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I am so happy for these who have been baptized. They have received a new identity. Their baptism depicts this morning that they are part of the Family of God. People don’t get into the baptistery unless they are professing that they have accepted a new identity in Christ, and I pray that each one of them had an experience with their Heavenly Father Who has adopted them this morning. I pray that just like Jesus did the day of His baptism that these persons heard God say and will continue to hear God say, “This is MY son in whom I am well pleased!” God isn’t shy about expressing His love for us. He wants everyone to know He has adopted all who are in Christ, and I pray that if you are a believer that you too, will leave here today experiencing the security and joy that comes from knowing that when God looks at you He says, “That’s my boy!” “That’s my girl!” Stand as we read God’s Word together from Romans 8:14-17.

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:14-17

One more Scripture to set us up. Read this with me as it appears on the screen:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3:1

Silent Prayer

“Praise the Lord, my heart with His love is beaming. I AM a Child of God! Heaven’s golden light over me IS streaming. I AM a Child of God!” Can you make the same claim? Are you in Christ this morning? Do you realize what it means to have become a child of God? I want to attempt to unpack that for you. First of all, I want to explain that The Spirit of Adoption says you are WANTED!

I have a cousin, John Luke. He and his wife, Courtney, have adopted two children from Korea in two separate adoptions at two different times. They literally went around the world and incurred great cost in order to add to their family. They already had two biological children, but had the desire in their hearts to expand their family through adoption. Their first adopted child, Annalee took a year to welcome into their home. She came with some challenges. They knew she needed surgery for a cleft palate and would require speech therapy. They knew what her challenges and needs were, and they still wanted HER!

Their second adopted child, a boy named Ty Crews, took a lot longer to get to their home. He was five months old when they knew he would eventually become theirs, but he was 22 months old before they were able to bring him home. I talked to Courtney this week in preparation for this message and she spoke about how her love for their two adopted children was exactly the same for her biological children. She went through infertility and wanted biological children. They were willing to go through treatment in order to have their two girls. Waiting and hoping was difficult. God answered their prayers. They also wanted to adopt just as much as she desired to have biological children. They were willing to go around the world to make it happen. Waiting and hoping was difficult. God answered their prayers.

Listen, they knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They knew it would require time, effort, money, patience, surgery and more to help their adopted children become adjusted, well, and whole. They knew there would be some baggage to deal with, some identity issues to reformat, some language barriers to hurdle, and other challenges to overcome. They knew what they were getting, but it didn’t change their WANT of these children. Listen, God knows what He is getting with us. He knows how much we’ve failed, how steeped we are in sin, how addicted we are to our vices, how much we cling to our idols, how often our doubt weighs more than our faith, how weak our flesh is, how self-centered or lazy or manipulative we are, and He most assuredly knows how much work it will take to re-make us, but guess what? It has never changed His WANT of us! Hallelujah!

Ty Crews and Annalee will grow up knowing they were desperately wanted by John Luke and Courtney; so desperately wanted that they went around the world, spared no expense, and embraced every challenge that came with bringing them into their family. Jesus came not just around the world, but from a completely different world, sparing no expense, giving His very life to show us how much the Father wants us to be His.

Ephesians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

You, brothers and sisters are wanted! You are chosen. God has reached out through time and space and with great effort, intention and sacrifice through the death of Christ on the cross made a way for you to become His child! He has jumped through extensive hoops. He has spared no expense. You were in His heart long before He was in yours! He longed for you. He desired for you to be His. He did whatever it took so that you could be in His Forever Family!

Second, the Spirit of Adoption WELCOMES you to a new life.

Thom and I went to the Greenbrier to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday a week ago Friday, and you talk about a place that knows how to welcome its guests. I will have to admit, I was a bit intimidated. I had been there once before for a Rotary convention, and I knew how opulent it was. I knew what “kind” of people stayed there. I thought to myself, “We don’t belong here! We will stick out like a sore thumb! People will know we are really just two hillbillies from Putnam County.” I wasn’t sure I was GOOD ENOUGH to stay there. I thought people would judge me. They would spot the absence of designer anything that I was wearing. I could even picture people holding their tea cups at high tea in front of their mouths as they whispered, “What are THEY doing here?”

All of that faded in an instant as we got out of our cars. They were ready for us. They were expecting us. They made us feel as though they were anticipating our arrival, like they were happy we had come. There were several people outside to greet us, park our car, carry our luggage and escort us inside. They couldn’t have been nicer or more down to earth.
Friends had given us an overnight stay as a gift and had booked our room under my name and given them my academic title. So, when we checked in, the lovely lady behind the desk said, “Welcome Dr. Pratt!” We found out during our stay that there was a veterinarian’s conference going on, so you know she thought I was just a late arrival! Once we received our keys, the Guest Services person called for a bellman and said, “Please show Dr. Pratt and her husband to their room.” I said, “Thom, they think I’m a doctor!” to which he replied, “Well, don’t try to start diagnosing and fixing people while we’re here!” I started walking with a swagger down the hall behind the bellman. I was nodding cordially at people, making eye contact and feeling really special. I thought, “These people think I am something I know I’m not. These people are treating me better than I deserve!” You can tell when people are welcoming and it’s fake. I didn’t feel that way at all. The way they communicated that they wanted us there made me start to think about myself more positively. Those feelings of unworthiness started to fade quickly. My joy and delight to be there replaced the feelings of fear and insecurity.

We explored the hotel which took quite some time and then left to drive to Lewisburg for dinner since I couldn’t find a “buy one get one free” coupon to eat the Greenbrier! When we returned, it was all lit up on the outside and just took our breath away. When we got inside our room, there were fresh flowers, chocolates, and a card FROM THE GREENBRIER congratulating us on our anniversary! We were spoiled, and we knew it! They even had these plush robes in our room that were ours to use while we were there. They even had complimentary slippers for us to wear! They welcomed us. They fed us with rich chocolate. And they clothed us in what felt like “royal” robes and slippers! We had definitely left our “old lives” behind and were living a new way of life (at least for 24 hours).

God welcomes us into His family in style. Remember I John 3:1 tells us God has lavished His love on us. We may feel unworthy at first. We may not feel good enough at first. We may wonder why God would treat us better than we deserve, but as we get inside His love, as we let Him tour us through life on His terms, we will be not only welcomed into His family, but we will be provided for, spoiled, given new spiritual garments to wear and will have the luxury of leaving our old lives behind!

People who are adopted leave a life to acquire a new one. The Bible says that same is true of us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (II Cor. 5:17)

The control of sin in our lives is gone. The temptation to sin is still there. We may still feel the pull of sin. We may still crave the pleasure that comes to our flesh or our minds when we remember the sinful practices we used to be involved in. But we have a new desire that is also growing inside of us. And as our desire for the new life, the new experience in Christ, as our desire to please God begins to ramp up, our desire for sin will lesson and fade.

The devil knows how to welcome people. He appeals to their fleshly desires. He makes things look pretty, and sound fun and harmless. There isn’t one of us in this room who wouldn’t think doing something fun was a bad idea, right? Wanting to have fun is a universal, human desire. So, the devil plays up the fun side of things. Sin IS fun. . . at first. The devil wants to welcome you in order to trap you. God, however, welcomes you into His family, and gives you a new life, in order to free you.

It’s not that when you come to Christ you never sin again, but it’s that your pursuit is in the opposite direction. Your heart’s desire is holiness, not sin. Your heart’s desire is the new life, not the old one. And your energy and attention and effort are focused on the new life in God’s adopted family. AND God promises to give us power to say “no” to temptation.

But even when we do sin, when we confess those sins to the Lord, they are not counted against us. The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. In our old life we had no hope of eternal life. In our new life, we have ongoing hope because we have the blood of Jesus to claim every day! “Oh yes, oh yes, I’m a Child of the King. His royal blood now flows in my veins. And I who was wretched and poor now can sing, praise God Praise God I’m a child of the King.” It doesn’t get any closer than blood relation, and that is what God has done for us! He has made us like blood relation through the blood of Christ shed on Calvary!

Paul was writing all of this stuff about adoption with an understanding of how adoption was viewed in the Roman world. The whole idea of adoption wasn’t a common practice among the Jews. Paul knew, however, that when a Roman citizen adopted someone, if that person had a debt in their life, when they became adopted, their debt was wiped away!

You and I owed a debt to sin that we could not pay! For the cost of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) Hallelujah! Jesus paid our debt, so that when we enter into our new life, we come without the baggage of sin!

Not only do you get to leave your life of sin when you come to Christ, but you get to leave the stuff that goes with it behind. Maybe in some earthly adoptions children take something from their old life to remember their old life by, perhaps a picture or blanket, stuffed animal or toy. Not having that experience myself I don’t know if that is helpful or harmful in the long run. I do know, however, as we are welcomed into God’s family, we get to leave everything behind that could harm us in the future. The biggest of which are two things called “SHAME and CONDEMNATION.” Satan doesn’t want you to leave your sin behind. But if you are going to, He wants to send you away with your bags still loaded with shame and condemnation for you to drag around for the rest of your life. But, hallelujah, just like the bellhop at the Greenbrier, Jesus picks up our bags and takes them from us! Only He doesn’t carry them for us into our new life so we can unpack them and hold onto them! He takes them from us so He can remove them from us forever!

Romans 8:1-2 tells us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” If you are in Christ, one sentence you will never hear God say is, “Shame on you!”

Sin will take you physically to places in order to trap you, but shame will keep you there emotionally even as you are being physically freed from whatever had bound you. God wants to free us not only from sin in our new life, but from shame as well so that we can walk around with a swagger, so that we can accept that He is treating us better than we deserve, so that we don’t walk around in the new life with an old attitude and self-concept. When we are made new, it is an all-out newness. We don’t just get to lose the sin, but have to drag shame around like a ball and chain around our ankles for the rest of our lives! You are welcomed to a new life, and you are permitted to leave your old life entirely behind!

To recap, the Spirit of Adoption says you are wanted and welcomes you to a new life. Finally, The Spirit of Adoption promises you will be WORKED ON!

Romans 8:14-17 “ . . .because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” That “Spirit” of sonship or adoption is the Holy Spirit. Christ has not only brought you into His family, but if you are a Christian, He has taken up residence in you. Just as the person who is adopted into a new family comes under the influence of the new parents where they can be nurtured and taught and shaped, we too, accept a new kind of guardianship. We submit to the leading and oversight of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

God wants to do more than make us members of His family. He wants to make us like Jesus. Transformation is done by God, but it is a process to which we must submit. Just as the adopted person may live under the roof of their family, but may resist actually becoming part of the family or influenced by the leadership of the parents in the home, so too, people can choose to resist becoming what God intends as they resist His Lordship or shaping power in their lives. We must not only be present for transformation, but we must present ourselves to God for that transformation.

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

You see, God’s desire in giving us new life was to free us from something in order to help us become something.

Transformation is faster for some than others. The bottom line is that it is a process. My question isn’t, “Where are you in the process?” but is simply, “Are you in the process?” God is patient. He can work with you at a slower pace if necessary. One thing I do know, however, is that if you will show up for the process, and desire to be shaped by the One who has adopted you and given you every reason to trust Him, you will come out looking like Jesus in the end.

Let me add that adopted kids are disciplined just like biological kids. Remember that “lavish love” that God has demonstrated in allowing us to become His children? It is also expressed as He disciplines us to bring direction and holiness into our lives. Part of the process of being shaped by Father God means being open to discipline. It means being willing to change our ways, conform to His standards of holiness, and embrace the new life He is calling us to.

Wanted. Welcomed. Worked on. Every one of us can respond to this message. While it may seem to be a salvation message, it is more than that. Believers, when was the last time you told God you were open to His shaping? To His discipline? Are you trying to live a new life with old chains around your ankles? Do shame and regret and condemnation keep you from making forward progress? God wants you to be free from all of that so that you can enjoy all of the benefits of being in His family. That’s a whole other sermon, but He tells us that since we are sons and daughters of God, we are heirs with Christ! Oh my. Praise the Lord, O my Soul, and forget not all His benefits!

Believers, you are rich now. Don’t live like a pauper. You have the Holy Spirit. Don’t live in the flesh. You have access to God. Use it. You have brothers and sisters. Lean on them. You have spiritual gifts. Put them to work for Christ. You have been set free from Satan’s power. Don’t mess around with the devil anymore. You have a new family. Stop living like you belong to your old one.

To the unbelievers here, one final word. When I spoke with Courtney, my cousin’s wife, and she described how difficult the waiting process was when they adopted Ty Crews, I had a picture of the Heavenly Father. She said, “When you know you have a child you can’t get to it is excruciating because you love the child like you do the children who are currently in your home, but you can’t be with them.”

I thought to myself, “How does God feel, when He knows He has people He has created, people He loves and wants just as much as those who are already His children, people He is ready to welcome, and people He desires to work on for their benefit, but they simply refuse to come into His family?”

There is a sweet, sweet, Spirit in this place. It is the Spirit of Adoption. Will you let God claim you and remake you this morning?

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