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About this series
Discover Your True Self
How to Silence the Lies of Your Past and Actually Experience Who God Says You Are
Who are you? Who says so? You? Your family? Your friends? From the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians, Chip helps you discover who God says you are as a believer in Christ. Understanding your position, the freedom, and the power you possess as a child of the Most-High God, enables you to move beyond the struggles and the uncertainty we all experience to living an amazing life of peace and assurance. It equips you to serve others with humility and patience and it empowers you to forgive and share with lavish generosity. People will wonder what your story is and with the help of this series, you'll be able to answer with confidence.More from this series
Now, let’s ask ourselves what it means to get an accurate view of God that I am chosen, number one; and that I am adopted.
What does God say about those who are in Christ? Number one, we are chosen by Him. Literally, we are picked out personally for Himself.
Notice, it’s unearned. It’s not based on what you do. It’s eternal; from the foundations of the earth. But here’s the core truth: you are wanted by God. Think of all the things we do to be wanted. We want to be attractive. We all got up and we dressed. I am guessing at least most of the women put on makeup.
We want to be wanted. Our lives often are just filled with: if I can do this, or, if I could achieve this, or, if I looked like this, or, if I could have that, or, if I achieve that, then I would be more acceptable and then I would be wanted.
Can I just ask you something? What if that got solved? What if, in your heart of hearts, instead of needing and having and wanting to be wanted? I don’t really think this is right, but I don’t think he’ll love me if we don’t go to bed. You know what? I don’t think this is really right, but if I don’t let him on the traveling team or her on the traveling team, I know it’s messing up our family but I want him to really feel accepted by his friends. I don’t think that is a really good group for my daughter. I don’t think that’s really the right place, but I don’t want to be too hard, because she might feel rejected and miss out because her…
What if we taught our kids and what if all of us said: You know what? We all desire to be in. We all desire to belong. We all desire to be wanted. But what if we didn’t need it anymore? What if you were so wanted and so loved and so secure by the One who made you and the One who died for you and the One who you will spend eternity with forever and ever and ever, that you had a freedom to say, “I don’t have to work seventy-two hours. I don’t have to keep up with everybody at work. My kids don’t have to all get into these schools or those schools. If they do, it’s great. I don’t have to put pressure on them, because my value, my okay inside my soul – it’s not what other people think.” It really isn’t.
And, yet, this disease is in all of us, correct? So, the big question is: how do you break it? I think he goes on and tells us. He says you’re not only chosen, but you’re adopted by Him. That means complete in all the rights and privileges of being a part of His family.
It’s irrevocable. Once you’re adopted into His family, you’re a part of His family. And the core truth is you are accepted by God and you are His child. Now, let me give you a picture that will help you with this, because right now, your body language and your eyes are telling me, I’m leaning forward and I’d like to get this, but I don’t have it yet.
I have a friend who grew up in an orphanage. His name is Billy. He was in the orphanage until he was eight years old and everybody that he grew up in this orphanage with is people would come in, “I want this one. I want this one.” Billy kept – he’s left out, left out, left out, left out.
By the time you’re eight, most all of your cute, little friends are gone. And finally one day, a family walked in and looked at him and said, “We want you.” And so, Billy was adopted. His name was legally changed. They didn’t have any children, so he had a bedroom all by himself.
The family came in, he tells the story, that they came in the first few nights and he was sleeping on the floor. And they said, “What are you doing? We have this nice bed. We’ve got all these new things for you.” And he goes, “I have never slept in a bed. I am unworthy to sleep in that bed.” Hmm. And then they looked in the closet and there was food stuffed in the closet. Billy, when they weren’t looking, went to the refrigerator, he got food, and he hoarded it, and he stuck it – why? Because that’s what he has always done.
He didn’t feel loved, he didn’t feel worthy, he couldn’t receive love, and so His greed and His fear of rejection or not having, even though he was legally adopted and had a mom and dad who loved him, and his name was officially changed and he was deeply loved, he kept living like an orphan.
Can I ask you a really penetrating question? And if you can let the denial drift off just for a moment, how many of you are living like spiritual orphans? You are loved by God, but you are looking for it everywhere else. You are loved by God and He has a great plan and you are putting Him on hold and your whole life and your energy is about gaining approval and acceptance and love somewhere else.
Well, Billy grew up. He became one of my professors. And he has been dealing with this issue his whole life, even to adulthood, to the point that all those things about pleasing people, all those things about fearing rejection until God did a great work in his life. And then, at one point, he decided God called him to plant a church and he would take a risk. It used to be called South Hills. And Billy’s name is Bill Lawrence. Bill Lawrence taught me to preach. Bill Lawrence figured out: he’s adopted. He is loved by a Father. He is cared for deeply.
He didn’t have to – when he went to school, he got this degree, that degree, that degree, that degree. He just kept running after: what will make me acceptable? Until even after being a pastor for ten years, he had a breaking moment. And he began to understand what it means to be adopted by a loving, caring Father that is in a reality in your heart.
What does it really mean to be adopted? When we hear the words that I have just shared, they make some sense to us, but they make a lot more sense to the people who got this.
That word adopted to us is, now, it means a lot to me. I adopted two boys. If you have adopted kids or if you are adopted, I will tell you, this passage means a lot more to you. But if you were in Ephesus and you were hearing this read, adoption, you would think the Roman law. The only people that get adopted are adults. They didn’t adopt children.
And the people that got adopted would be if my wife and I couldn’t have children and we don’t have any heirs, we would find the smartest, best, most wonderful person who was an adult in their, probably, mid-twenties or thirties and we would adopt them. And according to Roman law, their past life vanished. Even if they had any debts, it vanished. Their name was changed and they became officially part of our family. In other words, they earned it. They are such a wonderful person, they would be adopted.
And these Christians are reading this and saying, “That’s what a wealthy person in Rome would do. But God of the universe adopted us unworthy people? He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves?” Can you imagine this sense of, Wow! I must be valuable! I must be really important. I must be lovable. And that’s what happened to them.
I think J.I. Packer is right. Classic book: Knowing God. He has a section on adoption. And I love it, he says, at the end of this chapter nineteen, he says, “It’s a strange fact that the truth of adoption has been little regarded in Christian history. Apart from two nineteenth century books now scarcely known, there is no evangelical writing on it, nor was there any writing on it before the time of the Reformation, and there has not been anymore before or after.”
See, I think this is something that we haven’t taught. I think this is something that, down deep in your heart, the deepest emotional needs, the deepest relational needs, this sense of belonging that is supposed to come from God, we have so emphasized: “Come to Christ, turn from your sin, it’s a gift, it’s all about grace.” We have these stunted people that I think many or most are genuine believers living like orphans. And trying to find love and acceptance in everywhere but where they already have it.
So, let me give you a little journey. Thanks to J.I. Packer, I took a section of his chapter and here are five things that are true of us, all right? Of us orphans who have now been adopted.
Number one, when you are adopted, you are loved. See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And such we are!” Literally, the phase is: see what manner of love.
And that phrase manner of love, literally, it’s a general translation but it’s basically: how foreign. How different. How illogical that God would love us. Makes no sense is the idea.
The two greatest evidences of love in all the New Testament are, first, the cross. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died in our place.” And second, sonship and daughtership. It’s not just that He made is right with Him. It’s that He wants to be intimately involved in our life. He’s a Father. He wants to take care of us.
When Jesus is teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, how are we supposed to pray? “Father…” When He was risen from the dead, what did He say to Mary? “Mary, go tell My brothers,” He’s our elder brother now, “go tell My brothers, My God and My Father and your God and your Father…”
When He talks about the spiritual life and he says, “When you give and when you pray and when you fast, do it secretly so” – who? “your Father…”
God wants you to know, I’m your Father and I love you perfectly like a Father. You’re adopted, you’re really a part of My family. This isn’t theology. This is reality.
The second thing is that there is hope. “The Spirit,” Romans 8, “Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, heirs also – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with Him.”
In other words, when you are a child with someone who is really your Father, you’re an heir. My oldest boys, I had the privilege of adopting when they were about four and a half, or five.
I recently revised my whole estate plan. I have four kids. And everything I have is being passed on to all four of my kids. My biological kids and my adopted kids – why? Because after so many years, it never entered my mind they’re not mine. And God wants you to know – hope! Hope isn’t the economy. Hope isn’t if you meet someone someday. Hope isn’t if you go public. Hope is not about your kids getting into this school or that school.
Here’s hope. Hope is is that you are now a child of God and if you’re a child, you’re an heir. And what do you know? You’re going to get a resurrected body. You’re going to go to heaven for sure. There is going to be a family reunion. God is going to be with you forever and ever.
Hope is: in the midst of your hardest times, He may not snap His fingers and make everything go wonderful tomorrow. He will go through it with you, because He is your Father.
Some of you are really good dads. Some of you have had really good dads and really good moms. And you think back when you were a kid and the hardest times, in your first breakup, and the broken bone, and you didn’t make the first team and all the rest.
And your mom or your dad, they loved you. God says, That’s Me! For you! Not out there some way, somehow, but now.
The third thing that is true of us that are adopted, there is intimacy. “For you have not received the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father.’” It’s the most intimate, sensitive term. Aramaic for Papa; Daddy.
This isn’t this God that is far off that, Okay, I guess I need to read it – a chapter a day keeps the devil away. Gosh, giving, boy. That’s a big one. Maybe I should go on a mission trip. Do you realize so much of today’s evangelical Christianity is just transactional? “What do I have to do to somehow earn or gain God’s favor? And if I do these things, at least according to TV preachers, He has to do all these things for me.” And at the end of the day, it’s really not about intimacy and love. It’s really about getting what you want and using Jesus. It’s called idolatry.
God says, I want to give you the most intimate relationship. I want to love you. I want you to know that you can share with Me everything. And I am involved. And I want to bless you, not if or because you do this or that. I already am for you. I already love you. I want you to open the Scriptures to say, “Papa, how is it going today? And I need Your help.” And to hear His voice through the Word and hear His voice through God’s people and that you would be in love with God, not simply trying to earn His favor or be a good person.
My son, one of my older sons, went through a really big time of rebellion. And by God’s grace, he did a one-eighty. I remember sitting in the car and tears streaming down my face that we just couldn’t keep doing life and he was at the end of high school and I said, “You’ve got a couple days to decide whether you can keep living in our home or just the behavior and all the rest. If you’re old enough to do whatever you want, then maybe you need to do that somewhere else.” And it was after about three or four years of very painful times.
And just crying, “It would break our heart, but we love you. I don’t know what else to do.” And he went into his bedroom for a couple days and I think he reengaged with a God that he wondered whether He existed or not and went the very genuine doubts that all of our teens and young people do.
He came out later and did a one-eighty and began to really walk with God. I remember saying, “Son, what happened? I don’t get it. What…?” The change was so dramatic. And I was a pastor. You’re thinking, Maybe it was one of my sermons.
And in a moment of intimacy and tenderness he said, “Dad, I have doubted everything and I’m sure it was part of being a kid in a big church where people said all this stuff about you and feeling pressure. And I knew it was just outright rebellion. But I just began to, for two days, think, Jesus is so real to you and Mom. He’s just so real to you and you’ve got lots of issues, most of which I’ve been pointing out for the last three or four years, but you’re no different at home than you are at church.”
And he said, “You never made me feel like I needed to shape up so you would look better at church. I see you and mom talk and pray and I realize I’m not sure what I’m doubting, but He sure is real to you. And I asked God, Will You help me like never before? Will You be real to me?”
The reason we are losing our youth, by and large, is not simply what they are hearing in college and the universities. Of course, that’s difficult. And not simply just the culture. The culture has always been hard for youth. I think what they need to see is the reality of the intimacy in your life and your love with your heavenly Father, but it’s not, “We brought you to church, we dropped you off at the youth group, we put you in a good Christian school,” or whatever your plan is.
And somehow, it has become moralism. And their heart. They haven’t seen a heart that beats for God. They haven’t seen you cry over your sin. They haven’t seen that what really matters is not success and not education and not how you appear. It’s why in our weakness and our brokenness that God pours forth His Spirit.
This adoption is transformational. It leads also to holiness.
“For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as His sons; for what son is there that He doesn’t discipline?” And then he tells us why. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but God, He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.”
We are so loved and so part of the family that anything we would do that would jeopardize us getting the best, God actually brings consequences. Some of the hardest times you’re going through, it’s not that He’s down on you. It’s He loves you so much He is trying to get your attention away from the idols and away from the media and away from all the different stuff that you are bombarded by, because He wants to draw you near. You do that with your kids. And He is doing it with you and me.
And finally, I love this, is when you understand adoption, there is assurance. In other words, you know that you know that you know. The apostle Paul would say in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And here’s what I want you to get is that you are loved and you are wanted. That’s who you are. You are wanted. You can want it and desire it from other people, but you don’t need it. And nothing can separate you from His love. You’ve got to declare that. Someone breaks up with you, you lose a job, your goals, your frustrations, all those things, they are going to go up and they are going to go down many times over the decades.
God is saying, I want you and I’ll be there for you. And all the things that really matter, I will never let go of you. Now, here’s the question: how do you get that in that great eighteen-inch journey from your head into your heart? So turn to the back of your notes, and I’ll show you.
These are the actual cards that my wife used. We wrote them on old 3x5 cards and they became so helpful that Living on the Edge printed them so that they would be prettier for people, I suppose. And thousands and thousands of people are doing what we did early in the morning.
First, the principle is: replace the warped mirrors and misbeliefs by the truth of God’s Word. Second, identify your lies that you believe and write them on the side of a 3x5 card. Now, you guys are high-tech. I’m a card guy, okay?
Example, for this one, “I must be approved or accepted by certain people to be happy.” Or, another lie, “I need other people’s approval to make me happy.” I’m telling you, you believe that with all your heart. You do stuff and you are making decisions about your family, your life, your career, your relationships that are simply rooted in this lie that you have to have their approval.
And I will tell you what, that’s the misbelief. Then I turn the card over, “I want people’s approval of me, but I don’t need it.” I’m as insecure as any and everyone in this room or whoever watches this wherever. I want you all to like me. We all do! But I don’t need it.
With God’s approval, I am no longer compelled to earn love and acceptance; I am free to be me. And you know what? Read that over in the morning, read that over in the night, read that over in the morning, read that over in the night. Because the core is this belonging.
And so, the next card is, “I am wanted, appreciated, and loved by God, the most important person in my life.” I watched my wife go for three or four years with my daughter, going through a series of these cards that she just read and she just read and she just read. You know what? I have a daughter that actually believes she is wanted, appreciated, and loved by God, the most important person in her life, and made some very hard decisions under peer pressure, because that got put into here that made it down to here.
She knew that she belonged. And when you really belong to Him, and you have a passage that says that, I will just tell you, you get free.
Now, here’s the deal. This is not like, Oh! I read those cards, two weeks later, everything is great. These are, you take one degree and you change it. I would encourage you to read this over, to write those on cards, and just say, “I’ll do this morning and night.”
And if you will, for sixty or ninety or a hundred and twenty days, you will begin to incrementally begin to believe that you’re a daughter of the living God and you’ll have desires that will change, that you won’t know, like, I don’t have to read the Bible. I want to. I don’t have to pray so long. It’s just an invitation. I don’t have to do this or do that. I don’t have to respond this way in work. I don’t have to make my kids happy every day, every moment, because you will understand that you belong and you will be set free.