The Adoption Option
July 2, 2000
I want to bring up someone that I’ve known for several years now: Matthew Lonsdale. Matthew is going into the eighth grade and has been a friend of mine for a good while. I want to tell you something special about this guy—Matthew, years ago, was adopted. Your parents, David and Kittie, went through all of the work. The interviews, Matthew. They paid a chunk of change. The love, the whole legal process, just to have you as a part of their family. So now, you’re Matthew Lonsdale, their son. That’s a cool deal. There’s nothing like being adopted.
Looking back on your life, do you remember a time in which you were adopted? In a real sense, every single person who’s hearing my voice falls into one of two categories. You’re either adopted, or you’re an orphan. I’ll say it once again—hundreds of people who will hear this message over the next several minutes in a real sense are spiritual orphans. The word “orphan” means simply, “a child who has been deprived of parental care and has not yet been adopted.” For a while, Matthew was deprived of parental care. For a short period in his life, for just a span, he had not been adopted. But because David and Kittie picked you—because they chose you, Matthew, because they went through all of the stuff, did all of the work—now you are their son.
But spiritually speaking, many of us are orphans. The Bible elaborates on this when it says these words in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death….” In other words, the paycheck, the compensation, the penalty for falling short and missing the mark—which means to sin—is death. This word “death” means separation from God. It means being eternally sequestered from the Lord Himself. If we got what we deserved, it would be spiritual, physical, emotional death. The text continues, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I want to call Owen Goff on stage right quick. Owen, come on up. Owen is going to represent God. Is that good or what? Owen, you’re now God. Matthew Lonsdale represents someone who is a spiritual orphan. Our status, our plight in life, our position has been caused by our behavior. Scripture says time and time again that God is holy. He’s perfect. He’s righteous. He can’t look at sin. He can’t wink at sin. Matthew, when we have a one-off day, one bad mood, say one little curse word, or think one little impure thought—whom—there is a gap, a cosmic chasm, between ourselves and God. We’re an orphan, and we’ve got a problem.
I had a conversation earlier this week with a man in the car business. He asked me what I did professionally. I told him I was a pastor. It’s hilarious to see the remarks people say back to me when they find out I’m a pastor. They go into this long thing, and talk about how good they are, and this and that. They press the rewind button to think about all the cuss words they’ve said up until that point. “Oh, well, I’m sorry, I’m just kind of rough around the edges, and hey, excuse me” and all that. This guy began to ask me some questions about Fellowship Church, and he told me that he was an agnostic: that he believed in God, but he wasn’t sure about Jesus being the son of God and so forth. We began to talk about that. He asked about Christianity, and I told him that Christianity basically is something that’s been done. I said that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. So even though we’re sinners, even though we’ve missed the mark, even though we have a cosmic chasm between ourselves and God, God sent Christ to pay the price on the cross on Calvary so we can know Christ personally. I said, “You know, I’m a sinner.” This guy looked back at me and said, “Well, I don’t think I’m a sinner.” I said, “Elaborate on that.”
He said, “Well, I’m just a good guy. I’m in the car business, and I’m honest.” I said, “Well, that’s good.” He said, “When a beautiful woman walks on the lot, I look at her, but I don’t do anything bad.” I said, “Well, that’s good. That’s nice.” He said, “Well, pastor,” he called me, “I will be honest with you here. Now and then I do fib when I’m talking to my wife.” I said, “Really.” He said, “Yeah, if my wife asks me, “Honey, have I gained any weight?” I’ll say, “No.” Ed, I’m lying usually, because she has put on a lot of weight, but you know.” I said, “Well, that’s okay, that’s not a sin.”
But anyway, after our conversation, I think he understood the fact that he was a sinner. We all sin. And let me do a little sidebar here for a minute. He asked me about the [Jesus] special that Peter Jennings did recently, and I shared with him my thoughts. That was one of the most twisted pieces of journalism I’ve ever seen in my life. Let me tell you why. The quote-scholars-unquote that Jennings interviewed are scholars who are on the far, far fringe of basic New Testament scholarship.
For example, Princeton and Yale graduate, Dr. Gregory Boyd, said this about the Jesus Seminar scholars, who were the scholars Jennings interviewed during this special—supposedly experts on the identity of Jesus—“The Jesus Seminar represents an extremely small number of radical fringe scholars who are on the far, far left wing of New Testament thinking. It does not represent mainstream scholarship.” So Jennings, as only Jennings can do, interviewed just a smidgen, just a tiny, tiny percentile of fringe scholars who supposedly understand and are experts on the life of Jesus. It was a joke. It was a pathetic, unfair piece of journalism. Where was Dr. Gregory Boyd? Where was Josh McDowell? Where was Lee Strobel? Where was Dr. Henry Morris? Brilliant, recognized scholars in various fields who are true experts on the life of Christ.
To show you how twisted this documentary was, let me give you a hypothetical situation. What if Peter Jennings had done a special on the plight of the African-American family? And what if, during this two-hour special, he only interviewed leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. People who are nuts. People who don’t get it. People who have a twisted and skewed view of life. We’re talking about just a small, small percentile of people who are racists, who are out there in left field. Do you think the Ku Klux Klan leaders would have given a fair representation of the plight of the African-American family? Are you kidding me? “Give me a break,” you say, “That would be ludicrous. That would be horrible journalism, totally unfair.” That’s exactly what happened in the special Jennings did the other night on television.
But my favorite part of this documentary was when they asked these liberal scholars about the resurrection of Jesus. They began to stutter. “Uh, yep…well, well…yeah, uh…you know. Something did happen that rocked the world. Yes, something did happen, and yes, when other religious leaders died the whole thing cratered, but this Christianity thing….” They could not explain it. So we’re talking about a historical figure. We’re talking about what the Bible says, the best-documented piece of ancient literature in the world, and we’re talking about what it says regarding one of the most important concepts known to mankind: the adoption option.
They asked J.I. Packer this one day. They said, “Dr. Packer, what does it mean to be a Christian?” You know what he said? “To know God as Father.” Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh is the covenant name of God. Yahweh refers to God’s holiness. In the New Testament, we segue from Yahweh into a new covenant name: God as Father. Yes, God is holy. That’s presupposed in the New Testament. Now, though, we can relate to God, Matthew, if we’ve been adopted, as a son or a daughter to the Lord. Christ’s disciples asked him, “Hey, Jesus, how do we pray? Teach us, Lord, to pray.” What did Jesus say? He began the prayer with two radical words: “Our Father.” Do you know God as your Father?
“The wages of sin is death.” I’m referring to hell. Utter and eternal remorse. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Many here today need to come clean and admit your status before God. You need to say, “You know what? I’m an orphan. I’m a slave to sin.” Here’s what God did. Let me read the Bible, and I’ll show you in this illustrative format what God did. Ephesians 1:4-5, “For He chose us.” Is that great? He chose us. The question is, have you chosen him? “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 through Christ Jesus, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” This whole thing is God-dependent, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Matthew, you didn’t have a clue when you were adopted. You were just out there as an orphan. Your parents, David and Kittie, picked you. They chose you. They called you by name. They did the work, something, Matthew, that you did not deserve. So I can never brag, I can never be prideful, I can never say, “Well, I’ll work my way and be a good little boy or a good little girl, and that can justify God adopting me.” We don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. We can’t have any pride. At best, I’m a moral foul-up. So are you. At best, you’re a sinner. I’m a sinner.
Back in ancient times, they didn’t adopt babies. Adoption was reserved only for the heavy hitters. Only for the Bill Gateses of the day. They would adopt children who were old enough to really carry their name. They would adopt children who were mature enough to reflect some real, good character. Then, when they saw the character reflected, they would go, “Okay, man. You’re the one. You will carry my name. You can have my resources and my wealth. Here you go. I’ll adopt you.” That’s what happened in the ancient days.
That doesn’t happen in the Christian life. I’m not worthy to carry God’s name, and you aren’t either. It’s all by grace—unmerited favor.
ED: What’s your name? You’re big.
ED: Wayne? You drive, don’t you? Now Wayne, what if I walked up to you, and I’m just walking like this, and all of a sudden I’m talking and I just go boom. What if I knocked him out?
WAYNE: That would hurt.
ED: It would hurt. Wayne’s a big guy, but what if I just knocked him out? You would go, “Man, what’s up with Ed? He’s lost his mind. He’s knocked Wayne out. That’s horrible.” What if I just ran down the aisles of church, got in my truck, drove home, and waited. What if, tomorrow morning, I heard this on the door: knock, knock, knock. I looked and I saw Wayne standing there on the front door. What if I’m going, “Man, Wayne’s going to take me out. This guy’s going to punch my lights out.” What if, when I opened the door, Wayne gave me his car keys? What kind of car do you drive?
WAYNE: Jeep Grand Cherokee.
ED: Woo, I like that—a Jeep Grand Cherokee?
ED: Limited? I would not get what I deserve. I would get the opposite, the complete opposite. Well, that is the grace of God. God has given us the opposite, something we do not deserve, something we do not merit, because of his love.
Now, Matthew, what if when you were adopted, if you were old enough to do so, what if you had told your parents, “Hey, Mom and Dad. No. No. You want to be my Mom and Dad, but no. I don’t want to receive the adoption option.” Your parents, Matthew, would have gone, “Oh, this is terrible. This is the worst thing ever. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
Now Matthew, I know your parents well. They’re very successful people. Your dad graduated number one from Cornell. That’s a lot better than Florida State, isn’t it? Your dad’s very successful in the computer business; he starts companies. One day, Matthew, you’ll probably have a great inheritance, man. Yeah! Right! That’s part of the benefits of being adopted. Well, put that in your frontal lobe.
God commissioned Jesus Christ—I’ll be Christ—to do the adoptive work, to die on the cross for your sins and rise again. He extends his hand to you, Matthew. Let me stop here. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about Him taking the initiative. He’s been seeking you out. He’s been following you. He’s been hounding you. He’s been all over you. When are you going to extend your hand to him? He’s saying, “Here. Here you go, here you go.” The moment you grab hands with Christ, the Bible says, you’re born again.
Let’s hold hands and read the next verse. I’ll read it. Jesus said, in John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father,” in other words, no one is acknowledged by God as a son or a daughter, “except through me.” Then John 1:12-13, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. Children born not of natural descent,” Matthew, “nor or human decision,” Owen, “nor of a husband’s will, but born of God.” We’re born physically, and then we have to be born again spiritually. The moment we’re born again—whom—we’re adopted into the family of God.
You see, Matthew, being a son isn’t just a biological thing. Your parents are not your biological parents, but they’re your true parents. You know why? Because of their love. Because of their love. There’s nothing like being adopted.
Why did the Holy Spirit choose this concept of adoption? I’ll tell you why. Jessica, would you stand up? Jessica is Matthew’s sister. She is the biological child, a daughter of David and Kittie. Back in ancient days, a family, Matthew, could disown a biological child. They could not disown an adopted one. Okay, thank you.
Let’s say, for example, Matthew, that you are one of my children. I’m their father; let’s say you are my children. Now and then, when my children were small, we would walk across the parking lot and I would hold their hands, like I was doing Friday when we walked into one of our favorite stores, Target. One of the twins tried to let go of my hand. Try to let go of my hand. You, can’t do it, Matthew, you know why? Because I’ve got your hand. In this illustration, I’m your father. I’ve got your hand. Once you are hooked into the family of God, once you identify with the family of God, Matthew, you can’t get out. You’re in. Your name was changed to Lonsdale. Literally, Matthew, because you’re a child of God, it’s not just Matthew Lonsdale. It’s Matthew Lonsdale Christian. The moment someone goes through this adoptive process, the moment someone admits their status of being an orphan, the moment they trust Christ, the moment they receive his hand, the moment they’re connected into the family of God, the Bible says, show other people you’re a part of God’s family.
One of the ways we do that is through baptism. We’re baptizing this weekend; we’re baptizing next weekend. When we baptize you, Matthew, here’s what we do. Take this hand here and this hand there. We say this: “I baptize you, my brother.” “Now, wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Matthew’s your brother?” Yes, because our father is God. “I baptize you, my brother, in the name of the Father”—in the name, that’s the identity—“and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then I’ll say, “Buried with Christ unto death, rise again to walk in newness of life.” You were an orphan, now you’re adopted. Identity.
You have security now, Matthew, as a child of God because you have God as Father. It doesn’t get any better than that kind of security. You’re talking about eternal security here. You’re talking about a true inheritance, an inheritance that starts now and gets better and better and better.
I have a friend named Rick, and Rick and his brother David grew up in a very tough family. Their father abused them; their mother couldn’t really take care of them. So one day their mom put them in an orphanage. Every night, Rick told me, his brother, David, would cry. Rick would comfort him and say, “David, it’s going to be all right, man. Things are going to get better.” This happened day in and day out. “It’s all right, David. Things are going to get better.” One day Rick and David looked outside of the orphanage, and they saw a brand new car driving up. Their mom got out of the car and said, “Hey, guys, I have a new place now. I’m marrying a man whose son is a singer. And Rick, David, we’re going to live with my husband’s son.” They drove from that orphanage to Graceland.
When they first saw Elvis, Elvis took Rick and David and put them on his knee. He said, “What’s mine is yours. You two, from this day forward, will be my brothers.” Rick and David said that the next morning when they got up, they looked outside, and Elvis had bought them two of every toy imaginable. Rick told me, “Ed, it was the most excessive display of wealth I’d ever seen in my life.” Then he said, “I loved every second of it.” A true story, told to me by Rick Stanley, Elvis Presley’s adopted brother.
Hey, that inheritance doesn’t even scratch the surface, Matthew, compared to the inheritance and the joy and the resources and the privilege we have in knowing Christ. It doesn’t touch it.
We have a new identity, we have a unity, we have a security. We can’t get out. And think about the proximity piece of the deal. Jesus is there, right there with you 24/7, Matthew. He’s not going to leave you. You can’t shake Him, you can’t bake Him, you can’t do Him a head fake or a spin move. He’s right there with you.
Here’s the sad thing that happens to those of us in the family of God. When we sin—and yes, we sin, even car salesmen sin—when we sin, so often, Matthew, instead of talking about it, instead of dealing with it in our spiritual family dynamic, we try to run from it. Well, the first place we should turn when we sin, when we mess up, is our family because Jesus understands. He’s been there. Now, because you’ve been adopted by Christ, when God the father sees you, Matthew, He doesn’t see Matthew, Spiritual Orphan; he sees Matthew who’s been covered by his son Jesus. He sees Jesus. You’re clothed in Jesus. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it means to be adopted into the body of Christ.
We can talk about parenting, we can talk about the family, we can talk about this or that, but we’ve got to be adopted into God’s family. You’re not just universally a part of God’s family due to a natural birth. It’s not a deal where you say, “Well, I’m in God’s family, man. I was born, and my parents were Lutherans or Baptists or Bible Churchers. My grandfather was a deacon or an elder. Whoa-ho, I guess I’m in.”
It doesn’t work that way. There must be a time when we admit our status. There must be a time when we understand to the best of our ability, Matthew, that God sent Christ to die on the cross for our sins, that He picked us, and that we receive him. We admit our condition, turn from our sinfulness, and we receive Jesus Christ into our lives. Then we’re cleansed, we’re forgiven, we’re clothed, Matthew, in righteousness.
Let me tell you how cool this deal is. Let me talk to you about Heaven right quick. John 17:24, “Father, I want those you’ve given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory….” Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” 1 Corinthians 13:12, “…we shall see face to face…..” 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “And so we will be with the Lord forever.” I’ll say it once again—forever, Matthew, is a long, long time.
I watched a documentary the other night on the Golf Channel about the life of Payne Stewart. Well, it brought tears to my eyes. Payne Stewart, taken in a plane crash at the zenith of his life. They interviewed his wife, his son, and his daughter. And through the tears, there was a hope. There was a confidence because, they said it, Payne had chosen Christ. He had picked the adoption option. And because Payne had done so, his security, his identity, his unity, his eternity, was locked. It was locked. Can you say the same thing?
I was giving my talk a while back to a bunch of students and leaders. After I talked about the adoption option, a leader rushed up to me and said, “Ed, during the middle of your message, I heard a junior high student turn to her friend and say this: ‘I got it. I got it.’” Can you say those words? Because everyone will leave this place in one of two camps—either as an orphan, or adopted into the family of God.