You’ve heard the precepts: “Only make decisions that support your self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth” (Oprah Winfrey), “Of all things God created, what He is most proud of is me. I am His masterpiece, his most prized possession” (Joel Osteen, part of a self-declaration), “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem” (Robert H. Schuller). Such thinking is becoming so commonplace that it’s influence can be found practically everywhere from popular magazine articles to public school educational objectives to the pulpits of neighborhood churches. As Christians, we need to determine whether elevating our self-esteem is a valuable part of our Christian lives or whether it is harmful. How does God want us to see ourselves?
“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”
The words above are found in 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1 and, with some variation, in other passages. Thanksgiving is again upon us, and I find myself with so much to be thankful for that merely listing my blessings seems too trivial to express how much my family and I have been blessed this year, both spiritually and physically. Yet, this does not mean it has been an easy year. Far from it. Trials are also cause for thanksgiving. God calls us His jewels (Malachi 3:17), but gems are made by intense pressure and gold is refined in fire. E.M. Bounds wrote, “Gratitude and thanksgiving forever stand opposed to all murmurings at God’s dealings with us, and all complainings at our lot. Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” I’ve listed a few more quotes that I think might be helpful to get the mind off of the turkey and onto the Creator.
You may be familiar with Jesus' statement, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." You may also realize, perhaps grudgingly and wondering whether there are any exceptions, that this means you are to pay your taxes. But when we look at this statement more closely and in context, we see that Jesus was addressing far more than taxes. In fact, that was not even the primary point of His response. Jesus was actually answering the Jews with a legal principle they hadn't thought of. It is a principle that applies to every one of us, and it will help us put the focus in our lives right where it belongs.
To put it mildly, the Jewish religious leaders were getting upset and desperate. Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on two donkeys as the people shouted, “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11:9b-10). There could be no mistaking these praises; the people were claiming Jesus as the Messiah. And, just as the Jewish leaders had voiced after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, they were afraid that this ruckus would cause the Romans to come and “take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). Unfortunately for them, they were looking in the wrong direction. They feared men instead of God who is over all nations, and who, forty years later, would use the Romans to do exactly what they were afraid of (when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70).
The Bible teaches that our relationship to God is one of sons born to their Father (see “The Sons of God“). This fact raises the question of whether the ultimate human potential is to be God. Does our being sons of God mean that we are (or are to be) members of the Godhead on a footing with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? After all, the Bible indicates that we are brethren of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:12-17), and Jesus is God. Are we also to be God?
Almost all English Bibles translate Romans 8:15 as teaching our adoption: “For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” So also verse 23 and Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5, in English translations, refer to our adoption. Many preachers and Christian writers have praised God for His adopting us as His children. Certainly, adoption by the loving, all-powerful God of the universe would be a wonderful thing, and I would be very thankful for it, if it were what the Bible teaches. The thing is, the Bible doesn’t teach it. Everywhere the word “adoption” appears in an English-language New Testament, it is a poor translation that does not accurately convey the concept the Holy Spirit is revealing. Fortunately, what the Bible is saying is far greater and better than what we understand in English by the word “adoption.”