To be successful in our relationships with others we first need to know our own true identity and our relationship with our heavenly Father.
In Isaiah 63:9 and 10, the prophet describes the history of the children of Israel who were God’s professed people. He says, “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them.”
Notice that while ever God’s people were obedient they were protected, saved, and delivered by the Angel of His Presence. The Bible describes angels as beings that are both stronger and wiser than human beings. An evidence of this is found in 11 Kings 19:35: “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”
However, concerning the righteous, the Bible says, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7. Angels are both wiser and more powerful than man. The book of Ezekiel reveals that angels are subject to receiving directives and have greater awareness and knowledge than humans. Whenever prayers are sent to God, directions are given to the angels concerning the answering of those prayers.
Malachi said, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?” Malachi 2:10.
The disciples often heard Jesus praying to His Father and came to Him saying, “ ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.’ ” Luke 11:1. The prayer He taught them is what we call today the Lord’s Prayer.
Contrary to what some people know, this prayer was not given to the world, but only to the disciples of Jesus Christ in answer to their request for not everybody can truthfully claim God as their Father but would be lying. The Bible says in Matthew 13:38 that, “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.”
Jesus once told the religious leaders of His time that they were children of the devil. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’ ” John 8:42–44.
Since sin entered this world the devil has claimed it as his own and when we are born we are not born as sons of God but children of the devil. This is affirmed often throughout the New Testament.
Paul said, “You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [the devil], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1–3.
Writing to the Ephesian church, he said that we were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others who are not Christians. That being the case, how is it possible to tell if a person is a child of God or a child of the devil? The Bible gives a very strict rule by which that can be determined.
John speaks very plainly on this subject. He said, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and He cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:4–9.
Clearly, then, a person born into this world is by nature a child of wrath. By committing sin he/she declares to the universe that he/she is a spiritual son of the devil for “He who sins is of the devil” (I John 3:8) unless he/she has been born again. This was the essence of what Jesus told Nicodemus: there is no other way to enter into the kingdom of heaven except to be born again. The born again Christian is then adopted into a different family, the family of God.
Paul explained this in Galatians 4:4–7: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
If you have been born again, born of the Holy Spirit, then you are no longer a child of wrath but have become a son of God. A person who has not been born again has no right to claim God as his father, for that person’s father is the devil. The person who is living in sin has no right to say the Lord’s Prayer and call God his Father because he is a child of wrath, a spiritual child of the devil.
We have read what John and Paul said about this, but notice what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time in his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ ” John 3:3–7.
It is clear that to be born again is a requirement to enter the kingdom of heaven. You must receive what the apostle Paul calls in Galatians 4, verse 5, “the adoption as sons.” The apostle Paul repeats this concept often in his writings. Notice how he describes it in Romans 8:14–16: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
The fact that the first century Christians could now call God their Father and not just address Him as the Infinite, or Eternal, or Most Powerful One in the Universe, was considered a most precious privilege. He was acknowledged as Someone who had a fatherly interest in them. Right after His resurrection, Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” John 20:17.
But how can a person who has been born a child of wrath and destined to destruction be born again and receive a new heart and a new spirit and receive eternal life and avoid his destiny of everlasting destruction? John explains this miracle in his opening remarks in his book where He wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” John 1:1–11. Jesus talked with them long about the fact that they would not receive Him. In John 5:40, He said to the Jews, “… you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Again in John 8:47, He said, “He who is of God hears God’s word; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
Many times Jesus told the people of His time that they were going to lose their soul, lose eternal life because they would not receive Him. But then, there is a most wonderful promise in John 1:12, 13. It says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, 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.”
Those who receive Jesus and accept Him receive the right to become the children of God. They receive a right to be adopted into God’s family, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, to be born with the Holy Spirit, to have a change of heart, to have a changed mind. When a person is born again of the Holy Spirit he begins to live a holy life. When the Spirit of God leads a person, he will live in harmony with the words of God.
Paul said, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Hebrews 2:9–11.
If you are being sanctified, it is evident that the Holy Spirit is working a change in your life giving you the right to call God your Father and Christ your elder Brother. To be sanctified simply means to be made a holy person. This is not complicated. A holy person is not necessarily anybody special, but simply a person who lives in harmony with God’s law.
If you are living in harmony with God’s law, then you are a holy person, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Paul was very specific about this when writing to the Hebrews. He said, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.
When a person is born again it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make him/her into a holy person, giving him/her the right to call God, “my Father.” If people would think this through, there would probably be fewer people to glibly quote the Lord’s Prayer. It is a profound thing to call the God of heaven your Father. The apostle John drew this to the attention of the Christians. He said, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” I John 3:1–3.
The greatest privilege that any human being can have is to receive what the apostle Paul calls, “the adoption as sons.” To be born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, to receive the Holy Spirit into the life, to have a new spirit and new mind is promised to all who accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Having this new relationship with God also brings us into a new relationship with other people in this world, recognizing that we are all brothers. I John 4:20, 21, says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God Whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
The most wonderful thing that you can have is to be adopted into the family of God so that you can call God your Father. The value of sonship in God’s family can only be estimated when considering the price that has been paid for man’s redemption. Have you been born again?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.