A personal confession: I have found that I cannot deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24) without the gospel. It’s not a “cannot” like “I cannot eat ice cream because I’m on a diet.” No, it is more like “I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound.” It’s an impossible cannot, not a voluntary, self-imposed cannot. Without the gospel, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus for his sake and for the good of others are an impossibility for me. The longer I live the more I realize that self-centeredness and pride run deep in me. They are not like travelers who occasionally reserve a room in my heart as if it were a hotel. No, they want to own my heart as if it were their permanent home.
“So,” you ask, “what’s this have to do with orphan care and adoption?” Home owners like self-centeredness and pride don’t care much for orphaned and vulnerable children. Sure, when self-centeredness and pride take up residence in our hearts, we may do the externals of caring for orphans, but we ultimately do so in order that we may make much of ourselves, in order that we may feel good about our religiosity. As I wrote in Reclaiming Adoption, “hardly a day goes by that we are not tempted merely to go on ‘mission’ with the Father externally, doing what we are ‘supposed’ to do, without being on mission with him internally. Like the prodigal sons in Luke 15, we are daily tempted to exchange the love of the Father for the things of the Father” (p. 19). To borrow wording from The Lord of the Rings, “caring for orphans” can be a dangerous business when we don’t deny ourselves daily.
What I have been learning over the last several years is that I desperately need a Savior who not only saves me once and for all time from the wrath of God, but who also rescues me daily from my own inability to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow him. Yes, I’m a follower of Christ, but I too often fail to deny myself. And yes, I am slightly encouraged by the fact that I’m not alone in this struggle. Even Jesus’ original disciples failed to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him (Mark 8:34) when it mattered most (Mark 14:50). However, I need much more than that kind of encouragement. I need saving, and I need it daily.
So what kind of daily encouragement do I need? Gospel encouragement. The good (think “amazing!”) news about Jesus’ command to deny ourselves and take up our crosses is that Jesus is not only the Lord of his commands (we must do what he says), he’s also their Servant (he actually fulfills them in our place and on our behalf). Here is what this means: Since Jesus is both fully God and fully man in one Person, he is at the same time God’s Word to man and man’s believing and obedient response to that Word. “As the God-man . . . Jesus become my obedience, my faith, my prayer, my love to the Father . . . He took up my cross, abandoned all, and ‘became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8), and he did this for me, in my place. Not only did Jesus do for me what I cannot do for myself, he also did for his twelve disciples what they could not do for themselves, namely, offer the Father radical obedience” (Reclaiming Adoption, p. 47). In other words, Jesus is not just the Lord of his commands, he’s also their Servant.
Jesus’ believing and obedient response in our place and on our behalf actually frees and enables us to respond in him. Our daily work, then, to deny ourselves for God’s sake and for the good of others is to set our minds on who Jesus is and what he has already done for us. The gospel-knowledge that Jesus is both Lord and Servant of his own commands stirs us up to self-denying love and good works.
My gospel confession: I may be terribly lousy at denying myself, but my Savior sure wasn’t . . . and he wasn’t for me. Now that’s the kind of daily encouragement I need.
“The Son of God descending [to earth] became what we are, a man for all men and women. He passed through the earth to gather his lost and mortally wounded children. Through the sewers of human sin he strode, picking us up, we who were bound for the grave, and carrying us on his back. He walked upstream against the flood of the filthy waters of our defiance and corruption. Jesus brought us through death and into the place of healing and communion. He passed through the veil and into the Father’s presence, in our name and on our behalf. He came to us as the representative of God’s intentions of love toward us. He returned to his Father, bearing us in his heart, having taken our sins onto his back on the cross, and thus representing us to God. The ascension [of Jesus] brings our humanity out of the sewers of sin and into the Father’s house, the place of union and communion” (emphasis mine; Gerrit Scott Dawson, Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation, 119).
Fred Sanders, author of The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Crossway), had this to say about Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father:
A revival, is happening right now in evangelical theology…..it looks like it may have the momentum to reinvigorate evangelical systematic theology….The most promising sign I’ve seen so far is the new book Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. This is a short (just over 100 pages), readable, popular-level introduction to the theology of adoption, and it is perfectly positioned at the intersection of the practical, the spiritual, and the doctrinal. It’s published by the innovative little publisher Cruciform Press….A book like Reclaiming Adoption is carrying out the theological task of catechesis, teaching Christians in mid-mission to think more, and think better, about the gospel they are living in. That is going to pay off in the quiet halls of evangelical theology.
Read Fred’s entire review. One of the reasons I so appreciate his review is that he situates the writing of Reclaiming Adoption within the larger context of church history. Fred’s review not only tells you about Reclaiming Adoption, it also provides a wonderful and brief look at the theology of adoption within the church’s history. As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to read his review.
Head over to Reformissionary to learn how you can win a FREE copy of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “adoption”?
If you’re like me, your mind first goes to adopting a child. Giving a safe home and a loving family is one of the greatest gifts that one can give to a child. Yet, if we read the Scriptures, it’s clear that this term “adoption” carries with it so much more than the (very important) gift of a family to an orphaned child.
That’s because adoption is not only horizontal, but also vertical. Interestingly, though, we’ve not spent a great deal of time articulating the theology behind it. Indeed, over the course of the first 1900 years of Christian history, there are “only six creeds that contain a section on theological adoption” (p. 8).
That’s what inspired Dan Cruver to write Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. In this book, Cruver (along with contributors John Piper, Scotty Smith, Richard D. Phillips and Jason Kovacs) explains what it means to be adopted by God the Father, its implications for orphan care and how it transforms our witness in the world.
Reclaiming Adoption packs a convicting punch. As Cruver unpacks the importance of the doctrine of adoption over his four chapters, he shows readers just how much it impacts everything. To understand the love of God for His people—those He chose to adopt before He even created the universe—completely transforms how we think, live, feel and act.
Desiring God has given me the great privilege of doing a breakout session at its January 31-February 2 conference for pastors. This year’s conference theme is “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” My breakout topic is “Reclaiming Adoption: A Praying Life Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father.” If you are attending The Desiring God Conference for Pastors, join me on Tuesday, February 1, from 3:15 – 4:15 PM.
I am extremely grateful to Desiring God for giving me the opportunity to speak on the good news of our adoption in Christ and its profound implications for a praying life.
Scott Anderson (Executive Director of Desiring God) interviews Tim Keller about his book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. It’s an excellent interview.
Yes, I meant review mirror, not rearview mirror. Each Friday I plan on posting reviews of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. Review Mirror seemed appropriate and just a little catchy. This week’s review is our second from the UK (read the first one).
Dave Bish lives in Exeter, England and leads UCCF’s South West Team (UCCF’s mission is to make disciples of Christ on college and university campuses in the UK). I’ve been a big fan of Dave’s blog (the blue fish project) for years now and am very grateful for his truly kind review. Here are some highlights from his review:
It’s an ‘easy’ read that will provoke and challenge you to rejoice afresh in the glories of the gospel. It’s the fruit of Dan Cruver’s persistent gospel-centredness, which I’ve long benefitted from in his blogging days, and which is now expressed through his Together for Adoption movement. I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Dan when I was in the USA 3 years ago
. . .
His material on Adoption and Union with Christ is simply beautiful. He shows how our Christian life is less to be thought of as imitation of Christ but rather a participation in Christ’s relationship with his Father, through our adoption in the gospel.
Read his entire review. Dave’s review includes a number of key quotations from the book itself.
A heartbreaking and beautiful true-life story that is moving toward a happy ending (or should I say a happy beginning):
Learn more about Adopt Rinah.
*This post was originally published 8 days after the earthquake in Haiti. I believe the thoughts in this post are just as relevant today as they were a year ago.
I’m grateful for the media’s coverage of Haiti’s crisis. It confronts me with graphic images of human suffering. Where I live, life is simple and safe. I have more than enough to eat each day and a comfortable place to sleep each night. Compared to most everybody else in the world, my life is very hobbit-like. For the most part, like Tolkien’s hobbits in Middle-earth, I live among peace-loving, comfort-enjoying people.
One of the great dangers of living where I live is that I can easily adopt a hobbit’s way of thinking: “Well, it’s none of our concern what goes on beyond our borders. Keep your nose out of trouble and no trouble will come to you” (hobbit Ted Sandyman to Sam in The Fellowship of the Ring). In the face of that ongoing temptation, the media’s coverage confronts me daily with Haiti’s ongoing crisis, and for that I am grateful.
But the gospel does what media coverage cannot. It doesn’t merely awaken us to humanity’s need; it moves us out to meet it. We move out to meet the needs of others because God first came down to meet ours.
Long after the media coverage fades, after our nation’s attention has turned to other things, the gospel will still be moving us toward Haiti’s need. Therefore, it is critical that we as believers feast upon the gospel every day. It’s the only thing that will make what goes on beyond the borders of our own little Hobbiton our active concern. The gospel does what media coverage cannot: it mobilizes for long-term engagement.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. The Christian Alliance for Orphans is hosting a special national prayer webinar for the people of Haiti today at 4pm EST. Together for Adoption will be participating and we would love for you to join us if your schedule permits.
There is still time to register (here). It’s easy and free.
Beginning tomorrow, January 12th, Mist Valley Coffee will donate 50% of the profit of all coffee purchased until January 31, 2011 for Help End Local Poverty‘s We Have Not Forgotten campaign (I was just informed you can begin purchasing coffee today!).
On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake pummeled the nation of Haiti. This earthquake is now being described as one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. An estimated 300,000 people lost their lives, 1.5 million people are now homeless, and – according to sources – over 400,000 children were orphaned.
The people of Haiti are strong people who have tremendous resolve, yet they simply can’t rebuild their lives on their own. They need our help … they need your help.
Mist Valley Coffee’s Mission
In response to this tragic disaster, Mist Valley Coffee wants to let the people of Haiti know that We Have Not Forgotten!
Help spread the word!
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