Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Heirs of God
by Lenin Rodriquez at http://www.creationswap.com/lrod
I previously wrote about heirs in a prior post, but I want to discuss the idea of being an heir from a different angle. Hopefully you can see the distinction, as before it was more about heritage, this time I want to approach this from the angle of sonship. I hope you agree.
What do you think about when you hear someone being mentioned as an heir? Do you think about royalty, like the Queen of England? Or maybe you think about someone who is a son or daughter of a very wealthy family. Paris Hilton anyone? Heirs in our day have somewhat of a bad reputation for being arrogant, spoiled, and completely unattached to the realities of the world. Without having to work or earn the inheritance, these people are merely born into a life of luxury.
Sadly, and unfortunate for them, they don’t learn to appreciate exactly what it is that they have been given. Many people have varying opinions on how they view heirs. Obviously it’s not the same for everyone. Prince William and Prince Harry have been raised to appreciate the life they have been given from a position of prestige, power, and influence. But unfortunately, there are offspring to wealthy families that do become obnoxious and stains on society. People often view them with a measure of either envy or disdain. Depends on values and perspectives, of course, but generally there’s a sense of envy because of how life and luxury was handed down to them on a silver platter.
Given this background, what would you think about being an heir of God? It may be difficult to imagine because the truth of this seems so distant. It can be hard to put this into perspective, can’t it? But when a person becomes a believer, one who puts his/her faith in God’s Son, Jesus, as the only One who can save them, there’s a transformation that takes place. The transformation is something that goes beyond our imagination. The Bible, God’s Word, says that we become sons of God.
Sons of God. Think about that. Before we were saved, we were considered enemies of God. And now we are sons of God? Is there anything more remarkable than that? Look at this passage:
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
When you read this, is there anything that grabs your attention? For me, it does. In this passage, Paul says that we received “the Spirit of adoption.” For one thing, we are adopted into God’s family. We even get to call God our Father. Abba Father actually means “daddy” and describes a relationship that is deeply personal. Secondly, through adoption we get to be heirs with Jesus in the kingdom of God! Wow! Does any of this make sense? Not really, but in God’s infinite grace and wisdom, He extends this idea of sonship to people who were once his enemies. We get to enjoy the benefits of calling this awesome and amazing God, Daddy!, and also of belonging to God’s family as if we were born into it.
I don’t know a lot about earthly kingdoms or those of certain family dynasties that pass on their inheritances. However, I would imagine that not many adopt someone from outside their lineage and pass on an inheritance of any significant worth or value, particularly a family heirloom or keepsake. Isn’t God’s Kingdom worth more than these?
God, however, is not anything like the world. He has specific purposes in what He does, and in adopting outsiders as His sons, He not only gives us certain rights and privileges, but gives us the title of co-heir with His true Son, Jesus!
Paul, in letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, gives a little more clarity on this subject:
1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul notes the reason behind such an honor to be adopted into God’s family: it’s to the praise of His glorious grace! In other words, it’s about God receiving glory. Do you know that’s why you were created? In this passage in Ephesians, Paul says that “He predestined us for adoption…to the praise of His glorious grace.” God already had this all planned out, that when He would send His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and through that sacrifice redeem us from the dead, He would ultimately give us the privilege of being adopted into His family for the ultimate goal of bringing glory to Himself. I think we all ought to be stunned and in awe of such an amazing God and an amazing gift that He has given us.
Now, before anyone begins to gloat and somehow thinks that any one of us is deserving of this privilege, let’s stop right here and think again. God makes it abundantly clear that none of us are worthy. God says that there is no one righteous and no one who does good. We are all deserving of His wrath and destruction because of our sin and rebellious nature. It is only because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and covered us by His righteousness that God even looks in our direction and shows grace toward us.
Consider what Paul said in the passage to the Galatians. Paul said that we were slaves. Slaves to what? Slavesslaves to lawlessness, slaves to death itself. We were destined for destruction if it were not for Jesus. Like Paul said, “…we were under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.” The amazing thing is that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to be born under the law to redeem us, slaves who were already under the law, so that we might be freed and adopted into His family. to sin,
So, unlike how the world responds to being an heir, as Christians we should view this position in God’s family soberly. Should we act like spoiled brats, somehow thinking we are more deserving? Do we look at others who come to church unkempt as unworthy? Do we tarnish God’s image by continually engaging in behavior that is unbecoming as followers of Christ? How do you respond to someone who cuts you off in traffic? How do you react to your boss who criticizes your performance? Are you forgiving toward your spouse and kids? To your neighbor? How about your enemies? Do you show mercy as God has shown you mercy? These are only a few examples, but you get the point.
Being an heir of God should have far greater significance than anything in this world. If people envy heirs of this world, how much more attractive should it be to be a part of the family of God? In truth, everyone should have the desire to know God as Abba Father and want this deep, personal relationship with Him. So, for those of us that do have this privilege, we should honor Him and share the Good News about Him so that others will have the same opportunity as we do.
This brings me to a couple of final points. One, sonship (this term is in the general sense, meaning both men and women) doesn’t just happen without something to do on your part. Does that mean that you have to earn your way to heaven? No, what it does mean, though, is that you have to receive His gift under His terms. That means you have to see sin the way He does. You have to acknowledge your sin and ask for forgiveness and repent from it. It also means you have to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the only propitiation for your sins. Scripture actually says that you have to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, and confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You have to believe in His life, death, and resurrection! One recommendation I have is to read my posts on the Bad News and the Good News for more on this. Or, much simpler, talk to a Christian friend, neighbor, or pastor. Any Christian would LOVE to spend the time with you to share the Gospel message, which Paul says “…is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
The second point, which I do not mean to gloss over, is in the passage itself. Do you remember in Romans 8:17 where Paul says we are “…heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together?” The Christian faith is not a feel-good religion. I hesitate to use the word religion because it can be taken out of context, but it’s important to understand what Paul is saying here. By becoming a Christian, there’s an understanding that there will be suffering involved. Why? For one, Paul says it develops our character and gives us hope. But more than that, he says that it should be expected that we suffer for Christ for the Gospel’s sake. If Christ suffered and was rejected by the world, why should we expect anything less when we believe upon His Name for our salvation?
Perhaps suffering is a good thing. Unlike the heirs mentioned at the beginning of this post, Christians should be less likely to be the spoiled, self-centered type knowing that following Christ is not the life of luxury. But don’t misunderstand this. It may not be the lap of luxury, but it is a privilege. To be adopted into God’s family is the best thing that could ever happen to you. Also, to follow in Christ’s footsteps was actually an honor, and his first disciples understood this to the point of being martyrs themselves!
This is what Jesus said:
15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Being an heir of God. It’s something to think about. It’s nothing like the world knows or understands. It’s far greater. But it’s also a challenge, isn’t it? To become a Christian means you must love Jesus more than anything or anyone else. You must be willing to suffer. In other words, you need to count the cost. Are you up to the challenge?