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Adoption

Preached on July 20, 2014, at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. , by Dr. Bill Nieporte, this sermon is based on Romans 8:12-17 and is titled, simply:  Adoption

This message explores one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite concepts for describing our inclusion into the life of God – the concept of Adoption.  But Paul speaks beyond simply a legal or formalized process for a orphaned child to be incorporated into a new family.  Paul is speaking about intimacy – and to accentuate that truth, Paul says that “the Spirit communicates with our spirit that we are children of God” and that we are therefor able to cry out “Abba, Father.”  That word ABBA is a powerfully intimate word and is explored in this sermon.

You can watch the video below.  A podcast can be downloaded at the church website:  Patterson Avenue Baptist Church

Below the video, you will find a copy of the manuscript.

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Adoption

Romans 8:12-17

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption as children. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  The Nieporte’s are not a normal family.  Many of you have already figured that out, but for those of you who missed the news bulletin, we’re a pretty strange bunch.

I’d like to blame it all on Jeana, but I have to take some of the credit (or blame) as the case may be.  Frankly, it amazes me that Michelle and Michael are as emotionally well adjusted as they appear to be, considering what they have had to put up with.

When Michelle was little, I had her convinced that I could fly.  I did such a good job of painting that narrative that the poor girl actually has vivid memories of seeing me take flight.

When she was about five years old, she and Jeana were in North Carolina, visiting Jeana’s mother.  I was at home, on Virginia’s Northern Neck, but we spoke on the phone every day. One morning Michelle was telling me about her trip to the beach the day before.  I told her I knew all about it.  In fact, I told her I saw the her at the beach when I flew by.

“Oh, daddy, you can’t fly!” she said. “Yes I can and I will prove it to you!  Give your mother the phone and then go outside and look up in the sky.  I’ll fly over Nanny’s  house.”

Michelle gave the phone to Jeana and went outside.   When Jeana got on the line, I asked her to tell me everything that Michelle was wearing, what exactly what she was doing.

When Michele got back on the phone, I said:  “I saw you just a few moments ago when I flew by Nanny’s house?  Did you see me?”

“I don’t think so, Daddy!”  Michelle said with a note of disbelief.

“Well, I saw you in Nanny’s front yard.  You were standing next to Nanny’s car, looking up in the sky.  You are wearing your shirt with the great big watermelon on the front and also wearing your new shoes.”

She was silent for a few moments, then she said, “That was you.  I think I did see you.  Yes, I saw you.  Daddy, you can fly!”

Then there was the time when Jeana was laying in bed with a heating pad on her shoulder.  Michelle came into the room and saw the cord attached to the heating pad and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s your momma power cord.  She not really a human being like the rest of us.  She is an android mommy.” Jeana just laid there absolutely still with her eyes closed.

“Mommy’s not an android,” Michelle said.  “She is a real mommy.”

Then Michelle went to her mother and started poking her. Jeana sat straight up in the bed, opened her eyes, and said, “I am the android mommy.  Please do not poke me while I am powering up.”

Michelle screamed and ran out of the room.  It took quite a while for Michelle to get over that.

And Michael.  Poor Michael.

We were on a family vacation when we convinced Michael that we had adopted him.  His real family had sent him here in a spaceship from their dying planet – a spaceship that we kept hidden in shed out back.

We built the narrative into nearly every discussion throughout our vacation.  At first, Michael would have none of it.  Then he got sort of excited that his real family might have actually been space aliens.  When we got back home, the first thing Michael did was run to the shed to find his spaceship.  (Did you ever find it, by the way?)

Well, there you have it.  We’ve got lots of other stories I could tell you.  This is just a small sample to confirm the point:  The Nieporte’s are a little strange. I imagine there must have been a few times over the years when both Michelle and Michael wondered (and perhaps hoped) that they were really adopted.  I guess all kids feel that way on some occasions.  Like maybe right after that big fight with

Mom and/or Dad.  “There is no way I can be related to such a mean and unreasonable person.”

So, there is only one possible answer:  “I must be adopted.”

One of my pastor friends recently discovered from his ailing mother that he was adopted.  That’s right, full into adulthood, after burying his father, with his mother near death herself, my friend discovered that her mom and dad were not his biological parents. Adoptions use to be kept private and confidential.  A birth mother couldn’t know who the adoptive parents were. Adoptive parents didn’t know who the birth mother was. An adopted child wouldn’t know a thing — especially if their adoptive parents decided not to tell them they were adopted.   Then the laws changed and adoptive parents could know a little about the birth mother, and she them, though the children were kept in the dark.

That was my friend.  He didn’t even know he was adopted.  When his mom died, my friend got to thinking about the fact that he had an entire family he knew nothing about.  Were his biological parents alive?  Why had they put him up for adoption?   Did he have any siblings? So he began to do some research.

With the family name in hand and access to social media on the computer, my friend eventually found his birth parents.   When he contacted them, he learned that they had never stopped thinking about him When he was conceived, his parents were too young to have a child.  He was born out of wedlock and both families felt shame.  So, to preserve some sense of dignity, this teenage mother was sent away to be with other family.  When the baby was born, she was forced to put him up for adoption.

My friend discovered that his biological parents eventually married.  They’ve had a great life together and he has three sisters from that marriage.  Not long ago he visited his newly discovered family. As wonderful a story as this is, he still does not call his biological parents mom and dad.  He can’t emotionally bring himself to that point.  His mom and dad are the couple who raised him, loved him, and who made him one of them through adoption.

ve felt it in the core of your being.  You are watching the news and you see a story about an abused, mistreated, perhaps orphaned child.  As they share the details, they show a picture of the child.  How do you feel?  What do you say?   You say,

“Bring that baby to my house.  I’ll take care proper of him.”

The Hebrew scriptures and the Christian New Testament are filled with numerous lessens about our responsibility to care for the needs of such children.  But most of us do not need to be given those admonitions.  There is something inside us that  moves us with compassion when we see a child whose been orphaned or abandoned.

That’s the attitude with which Paul writes.  Oh, sure, nearly every culture in human history has had a means through which orphaned children could be legally integrated into a new family, including both the Roman empire and first century Judaism.  So, at one level, when Paul employs the language of adoption (as he does often) he speaks to an educated audience.  They knew was Paul meant about adoption in the legal sense of the word. But Paul is also speaking in very emotive terms about how God sees us, broken and orphaned in our minds, believing we are deserted from any sort of loving parentage.  Paul sees God saying something like,

“Bring me that child.  I will show them what it means to be liked, loved, accepted, included, and adopted.”

The concept of “adoption” to describe the relationship that exists between God and human being, through Jesus Christ.   Adoption is the word Paul uses to teach us that we are God’s own by God’s own choice.  We belong.  We have a place at God’s table.

The place at the table is one of immense and incredible intimacy.  Paul’s says that when we get it.  When we figure out this inclusion that is ours in Christ Jesus.  When we discover the glorious revelation that God’s likes us and loves us.  When all this starts to sink in it changes the way we see God because we see the way God sees us.

Listen again to how Paul describes the kind of intimacy we are able to enjoy.  He writes:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption as children. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

My friend Steve McVey is about to have a new book released.  Several of his other books (GraceWalk, The Divine Invitation, 52 Lies Taught Every Week in Church) have been bona-fide best sellers.  I imagine that Steve’s new book will outsell them all.  It’s titled, “Beyond an Angry God!” (for blog readers, the book is linked at the end of this post).  It’s important because many people have been raised to believe that God is angry, vindictive, vengeful, and filled with rage and fury.

I talk to people all the time who believe that if there truly is a God, He’s probably just looking for any old excuse to beat us down for all our faults, failures, and foibles. Steve’s book calls us to move beyond that sort of view of God and more toward the one that Paul writes about.  To move beyond the notion of an “angry God.”  He calls us to see God not as one to be feared, but as one who includes us in the divine dance of fellowship.  He calls us to stop understanding God as some sort of task-master to whom we relate as slaves, but rather as a loving Father who embraces us all as His dearly loved children.    That’s the call we hear in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.  Paul, too, wants us to move beyond the “Angry God” picture, and to feel the embrace of our heavenly Father’s grace.

To hit this lesson home, Paul uses two very important words.  The first is that which we have been talking about:  Adoption.  God choosing us and making us his own.

Then Paul uses another word to speak of this intimacy.  It’s an important word, a powerful word, a word of great passion.  It’s a radical word when used in reference to God.  No religious leader of Jesus day would have dared be so audacious as to use this word in reference to God, but Jesus did.  It was his favorite term for describing God.  And Paul uses this word, declaring that it is our birthright to know God in this intimate fashion. The word is ABBA.  It means more than Father, it means PAPA.  It means DAD, DADDY.  This is the attitude and spirit with which we can approach God because God has chosen us – adopted us – to be his very own children.  We belong to God.  He is our PAPA. Jesus comes as Immanuel to reveal to us the true nature and character of God.

This image was made real to be at an airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, many years ago.  I was a part of an academic tour group.  We were in Israel, waiting for our plane to arrive so we could move on to the last leg of our tour visiting Greece.

As we waited I watched people.  A little girl was with her mother, watching as passengers deplaned from a flight that had just arrived.  Finally, she saw the one for whom she was waiting.  It was her father.  We she saw him she took off running in his direction.  “Abba, Abba, Abba!” she shouted, which is the word for “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…Papa, Papa, Papa!”  Her father dropped his carryon bag and ran in her direction.  When they met, he picked her up, embraced her with loving passion.  They hugged and kissed and squeeze each other tightly.

That’s the way Jesus saw His Father.  This is the image of God that Jesus came to reveal.  This is the picture of God that Paul admonishes us to see and embrace.  God is not angry.  God is loving, kind, gracious, and accepting.  God is filled with a passionate love that embraces us, kisses us, and holds us tight.  Paul says that the Spirit within us teaches us to cry out to God as “Abba, Father”  – as Papa.

In just a couple weeks, our family will be attending our annual trip to Oak Hill Academy for the “Family Minister’s Retreat.”  We’ve been attending for the last decade.

Henry Styron is one of the pastors whose family attends.  Henry and his wife, Renee, have a young son, whom they have adopted.  His name is Isaac.  He’s a cute little boy who is now nine years old. I love the way Isaac speaks to his Father.   He uses then word, “Papa.”

When Isaac was a year old, all he would say was “Papa, Papa, Papa.”  Henry would smile, hold his son, and shares hugs and kisses.

When he was four years old, Isaac would say, “Papa, let’s go to the lake and play.”  Henry would take his son’s hand and walk to the lake to splash, swim, and have fun.

When he was six years old, Isaac would say, “Papa, let’s go play catch.”  Henry would grace a glove and a ball and got outside to play catch.

When he was eight years old, Isaac would say, “Papa, let’s go fishing.”  Henry would get fishing poles out of the back of the minivan and take his son fishing.

Each night, before bed, for each of the years that we have attended,  Isaac has met his father in the great room where all the families had gathered to play games or read books.  Isaac would run up to  Henry who would reach down and embrace his son, saying, “I love you, Isaac.  Good night!”  Isaac always responds, “I love you, too, Papa.  Good night!”

That’s a tiny picture of how we can relate to our God.  He’s not some ogre, ready to slap us down.  He’s not some angry God ready to lay us out.  He’s our Papa.  He embraces you in His arms to show us that we are loved. God is your Abba – your Papa.  Run up to him.  Leap into his gracious embrace, and find rest and joy.

In the name of Papa, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
by: Steve McVey
publisher: Harvest House Publishers, published: 2014-08-01
ASIN: 0736959823
EAN: 9780736959827
sales rank: 11180
price: $7.71 (new), $12.05 (used)

How would your life change if you really believed and could even feel that God is absolutely crazy about you?

Steve McVey’s penetrating new look at the transforming power of God’s grace leads you to that change. Steve unpacks the biblical revelation of the Trinity as a loving relationship, and he highlights the goal of history: God intends to include us in that circle of love! Steve answers troubling questions that can keep you from fully sensing God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness, such as…

  • Why does God look like a bad cop in the Old Testament and a good cop in the New Testament?
  • At Calvary, was the Father angry at the Son? Is He ever angry with me?
  • Why do I sometimes feel separated from God, abandoned, guilty, and ashamed?

Theologians have described the Trinity as perichoresis–a dance. Are you ready to be swept into the Father’s embrace?

 

 

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