The Freedom of Personal Delights
The atoning work of the Son of God gives God’s adopted children great freedom: we come alive to God’s lavish love through a new legal status as adopted sons and daughters of the living God. But through adoption, we also receive personal delights that propel us forward into a missional way of life.
The Freedom to Delight in Subjective Wonder
Our objective status as adopted children should lead us to subjective (experiential) wonder, as we saturate ourselves and marinate in these great truths of how much God loves us. Our legal rights are intended to become personal delights. Adoption is not just a great doctrine to be intellectually understood as a part of good systematic theology. It’s meant to rock our world, to move us to “palm up” adoration and worship of such a God who would love such a people like you and me. The objective reality of our adoption should generate within us an unspeakable joy—one that brings much glory to God.
Paul shows us what this looks like in Ephesians 3:14-19. In this text we discover how adoption brings us into a process of being re-parented by the only perfect Father. In the original Greek, the passage begins like this, “For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom all Fatherhood derives its name.” Paul literally says that adoption is critical because there is only one Father who can deconstruct every earthly illusion about fatherhood. No human father can ever fill the Abba-shaped vacuum in our heart. And no human father can ever abuse, ignore, abandon, or wound us so badly that we cannot become alive and healthy through relationship with God as our Father. There is only one perfect Father, and we get to know him only through the gospel of his grace.[Tweet “Divine adoption yields personal delights that propel us into missional living. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]
Sigmund Freud said we created the notion of “father” and projected it upon God, but Paul says exactly the opposite, that the very category of “father” comes from God to us. Our heavenly Father is the Father from whom all Fatherhood derives its meaning. And this Father loves us so much that he has given us his only begotten Son to make us his adopted sons and daughters.
As Paul pondered the greatness of our Father and the glories of our adoption in Christ, he broke into a prayer in which he asked God to give us the power we need to experience the multi-dimensional love we have been given in Jesus—a love, Paul says, that is so great it surpasses knowledge. Even throughout eternity we will never exhaust our knowledge of God’s love, and yet we are called to grow in our experience of this love on a daily basis. As we come alive to the Father who loves as no other father does, we are re-parented into that knowledge.[Tweet “Freud: we created “father” and projected it on God. Paul: that’s backwards! (@ScottyWardSmith)”]
The Freedom to Delight in Gospel Transformation
Indeed, adoption grants us the freedom to come more and more alive to our Father’s lavish love. But this is no mere selfish experience or religious high. God’s love is a transforming love. Consider 1 John 3:1-3, where the apostle John positions himself like Paul, with astonishment, and bids us join in his astonishment:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
We must read these words with a certain degree of humble incredulity, because who could be more unlikely to be called the children of God but you and me? But that’s just the point: we are declared to be God’s children legally. It’s something God has done for us in full view of our ill-deserving condition. But now, as we come alive to the radical implications of our adoption, we begin to live a whole new life. Such lavish love propels us into godly living. The indicatives of our adoption lead to the imperatives of transformation. Only the gospel gives us the motivation and power to please God from the heart—to offer our Father the obedience of faith and love. Only gospel astonishment will lead to gospel transformation.[Tweet “Christians are the only people who don’t have to pretend about anything. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]
The Freedom to Delight in Safe Vulnerability
Lastly, we consider a freedom that binds all these personal delights of adoption together: the freedom of never having to pose or pretend about anything before God. We are given the freedom of crying “Abba, Father” in our brokenness, our joy, our sadness, our suffering, our prodigality, our elder-brother self-righteousness. Christians are the only people on the planet who do not have to pretend about anything.
Even when we violate our peace with God through selfishness, we have freedom to cry out to him, to crawl into his lap, to be made whole. This is why we must continually preach the gospel to our hearts and to one another. Only in the assurance of God’s love for us as Abba will we surrender all the chaos, weariness, brokenness, and longings of our hearts to him.
An excerpt from Chapter 6, “The Freedom of Adoption,” by Scotty Smith, in Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, Dan Cruver, Editor.