One of the questions I am frequently asked is “what can we do to solve the global orphan crisis?” My answer to that question used to be long and involved. Now it’s simple: give priority to the “Who” question (Who is the Trinity? Who is Jesus? Who is the Spirit of adoption? etc) over the “What” question.
In addressing the great problems of his day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued that priority must be given to the “Who” question. Bonhoeffer knew that if we give priority to the “What” question over the “Who” question, our tendency will be to think primarily in pragmatic terms (i.e., what works) and, as a result, limit ourselves to superficial solutions and endanger the sustainability of our efforts.
The “Who” question is eternal while the “What” question is temporal. Our world’s orphan crisis had a beginning. The Trinity does not. The global orphan crisis will one day come to an end. Jesus will not. We will always be asking the “Who” question. That’s not the case with the “What” question. In addition, the eternal God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has in Himself the solutions to every human crisis. Since our Triune God is Himself the solution, we will find ourselves moving toward a solution as we answer the “Who” question.
Giving priority to the “Who” question, though, does not mean that we care less about the “What” question. It simply means that the “What” question should always flow out of and never move away from who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Only when we give priority to the “Who” question will we find that we are moving toward a genuine solution with sustainable efforts.
Open to all Summit attendees – To attend this seminar, add this event when you register for the Summit.
Time: Wednesday, May 11th, 1:00pm – 4:30pm
Price: $15.00 (includes copy of Reclaiming Adoption)
Speakers: Dan Cruver, Together for Adoption; Jason Kovacs, ABBA Fund
Join us as we go deeper into God’s story of adoption. God’s work of adoption is a story that encompasses all of human history, from its pre-temporal beginnings when God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to the eventual renewal of the heavens and the earth. From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, adoption is the story that makes sense of the universe, that gives our lives and the existence of all creation ultimate meaning. This half-day pre-Summit event will provide in-depth training in the theology of adoption and its implications for daily Christian living and the care of orphans. Please join us as we consider how to live bolder, more intentional lives for the glory of God and for the sake of orphans through the rediscovery, the daily fresh discovery, of God’s extravagant love for us.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s soaked with gospel encouragement, and is a great primer on the doctrine of adoption and its implications for the life of the follower of Christ.
One of my favorite scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the book not the movie) takes place in the land of Rivendell before Frodo and Sam continue their dangerous journey to the fires of Mount Doom in order to destroy the ring. Tolkien writes:
Such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song (The Fellowship of the Ring, 287).
Every time I read those words I’m reminded of what God has given us in Christ. The good news of our adoption through Jesus Christ is of such a quality that the past, present, or imagined future, “good or ill, are not forgotten, but cease to have any power over the present.” We could write pages of application on this. If we are prone to worry about tomorrow, fear people or circumstances, or be paralyzed by regret or plagued by guilt, we need to hear afresh the good news of our adoption. Only the good news of what God has done for us in Christ can free us to be “content with each day as it [comes], taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
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.
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