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Finding Our Fathers

April 7, 2008

What do you think of when you hear the word “adoption”? Do you think of social adoption, the idea of an adult adopting an abandoned child? Or do you think of biblical adoption, the idea of God adopting us into his family? Most of us probably think of social adoption first. According to the UNICEF report Children on the Brink 2004, there were over 16 million children worldwide in 2003 without a father or a mother. In the U.S. there are over 500,000 children in the foster care system. So clearly, social adoption is a global and national issue. There are too many orphans in this world. However, there is a greater, longer lasting, more profound adoption that we should be concerned with—biblical adoption. In fact, rightly understood, biblical adoption will lead many into social adoption. So what is this greater, more profound adoption?

Who’s Your Daddy?

We do not wake up one day and decide that we want God to be our heavenly Father. Why? Because we are born into this world with another father—not our biological father—but a spiritual father. 1 John 3:10 says: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” Our fatherly relation is revealed by our actions. If God is our father, then we will consistently do good and seek the good of others. If Satan is our father, we will consistently do wrong and seek our own interests; we will be self-seeking. Now, doesn’t that sound a little harsh? I mean even if you aren’t a “Christian” you can still do good, right? Well, doing good isn’t the point. What determines whether we are doing good or loving others? Actions, words, or motives? Our actions reveal our motives, which in turn reveal our true identity. So, if we are children of the devil, our hearts will always be self-seeking, even when we do good.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

In his book, Reason for God, Tim Keller, recounts part of Robert Louis Stephenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (175-76). Most of us are familiar with the premise of this story. Dr. Jekyll decides to get rid of his bad side, which he believes is holding his good nature back. He does so by concocting a potion that will allow his good side to be on all day. However, one night when he takes the potion his bad side comes out and it is more evil than he expected, this is Mr. Hyde. Hyde has an endless capacity for selfishness, pride, and carelessness about others. In response, he resolves to not take the potion any longer but to redouble his efforts in being good and charitable. He proves fairly successful until one day he is sitting on a bench in Regents Park, thinking about all the good he has been doing, and how much better of a man he now is than Mr. Hyde, than most people.

I resolved in my future conduct to redeem the past; and I can say with honesty that my resolve was fruitful of some good. You know how earnestly, in the last months of the last year, I labored to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others…but as I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect…a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering…I looked down…I was once more Edward Hyde.

You see, we demonstrate our identity—who our father is—by doing evil through self-seeking or by doing good through self-righteousness, by keeping all the rules or by breaking all the rules. We prove our identity as children of Satan by our motives. So the problem is that we are bound to do evil as children of the devil. The only way to escape this problem is to find another Father. The problem is that we don’t want another father; we want to continue to live under the illusion that we are good people in control of our lives, but the reality is that we are bad children of a bad Father. We are orphans, estranged from God, not because of neglect or abandonment, but because we ran away, because of our rebellion against God’s fatherhood. We can’t change our identity and become his sons, and we don’t want to divorce our devilish father. So how can we escape?

See tomorrow’s follow-up piece…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2008 8:03 pm

    Tim Keller on “Jekyll and Hyde” is more superb on his 2 sermons from Romans 7 – you can buy it here: http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=18227

  2. April 13, 2008 1:09 pm

    Great piece brother! Great connections between social and spiritual adoption and fatherhood. Thank you for stirring my soul to delight further in the goodness of the gospel!

  3. April 13, 2008 2:24 pm

    I wondered what you might think about it and the follow up piece. Glad to hear you approve!

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