Thursday, December 06 2018
In today's conversation, we will continue asking ourselves questions about Discipleship. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, today's thoughts are directed at the purpose for our Discipleship and where it takes us. To do this we must first consider Who is the source of our discipleship.
Our Faith is not a formula or philosophy, not merely a way of life, list of commandments, set of rules, a social status, community, or an institution. It may include many of these elements and we often get these out of balance, but all of them are dependent on and flow from our relationship to a “Person”. He is a Divine Person, but a real Person nonetheless who revealed Himself in flesh and blood having a body, face, voice, and personality in the Person of Jesus Christ. And because we were made in His Image, we innately know how to relate to Him and to others made in His image. Through our conscience and the perception of our spiritual need, we know that He is a “Divine Person” and has superiority over us. He is the ultimate “Person” in the universe and the trustworthy example of what it means to grow in our own “personhood”. So, our apprenticeship in His example is with a “Person” in a never-ending and eternal relationship, not merely in a goal to be accomplished in this present life. This “relationship” is what it’s all about and the tutelage in that relationship is what it will all be about throughout eternity. Through our spiritual rebirth and adoption into His family, this “Person” has become our good and everlasting Father.
“As our Maker is our Father, so our Savior is our Brother when we come into the Family of God. Now, just as the knowledge of His unique Sonship controlled Jesus’ living of His own life on earth, so He insists that the knowledge of our adoptive sonship must control our lives too.” (J.I. Packer)
No one expresses these thoughts about whose Disciples we are and the motivation behind our Discipleship better than J. I. Packer in the chapter on "Adoption" in his book Knowing God. So, we will quote extensively from it on pages 200-210.
"What is a Christian? The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as his Father…
'You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.' (Evang. Mag 7, pp. 19-20)
The following quotes are taken from Knowing God by J.I. Paker:
"…Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. …The revelation to the believer that God is his Father is in a sense the climax of the Bible.
The whole spirit of Old Testament religion was determined by the thought of God’s holiness. The constant emphasis was that human beings, because of their weakness as creatures and their defilement as sinful creatures, must learn to humble themselves and be reverent before God….
…But in the New Testament we find things have changed. God and religion are not less than they were; the Old Testament revelation of the holiness of God, and its demand for humility in man, is presupposed throughout. But something has been added. A new factor has come in. New Testament believers deal with God as their Father. Father is the name by which they call Him. Father has now become His Covenant name -- for the covenant which binds Him to His people now stands revealed as a family covenant. Christians are His children, his own sons and daughters, his heirs… To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father; they belong to His family; they may approach Him without fear and always be sure of His Fatherly concern and care. This is the heart of the New Testament message…
… God intends the lives of believers to be a reflection and reproduction of Jesus’ own fellowship with Himself... All this extends to God’s adopted children. In, through, and under Jesus Christ their Lord, they are ruled, loved, companied with, and honored by their heavenly Father…
All this is possible because of our Adoption into God’s Family
…adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. This may cause raising of eyebrows, for justification is the gift of God on which, since Luther, evangelicals have laid the greatest stress, and we are accustomed to say, almost without thinking, that free justification is God’s supreme blessing to us sinners. Nonetheless, careful thought will show the truth of the statement we have just made.
That justification, by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with His acceptance for the future, as the primary and fundamental blessing of the Gospel, is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing because it meets our primary spiritual need. As sinners, we all stand by nature under God’s judgment, so we need forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God more than we need anything else in the world. The Gospel offers Jesus' blood to us before it offers us anything else so that God may look on us sinners without condemnation and wrath.
But this is not to say that justification is the highest blessing of the Gospel. Adoption is higher, because of the rich, personal relationship with God that it enables and involves.
Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as Father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship, and establishes us as His children and heirs! Closeness, affection, and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater. The entire Christian life has to be understood in terms of it. Sonship must be the controlling thought because all of our Lord's teaching on discipleship is cast in these terms.
It is clear that, just as Jesus always thought of Himself as Son of God in a unique since, so he also always thought of his followers as children of His Heavenly Father, members of the same divine family as He Himself. As our Maker is our Father, so our Savior is our Brother when we come into the Family of God. Just as the knowledge of His unique Sonship controlled Jesus’ living His own life and mission on earth, so He insists that the knowledge of our adoptive sonship must control our lives too.“
We are called to be Disciples not merely to be obedient servants, but for the high purpose of learning to be the very Son's and daughters of our Father in Heaven. We have come home to a Family and are learning the Family character and ways. The joy of this truth is captured in The old hymn "Be Thou my Vision".
Be Thou my Vision
1. Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
3. Riches I need not, nor mans, empty praise, Thou my inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.
4. Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. –
Thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
5. High King of Heaven, my victory won. May I reach Heaven’s joy, bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Next we will continue on this theme as we look at the "Promise of Discipleship".
Wherever in your journey these comments may find you, may they encourage you to make the next positive step, to take the HighRoads with our Lord toward the Sunlit Uplands.