Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Adoption | Place of Grace Fellowship


Today is the second sermon in our series on Ephesians Chapters 1 & 2. We are examining our identity as followers of Christ. What does it mean? How do we act? What are the implications for our life and soul? Identity is a word that people use to talk about others or to describe themselves. It can have many meanings or shades of meaning. Some of our identity we can change, and some of it is fixed by our birth, life, and society around us. Those obvious to see markers of our identity are called characteristics. These are easily observable by most people around us, and others can describe our characteristics. Other aspects of our identity are changeable, and we can decide to become someone different from our current person. How we talk about ourselves can deeply affect our identity in terms of self-perception. Our mindset affects how we talk about ourselves.


I have a business owner friend whom I have worked with as a coach. When we first met, he ran a successful contracting business, and his business had grown quite large. He was in the role of a CEO. Yet, he talked about himself like he was just starting out with one truck and a small crew. However, he had dozens of trucks. He hadn’t worn a tool belt in years. Even though, he liked being the guy with the tool belt. Over our coaching sessions, he changed his identity. More accurately, we worked to change his mindset. He changed his language about himself.


With a new mindset, he began to become a better CEO. His self-talk changed, and his leadership changed. People began to follow him and respond to his guidance. He now did a better job of running his business. As his mindset changed from solo contractor to CEO, his revenue, profit margins, and income more than doubled.


Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is focused on their identity as followers of Christ. Paul believed that if they got that right, life would fall into place and their priorities would align. It was important that they understood their identity as part of the family of God through Jesus Christ. Paul wanted the Ephesians to have the right mindset.


Let’s read Ephesians 1:3-10:


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.


God destined us for adoption. You were meant to become part of God’s family. We believe that God is very large—enormous. In our world, heaven and God can seem very small because we don’t see how it impacts our daily life. Maybe small is the wrong word. Far off and dreamlike are more descriptive. The world around us is engaging and compelling. It seems like all of existence is caught up in our physical reality here on earth. Being a child of God and living in heaven are nice and we believe it, but it does not rise to the level of changing our identity—at least not in a big way.


For first century people, that was not the case. They thought of themselves very differently than we think of ourselves. They thought of their world differently. God made the earth. The earth was enveloped in a great ocean of water. Below the earth lied Sheol—the place of the dead. The earth, or firmament, rested on pillars as did the firmament that separated the waters of heaven from the earth. God separated the land from the waters. God created the firmament over their heads that kept the waters above from drowning the earth. God held back the chaos that threatened to destroy creation at any moment. Leviathan lurked in the watery depths, and God pushed Leviathan into the depths to protect the earth. Psalms 74:14 says God crushed the head of Leviathan; and gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. God opened the windows of heaven to give humanity water as rain. God could have opened the windows of heaven and drowned humanity like in the great flood. Above the earth and the oceans and the firmament that separated the land from the oceans existed the realm of God. It was a spirit place. God was spirit. It was much grander and more impressive than earth. From God’s dwelling place in the heavens, God decided the fate of humanity. The earth depended on the benevolence of the realm of God for its existence. Only the inhabitants of the realm of God could open the windows of heaven and water the earth. People prayed to the little gods so that they would give them rain and make the fields fertile. First century pagans believed the little gods of fertility made humans fertile and blessed couples with children.


This describes the world view of ancient Israel. Ancient Greeks would have had a similar view. Their scientific understanding may have been more in-depth, but their view of heaven and their place on earth would have been similar.


Now imagine that you are a first century person, and Paul tells you that the one and only ruling God of the heavenly realm adopted you as God’s child. That The God of the heavenly realm sent his Son to earth—who is one with the God of everything. God sent him to the physical realm to make it possible for you to become a child of God. How big of deal would that be? I think it would be a rather big deal. In a world like the first century, the one God, God of heaven, orchestrator of all that was, just made you his child. Mind blowing. How might that change your identity? You went from a poor inhabitant of the earth, perhaps a slave or freed person, with little status to a child of God. Even if you were better off, your life was still precarious and threatened every day. Now, as an adopted child of God, your life was secured, and your future was certain.


I can imagine the depth of joy the ancient Ephesians felt as they embraced God as their Father.


It makes me think of when we adopted my dog Hazy. She was a scrappy 35-pound ball of energy. She lived in a kennel in the desert with other dogs. She had a doghouse, a little plastic pool, and some shade. She rested in the dirt. She was dirty, high strung and lived a no-frills life. She lived to get out of the kennel and hunt.


When we adopted her, she got a bath, was cleaned up and brought to our house in a portable kennel. When she entered our house for the first time, she ran around sniffing and checking out the surroundings. Then she found our comfy chenille couch, jumped up on it and was instantly at home. She settled in and fully embraced her adoption as a member of our family. When she wanted attention, she would jump up on my lap and ask to be petted. If I didn’t pet her exactly where she wanted, she would use her paw to redirect my petting. Hazy didn’t doubt her adoption or limit it, she took full advantage of her new life.


I tell you this story because that is how we should feel with our adoption into God’s family. We should settle into the warm embrace of our Father and fully lounge in the salvation of our adoption. We should ask for what we want or need.


However, I think it is harder for us today. The ancient God was eternal and big, but people still knew where God resided. God was awesome, but awesome had boundaries and was capable of being grasped. God may have been spirit, but that spirit had a place.


Our God today is much bigger. So big that we cannot even begin to fathom how big. The law of large numbers overwhelms our brain, and God is now out of touch. God is so big that we cannot fathom God and therefore, we have lost the connection to God that first century believers had.


There are a 100 billion galaxies with a 100 billion stars each and that is not the end of creation. In our galaxy, there may be as many as 10 billion class M planets capable of supporting life. God created it all. It is large beyond comprehension. Where is God in all of that? We cannot find God. God is not in the heavens. Where are the heavens? God is so massive, so other, and so unseeable that we cannot locate God or sense and feel God. Yet God knows each of us individually. God communicates with us through the Holy Spirit. We can experience a relationship with this immense God. We are adopted.


God’s creation is infinitely large. It is also infinitely small. It is made up of neutrons, protons, electrons, neutrinos, muons, gluons, Higgs bosons, quarks, and photons. Then we go to the anti-subatomic particles. God’s reality is infinitely large and infinitely small. God watches over all of it and maintains the creation throughout time and space.


I tell you this because if God can manage the massive to the truly miniature and hold it together, then God can adopt us and be a Father to us. God can pay attention to us individually. Think about the billions of people on earth. There is no human mold. Each of us is unique–down to our fingerprints. Our adoption is not an administrative problem for God. Our adoption can be a real experience for us. You have heard me say it before, and I’ll repeat it. Our reality in God is much greater than our physical existence here. No one looking at us can see that we are adopted. Our adoption is not one of our identifiable characteristics. However, it is our identity. It is the defining aspect of who we are. The fingerprint of God on our life is more powerful and real than our own fingerprint.


As massive as God’s existence, it can feel distant and small when life on our finite earth comes crashing in. Inflation is real. We experience war, gas prices, food prices, illness, age, relationship stress, etc. These challenges are close to us. They require our attention today. They are immediate realities. Therefore, they take on importance greater than maybe they deserve. It is the reality of our identity trap.


We can recall the events of today and the nearness of today’s events because they are within our immediate experience. God is distant, large and beyond our ability to experience amid our struggles. I can stand here and tell you that your identity in God is more important than the physical realities of life, and you will walk away and feel good. Then by Sunday afternoon, your physical reality comes crashing in on you and the necessity of now takes over. Monday morning is just around the corner.


Is what comes crashing in greater than eternal life? Is it greater than your trespasses being wiped away? Are God’s grace and riches smaller than your reality? The full wisdom and insight of the creator of 100 billion galaxies tells us he wants to adopt us through Jesus Christ God’s son and our Savior. How can that truly change our tomorrow? How does it help us manage our life here?


We were chosen in Christ before time and before the world was created. We were chosen to be holy and blameless. I could stand up here and become a hell fire and brimstone preacher. Tell you to stop drinking, smoking and a whole bunch of other “sins” of the flesh. I won’t do that. It is way too simple for such a profound passage. Our being holy and blameless is much more than a list of don’ts. We are holy when we accept the salvation offered by Christ and accept the Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are only holy in Christ. We can be blameless by knowing our identity before God. We are blameless in Christ because Christ is blameless. We are blameless when we place God before all else in our lives and we let God be God. We are blameless when we worship God and avoid worshipping anything created. Worry, focusing on the world, our physical realities crashing in on us and replacing our faith in God are forms of worshipping the world and not God. Living blameless before God means trusting in God.


I still haven’t answered the question about how to handle Monday when the world throws a list of concerns towards you. It has to do with our identity. We are children of God. Now some of our physical realities are so grave that all we have is our identity as a child of God and nothing can make much of a dent in our physical reality. In places where Christians are persecuted, that presence of Christ with them and their identity as saved eternally is enough to get them through hell. My wife Jan hears these stories in her job. I had this experience before I was healed of cancer. It may seem odd, but when I got to the place where my salvation and being in the arms of God began to be important, the rest of life seemed much easier to deal with no matter how bleak the future looked.


Identity matters. It changes our language. It changes our joy. It changes our peace. It changes our mindset. Identity and mindset are how we think about life and what comes at us. If we change our mindset—we change our reality—we change our results.  Remember that CEO. When he changed how he saw himself, his mindset, it changed everything in his business. Self-perception, language, and identity change how we talk about life and ourselves. That changes how we act in the world, and that changes our witness and our results. Paul, sitting in a Roman prison, saw the opportunity to spread the Gospel among the imperial guard. His boldness infected other believers, and they proclaimed the Gospel more boldly. His apostle mindset meant that he always preached the Gospel no matter his circumstances. In simple terms, we become what we believe. Our actions follow what we believe and what we speak. It’s how we are wired.


When we believe we are children of God, and that God is massive and our Father, we can experience God’s presence and encouragement. Our circumstances do not matter. We can receive an adoption mindset through prayer and the Holy Spirit. Our adoption can inform our identity in a positive, life affirming way. With an adoption mindset, we have the peace and joy of Christ as we endure our physical and earthly challenges. Our language towards others mirrors the life God has given us as saints. We, like Christ, speak with life affirming energy. We build up and encourage others. We speak of our faith in God to conquer what lies before us. Others will say, how are they so positive? Their life is difficult and yet they possess peace and joy. How do I get some of what they have? You can answer—become a child of God.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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