God the Father Delights in you!

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Kids often get their picture of God the Father from how they view their earthly fathers.  Dads, I don’t know about you, but that terrifies me, because I know my own flaws and sins and tendencies to NOT correctly image God’s perfect Fatherhood.  For that reason I am so thankful for God’s grace and mercy and patience with imperfect dads as He is conforming us to the image of Christ.images

With that said, as a pastor, it saddens me when I see Christians gripped with depression and despair and hopelessness because of a wrong view of God.  A view that sometimes projects the image of their own imperfect fathers onto our perfect Father in heaven.

There are Christians who feel like God’s attitude towards them is exactly like that of their sinful earthly father’s attitudes.  They see God as irritable, unapproachable, harsh, distant, or cruel.  I’ve known of believers who sincerely think that God is constantly disapproving of them, shaking His head in profound, stern dissatisfaction and anger.

In my last post on Ephesians chapter 1, I noted the amazing truth that we believers have actually been adopted by God into His family.  God has really become our Father and we have really become His children.  We should feel great about that.  But that begs the question, “How does God feel about this arrangement?  How does God feel about you?”

In Ephesians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul reveals to us an astounding truth.  Are you ready?  You may want to sit down for this.

You are delighted in by God the Father.

Look at what Paul writes in verses 4-6.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

 In the ESV translation, that word “purpose” is translated from the Greek word, Eudokia.  I actually like the King James translation here because I think it captures the essence of that word a little better. King James says,

according to the good pleasure of his will…

 Peter O’Brien in his commentary on Ephesians says that this word, Eudokia, signifies

“…not simply the purpose of God but also the delight that he takes in his plans. It has warm and personal connotations, and draws attention to God’s willingness and joy to do good.…the preposition ‘according to’ indicates the norm or standard, showing that his choosing many to come into a special relationship with himself was in keeping with what he delighted to do and with his saving plan….He enjoys parting riches to many children.”

Now if I like how the KJV renders verse 5, I love how the NLT really captures the point.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Don’t let this thought just pass you by.

God is not what some of you may think He is. Some people have this picture of God as some old crusty curmudgeon.  Some stingy old man. And if you call on Him, maybe He’ll respond if you just happen to catch Him in a good mood.

In Ephesians 1, we don’t see here a God who is reluctant to save.  God’s not like, “Well, I imagesguess since I’m supposed to be a good God, I suppose I’ll save a few of those wretches even though I’d rather just squash them all right now!  But since I’m supposed to be a God of mercy I guess I’ll do it, but I don’t have to like it!”That kind of God has more in common with Greek mythology than the Bible!  That kind of God is more like the fake mythological god Zeus who was irritable and short tempered and who would just rather toss lightning bolts at people who got on his bad side.

The true God revealed in Scripture is not a grumpy old man who is dispassionately saving some out of duty. Instead, it gives God great pleasure, great overflowing and abundant joy to extend mercy to you and me! God is not just someone who is saving you. He’s someone who is joyfully and abundantly loving and delighting in you.

I remember once when I was laying on the couch, my son Elijah ran over to me, crawled on me and snuggled up against me.  I remember in that moment just quietly rejoicing over him.  My son is not perfect, and I don’t always respond to my kids perfectly.  But in that moment I realized I was imaging something about God the Father.   Knowing those flaws and imperfections didn’t stop me from enjoying him in that moment. I didn’t turn him away.   I just laid there thinking, “This is my son and I am so pleased with him.” It didn’t matter that he wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t matter that he was adopted.  I love him as I love my biological children and he has full status as a “Webb” in our family.

God has one natural Son from eternity past. Jesus imagesChrist. And when Jesus Christ was baptized the Scriptures record the voice of God booming from the heavens with great delight in His Son.  God the Father cried out, “This is my son, in Him I am well pleased!”

And for those of us who are adopted by God the Father, we are clothed with Christ’s clothing, with Christ’s righteousness, and because we are found in Christ, God looks at you and He says with delight, “This is my child in whom I am well pleased!”

The Lord’s love for His own is beautifully illustrated by the prophet Zephaniah who said,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I’ve often wondered what the singing of God sounds like.  Regardless, this isn’t angry, irritable Zeus.  It is a perfectly loving and happy Father, delighting in His people.  The God described in the book of Zephaniah is the same God who is your Father right now.  And you have full status in the family of God.  The inheritance of your Elder Brother Jesus is the inheritance you will receive.

Jesus stunnimagesingly says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

“Good pleasure.” There’s that phrase popping up yet again.  God isn’t begrudgingly offering you the kingdom.  Instead, He is with great pleasure and delight promising you a glorious inheritance.  An inheritance which includes the entire Cosmos in the next age where we will rule and reign with Jesus and be with our Father in unbreakable, joyful fellowship forever and ever!

This is your identity!  You were chosen by God the Father to be holy and blameless. (Eph 1:4) You were adopted by God the Father to receive the status of sonship in His family. (Eph 1:5a)   imagesYou are a child of God whom the Father takes great delight in! (Eph 1:5b)

 So if your identity is anchored in these glorious realities, how does this change how you live? How is it going to alter how you live in about 15 minutes when you walk away from this computer screen? How’s it going to affect how you do marriage?  How you do parenting? How you do your job?  How you deal with depression and discouragement and anger and addiction?

I’m not going to give you a long list of answers right now. I’m going to let you wrestle with that and figure that out in the days to come. I actually don’t think it’s that complicated. I just think a lot of times we don’t spend time thinking about how we are to live life in light of our true identity. And as we go through the book of Ephesians in future articles, I promise that we’ll eventually get to some application right in the book itself to help us so stay tuned.

Regardless if you’ve been a Christian for 50 years or if you just received Christ 5 seconds ago, if you missed everything else written today or in my previous Ephesians articles, don’t miss this:

You are chosen. You are adopted. You are delighted in. Praise God for His glorious grace.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

Identity Matters: You Are Adopted

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

imagesLast week we began to focus on Ephesians chapter 1 which contains weighty, paradigm-shifting truths about the true identity of a Christian.  In my prior post, we reveled in the mind-blowing reality that before the foundation of the world, God chose you.

In this article, I want to expand on that concept a bit.  God chose you for salvation, but the problem is that when we think of “salvation” we tend to think of simply “going to heaven.” While salvation  is not less than that, it actually entails much more.  Yes, you get heaven, but with it you get a new identity.

You are adopted

The Apostle Paul is telling us that we’ve been more than simply saved from Hell.  He writes in Ephesians 1, verse 5 that God predestined us for adoption as sons.  We’ve been welcomed into God’s family.  We are considered sons of God.

Now lest any ladies think that this talk of “sons” smacks of male chauvinism, recognize that Paul is doing something remarkable here in writing this way.  It’s not chauvinism. Instead, he’s actually blowing the hinges off of chauvinism.

Anyone in the ancient Greco-Roman world that Paul was writing to would have known that when you’re adopted into a family as a son, you receive a full share in the inheritance of the father of that family.  You would be treated just like the natural son.

That was true of adopted sons, but not of adopted daughters.

And yet here in Ephesians we have Paul doing something that would have blown the minds of people in that culture.  Paul is boldly declaring, “Sisters in Christ, you have a full share in the inheritance of your elder brother, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  You are all counted as sons and receive a full share in all the blessings which belong to the Son.  You enjoy all of the blessings and benefits of Jesus Christ.”

Paul says to both brothers and sisters in Christ that God predestined us for adoption as sons.

In other words God had a pre-planned destination already in His mind when he determined to save you, and that plan was for you to be adopted into His family. God determined that He was going to be your Father and that you were going to be His child. What does that mean? What are the ramifications of that?

We may lose the point of sonship in our culture today, compared to the times in which Paul wrote this letter.  In the ancient world, sonship was bound up with a lot of functional things.

99.9% of the time sons in the ancient world did exactly what their father did.

imagesThat’s not always the case in today, especially in the urbanized west.  Many times, in America, sons often do something completely different than what their fathers do.  That wasn’t the case in the ancient world. If your father was shepherd, you were a shepherd. If your father was a carpenter, you were a carpenter.  No one gave it a 2nd thought.  It was expected you’d take that path and follow in your father’s footsteps and do what he did.

Out of this cultural context comes biblical idioms that reflect functionality.  This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9) Why? Because God Himself is a peacemaker. He restores peace between Himself and sinners.  Therefore, if you are really a child of God, you will do exactly what your Father does.

Of course, Jesus Christ is the son par excellence.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you…whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19,)

Now, of course, Jesus is God.  He’s equal with God.  There will be some ways that He can imitate the Father that we will never be able to. None of us have ever created a universe lately.  None of us are all powerful.  But to the degree that it’s in our nature as finite humans, God’s purpose for you is to do what the Father does because you are His child.

You are not just people who God saved from sin, you are instead considered as sons, and sonship implies not just privilege but responsibility, and part of your responsibility is to show a family resemblance in how you live and act and think.  And ultimately God’s goal in your adoption is for you to increasingly take on the resemblance of Jesus, your elder brother in God’s household.

Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most beloved verses in all of Scripture.  This powerful verse reminds believers that God works all things together for the good of His people.  That’s great, but the problem is that many of us tend to isolate that verse and just use it as kind of a catch-all panacea to make us feel ok when things are going bad in life. But the point of verse 28 is not simply, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  To get the point we need to look at verse 28 but not stop there.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  (Romans 8:28-29)

The ultimate good that God is seeking for you is that as a child of God you will be imagesconformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  For that reason, you have the assurance that God is working in all of the things that are happening in your life, both the good things, and the bad things.  God is working all of these things to serve His purpose of bringing you into conformity with the image of Jesus who is a perfect reflection of God your Father. Paul goes on to say in verse 30,

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

If God has predestined you to this, that means you don’t have to be fearful that it won’t come to past. If God’s choice of you is unconditional, that means you don’t have to worry about messing it up and losing your salvation. God already knew all the bad stuff you would do before you were born and He chose you anyway.  If you are an adopted child of God, that means you will never be rejected because a perfect Father does not kick His kids out of the family.  Instead, a perfect Father trains and disciplines His children, and sometimes that discipline can be painful but even when God disciplines us it is meant to work towards that end of resembling Christ.

The author of Hebrews says that when we are disciplined by God it is a sign that we are children of God and that discipline is for the good of His children.

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:9-11)

Our discipline is not coming to us because God is mean.  Our discipline is not coming from the hands of an abusive Father out to destroy us. Instead, the discipline will result in us sharing in God’s holiness.  It will result in yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.  It will result in further conformity to the image of Christ and there is not a single thing that happens in your life that does not fall into God’s predestined purpose for you because God the Father works all things together for the good of you His child.

If you see the core of your identity as a mom, as a career person, as your sexual orientation, or as your possessions, that will have a radical influence on how you live your life and it will influence it for the worse.

imagesBut if you see the core of your identity as a son or daughter of God, one who has been chosen by God before the foundation of the world, one who has been adopted into God’s family, one whose life is meant to be geared towards imaging your Father, towards holiness and towards Christ conformity, then everything in your life will be impacted.

Understanding your true identity in Christ will positively impact your choices, it will affect how you deal with your spouse when they let you down, it will influence how you handle disappointment, or anger, or temptation or fear.

If you understand your identity in Christ you’re gong to start asking yourself, “How is how I’m living imaging my Father?  Am I bearing a family resemblance or not?”

A lot of people argue over the doctrine of election and predestination. They analyze and imagesscrutinize and debate with people over what this notion of God choosing us actually means.  But as Paul is writing this opening section of Ephesians, he’s not telling us that God chose us and predestined us so that we could have theological fights about it.  Instead, Paul is telling us these things so that we will be tremendously encouraged!

The doctrine of Predestination is not something to argue about! It’s something that should lead us to fall down on our faces and praise God for! It’s a truth that we should revel in! Paul says we are chosen and predestined.  Why? Look at verse 6.  These truths are not to lead to arguing but to the praise of his glorious grace!

He has chosen you, an unworthy and undeserving sinner! And because He has chosen you and predestined you to glory, be assured that even when you do fail, even when you don’t bear that family resemblance, even on your worst day, you will never be cast out by God.  Being a son or daughter means you will always have a seat at the table with your Father. He is ever patient, ever kind, ever loving, and He has forever had his heart set on you, even before the universe was made. He knew about every bad thing you’d ever do and He chose you anyway and He is totally committed to your good, which is why Paul says in Philippians 1,

…..that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

To God alone be the glory!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer