Are We Adopted for Us or for God?

NewSpring Church | Anderson, South Carolina

There are some very precious and powerful parallels between my adopting my daughter, Talitha, 23 years ago and God’s adopting me 66 years ago. And there are some stunning non-parallels.

  1. She calls me Daddy, and I love it when she does, even at age 23 (which she turns on Thursday), and I can call my heavenly Father Abba, Daddy, and he loves it when I do.

  2. Talitha bears my name. She is Talitha Ruth Piper. And I bear God’s name, because Christ is God, and I am a Christian.

  3. I disciplined Talitha in love for her good. I spanked her — not as often as I spanked my four sons — but enough that she remembers. And God has spanked me. In fact, I believe that under God’s total sovereignty over my life as his child, every hardship, every sickness, every setback, every discouragement, every sorrow, every loss is a merciful, kind, wise, loving spanking from my heavenly Father, designed for my everlasting joy.

  4. I have provided for Talitha all the way through college, and I still try to help her out as an adult when she needs it. And God has provided for my every need that I’ve ever had without fail. Not every “want,” but every need. Because that’s promised. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19)

And that list could go on for a long time — parallels between my adopting her and God adopting me.

Adopted with a Difference

But what I want to talk about mainly is perhaps the most important non-parallel between my adopting Talitha and God’s adopting me. What is it about God’s adopting us that is vastly — one could say infinitely — non-parallel, different, from even the best human adoptions? There are many differences, but I want to focus only on one.

So I’ll tell you what it is. And then I’ll try to show you from the Bible — which is my only authority — why I believe it’s true. And then I’ll try to show you that it is good, because many people do not think what I’m about to tell you about your adoption by God is good news. And I have come to NewSpring to try to show you, and persuade you, that this non-parallel between Talitha’s adoption by me and your adoption by God is good — that we should be glad, really glad, that God adopts us differently than we adopt our children.

Make Much of Him

I did not adopt Talitha with the ultimate aim that she would spend her life — let alone her eternal life — making much of me. But God did adopt me with the ultimate aim for me that I would spend my life, now and forever, making much of him. That’s one of the massive non-parallels between human adoption and divine adoption — between being brought into God’s family and being brought into a human family.

God brings us into his family by adoption through Jesus Christ with the ultimate aim that he would be our supreme Treasure, and that we would spend all our life forever magnifying the greatness and beauty and worth of that Treasure. No human father does this, unless he is a deranged egomaniac.

Is God Demonic?

If I had adopted Talitha with the ultimate aim that she spend her life treasuring me above everyone, magnifying me, praising me, I would be acting like the devil incarnate. That is what the devil asked Jesus to do in Matthew 4:9: “Fall down and worship me.” If I adopted Talitha so that her ultimate goal in life would be to worship me, honor me, treasure me, above all, I would be demonic.

“God brings us into his family with the ultimate aim that he would be our supreme Treasure.”

So, why isn’t God demonic? Why isn’t he a deranged egomaniac? Because that is exactly what he did in adopting me. God’s ultimate goal in adopting his children is that they spend all their days and all their dreams and all their strength making much of him.

Let me show you three places in the Bible where the Father tells us that this is his aim for his family — that we live to make much of him as our Father.

Hallowed Be His Name

“Pray then like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9–13)

Jesus is teaching us how to pray to our Father. Not to God in general, but to our Father. I used to read the Lord’s Prayer as if the first three statements were acclamations or praises, not requests, and that the next four statements were requests. So I was thinking something like this as I prayed:

I praise you, Father, that your name is hallowed. I praise you that your kingdom is coming. I praise you that your will is going to be done on earth as in heaven. And now, Father, I have four requests: please give me my daily bread, and forgive my sins, and don’t let me fall into any temptation that would destroy me, and deliver me from evil.

Petitions, Not Praises

That’s not right. They are all requests: seven requests or petitions, not four petitions and three praises. We are asking our Father to do seven things, not four. And my point is that the first request — the first thing we are asking our Father to do — is the supreme, overarching, ultimate end and goal of the other six — indeed, the goal of why he became our Father.

  1. Father, cause your kingdom to come because, when everybody is gladly bowing to your kingly authority, the central act of every human soul in that kingdom is going to be the hallowing of your name above all things.

  2. Subdue all rebellion and bring every human will on earth into submission to your will, the very center of which is the glad exaltation of your holy name.

  3. Grant me enough food so that I have life and breath to hallow your name.

  4. Forgive my sins so that I’m not swept away in condemnation and spend the rest of eternity blaspheming your name instead of hallowing your name.

  5. Keep me out of destructive temptation that would so ruin my soul that I would have no inclination to hallow your name.

  6. Guard me from the evil one who wants more than anything that I would live for my name and so bring me to ruin.

Jesus is teaching us how to pray to our Father. He is teaching us that the Father-heart of God for us is first and foremost and ultimately and all-inclusively that we hallow his name. That is the ultimate goal of why he became our Father, and what it means to have him as our Father. And Jesus is telling us to ask him to help us do it.

Honor with the Heart

So what does hallow mean? The word is literally sanctify or treat as holy. Ask God to cause you to sanctify his name. Ask him to cause you to regard his name as holy. And what does that mean? To regard him as holy means to regard him — to see him — as sacred, revered, esteemed, honored, valued, cherished, treasured. Above all. That we would not just regard him that way, but that we would experience him that way, and from our hearts spend our lives making much of him forever as sacred, revered, esteemed, honored, valued, cherished, treasured.

Hallowing the Father’s name like this is not an outward activity of the body, like bowing down, or lifting the hands, or folding them, or talking, or singing. All of those may result from hallowing. But hallowing is an act of the heart. The heart hallows suitably when the heart treasures supremely. Honoring God as supremely great, beautiful, valuable, in a class by himself — that is, holy — is first an act of the heart before it is an act of the hands. Jesus said, “This people honors me [hallows me] with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). He was not happy with them when he said that.

God’s Ultimate Goal

So here’s my conclusion from the Lord’s Prayer. God’s ultimate goal for us as our Father — the goal for which all his other blessings exist — is that we would revere and honor and esteem and value and treasure (hallow!) him — his name — above all things. That is the ultimate aim of our adoption. I did not adopt Talitha for the hallowing of my name. But God did.

I said there were three texts I would show you. If I spend that long on each one, there won’t be time for the application I really want to give you. So let me just point you to the other two briefly.

Serve to Sanctify God’s Name

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

God has adopted you — if you are in Christ Jesus — so that you would devote yourself to good deeds among men so that they, with you, would glorify your Father. That is, God saved us and gave us his Holy Spirit to transform us so that we would, by his power, serve other people in such a way as to make our Father look great. That is the ultimate reason God adopted us.

Welcome Home to Worship

In John 4:23, Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at the well and says,

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

God the Father has sent Jesus, his divine Son, into the world to create a new family and gather worshipers for the Father. The Father gathers them by redeeming them through Jesus and adopting them into his family. This is intended to be an everlasting, worshiping family.

And unlike the Piper family, the children are expected to worship the Father supremely above all things. I do not expect nor desire nor allow that my children worship me. But God does expect it, does desire it, and not only allows it but requires it and enables it. God is seeking worshipers. That’s why he is creating a family.

So, in summary, the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 5:16, John 4:23, and many other texts in the Bible show us that the great non-parallel between my adoption of Talitha and God’s adoption of me — and his adoption of you (if you are in Christ Jesus) — is that God adopts us with the ultimate aim that we would spend eternity making much of him — hallowing his name, honoring, esteeming, glorifying, worshiping, magnifying, treasuring, exalting — his infinite greatness and beauty and worth. That is ultimately why he has formed a family for himself.

For Your Good

Now what I have found in my 45 years of ministry is that there are a lot of Christians who don’t like this. It doesn’t sit well with them that our Father has brought us into his family for his own name’s sake. That he is forming a family to make himself central and supreme. That the Father has gone to such great lengths in making us his children so that the ultimate end would be the hallowing of his name, and the glorifying of his greatness, and the worshiping of his perfections.

“If you try to choose between God’s glory and your gladness, both will vanish forever.”

It seems to a lot of people that this is more like a deranged egomaniac than like a caring heavenly Father who meets all our needs and lets us call him Daddy.

So my aim now is to try to persuade you that having a Father like this — who exalts himself at the center of his family for our hallowing and our glorifying and our worshiping and our making much of him above all things — having a Father like that is the best gift that God could ever give us, or even conceive of giving us. Putting himself at the center, and summoning us to make much of him forever, is the best gift he could give us. Why is that?

Your Happiness Glorifies God

Let me point to the answer with a text and then tell you a story to show you from real life what you already know to be true. In Psalm 5:11 the psalmist says to God,

Those who love your name may exult in you.

In other words, those who cherish and esteem and hallow and revere and treasure — love! — your name exult in you, delight in you, rejoice in you, take pleasure in you, find satisfaction in you. There’s the all-important connection. Love for the Father’s name, joy in the Father’s person. Admiration for the name, exultation in the person. They are inseparable.

Our joy in the Father is the way we experience the worth and beauty and greatness of the Father. Being satisfied in the Father makes much of the Father. The Father is most glorified in his children when the children are most satisfied in their Father. The Father’s name is hallowed in his children when the children’s hearts are happy in their Father, especially in times of suffering and loss.

Joyless Duty

Here’s the story. This Thursday is Talitha’s birthday. Suppose I go to my favorite little florist down on Chicago Avenue and buy 23 long-stem red roses. At just the right moment after dinner, I bring them out and give them to her and say, “Happy birthday, Talitha, from your Daddy.” I’ve never done that. So she will be surprised.

She may say, “Wow, why did you do that?” And suppose I say, “I did it because it was my duty. Actually I didn’t want to spend this much, but I know that dads, especially adoptive dads, are supposed to do special things on special occasions. And so I thought I better do it because otherwise I might have a guilty conscience.”

Everybody knows intuitively that’s a bad answer. Why? What’s wrong with duty? What’s wrong with sacrifice? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: Joyless duty in buying my daughter flowers does not make much of her. And she knows it! What would honor her, and hallow her name, and make much of her in that moment is if I said, “I did it because it makes me happy to just be with you on your birthday and show it with something special.”

You know this: Finding joy in another person honors that person. Being glad in another person’s presence glorifies the person’s worth. Enjoying a person is a form of esteem for them. Being satisfied in someone’s person magnifies their significance.

That’s the way it is with our Father in heaven. These are all just shadows and echoes of how we make much of God, glorify God, hallow God’s name, magnify God’s worth.

Glory Through Gladness

Here is one of the most important, life-altering, soul-satisfying truths I have ever discovered: Our Father’s name is most hallowed in us when we are most happy in him, especially in seasons of suffering and loss. Our Father is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

“Your Father never ceases to be all-satisfying in his greatness and beauty and worth.”

When God adopts us into his family in Christ and makes it his ultimate goal that his greatness and his beauty and his worth are central and supreme in this family, he is not a deranged egomaniac. He is providing for us the one Reality in all the universe that will make us glad forever. He is putting at the center of the family (and the universe!) an all-satisfying treasure (Matthew 13:44) for our everlasting pleasure (Psalm 16:11).

Our Father in heaven seeks the hallowing of his name, because that hallowing happens through our being happy in him above all else. If you find your Father ho-hum, you can’t hallow his name. Our Father seeks the glorifying of his greatness, because it happens through our gladness in him. Our Father seeks our praise because its essence is our pleasure in him. God is the one being in the universe — and the only Father — for whom self-exaltation is love.

The ultimate aim of your adoption into God’s family through faith in Christ is his glory through your gladness — a gladness in him that is so soul-satisfying that when suffering comes it cannot be destroyed. Because God is still God. He is still your Father. Not one sparrow “will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30). Come what may — cancer, floods, police shootings — your Father never ceases to be all-satisfying in his greatness and beauty and worth.

Joy Makes All the Difference

I want to close with three implications for your life.

New Treasure

There are two descriptions in the Bible of how sinners become the children of God. One is by adoption with all the legal papers signed in blood by Jesus Christ. The other is new birth performed by the Holy Spirit. Every child of God has experienced both, not just one.

And the reason new birth is essential along with adoption is that the mark of being a child of God is not just a legal standing in his family but a new spiritual DNA — a new family resemblance. The children of God have new loves, new desires, new passions. We do not just have a new legal Father; we have a new love — a new treasure; namely, God himself, glorified in our gladness in him. This only happens by new birth.

You Don’t Have to Choose

You need never to struggle with the question that tormented me in college: Must I choose between a passionate pursuit of the glory of my Father in heaven and a passionate pursuit of my full and everlasting joy? You need not, indeed you dare not, choose between those two options.

Why? Because we have seen that the ultimate goal of your adoption is the glory of your Father in the gladness of your soul in your Father. Your Father is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. If you try to choose between his glory and your gladness, both will vanish forever.

Your Highest Aim

Finally, the central pursuit and passion of the rest of your life should be a pursuit and passion to find supreme satisfaction in your heavenly Father above everything else and everyone else in this world.

We have been adopted into God’s everlasting family through Jesus Christ for the ultimate purpose of making much of our Father — hallowing his name, glorifying his greatness, worshiping his beauty — and now we have seen that happens through our being more satisfied in him than in anything else. Therefore, for the glory of your Father, find more gladness in him than anything. Make that the central passion of the rest of your life.