“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16
The spirit of adoption is such a beautiful aspect of the Gospel message. I’ve always loved the words ‘Abba Father’ in this passage because they just sound so deep and intimate. Growing up I loved being called daddy’s little girl. There’s something special about that relationship between a father and daughter that has always captured my attention.
Though sometimes I didn’t play that part of daddy’s little girl very well. As a teenager especially, I felt the need to test the boundaries and always prove that I was right. One night I remember us getting into a really intense fight. Of course I can’t even remember now what the fight was over, but there were a few slammed doors and a lot of words we didn’t mean. It was a fight that wasn’t going to be resolved quickly, and though it is not good to go to bed angry, we needed to be away from each other for a time to cool off and just sleep on it. In the morning I woke up and I didn’t feel good about the way I treated my father, but I wasn’t ready yet to say I was sorry just yet. My dad on the other hand was desperate for reconciliation. So I woke up to a card with this picture on the front:
Inside was a heartfelt note from a father desperate to connect with his daughter. My dad didn’t care about how much I had hurt him; he wanted to make sure I knew how much he loved me. No matter how we treated each other, at the end of the day I would always be his daughter, the baby girl he wouldn’t take his eye off of at the hospital February 2nd.
My dad’s love was a reflection of how much our Heavenly Father loves us. Our earthly fathers can’t always show us this kind of love, because of course they are only human, but we have the opportunity to receive the purest most beautiful love from our Heavenly Father everyday. He makes the sun to shine on our best days and our worst days.
No matter how much we mess up, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, He sees us as His precious daughters. So how do we live that out? We didn’t choose to be daughters necessarily. Christ chose us. Our opportunity to be daughters, which is a gift, is something we can fully receive from our Heavenly Father, but there is also another alternative. Instead of living like daughters, we can choose to live as orphans and deny the gift that Christ has given us.
Our small group has been going through a study called The Gospel Centered Life, and it brought this concept alive through a passage in 2 Peter. It begins declaring,
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3
God has given us the tools that we need to live a life that is pleasing to him; a life as a true daughter of the king. However, we don’t always get it. Sometimes we don’t look very much like our Father, and the passage continues the with an explanation,
“But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed form their old sins.” 2 Peter 1:9
When we forget our identity in Christ, it means we have lost sight of what He has done for us. Instead of feeling empowered to live the life we are called to, we get bogged down and feel unworthy and guilty of our sin. Now, in no way should we downplay our sin and the things in our life that are not pleasing to God, but the moment we allow our sin to get in the way of our relationship with God we are taking on an orphan mindset.
Living as an orphan means we are closed off to the world. We are anxious about our lives rather than living in a deep dependence on our Father. As orphans we feel this need to prove who we are by what we do and how much we achieve, but as daughters we already know our identity is in God, He accepts us, loves us and embraces us for who we are.
In our study there were two columns one characterizes the feelings and attitudes of the orphan, and the other outlining the same for the son/daughter. I was struck by the list because I realized that some of the struggles I have been having since moving to Zambia were feelings and ideas that were stuck in an orphan mindset. Part of it may have been the actual fact of saying goodbye to our parents, home, and friends, but the other part went deeper.
Our sad face selfie saying goodbye to our first apartment.
Family photos at the airport…
…to prove that we aren’t actually orphans
As an orphan, I was trying to make a way for myself here. I felt a desperate need to find a job, impress my employer, make lots of friends, and fit in with the culture. I often get stuck in an attitude of always doing as an orphan, but God is calling me to just be, as his daughter in whom he is well pleased. I will never be able to do enough, so why do I get so caught up in striving?
The article in The Gospel-Centered Life replies,
“Rather than resting in God’s fatherly love, we try and gain his favor by living up to his expectations (or our mistaken view of them). We live life on a treadmill, trying to be ‘good Christians’ so God will approve of us”
But God already approves of us through the work of His son on the cross. When we act like orphans, always striving, we make small what Jesus did for us, like it’s not enough. We must allow ourselves to continually come face to face with the Gospel. The Gospel that first brought us to faith and our adoption into the family of God is the same Gospel that proclaims our daughter and son-ship everyday. May we be daughters that cry out ‘Abba Father,’ and proclaim the power of the Gospel in every area of our lives.