We've come to the end of our Autumn 2020 series IDENTITY. Although it was unexpectedly disturbed by another lockdown, meaning we had to interact online instead of in-person, it has been a rich series.
We've explored God, and who he is - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and who we are in relation to him.
We took 3 weeks looking at God the Father, and how we find our identity as his children. We took 3 weeks looking at God the Son, and how Jesus' death and resurrection was the pivot-point in world history, changing how we relate to God. And we took 3 weeks looking at God the Holy Spirit, and the freedom and power he brings to our lives.
We also saw that while we have a part to play in cooperating with the change God wants to do in us, all the initiative and power to change comes from God himself!
Which brings me to my title. The greatest secret.
As I was thinking about this end-of-series blog, and how to wrap up well, I picked up an unopened book I've had on my shelf - The Greatest Secret, by Krish Kandiah, which has the subtitle How being God's Adopted Children Changes Everything.
Kandiah is the Founder and Director of the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good, a Vice President of Tearfund, and lives with his wife and seven children, including fostered and adopted children, in Thame, Oxfordshire. Ruth and I lived in Thame for several years, and briefly got to know the Kandiahs. They are a hugely inspirational family, providing a new, loving home for many children.
In the book Krish weaves together his own experience of adopting with biblical insight to show how our adoption as God's children changes everything: "Forgiveness [by God] is not the end of the story. It is only half the story when it comes to God's amazing grace. The courthouse where God justifies you is the same courtroom where he declares you adopted (Romans 8). When you are declared free, you are also declared family. When you walk out uncondemned and released from guilt and servitude, you also walk out with a new identity."
Kandiah quotes influential Reformed theologian J I Packer: "Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification... To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater."
So, adoption by God is a clear, Biblical theme. But does knowing it affect our identity? Kandiah again: "Understanding our adoption may just be the secret to everything - our true identity, our prayer life, our church life, our family life, our hopes and dreams, our history and our future, the meaning of the universe. … Adoption transforms how we approach our relationship with our Father God. It can radically alter the way we read and understand the Bible. It reframes our understanding of our own salvation. It should impact the way we relate to others around us."
One of my end-of-day unwinding activities (not much-appreciated by my family) is to watch human story documentaries. Perhaps about a famous person traces their ancestry, and it is always deeply moving as they discover more about who they are, learning about the influences and family line, culture and ethnicity that has shaped them. Or about an adoptee discovering their birth parents for the first time. Or about a child, on being adopted into their new family, finding a place of security, love and compassion.
Humanly and spiritually, adoption changes everything! As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, let the reality of your adoption by Father God change everything for you!
So, how do I cooperate with God in laying hold of this reality, that God has adopted me?
Over the years, as I've grappled myself with this, here are a few approaches I've discovered that have helped me. Maybe they will help some of you?
- Mediate on Ephesians 1-3, a really rich statement of who are in Christ. (Meditate just means read slowly, read several times, read prayerfully and unhurriedly, letting the words 'marinate' you.)
- Prayerfully reflect on key scriptures using this resource to help you.
- If video is your thing, check out this great talk from John Mark Comer on Ephesians 1 in which he explains how we get to see our identity in Christ rather than in our performance, possessions, pleasure or popularity.
- If you appreciate music, let this powerful song Champion minister to you (it's the one we enjoyed together in the service on Sunday 6 December 2020).
As we close this series, what will you do to allow God to consolidate in you what he has been doing through this series?