Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gift 1: Relationship with God

Way back in this post, I posited a theory about how the Ten Commandments correspond to ten gifts God wants us all to enjoy. Here is what I said:

What are the gifts God wants us to have? Here is what the Ten Commandments suggest: (1) the gift of having God as our heavenly Father; (2) the gift of knowing God the Son, the Word made flesh: Jesus Christ; (3) the gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through Word and Sacrament; (4) the gift of a nurturing family and a stable society; (5) the gift of bodily health and life; (6) the gift of a faithful husband or wife; (7) the gift of every material thing we need in life; (8) the gift of a good reputation; (9) the gift of justice and legal rights; (10) the gift of vocation: the relationships and situations where each of us belongs.

Where do I get off making a list like this? Is it just my idea that all these things are gifts God wants to give us, or is there a biblical case for it?

Well, I think the Ten Commandments themselves make a pretty good case, but let's play fair and answer the glaring question: Does the Bible teach that all of these are gifts that God gives to us? Or do we get these things for ourselves?

Gift #1: Relationship with God. Many people, even some who think they have the Bible on their side, will tell you that their "relationship with God" results, at least partly, from a choice or decision they made as sovereign individuals. Maybe God did something, but they met Him partway; it is, as it were, a friendship or alliance between equals. Scripture speaks differently. Those who have a favorable standing with God know Him as their Father. He becomes our Father, and we become His heirs, by adoption - an act of His will, His choice. No orphan can say to an adult, "I have decided to adopt you as my father, so I will be your heir." Rather, the adoptive father chooses the child and carries out a precise legal process to make the child his heir. In God's case, that process involved the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.

See, for example, John 1:12-13 - "But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Again, Ephesians 1:4-5 says that God the Father "chose us in Him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." And again, 1 Peter 1:3-4 says that God the Father "according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." Or how about Romans 8:15-17, "you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ."

When and how does this adoption take place? Consider Titus 3:5-7 - "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." In John 3:3,7 Jesus says one must be "born again," that is, "born of water and the spirit," in order to see or enter into the Kingdom of God. And 1 Peter 1:23 says "you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God." On the cross God paid the price for our adoption as sons (i.e., heirs of His kingdom - and that includes the gals; how do you like that? Female sons!). Through "water and the word" (Ephesians 5:26) - baptism and the gospel of Christ - God brings each of us personally into the relationship Jesus' death made possible. God forgives us, justifies us (declares us righteous), sanctifies and cleanses us (again see Ephesians 5:26), all for Jesus' sake, all through baptism and His Word. It is all His doing. It is all His gift!

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