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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Rights and Privileges of Sonship

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but 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. -- Romans 8:15-16 (NIV)

These verses took on a whole new meaning for me this past week. On Wednesday, May 4, I received a notice from the Clerk of the Superior Court of Watauga County informing me that my stepson is now legally my son. As of May 1 (which also happened to be my birthday -- what a great birthday present!), the adoption process that we had begun last August was completed, and the notice I received on Wednesday was a copy of the court order.

Apart from the excitement that I felt from knowing it was finally complete, and the joy that came from knowing that this adoption was something my son had requested, there was a new awareness of a spiritual truth that swept over me.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, chose the metaphor of adoption to describe the relationship that we have to our heavenly Father. Now, that is nothing new to those of us who have grown up in Christian environments. I've known for years that I was "adopted" by God. But I have to admit that I never really thought about all that was meant by that.

I've known people who were adopted. I have a niece and a nephew who both are adopted. And while I've understood it as something special, I didn't fully realize the ramifications. I saw it as parents loving a child enough to take care of them and provide for them, but didn't look at it from the child's perspective. Until now...

Allow me to quote a portion of this Decree of Adoption that I received in the mail:

NOW THEREFORE, it is hereby ordered, adjudged, and decreed by the Court:

(1) That from the date of the entry of this Decree herein, the said minor is declared adopted for life by the petitioner(s) ... and the State Registrar of Vital Records shall make a new birth certificate for said child...;

(2) That the Decree of Adoption effects a complete substitution of families for all legal purposes and establishes the relationship of parent and child, together with all the rights, responsibilities, and duties, between each petitioner and the individual being adopted;

(3) That from the date of this Decree of Adoption, the adoptee is entitled to inherit real and personal property by, through, and from the adoptive parents in accordance with the statues on intestate succession and has the same legal status, including all legal rights and obligations of any kind whatsoever, as a child born the legitimate child of the adoptive parents;

(4) That the Decree of Adoption severs the relationship of parent and child between the individual adopted and that individual's [father]....
Now, in the midst of all that legal language are some really awesome things that I want to point out here and draw some spiritual parallels.

Note that my son will actually receive a new birth certificate that reflects his new name. This is the part that excited me so much in thinking of my relationship to God. Think about it. My son is 13 years old. I have only been in his life since he was 10. He has been my stepson for a little less than two years, and as of the writing of this post, my son for only six days. Yet his birth record will now show my last name! It's as if we are able to go back in time and I actually am his father at his birth. A verse that we recently looked at on this blog seems very fitting here: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" When we place our trust in Christ, God issues us a new birth certificate (in fact, Jesus referred to this in John 3 when he told Nicodemus that we must be "born again").

Secondly, note the establishment of the relationship between me and my son, and the final separation of the relationship between him and his biological father. (The rights of his biological father were terminated over a year ago, but this decree affirms that to an even deeper level.) Specifically, there is a "complete substitution" of my son's position from his former father's family to my family. Before we came to Christ, who was our father? John 8:44 tells us that it was the devil. But once we have been "born again" and adopted into God's family, John 1:12 tells us that we are now children of God. There has been a "complete substitution of families"! Praise God!!

The final element I want to note is that my son now is "entitled to inherit" from me. Now, this is rather comical at this present point in time, because I have very little for him to physically inherit! ;) But the spiritual truth of it is profound. In Christ, we are heirs with Christ to all that the Father has to give.

I'm so grateful for the privilege of adopting my son. But I am even more grateful for the privilege I have of being adopted by God. What an awesome privilege that is!

Until next time,

steve :)

16 comment(s):

Wow, Steve! It really does hit home to think of how great a salvation we have been given! To think that after living for years with one identity, suddenly, with a single decree, you are given a new identity with new rights, privileges and responsibilities. We also have been given a new birth certificate with a new name; namely "in Christ"! Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us!:)

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Sunday, May 07, 2006 11:26:00 PM  

Steve,
My first thought was also that old things have passed away and the new has come. Isn't it true that once legally adopted, your son can never be disinherited? If so, that's a right even biological children don't have. It's nice to know that as adopted children of God, He will never disinherit us! I'm excited for you guys!
Erica :->

By Blogger Erica, at Sunday, May 07, 2006 11:34:00 PM  

First of all, congratulations! I know this is an exciting time for you.

Second, this is a great post. When you get to thinking about all that being a son of God entails, it can really be overwhelming.

Thanks for this blessing.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, May 08, 2006 5:35:00 PM  

Raborn and Erica, thank you both for your comments. Christy and I are so delighted to have you in our lives. We look forward to fellowshiping again together very soon (and maybe playing some golf together?!?)

Gordon, thanks for your comments and congratulations, too. This really was a landmark event in my life (and hopefully for my son, too!)

This week has been an amazing one for me of meditating on all of this. This may sound silly, but I actually have pulled my own post up and re-read it several times because I'm still amazed at the truth of all of this.

Oh, and Erica, by the way, I did a little research, and it appears that what you said about adoption and disinheritance was true in Roman culture in the time of Paul when he was writing this. So, it's very possible that Paul had this in mind when he wrote about adoption.

The sad news is that here in the US, different states have different laws regarding adoption, and some states (not sure about all) do allow for adopted children to be disinherited. So, while it doesn't hold true for everyone today, it still was possibly something in Paul's mind, and something that we can understand vis a vis the Roman cultural context of that book. Thanks for sharing that!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, May 08, 2006 9:00:00 PM  

I wish I could think of something profound and moving to say....

Instead I can only thank God for my adoption and think of my daughter being ripped away by a court order of adoption.

By Blogger Michael Pendleton, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006 7:37:00 AM  

Michael,

... a getting to know you question.

Was you daughter taken away from you by an adoption or are you imagining how hard that would be?

Our adoption by God is truly beyond words! How can we ever sin against such kindness?! Yet, I have. The grief of that is only ameliorated by the wonder of His grace to continue to offer me forgiveness. And that is yet another profound reality of our Father which again reduces one to a place that words cannot fully express!!!

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006 7:46:00 AM  

ooops

"your daughter"

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006 5:17:00 PM  

Steve -- Man, am I glad to be back!!!

And, what a wonderful post to come back to... Very well-said, and thank you for bringing me back to thsoe beautiful realities of my status in God's family!

Blessings my brother!

By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006 9:25:00 PM  

Ray!!!! Are you back for real now? Man, we have been missing you around here. How're those eyes, bro?

Michael Pendleton, I'm very sorry if this post was bittersweet for you. :( :( I mean that sincerely. I long to be an encouragement to people here, and if I touched on a subject that hurt you or opened old wounds, I'm sorry.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006 9:30:00 PM  

Hey Ray!!!!

It is so good to see a comment from you! Missed hearing from you very much!

Blessings on you.

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:28:00 AM  

Thanks ded and Steve -- Yep, back now... I will be out next week, but other than that, I am back at posting and visiting...

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!

By Blogger Ray, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 8:59:00 AM  

Steve,

This is my first visit to your blog. (I've seen your link over at Blog Hero.) Those are some great insights about what it means to be a son of God!

By Blogger Sara Edwards, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 4:02:00 PM  

Hey, I didn't realize you and your wife were homeschoolers. My wife and I teach our two boys at home as well.

Pretty cool.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 4:46:00 PM  

Sara, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to come by often.

Gordon, we will be starting this fall. We're finishing up 8th grade in the public school, and then will be starting homeschool for 9th grade. We almost started homeschooling last year, but a new charter school opened that we thought might be a good "middle ground" solution. However, that fell through several weeks into the school year, and by that point, we had to go back to the public school for the remainder of the year.

Glad to hear we have something else in common! Be praying for my wife, as she will be transitioning out of her public school position (she has been teaching special ed, working with K-2 children with severe/profound needs) and staying home next year. It's a huge step for us in many ways, but one which we know the Lord is initiating. Therefore, we can rest knowing He will provide and supply all we need!

Gordon, if your wife is online, too, have her go to my wife's blog and give her input on curriculum, etc. (or you can, too)

Bonus trivia for readers of this blog: Frequent commenter ded taught our son in 7th grade last year (although ded now teaches 5th grade...apparently the experience with our son caused ded to regress!!!)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 4:55:00 PM  

Steve,

Congratulations!

Thanks for the encouraging post. Very good!

Rick

By Blogger Rick Potter, at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 10:18:00 PM  

I am wondering if aging isn't a natural regression anyway, and therefore my regression cannot be contributed to my experience with any particular student. Of course, there is the possibility that I have never exhibited a lot of progression in the first place.

8^)

By Anonymous ded, at Thursday, May 11, 2006 6:19:00 AM  

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