With this good news, this gospel, the glorious announcement has been made that God’s rule and reign is present. Everything that your heart has longed for has arrived in the person of Jesus. But while it’s not here in its fullness or completion, that end is guaranteed. There are a few elements of this new Kingdom that are worth looking at. Actually, the gospel message includes this as something that you just don’t understand at the beginning and then you get on to the good stuff.
With God’s Kingdom there is a certain kind of relational status that has been given to the follower of Jesus. A simple way to think of it is that with the arrival of the True King, not only does He rule in our hearts, but He has also invited us to share in His royal status.Paul writes in Romans 8:15, For you have not received the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Notice the familial language! You are adopted as a son. You are put into a new family, with a new Father and all of the rights and privileges that only belong to those who are of blood relation are given to you! You are considered an heir and a fellow heir with Christ! That kind of language should shock us because what we have received from God is not based on our work but on the work of Him in our place. As Tim Keller is fond of saying, the gospel is the message that you are far more wicked and flawed than you have seen, yet you are far more loved than you’ve ever experienced.
Why is this important to young adults? Our whole life we have heard messages told to us about who we are. For those who are “in Christ”, the core of our identity is not in what we do (or don’t do). The core of who I am is found solely in my forever adoption into the family of God with all of the benefits, rights, and privileges bestowed upon me freely. At the core of my identity, I am not a pastor, a father, a husband, a friend, etc. I am not what I’ve been told all my life – you’re a bum, you’re stupid, you’re so smart, you’re so special, etc. At the core of who I am is this relational adoption into God’s family. Scholars calls this the “sonship” aspect of the gospel.
And why is this sonship aspect of the gospel something that isn’t just received by faith at first and then it’s up to us to work really hard or obey? It’s because I take my identity from so many other places each and every day. Why do I live with this sense that I’m not doing enough, or I’m not enough? Why am I so prone to idolatry and finding my identity in something other than God and love that with a super-love? It’s because I’ve forgotten the gospel. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I forget this radically good news every day. I forget the good news that with God’s Kingdom, He accepts me completely, without conditions. That takes some serious weight off of obedience. I am now going to obey for much different reasons.
Every other religion that’s out there in some form or fashion has to make you doubt that you really belong. Whether it’s trying harder, or being better, or striving for some ideal, there is always this lingering sense that I’m not enough. I think this is what’s used to keep people “motivated.” The result of that is it naturally leaves people wondering, “Where do I stand with God?” Christianity is, as far as I know, the only religion that actually says that your status is not dependent on your working or striving, but on the work of someone else who did it for you in history. This is radical!