The Grace of Adoption

We must not leave our gospel introduction before we see how union with Jesus by faith is not merely a legal issue. We are not merely given a new status as fully forgiven, perfectly righteous humans.

We are engrafted into a new relationship with God as adopted sons and daughters. The gospel is not merely about being given a new grade, but a new life—a new status and a new family. Not to mention a new hope, a new purpose, and a new… well, everything.

In Galatians 4:4-6, the apostle Paul tells us,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

If you think about it, the concept of adoption is such a perfect way to describe the fullness of God’s grace. After all, adopted children are always wanted. They are chosen. Not just tolerated, but treasured!

The challenge for the new believer is to embrace the love of the Father who has chosen us in love unto adoption, believing that he really has given us his name, an eternal inheritance of joy, and that his smile is always upon us.

We are his delight! 

The concept of adoption is such a perfect way to describe the fullness of God’s grace.

Click to Tweet

Something else to note. Children are not adopted because of what they can contribute to the family or because they earn their way in. They are recipients of grace. Period. It is a grace that will never let us go because of what Jesus has done for us. It is resting and abiding in what he has done for us now empowers what he does in us.

As a well-known contemporary song by Chris Tomlin reminds us: “You are a good, good Father. That’s who you are. And I am loved by you. It’s who I am.”

Amen and amen. 

We must not leave our gospel introduction before we see how union with Jesus by faith is not merely a legal issue. We are not merely given a new status as fully forgiven, perfectly righteous humans. We are engrafted into a new relationship with God as adopted sons and daughters. The gospel is not merely … Continue reading The Grace of Adoption

God’s Work For Us Versus In Us

In the grade exchange, Jesus does the work and we get the credit. He studies; we succeed. This is called justifying grace, where God works for us. However, there is another kind of grace that takes place when God begins to work in us. This is called sanctifying grace, where God indwells his people in the person of the Holy Spirit and produces from within them the fruit of new life.

In Galatians 5 we read about what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” He is referring to the virtues that begin to be displayed in the lives of those who have experienced the grade exchange—fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc. This fruit is evidence that these folks now have the indwelling presence of God in their lives, the Holy Spirit. As they continue to believe who they are in Jesus (newly minted A+ students), the Spirit flows like sap in their lives to produce fruit, as if from a vine into a branch. This is how God works in us. We could say that as grace becomes the internal, spiritual life-blood of the believer, fruit begins to grow. That is the dynamic of grace.

If someone wants to intentionally reject following Jesus in practical ways, he reveals that he really has not understood grace in the first place. He probably has experienced nothing more than religion, which doesn’t have the power to transform anyone at a deep level, especially not the motives of the heart.

If someone intentionally rejects following Jesus in practical ways, he really has not understood grace in the first place.

Click to Tweet

This is because there are essentially two ways to motivate change—one is by fear and shame, the other is by love and grace. When I have been loved, it compels love in return. So, if I have no desire to love Jesus through following his ways and will, it reveals that I really do not know what it means to be loved by Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul said that he had a new motivation that was driving his life. No longer was he compelled to follow God out of fear or shame, but rather because of the love and grace of Jesus. Paul now wanted to serve and love the Savior—not out of guilt or duty, but out of gladness and joy. As John said, “We love him because he first loved us.”

Therefore, the way to experience life change is not to beat the horse harder in order to get more obedience out of it. The solution is to go back to understanding how God has worked for us. When we begin to get it and believe it, God will begin to work in us. Not only will we see new fruit, but also, we will begin craving it. In this light, both justification and sanctification are all of grace, and both serve to magnify the greatness and glory of God.

The Heart of the Christian Message

Why do we have Christmas? In other words, why did Jesus have to be born? Why not just Easter? Why did Jesus, as the eternal God, have to enter this world as a human child and live thirty-three years before going to the cross?

The simple answer is that Jesus came to be a substitute.  He came to live as one of us, in our place. You see, Jesus was not born merely to be a great moral teacher (although he was) or a spiritual Mr. Rogers who could sweetly guide us into being good boys and girls. No, my need is not for a teacher or even a moral example to follow. I need a substitute Savior. I need someone to take my place and do for me what I can’t do form myself. I don't need a helper. I need a hero.

To substitute simply means to replace one thing for something else. Sometimes we substitute artificial sweetener for real sugar in certain recipes. In professional baseball, the American League allows for a stronger slugger, called a pinch, or designated, hitter, to replace a weaker batter in the batting lineup. In Hollywood, a stunt double often replaces a lead actor in performing a dangerous scene. Of course, we’re not talking about recipes, baseball or Hollywood. But the concept is similar.

Jesus put himself in my place, taking the consequences for my sin so that I could receive the benefits of his obedience. He bore my guilt so that I could receive his grace.

Click to Tweet

When Jesus went to the cross, he went as a substitute for sinners who had failed the exam. That is why 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is also the idea in Galatians 3:13, where Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...’” Or as 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”

What Paul is saying is that Jesus put himself in my place, taking the consequences for my sin so that I could receive the benefits of his obedience. He bore my guilt so that I could receive his grace. He took my F so that I could receive his A+.

And you know, my guilt is not primarily because I have broken a list of rules. My guilt centers on the fact that I have not loved God, nor have I really loved my neighbor—and certainly not my enemies. I am a self-consumed idolater who seeks to create a man-made righteousness (i.e., praiseworthy reputation) through being good, being right, being successful, etc., rather than a repentant sinner who simply receives and rests in the gift-righteousness of Jesus.

In light of the exam, I have failed on every count. And when I really think about the depth of my sin patterns and how often I am ruled by my sin nature, I can’t help but identify with the apostle Paul, who in Romans 7 cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?”  

We will find out in the next post.

Dr. McKay Caston

McKay Caston's passion is to help people live all of life in view of the cross.

The Question Everyone Gets Wrong

Seminary professor and author, Dr. Michael Horton, attended the National Christian Booksellers Convention in Denver, Colorado a number of years ago and asked the vendors a simple, but revealing question: “Does God require perfection?” Meaning, does God require that we be perfect in order to be in good standing with him now, and eventually experience heaven later? Interestingly, not one person responded with a “yes” to his question.

Nobody believed that God requires perfection.

However, the Bible is surprisingly clear that God does require us to be morally perfect.  In a word, righteous. For example, Psalm 15:1 begins by asking a question, “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” He is asking who is qualified to dwell in God’s presence, whether now or forever. The answer follows in verse 2, where the Psalmist says, “He who walks blamelessly …” Translation: he who lives perfectly. He who is righteous.

It is as if the entrance requirement for heaven were a 36 on the ACT, a 1600 on the SAT or a 1.000 batting average. There is simply no room for error. And while there are those rare few who score miraculously high on standardized tests, the rest of us ordinary humans would not stand a chance for such a score. And we all would be leveled by a requirement to bat 1.000, since the all-time record for the highest career average in the major leagues is held by, Ty Cobb, whose lifetime average was .367. For baseball, hitting 36.7% is good, but it still is far, far from perfect. And God requires perfection.

Some of us might hear that and say, “Well, nobody’s perfect !” That is true. The problem is that the excuse, nobody’s perfect, is essentially a deep seated personal self-righteousness that is allergic to grace. Admitting to a lack of perfection appears humble on the surface. Actually, it reflects pride in the heart, because, while assuming that I may not be perfect, it believes that I am still pretty good and surely don’t deserve hell as a penalty for my faults.

We are usually okay with admitting bruises on the outside of the apple, but not confessing to a rotten core. However, the Bible has a more realistic view of humanity. Jesus himself, the ultimate psychologist, says that the outward things we do and say come from within—from the heart , the center of operations in the human soul. In other words, our human defect is not a surface problem. It is a problem at the very core of my being.

Our human defect is not a surface problem. It is a problem at the very core of my being. 

Click to Tweet

It is painful to admit that depth of personal corruption. And yet, if we do, we are able to experience a depth of personal healing and hope that we never imagined possible.

This leads us to the heart of the gospel’s message in tomorrow's post.

Dr. McKay Caston

McKay Caston's passion is to help people live all of life in view of the cross.