What Does It Mean to Be a Christian? The Adopted Children of God?

May 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

Second Mile Logo without nameTwo young brothers were being registered for Sunday School  by the superintendent. Upon asking for their birthdays one of the boys responded, “We’re both seven. My birthday is April 8, 1976, and my brother’s is April 20, 1976.” 

But that’s not possible!” said the superintendent. “Yes it is,” answered the other little boy. “One of us is adopted.”

“Which one?” the superintendent blurted out before thinking. 

The two boys looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders. Finally, one of them answered, “We asked mom and dad a long time ago, but they said they loved us both so much they couldn’t remember any more which was adopted.” 

The Apostle Paul wrote in Roman 8:12-18 about our adoption by God: 

“So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if you put to death the actions of the body with the Spirit, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him. I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (CEB). 

It’s wonderful to think about what it means to be an adopted child of God. We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We inherit the kingdom of God! PTL. But wait. Paul went on to explain this is true “if we really suffer with him.”  

I hear preachers on television often expounding on the benefits of being a child of God. I seldom (read: pretty much never) hear them mention the cost of discipleship. Paul never hid the cost. Neither did Jesus. He repeatedly made it clear his followers would pay a price for their loyalty to Him. 

Jesus said, “Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This is a theme he repeated many times. He went on to say, “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. . .  Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him?. . .In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple” (Luke 14:27-33 CEB). Jesus warned would-be followers to count the cost because Christian discipleship can indeed be costly.  

The good news is that the rewards of discipleship is worth the investment. Not only is “the present suffering nothing compared to the coming glory” as Paul states in Romans 8:18, but our lives are richer and more fulfilled while we await the coming glory.  

There is an old story about Alexander the Great that serves to illustrate our role as Christians. After each battle Alexander would hold a tribunal and reward or punish those who had performed well or poorly in battle. One day a young man was brought before him who was charge with cowardice.  At first Alexander seemed to show some compassion for the very young soldier. The great king asked the frightened man’s name.   

“Alexander,” he replied.     “What did you say?    

“My name is Alexander.” 

At this Alexander the Great sprang from his seat, grabbed the young man and threw him to the floor. He shouted, “Either change your actions or change your name!”  Many call themselves Christians. However, the scripture is clear that we should only take that name if we are serious about following Jesus in obedient discipleship. 

QUESTION: Have you counted the cost of discipleship? Are you following Christ and discoving

Dr. Gary Thompson

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I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I write adult curriculum for the United Methodist Church and have been doing so for over 10 years. My passion is helping the Christian Church more effectively fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and to help individuals identify and fulfill their God-given personal mission.

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