shows us the greatness of God’s love. Indeed, the apostle John declares in 1 John 3:1, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The implications of this are staggering. More from Packer:

God receives us as sons, and loves us with the same steadfast affection with which he eternally loves his beloved only-begotten. There are no distinctions of affection in the divine family. We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story–the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them. But, praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is hard and solid fact, founded on the bedrock of free and sovereign grace. This, and nothing less than this, is what adoption means. No wonder John cries, “Behold what manner of love!” When once you understand adoption, your heart will cry the same (IVP, 1993, p. 216).

Men, do you want to understand adoption better? This Saturday at 7 AM at the church office Oxford Club meets. Bring your own breakfast and join in the discussion of chapter nineteen, Sons of God, in J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. May we all understand this precious doctrine better and actually believe that this is true: We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved!