Are You an Orphan or A Child?
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1
Children imitate their parents. You don’t have to tell them to do it. It just happens. Why? Because they’re the biggest influence in their life. They’re their hero. They’re perfect in their eyes.
But earthly parents fail to live up to the test of time. They disappoint. So we distance ourselves. We orphan ourselves to avoid pain. Many of us even transfer parental disappointment onto God. But that’s not fair. Your father may not have been all he should, but God will never let you down. In fact, if you view God like a more distant version of your earthly parents, you will never imitate him. Why would you? To imitate God, you need to be like a child caught up in the wonder of your Father. And unlike some of our earthly parents, God constantly tells us of his love for us.
Don’t orphan yourself. Accept your childhood. So many of your problems result from forgetting that you are a child of God.
Jack Miller, the Presbyterian pastor, thought a lot about this. He put together a chart to diagnose how we view ourselves in relation to God.
We have it on the screen. On the left, is the mindset of the orphan. On the right, is the mindset of the child of God.
Which describes you?
The Bible calls all Christians “beloved children.” Romans 8:15 says God has given us the Spirit of sonship and by him we cry, “Abba, Father!” When Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to say, “Our Father.” Paul says in Galatians 4 we are children of the promise. John says Jesus gave us the right to be called children of God.
If you’re in Christ, God relates to you not like a king to a servant or a boss to an employee but as a father to a child, with warmth and depth, tenderness and care, attention and intention. You’re not an orphan! You’re a child of God! So, Paul says, be like your Father!
This wasn’t any easier for the apostles than it was for us. So on his way to the cross, Jesus made a promise: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He knew his leaving would trouble his followers. So he assured them they wouldn’t be alone. God would send the Holy Spirit to be and abide with them, to confirm what he taught them, to tell them they were children of God.
What’s true of them is true of us. You, Christian, are a child of God. He’s not just the Father. He’s your Father. And he wants you to understand his massive heart of love for you. He sent Jesus to show it, and he gives his Spirit to seal it. The triune God is at work right now to communicate his love to you!
The Puritan Thomas Goodwin understood this so well. In his book The Heart of Christ, he talked about what Jesus meant in John 16 when he said that whatever the Spirit hears he will speak.
“All his speech in your hearts will be to advance me, and to greaten my worth and love unto you, and it will be his delight to do it. And he can come from heaven in an instant when he will, and bring you fresh tidings of my mind, and tell you the thoughts I last had of you, even at that very minute when I am thinking of them…So that you shall have my heart as surely and as speedily as if I were with you.”
In other words, those moments when you believe the word of God, when you feel loved by him, those moments are not just coincidental, they are not merely emotional. Those moments when you think, “my Father loves me,” are the precise moments when your Father is thinking of you, and he’s communicating his love to your heart by his Spirit who dwells within you.
So if you believe God’s love for you right now it’s not because I’m telling you it’s true, it’s because he’s telling you it’s true!
And when you listen and believe, you then have a responsibility to those of us who feel like orphans. You must imitate God and walk in love toward us, showing us what it’s like to be a child of God, reminding us of the honor, helping us see our Father in new ways, with new eyes. That’s what Paul means in 4:29 when he says we must speak so as to build one another up, that it may give grace to those who hear. We’re family, and we need one other’s faith to build faith.
Be imitators of God, as beloved children.