As a professor in Christian Education in South Africa I am most concerned about the growing rate of biblical illiteracy. It is growing faster than the pastors I talk with are willing even to admit.
Fallout of this lack of Bible knowledge is, in part, the weakening of our Christian families. The “experts” tell us that the rising generation, as well as the previous generation or two, seek one thing above all else in life – a sense of intimacy. Children grow up longing to be part of a family. Since so many families in our country today are falling apart, even children in stable homes feel the same sense of uncertainty about their own family’s welfare.
As a Church we need to put a much greater stress on developing, strengthening and growing our families. There is no way that we can have strong churches if we have weak families. God ordained the family long before He called Israel or the Church. The Church is called a family for a reason – it is made up of families and is to be looked at as an extended family (which is why we call each other brother and sister).
One way to help build intimacy within our churches is to understand how each of us came to be made part of the church – we were ALL adopted! This is not just some nice phrase; it is a term God used in both the OT as well as the NT.
Peterson gives us a great work in Adopted by God, in that he takes us back into every reference to the subject throughout the Bible. But this is not a theological textbook, it is a book about relationships – relationships forged by the One who took us out of the horrible situation we were in with our “birth-family,” where Satan was our father, and He has lovingly adopted us into a new family. This new family, of course, is the Church.
In this book we are allowed to look into the lives of many people who have discovered not only the cognitive meaning of adoption, but also how it has changed their lives and world view as they have, for the first time, come to understand more about God as their Father.
So many in our churches today do not know what it is to have grown up with a loving caring father. It is only through understanding our adoption, and the One who adopted us, that we can come to appreciate how He chose us in Christ, how He chose us in love, and also how He disciplines us with a view to making us more like the Lord Jesus.
There is a wealth of sermon material here that will build up every individual in your church as well as every family. Peterson deals with how this change in family relationship also explains how we are no longer slaves to sin (as we are no longer part of our old family), but we are now free to say no to sin. He explains how each member of the Trinity is involved in our adoption process, and how we can have assurance of our salvation by understanding what it meant when God signed the official papers making us legally part of His family (justification). It is quite amazing when you come to understand how all the parts of salvation are further understood by studying adoption.
My wife and I have four adopted children from three countries. They were adopted at the ages of 17, 7, 16 and 14, so we know first hand what it is like to think through everything involved when we come to Christ. When the children just lived with us (as the last two did for six years) they always had the fear that we would kick them out. Once the judge signed the final papers that fear instantly went away! Even their teachers commented on the change in their whole demeanour.
If you want a whole new, different and refreshing way to present the Gospel to people, as well as a way to strengthen the people already in your church, then I highly recommend Adopted by God. It will change the way you look at God – and the Gospel as well.