Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reductionist Gospel and the Doctrine of Adoption

My friend Godfrey typifies exactly what this post is about- how many Christians know that they are saved from their sin, yet in their hearts they remain detached from day to day genuine joy in God. Godfrey grew up in western Uganda and never knew his father. Rooted in this not-knowing was a desperate longing for identity, something he never gained. After leaving home and moving deeply into the things of the world, God amazingly brought him out to New Hope where he met Jesus and found forgiveness and new life in God. Though now saved, he lacked day to day joy in God and could never understand how the Christians in church could worship God with such obvious joy. Godfrey, though saved, was still an orphan in his heart. His relationship with God became one of slavery, doing this and this (and not doing this and this) in order to please God. He knew that New Hope's ministry was "bringing the Fatherhood of God to the fatherless", but in his mind he had a father, he just didn't know who he was. His heart was restless and he was spinning downward quickly. It was at this point that he one day read the words of Psalm 68:5 painted on the side of a New Hope vehicle, "A father to the fatherless is God..." Suddenly, his whole life's search was over. He saw clearly that God is his father, that he is NOT fatherless, but has a clear identity IN God. Since that time, Godfrey has continued growing in his relationship with God as his Father, and he as a son. The doctrine of adoption is the sweetest of all biblical teachings for him, the truth that he is an adopted son in the family of God.

It is a proclamation of the Gospel that those who put faith in Jesus are justified sinners now called saints. It is assumed that God is father, after all, we are born again, but the depth of that relationship typically goes unexplored. In fact, if you ask most Americans to define "the Gospel" they will say something like this: Jesus Christ, the unique eternal Son of God, was born, lived, and died on the cross so that those who put their faith in Him can be forgiven of their sins and live forever with God. Of course, you can add or take away various parts, but the essence is the same: we are justified- finished. YET, the glory of the Gospel is that it goes far beyond most of our simplified versions and includes many other glorious truths, including the fact that after we are justified, God literally ADOPTS us into His family.

The fact that the early church clearly saw this relationship between salvation and our new standing in God is seen not only in amazing passages like Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 4:1-7, but early church fathers like Origin who expounded quite a lot on the amazing adoptive relationship that we believers now have with God. It is a reductionist Gospel that fails to bring believers into the depth of glorious truth contained in all that is held out for us as adopted believers into the family of God. Many Christians in our day (especially as fatherlessness grows) have no earthly concept of God as Father (or if he is father, then he's distant and far away) and find it easier to relate to Jesus then to God the Father. We desperately need to recapture who God has revealed Himself to be as the TRUE Father, as the source of all redeemed fatherhood, and as the one who frees us to enter His presence proclaiming, "Abba! Father! Daddy!" as sons and daughter who are accepted not on the basis of what we do to please Him, but simply because He has chosen us, loves us and has adopted us, all because of the perfect son, Jesus.

This all becomes quite clear when sharing the Gospel with fatherless children (orphans). It is wonderful to see children responding to the call of the Gospel, to find forgiveness and true life in Jesus, yet it is equally exciting to see children set free from their lifelong wandering and search for both identity and fatherhood through coming to know the perfect Father, God. May we all be among those who point others (and especially those who are fatherless in our midst) to the true Father, that we might truly come to know and walk in what is called "the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:21)."


jo said...

Keith, I was re-reading some of your older posts, and I just have to say that I love this one. Too often the gospel being preached, in American churches at least, is a reductionist gospel. The gospel of forgivness only. Not that forgiveness is something to be taken lightly. But it is just the starting point, the restoration of our broekn relationship with our Father, so that now the depths of that relationship, new life and freedom are opened up for us to explore. A heavenly Father who is available to us is the real joy, and it's refreshing to hear that spoken about so well in your blog.

Keith said...

Jo, you just made my day. These are right along with your blog's title- joshappythoughts~! You are right on, and it is awesome that "new life and freedom are opened up for us to explore." Thanks for the comment!