(It’s about time I posted. And this is long. But I think you will like it.)
I love how kids are unafraid to ask the simplest questions of life that adults are sometimes too proud or too “smart” to ask. In the CEC (Children’s Equipping Center), as I was teaching a class on the Apostolic prayers in the New Testament, a seven-year-old boy named Spencer raised his hand and asked the question, “Uh, why do we pray?” I sought to answer that question in the class this Friday morning. I started by drawing a simple diagram on the board.
Because the Church (those people circled in the diagram: sealed with Holy Spirit, or “HS” [Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:22], and chosen to inherit the Kingdom [Mt. 25:34, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:21, James 2:5, Rev. 21:7]) lives in this present evil age, “saved in hope” for the Messianic age (Gal. 1:3-5, Titus 2:12-13, Rom. 8:24-25), as wheat among the tares (Mt. 13:36-43, 1 Pet. 2:12ff), it conducts itself as a sojourning nation (1 Pet. 2:9-12), waiting, praying for, and preparing for the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom (Mt. 6:10, Luke 18:1-8, 1 Pet. 1:13, 1 Cor. 1:7, Phil. 3:20-21, 1 Thess. 1:9-10, Titus 2:13, James 5:7-10, Jude 20-21, Rev. 19:7). The tool that keeps us in this posture of repentant faith, so that we may inherit the promises of the age to come (Heb. 10:36-11:6), is the power, or grace, of God. As 1 Pet. 1:4-5 says, “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power (grace) of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
The grace of God through the Holy Spirit is given to the Church to strengthen us not only in our sojourning, but also in our witness (Acts 1:8) of God’s absolute sovereignty over the Heavens and the Earth. His absolute sovereignty is expressed presently in amnestic patience toward the wicked (Luke 6:35-36, Rom. 2:4ff) and subsequently in recompense when the Day of the Lord is executed at the hands of the Messiah (Mt. 16:27, Rom. 2:4ff, 2 Thess. 1:4-10, Rev. 22:12). The Holy Spirit is given as a “gift” (Acts 1:4) and a “helper” (Jn. 14:16), that the Church might remain faithful and perseverant in her calling.
I then gave two mental pictures of our relationship to the Lord according to the Bible:
1. A Betrothed Bride
“…for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” -2 Cor. 11:2
As I was teaching the kids the basic contours of this age and the age to come and how we need the power of God to prepare us for that Day, the picture of an engagement ring came to mind. I’ve seen three of my sisters get engaged and then married. Watching the daily emotions and preparations that go into that transition is truly exciting. For a betrothed bride, or fiancée, her role is simply to keep herself in love (see Jude 21). The ring says it’s going to happen, but she just has to wait and get ready. What a tragedy it would be for a bride to get to her wedding day ill-acquainted with and indifferent to her groom as everyone realizes that she had spent her whole engagement period flirting with other men, totally unconcerned with this most important day of her life. As a betrothed bride, we should get up everyday, look at our finger, and concern ourselves with the most important day of our lives. The Holy Spirit is our pledge (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:14), our “ring”, so to speak, who daily reminds us of our Bridegroom’s faithfulness as He pours out His love within our hearts (Rom. 5:5-11), glorifying Jesus by reminding us of His words (Jn. 14:26, 16:13-14), so that on that day, “His bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). The metaphor of “bride” is chosen in Rev. 22:17 to describe the Spirit’s preparative work in producing longing love for the Bridegroom in the Church—”The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come’ “. In this engagement period, “when the Bridegroom is taken away” (Mt. 9:15), perseverant longing is required (“Maranatha” of 1 Cor. 16:22-23). If we don’t order our life in this way, everything, even legitimate things, will choke out the remembrance of the words of our Beloved (his “love letters”) and distract us from the simplicity of devotion to Him (Mt. 13:18-23, 2 Cor. 11:2-3).
2. A Placed Orphan
“You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God… having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved…” -Rom. 8:15-24
According to Romans 8:23, “we wait for our adoption, the redemption (or resurrection) of our bodies”. Though the Bible emphatically declares, “Beloved, NOW we are children of God” (1 Jn. 3:1-2) and the Spirit testifies to this (Rom. 8:16), there seems to be at times an ambiguous distinction between our present calling and its future realization. Like the picture of an engagement unto a wedding, there is a process in adoption. I gave this analogy to the kids to help solidify the often etherealized function of “the Spirit of Adoption”. My sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and Marcus Meier, are in the process adopting eight-year-old twin girls from Ethiopia. On March 31st, the girls will legally be theirs. They would have had to fly out to Ethiopia to do that legal transaction, but thankfully they don’t have to anymore (Regardless, what a picture that is of the First Coming of Jesus! I’m getting ahead of myself…). Even though they will legally have the girls on the 31st, they won’t be able to fly over to Ethiopia (Second Coming in the clouds!) to get the girls and actually “have them” for another four to six weeks because of legal processing. So, there is this period of waiting and preparing (“already/not yet”).
For a moment, imagine the excitement of these two girls. They are getting adopted! They found out someone wants them, and they have a new family. They may be thinking things like, “Wow, they are Americans, so I will become an American. I want to live like an American now. I wonder what my new parents like to do, what food they like to eat, what their house looks like. What will my bedroom look like?” Now imagine this: upon Marcus and Rachel’s first visit for the legal transfer, they give these twins a telephone so that the girls can talk to them during the waiting period. The girls are tired of the loneliness of orphanhood. They want to live in the family now. They like their new parents and they want to talk to their new family everyday.
Marcus and Rachel then call the girls on the phone and tell them, “We are so excited to welcome you into our home! We have your room ready. You are going to have a sweet bunk bed. We painted it for you. We’re going to give you this and this and this…” The girls express their gratitude and even call Rachel “Mom” and Marcus “Dad”. Then they ask questions about the family. Marcus replies, “Well, Isaiah, Zion, Rees, Hudson, they are all so excited too. Now, in our home, the family loves each other and shares with each other. Love and sharing in the home is something that’s rewarded. You can get ready by practicing sharing with each other, because those are the laws of this home. I know you may not be rewarded for those things in the Ethiopian orphanage, but you will here. You can get ready now so that it will be a smooth transition and entrance into our home. And if you show long-suffering love towards one another now, we will give you special privileges in the home, just like Isaiah has.” The girls resolve to share with each other right there on the phone and then end the conversation asking their new parents to come to Ethiopia soon. They repeat the conversation each day as anxious expectation grows for their new home and new family.
According to Romans 8:13-25, The Holy Spirit (“of Adoption”) presently works four things in us. He:
1. Orders our life to imitate our new Father; we are now under obligation to live according to Him [vs. 13] and follow His lead [vs. 14].
2. Testifies with our spirits to the acceptance of our new Father by crying out, “Abba! Father!” [vs. 15-16] He pours out the love of the God in our hearts, testifying to the present peace and reconciliation we have with the Father [5:1-11].
3. Testifies to the implications of our sonship, the future glory of being revealed as a co-heir with Christ on a restored earth [vs. 17-22].
4. Produces a groaning longing for that day of our adoption [vs. 23-25], when we get to be with Him, see Him, and freely receive all the things [looking to vs. 32] He’s prepared for us in our “new home”, that is, the restored home of the earth [see climax of Rev. 21:1-7].
Like the imagery of a telephone, the Holy Spirit is dialogical. He is a person. As He fellowships with me and I talk to Him in prayer and worship, I receive grace and strength in my inner man (Eph. 3:16) to persevere in the present age unto the day of my adoption and wedding. The grace that is imparted through the Holy Spirit (“Spirit of grace” Heb. 10:29) is what preserves me unto the Day of Christ (1 Cor. 1:3-9). Therefore, talking with Him and receiving grace from Him is my primary function in this age. This is why I pray.