I have been inside a courtroom for official court proceedings six times in my life. The first time was my fault. I was 17, very guilty, and scared to death. I’m not going into the whole story today. If you want to learn more, I’ve written about it here. The summary is that I was convicted of vehicular homicide for hitting an Amish buggy and a lady inside the buggy died. It was accidental, but still totally my fault, and I regret it. God has done a beautiful work of redemption through it. I bring it up because I want to talk about my other courtroom experiences.
My second time in a courtroom was for a high school field trip later that school year, and it was such a relief because it wasn’t about me this time!
The most recent four times? Well, they have been astoundingly beautiful.
In each of those last four times I sat in the courtroom, I heard the judge declare that a child was now part of a new family. I cried tears of joy as my brother, sister and close friends each welcomed those children into their lives. Those were each adoption ceremonies. The most recent one was just a couple months ago, as of this writing, when my sister Laura and brother-in-law Kyle adopted their second daughter Mya. We got our younger kids out of school, our oldest son and his wife took the morning off of work, and our middle son drove home from college, all to be there. The courtroom was packed full with our family and their friends, because this was a momentous occasion. It was a celebration!
Mya has a new identity now. She is no longer a child of the state, but a child of Laura and Kyle.
In October 2017 I blogged about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, looking at what are called the Five Solas. When we talked about Sola Gratia, “Grace Alone,” I wrote that, “The beautiful New Testament teaching about grace is summed up in the picture of adoption. God, we are told, in his grace, adopts us as his sons and daughters, through the work that Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection.”
A scholar I found describes it like this, “Grace is not God’s way of helping us to become obedient children; it is rather God adopting us; unworthy though we are.”
We who did not have a family, because of our sinfulness, can become part of God’s family, because of what Jesus did for us. Think about that. We are all orphans because of our sin. Separated from family. Across that chasm of separation God says, “I want you in my family, but there is something keeping us apart, your sin. But I have good news for you! I love you so much, I’m going to fix that.” And he did fix that, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Now all who place their faith on Christ can receive the gift of God’s grace. When you receive that gift, God adopts you into his family.
I love how Ephesians 1:4-5 depicts God saying to us, “I chose you to be adopted into my family.” Have you received the gift of God’s grace to be adopted into his family?
There is something important to bring up here. We can also choose not to accept the gift. God doesn’t force us to be in his family. We have to hold out our arms with open hands, and receive the gift of grace. When we receive the gift, we are saying that we want to be a part of God’s family. And not just in name only. It is not just a label. “Christian”.
Titus 2:11-15 says that it is a total change. In a previous post during our Titus series, I wrote:
Paul tells Titus, this purification allows us to be adopted into God’s family. Once we were not the people of God, but now through Jesus giving himself, we can be part of his family. Think about the richness of that. When you receive the God’s gracious gift of salvation, believing in him and giving your life to follow him, you become his very own. That means, to God you are not just a nameless face in the crowd. You are not just a number or a statistic. You are his very own. This word carries the idea of how special you are to God. He knows your name, he is close to you. He wants to talk with you and walk with you and spend time with you. That’s what Jesus wanted to happen when he gave his life for you. Think about that! The almighty God of the universe actually cares that much about you! Did you know that? So not only does he want to break the chains of what is destroying you, he wants to cleanse you, and make you a whole new person, and be close to you.
That means our core identity is rooted in the truth that God is real, and that he created us in his image and loves us to the point that Jesus gave his life so we could be adopted into the family of God. An adopted child of God! When you choose to believe in God and give your life to him, that is your identity.