In our latest study, the good heart as depicted in the Sermon on the Mount, it is striking to take a sober and honest look at the characteristics of the life that Christ gave us. Blessed are you when you’re poor, hungry, persecuted for His sake. Love your enemies, lend and do not expect it back, be kind to the ungrateful, and do not judge. He is telling us to do what He did: to put our entire lives under the will of the Father, in everything, and every day. He is telling us to be sons of the Most High, LUK 6:35, to be just like Him, to be just like our Father, which He actually claims is our reward. It is a denial of all self, all the world, all the material: all that the majority of the people in the world call valuable.
And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
No more strict and powerful words were ever spoken, and with an authority that astounded the hearers. This is God in the flesh saying there is no compromise - If you wish to save your (self) life, you will lose it.
The self is a cunning personality. I speak of the flesh, but remember the flesh, the self is you. When you and I sin, we are responsible. The flesh is not a cancer. Cancer will make a person tired and in pain, but they can actually blame the cancer. It was not their own desire to hurt. But when we sin, we are to blame. The self is us, but for the believer, God calls it the old self.
Okay, so it’s the old self, but it is still you and me. Why is it that when I really commit to living the spiritual life that all kinds of excuses rise up in my mind? “It’s too harsh. Give yourself a break. No one sees it anyway. You’re saved and forgiven, just eke into heaven and start to live then.” I have given myself many other excuses, but these come to mind perhaps because they are my more frequent ones. Is that another person talking to me, or is it actually me? It’s me. I know it’s me, and it’s you.
For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
God tells me that I have a new self. This new self has a voice as well. Am I two people? Perhaps three people, me in the middle and old self and new self whispering into opposite ears from my shoulders. Trichotomous confusion is what that sounds like.
I’d rather have things simple. It’s me and God. That’s it. And me, now that I’m a new creature, is divided between the old life and the new. At salvation, I knew the old life well; he ruled my will always, but there was a new self given to me, a me that I did not yet know, but one that God knew well and the only one that He would from then on look upon. But again it sounds like I’m talking about two people. I am not. I am only speaking of me, and by the grace of God there is a new me, and that is the me that God sees.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Every believer is a son or daughter who has been foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the Son of God, i.e. His likeness. This is what every believer needs to be convinced of. Paul was.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The likeness to Christ is the way of life He describes in His Sermon, which is reiterated all throughout the New Testament. Every part of the Sermon can be found repeated in the Epistles.
Some, claiming to be Christians, seem to have no concern for this. I don’t know where they are or why they are. I understand not living the life of Christ because of love of sin, as a Christian mind you, but I don’t understand a lack of concern for it, which would be manifest by an absence of a “broken and contrite heart,” PSA 51:17. I am only interested in the believer’s desire to be Christ-like and the self that gets in the way. I am interested in solutions, and I know that solutions are only good for those who want them.
Self, me, tries to cling to life. Tell self that he is dead and must be banished to a place where he will no longer have any influence, and he will devise cunning tactics to reverse that sentence. Apart from the general excuses given by him for him to hang on and keep a few fingers on the controls, when a believer begins to be convinced that self really must have no say in ANY areas of life, self will pull out the desperate attack, the one that we see all the time in our current dichotomous world. He/she will declare that you are a liar. “You are not a son of God!”
We see in our current society, every day splitting a little wider into two worlds, that rather than debate intelligently and respectfully to arrive at the best solutions, people on the opposite side are insulted and called names: racist, xenophobic, sexist, etc. It’s the last attack (other than direct physical violence) of a very angry and desperate person who fears extinction. It is no wonder that it happens so frequently and to so many - they are all “self,” who is at core selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-deceived. The Christian who is a new self, a son of God by election and predestination (EPH 1:4-5) forever, who truly begins to see that the old self must have zero say about anything, will be attacked from within, from self, in much the same way. “You are a liar. You are not a son!” The hope of the old self is that you’ll give up this commitment to God and turn back to your old pal the flesh. And mind you, all that is necessary is doubt. You will not likely dispense of your faith in your position as a son. The doubt is enough to quench your full commitment to being a son. Full commitment demands full confidence.
The potentially overwhelming power of this attack is precisely because it comes from self. It’s not another person accusing you, outside your conscience, who can’t know you fully, certainly not as well as you know yourself. It’s you. You know yourself. And you find yourself telling you that you might not be a son of God.
Perhaps you really have been kidding yourself. After all, when you genuinely set your heart to being Christlike in everything, complete fidelity to the Father’s will in all things every day, you have likely never before witnessed so much personal failure. Added to the experience of tragic failure, perhaps you had some Calvinist ideas put in your head sometime in the past, which jumped into your consciousness and asked, maybe they were right after all - and you weren’t picked by God, but long ago rejected as reprobate. Perhaps some germinating seeds of Lordship Salvation were in your heart, and now they sprout with leaves upon which are written the warning that you are not a son because you “plainly” don’t have enough good works.
If you have read this far and have never had no such thoughts, then I say drop out and go to something else. But you might want to read a bit farther. For you see, when you set your mind to being a son of God in all things, you have to be convinced that you really are a son of God; that God is your Father, and that you have been made, by birth, His very own son/daughter. The life we are called to live is too high above this world for the doubting. One has to understand that they are biologically (using a metaphor) God’s son, and that forever.
Of course, one could lower the divine expectation of a son of God, water it down to a more worldly sort of Christianity that mixes some self with some holiness, blocking out the periodic needling of the Holy Spirit within to something higher, and continuing on as if nothing was amiss. This would be like having a first-class ticket to an all-expense paid five-star vacation and purposely missing your flight, satisfied to remain in the airport lounge.
And that leads me to the doctrine of adoption in the New Testament.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
The Greek word “adoption” used in each case you see here is huiothesia, which literally means to be placed as a son. Almost every version of the Bible translates it as “adoption” and almost every commentator has it the same way. I’m not going to change that by the way, but there are two things important about the word to point out. First, this word is only used by Paul in the Bible, and second, the word “occurs rarely before the Christian period” (Complete Biblical Library) and is not used in the Septuagint. The point is that it was a very rare word before Paul used it, even though adoption in the Roman world was not rare.
There is more to consider.
Many relate Paul’s use of the word to Roman style adoption, in which an adult, in the Roman world about fourteen years of age, would be adopted by a wealthy man to be his heir. It might actually be a biological son that he adopts, or as was often the case, a nephew or other relative if the man concluded his own sons too spoiled or irresponsible. This fits the biblical truth that we are made sons at salvation and given an inheritance, made heirs of God, ROM 8:17. But this is just an analogy to the biblical view, and so not exactly real.
It’s true that we are “placed” as sons and made heirs, but what is also true is that we are born-again, and that, no Roman, no matter how rich, could do. We are actually born a second time. This thought was so incredulous to Nicodemus that he compared it to entering into his mother’s womb a second time. Preposterous! Indeed incredible, but true. And it is not just another birth from the womb, but made alive by the Spirit of God.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
The Spirit is God, and if we’re born of Him, we’re born-again of God. God becomes our Father in a very real, and I’ll say “biological sense,” even though it is a spiritual sense. That is NOT Roman adoption or any other kind, how could it be? Though Roman adoption is most like it, but all forms of adoption on earth are light-years away from it.
God tells us that no one can call Jesus Lord but by the Spirit.
Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
Of course, anyone can say it. We could train a parrot to say it. But no one could know that Jesus has all authority as God unless that one is born-again. That doesn’t guarantee that he will obey, but he does acknowledge His authority.
We are saved by grace as a gift, through faith, not of ourselves, not a result of works, EPH 2:8-9. Only those who are sons can love the light, know they are forgiven, love their brothers, want to know Christ (1Jo), and this regardless of how they may have failed at any given moment. In all of this God is comforting you, “You are My son.”
Please don’t mistake this final section with my way of providing a litmus test for someone to test if they are saved. If you have believed in Christ as your Savior, then you are saved, period. This is a defense against an armed assault by the flesh against the will, when the flesh tries to convince you that you are something less than a son of God, born of God, possessing His family name, (EPH 3:15) because self is getting the feeling that you will finally be rid of him or her for good.
Look to the word of God and look to God the Father in prayer seeking His wisdom. Be convinced. We are truly sons and daughters of God and the self and the world no longer have any business calling any shots about anything in our own lives.
It’s easy to throw in the towel and give self some control. It calms self and makes some parts of your life easier in the short-run. In the long-run, it is misery and a failure to see and experience the love, joy, and peace of Christ. We will have missed seeing what life was like for Christ, for He had full devotion to the Father, and such devotion must greatly affect everything in life.
Love in Him,
Pastor Joe Sugrue