The Christian life has been described many ways but one of the most common descriptions is a “walk.”
I have never heard it described as a “sit.” I have never even heard it described as a “rest.” I have never heard it described as a something that is not active. I would say a walk means a person is moving forward, not a run or a dash, but a steady moving forward by taking steps. The key thought is “moving forward.”
This brings me to J.I. Packer’s* contention about the highest privilege a Christian can experience. For many, the idea of being made right with God would probably be highest on the list. This is called justification and it is a transition from being a person who does not know about God, or a person who thinks they know about God to a person who actually knows and experiences God. All humans are judged but when we transition to “born again” status, we are moving from darkness to light. Before being born again, we may feel that God’s law condemns us and that makes us have guilt. We may be restless and miserable down deep inside, even though we may have mastered the look of joy for the world [the “I don’t need God thank you very much” look]. There may be moments when we are fearful of the way we are conducting ourselves, fearful of God’s wrath and fearful that we are living the wrong kind of life. We know we don’t have inner peace; we know we don’t have peace with God.
We need to have forgiveness of our sins. We need to have a “right” relationship with Him. We need these things more than we need anything else in the world. When we come to that realization, we are finally ready to commit our lives to Jesus Christ. We are ready to be born again.
We are ready to be justified.
That has to be the most important thing in the Christian’s life. That has to be the highest privilege a Christian can experience.
Packer says no, that is not it. The highest privilege is to be “adopted” into the family of God. Packer admits that adoption cannot occur without justification. “Justification is the primary blessing, so it is the fundamental blessing, in the sense that everything else in our salvation assumes it, and rests on it—adoption included” .
However, to be adopted into the family of God is much more than justification. Justification is “acquittal and peace” won for us by Jesus Christ at Calvary, but justification is not about the intimate and deep relationship that we can have with God as we move beyond being born again. What we are talking about is our “walk” with God.
Can a Christian be born again and become stagnant, never accepting the fact that he or she needs to move forward in their relationship with God? The answer is yes; it happens all the time. Good people profess their faith and then “rest” in their justification. They sit where they are as if they are in a finished state; they don’t want to learn to communicate with God through prayer and Bible study. They may take the attitude that I need to go to church on a regular basis and as they do their “duty”; they reserve their spot in a pew in their church. They aren’t interested in serving their church, giving their time and energy to those less fortunate or witnessing to unbelievers. They are satisfied that they are saved and they are assured of their spot in heaven. That’s enough.
I once heard of a person who went on a cruise. Everyone knows that the cruise experience includes ready access to excellent food at all times of the day or night. One fellow boarded his cruise ship and in his baggage he had a box of cheese and crackers. When everyone else was eating from the gourmet buffet this man sat in the corner eating his cheese and crackers. Finally an inquisitive passenger asked why he did not want to eat the wonderful food at the buffet. His reply was, “ I barely had enough money to buy a ticket. I can’t afford to eat these expensive meals.”** He did not realize that his ticket entitled him to eat the food. This simple story reminds me of the Christian who is content with justification and does not realize that walking with God affords the Christian so much more [a place at the table with the rest of God’s family].
That is where Packer explains that the highest privilege a Christian can experience is adoption into the family of God. “To be right with God is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater” . What is the catch here; what do I have to do to be adopted? Well if you have asked God into your life, you have started the process, but it goes further than asking Him into your life. It goes further than reserving your spot in the pew. It goes further than just experiencing the assurance that your sins have been forgiven. As with human relationships, God wants to know you and you want to know Him. As with human relationships, you want to find time to be with God. As with human relationships, you try to please God as you would try to please a human being that you really love.
We all know that we cannot “work” our way into heaven. That type of “works” mentality shows a shallow consideration of the relationship that we can have with God. Nothing we can do can repay what God has done for us in our justification but the Christian life will begin to bear fruit naturally. You cannot earn your salvation by doing good; however, the evidence of a life of faith is a life of doing good. Jesus Himself, we are told, went around “doing good.” As we walk with God, we are active in His Kingdom and it shows naturally.
What, you might ask, is the payoff. As in my last post, why is Packer so keen to express that it is important to understand that we are His adopted children? This is our highest privilege. Being adopted into the family of God gives us “safety, certainty and enjoyment.” You move from legalistic “worry wart” to son. You move from superstitious believer to heir. You move from death to life in Christ. You begin to “abide” in your faith. Packer says it this way: “you have absolute stability and security; the parent is entirely wise and good, and the child’s position is permanently assured. The very concept of adoption is itself a proof and guarantee of the preservation of the saints, for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation….[gone is ] depression, randomness and immaturity” .
“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone.
I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word.
Because You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us.
You’re a good good father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am….”***
To be the adopted son of The Father is to have a heavenly Father and God is not a bad father, He is a good good Father. I am His adopted Son. I am loved.
“It’s who I am.”
*From his book Knowing God
**as told in Joel Osteen Your Best Life Now
***Chris Tomlin “Good Good Father”… one of my most favorite songs……