Pastor Gary Wong July 26, 2020
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons 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 the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
They wait, and wait, and wait. Thousands of children are waiting and hoping for the day they can leave their foster home and be adopted. Some of them are too young to know that the people caring for them don’t have the same last name as they do. Others—and I’m talking about the “veterans” of the foster care system—know that it can be a long wait to be adopted into what foster children call their “forever” family. While they appreciate their foster parents for opening their homes to them and for providing the necessities of life and some much needed stability, these children long for a sense of permanence and belonging. Every child wants to be able to go to sleep in his own room night after night, knowing that the people who wake him up and greet him with a happy “Good morning!” will be the same smiling faces that he saw tucking him into bed the night before.
Sadly, foster children don’t have that blessing. Each day could be their last day at that particular foster home; each day could bring the news that she will have to say goodbye to one set of foster parents and start all over again getting to know a new foster mom and foster dad. It’s really hard for a foster child to open her heart to a family, knowing that her heart could be broken at any time. We can only begin to imagine how hard that must be for foster children. So we can imagine the joy a foster child must feel when she hears the news that a family has chosen her to be adopted. How happy she must feel, knowing that she can move into a home where she can put down roots, have a permanent mom and dad, that she will have a new name and a new life.
All of that doesn’t happen overnight, of course. Even after a family has been approved to adopt a child, the process can be quite lengthy. It’s not unusual that a family might have to wait for two years or more for a child to be legally free to be adopted. As you might imagine, the delays can lead to frustration for both family and child. Yet, anyone who’s ever been involved in an adoption will tell you that it’s worth the wait. Everyone can wait patiently, because they know that the day is coming when they can finally welcome that child into her new family with open arms.
In a very real way, each and every one of us was a foster child who longed to be adopted into a loving family. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, Pastor! I’ve never even seen the inside of a foster home, much less lived in one. Just look at my family picture. It’s obvious that we’re related. I didn’t need to be adopted into a loving family; I was born into one!” Well, I’m not talking about your biological family. I’m not talking about people who have DNA similar to yours. Rather, I’m talking about a spiritual family; specifically, I’m talking about the family of God.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you, but the fact is none of us was born into God’s family. Indeed, the opposite is true. We were actually estranged from our heavenly Father at birth. Here’s the reason. Each of us has inherited a sinful nature from our parents. All of us were born with spiritually defective DNA, where every fiber of our being from the top of our head all the way down to the tips of our toes (and everything in-between) has been tainted by sin. Our sinful natures, coupled with the countless sins we commit each and every day, make us totally incompatible with God, who is absolutely holy and righteous. So, how has sin affected our relationship with God? The prophet Isaiah tells us, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isa. 59:2). In his letter to the Colossians, Paul sounds a similar sentiment: “You were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Col. 1:21).
Because we were born sinful, we had been automatically excluded from God’s household. We didn’t deserve to be a part of his holy family. Rather, we deserved to be separated from him his love forever and suffer in hell for all eternity. God could have turned his back on us and disowned us as unlovable orphans. Truly, there was nothing in us or about us to love. Yet, our God is loving, merciful, compassionate and gracious. He does not treat us as we deserve. Though our sins had alienated us from him, God, in his love and wisdom that surpasses all understanding, planned our adoption into his family. When did this plan come into being? God had planned our adoption before he created the world! In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons …in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph. 1:4,5).
God’s love is truly amazing! Even though he was under no obligation to do so, God chose to save us and make us members of his family. Please understand. God had been enjoying a perfect Father-Son relationship with Jesus from eternity. He didn’t need to add anyone to his family. Yet, God wanted to add to his family in a big way. God wants everyone in the whole world to become his sons and daughters. Since our sinful natures had placed us outside of the family of God, God had to have a plan to bring us into his family. So, what was God’s plan for adoption? His plan called for Jesus, his own Son, to be our Savior. Because Jesus wanted you and me to be his brothers and sisters, Jesus willingly left his Father’s perfect home in heaven to live in our sin-filled world. Paul tells us that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:5). Jesus redeemed us by keeping God‘s law perfectly in our place. Jesus paid for our sins with his holy, precious blood that he shed on the cross. Because of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death, God has declared the whole world “Not guilty!” Because of Jesus, we have been freed from the slavery of sin. Because of Jesus, there is now peace between God and man.
So were we adopted into God’s family when Jesus died and rose from the dead? By no means! While God has justified the whole world, he did not automatically adopt everyone. Rather, God’s plan calls for each person to be adopted individually. One by one, each of us must be brought into God’s family. How? The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace. At our baptisms our sins were washed away and we were made God’s sons and daughters. God works the same miracle through his Word. The Apostle Paul declares, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom.10:17). Whether it is through baptism or the Holy Spirit giving us saving faith through God’s Word, God no longer treats us as foster children or homeless orphans. Rather, we have the full rights of sons. As God’s dearly loved children, our adoptions mean that our heavenly Father has made us his heirs. What does our inheritance include? Our adoption into God’s family means that we have been guaranteed a permanent, eternal, glorious home in heaven.
Heaven is such a glorious place that all of us would want to be there right now. However, none of us is there quite yet. Heaven lies in the future. So we wait for the day when God will fulfill that promise to us. Waiting can be hard. Life on this sin-filled earth is hard and is often filled with pain and suffering. From broken bones to broken homes, God’s children suffer all kinds of trials and tribulations. When those problems seem never-ending, we groan under their weight and we get frustrated. We get down on ourselves and we lash out at others. We get discouraged, and we might start doubting whether we will ever enjoy the glorious future God has promised. Because of our present suffering, we unfortunately might feel like the foster child who hears that he has been chosen to be adopted but doesn’t dare believe the good news. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up and then have his dream crushed if he hears that the adoption has fallen through.
Paul wrote this portion of his letter to encourage Christians not to lose hope or give up, no matter how tough our circumstances might be. While he acknowledges that a Christian’s life inevitably includes suffering, he points us ahead to the glorious future that is ours by faith. The apostle declares, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Paul’s purpose in these verses is to build us up as we wait for our glorious inheritance. How does he do that? The Apostle strengthens our resolve by reminding us of the blessings that we already have. Paul reminds us that we have been given “the firstfruits of the Spirit.” God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptisms as a down payment or pledge guaranteeing that God will give us the rest of the inheritance he has promised. Because the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts, strengthening our faith with God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper, we can endure whatever crosses we are given, bear them patiently, and wait for the day when we will receive our full inheritance in heaven.
Friends, once we were alienated from God and his enemies because of sin. Out of his love for us, God brought us into his family. He adopted us, making us his dearly loved sons and daughters through faith in Christ. God has given us the full rights of sons, and we have the sure and certain promise of a glorious inheritance in heaven awaiting us. And though we may suffer in our present circumstances, we need not be discouraged or lose hope. Remember, our earthly suffering is only for a little while; the glory of heaven is forever. Therefore, we thank the Lord that he has freed us from sin and death. And we wait patiently, albeit eagerly, for the day when we will join our forever family in heaven. Amen.
“Lord, ‘Tis Not that I Did Choose You” (CW 380)
Text: Josiah Conder 1789-1855, alt.
Lord, ‘tis not that I did choose you;
That, I know could never be,
For this heart would still refuse you.
Had your grace not chosen me.
You removed the sin that stained me,
Cleansing me to be your own;
For this purpose you ordained me,
That I live for you alone.
It was grace in Christ that called me,
Taught my darkened heart and mind,
Else the world had yet enthralled me,
To your heav’nly glories blind.
Now I worship none above you;
For your grace alone I thirst,
Knowing well that, if I love you,
You, O Father, loved me first.
Praise the God of all creation;
Praise the Father’s boundless love.
Praise the Lamb, our expiation,
Priest and King enthroned above.
Praise the Spirit of salvation,
Him by whom our spirits live.
To the great Jehovah give.