Christianity 201

December 31, 2014

Adopted into the Family

We end the year with weekly contributor Rev. Clarke Dixon. We appreciate Clarke’s contribution here over the past year, his writing and perspective is a really good fit for Christianity 201. You can read this at source by clicking the title below.

Adopted into God's FamilyHis Birth, Our Adoption

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7 NRSV)

Jesus was born, so that ultimately we might receive adoption as God’s children. There are few things we can note:

  1. We cannot think of ourselves as automatically being God’s children just because we happen to exist. The Bible does not affirm that all people are God’s children, if we were, there would be no need for adoption. It does affirm that we are separated from God by sin. God therefore has no “fatherly” obligation toward us. Thankfully, it also affirms that we can become His children: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12 NRSV)
  2. Adoption is a result of God’s will, God’s desire. A parent who goes to an adoption agency has no prior obligation to adopt a particular child. God has no obligation to adopt us, or do anything for us. But He chooses to do so. It is His will to do something good for us, He sent His Son, that we might be adopted.
  3. Our background is not an issue for adoption. When God has chosen to adopt you, there is no “but Lord, you know that I am . . . or I have done . . .” He already knows and has gone ahead with the adoption anyway. There is repentance from those things in the past that separate us from God, but our past does not keep God from adopting.
  4. We are adopted by One who will be present to us and intimate with us: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6) Though we can point to the Lamb’s Book of life, an adoption certificate is not our proof now that we are His children. His fatherly presence through His Holy Spirit is. And through His Spirit we are to call him by what is really the more familiar “Dad” rather than the formal “Father.”
  5. We are no longer enslaved. We have been enslaved to sin this side of Eden. A particular people were called through whom God would bless all, they were enslaved to the law. Through adoption we are no longer slaves to sin or the law, but we are free children of God. Being freed, our desire will be to honour the One who has freed us from slavery, and adopted us as His own.
  6. As God’s children we look forward to an inheritance. While I appreciate translations that look to being appropriately inclusive in language, these are verses where it helps to know that the word “son” is used throughout. In fact it is even found in the very word for ‘adoption’. This is important because it was written at a time when sons enjoyed the inheritance, the daughters not-so-much. So the ladies among us also look forward to a full and equal inheritance in Jesus.
  7. A familiar expression is true: “God has no grandchildren.” Perhaps some prefer to think of God as a grandfather type of figure, close enough to enjoy a relationship, but far enough to enjoy freedom from a father’s discipline. When we are adopted, we are adopted as children, not grandchildren. We can expect His wonderful presence, we can expect a wonderful inheritance, and we can also expect His discipline. This too is wonderful!

At the right time Jesus was born so that someday you might be adopted as God’s child. Have you experienced that?

August 7, 2013

The Truth About Religion

In February of 2012, we introduced you to E. Stanley Jones:

Eli Stanley Jones (1884–1973) was a 20th century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian. He is remembered chiefly for his interreligious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become friends with leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress party. He spent much time with Mahatma Gandhi, and the Nehru family. Gandhi challenged Jones and, through Jones’ writing, the thousands of Western missionaries working there during the last decades of the British Raj, to include greater respect for the mindset and strengths of the Indian character in their work.

This effort to contextualize Christianity for India was the subject of his seminal work, The Christ of the Indian Road, which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide after its publication in 1925.

He is sometimes considered the “Billy Graham of India”.

continue reading the Wikipedia entry here

You can read that entry of quotations by Jones at this link.

Today we bring you two excepts from a devotional collection of his writing, Victorious Living edited for modern English by Dean Merrill (Summerside Press).

Why Are We Religious?

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

There are a hundred and fifty or more definitions of religion.  One says it is “what we do with our solitariness”; another that it is “how we integrate ourselves socially”; another that “the root of religion is fear,” and so on.

The reason it is so difficult to define is that life itself is difficult to define.  When we define religion in terms of its various manifestations, we get partial, sometimes contradictory, definitions.  But religion, having many forms, has only one root. That root is the urge after life, fuller life.  In everything, from the lowest cell clear up to the highest person, there is an urge toward completion.

Religion is the urge for life turned qualitative.  It is not satisfied with life apart from quality.  The urge for quantitative life reached its crest in the dinosaurs.  That failed – it was a road with a dead end.  The huge animals died.  In human beings, the life urge turns from being merely big to being better.

We are religious, then, because we cannot help it.  We want to live in the highest, fullest sense, and that qualitative expression of life is called religion.  So religion is not a cloak we can put on or off; it is identified with life itself.  We are all incurably religious.  Even the Communists1, though repudiating religion, are deeply religious.  The want a better social order.  They may be right or wrong in their method of getting it, but the very desire for a better social order is religious.  For religion is a cry for life.

1 When Jones wrote this in 1936, Stalin was in power and Soviet Communism was still in its adolescence.

The Divine Initiative

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The other side of the truth about religion is that we seem to be pressed upon from above.  We do not merely aspire, we are inspired. We feel we are being invaded by the Higher.  This pressure from above awakens us, makes us discontent, makes us pray – sometimes with unwordable longings.

This is the divine initiative – the cosmic Lover wooing His creation to Himself and therefore to its own perfection.

Friedrich von Hugel, the Catholic theologian, speaks of this double movement in religion as the going up of one elevator and the coming down of another; we move toward God, and then God moves toward us. The Old Testament is humanity’s search for God, the New Testament is God’s search for us.  This is true in general but not entirely true, for there would have been no search for God in the Old Testament (and in the various religions) had God not inspired and initiated that search.  So when men and women began to seek, they had in a sense found him. But God was in the very search for Himself – its author and hence its finisher.

Impossible?  To good to be true?  Not if we study the nature of life.  Life not only wants more life, but it wants to impart life. The creative urge is within it.  God, being the perfect life, would of the very necessities of His being desire to impart, to share, to create.

Hence the divine Initiative.  We are religious because we long and because he loves.  He creates, we crave.