Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Adults of God

Back in January I wrote this in a piece called "On Being a Son of God":
"...Because my parents did a great job of teaching and leading me to God's love, and thanks to the many other adults who came alongside to help me trust God, there has never been a time in my life when I did not understand that I was loved as a child of God. As time went on that understanding was deepened. I learned I was more than just a 'child' in the sense of a helpless or needy person. I learned that God had given me, my his grace, the title or position 'son,' that is 'son' as in a authoritative position in God's household. In the ancient world, the 'son' would inherit the father's authority. As 'sons of God' both men and women are given this honor. It's a truly amazing thing..."
Here at church on Sundays, as we've been following Jesus through The Gospel According To Mark, Jesus has been working with us, as he worked with his original disciples. He wants us to know that we are loved no matter what, but then he wants us to grow up and be like him. He wants us to take on the responsibilities of being adults of God, not just "children," not just kids.

What does it mean to be an adult? This morning on Minnesota Public Radio I heard part of a program called "The Myth of the Teen Mind" and an interview with psychologist Robert Epstein. Being an adult it's not about age. "Set aside young versus old," he says. Don't think about adulthood as something connected with being 18 or 21. It has more to do with how we take responsibility.

He continues:
"We spent years trying to find out what does it mean to be an adult in terms of actual abilities and competencies. I've been looking at data from tens of thousands of people and all I can say is, 'It's fascinating. It's not what you think.' There are teens that are every bit as competent and mature as adults are, and there are people at fifty years old who are as incompetent as the most incompetent teen.'"
That's true also in terms of being an adult Christian. Being an "adult of God" is not about age. Being an "adult of God" is about living as disciples (followers, imitators)--people who want to live like Jesus and not as greedy, self-centered receivers, just grabbing more and more goodies from God.

Here at church since the fall began Jesus has been pushing us to grow up. On Rally Sunday we heard Jesus predict his death (click here to read the Sep. 13 gospel). Ever since then he has been more like a coach than a friend. Jesus knows he will soon be rejected and executed. At the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, he was working with his disciples to be ready to carry his ministry forward once he would no longer be with them physically. And as we read the Word of God in the Gospels, we are prepared and coached as well.

Adults of God are particular kinds of adults. This week's gospel reading lets us know that the disciples haven't yet understood this. They are still thinking that being a follower of Jesus is going to somehow make things better for them. They are thinking, "We've been with Jesus all this time. Certainly we must get benefits of some kind." James and John came to Jesus with the question, but every follower of Jesus needs to hear Jesus' stern lecture:
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 - NLT. Note: "Son of man" was a polite way that men in Jesus' day would refer to themselves)
Jesus showed it what it is to be an adult of God. Living as an adult of God means living for others as Jesus did. Jesus lived and died to set other people free. He did not live for his own benefit. He served others, not himself.

Ultimately, as we read in Mark 10:45, Jesus would give his life as a "ransom." To live and die as a "ransom" means to give one's life to set people free from "the constellations of social and political power that human beings concoct to control each other," " from demonic powers that enslave the world and resist God's purposes (see Mark 1:23-24; 3:27)" and in his death and resurrection, being a ransom means setting us free from the power death itself.*

Being an adult of God means taking up and carrying out the responsibilities of humble service in Jesus' name. While letting people know we are serving because of Jesus, we give without receiving in return, care for others without demanding rewards, and obey God's way of love even at the cost of our fortunes, our reputations, and our lives. (It's important that we let others know we're doing this because of Jesus. Otherwise we point to our own goodness, and that is not helpful at all.)

Being an adult of God means pointing people to Jesus and living in a way that honors Jesus by imitating Jesus' powerful, persistent servanthood every day.

How do we become adults of God? Like he worked with his first disciples, through his Word and Holy Spirit, and in community with other Christ followers, Jesus continues to work with every one who claims to be Christian. He works with us through all our ups and downs, coaching us, pushing us, day by day. As we share life with one another, praying with and for each other, hearing God's Word, worshiping, receiving his forgiveness, serving, giving, we grow.

And this process continues long as we live. As long as we live we continue to grow up as Christ followers, willing to serve, willing to give, willing to suffer like the one we follow--like the one who gave us life for us on the cross. You and I will so often fail as Christ followers. So often we will fall back and become self-centered children once again. But, as Jesus was patient with his disciples on the road to the cross, so he is patient with us. We continue to benefit from his grace as we grow in his teaching. And, someday, in God's kingdom, there will be joy.

What's the reward in this life? Are there no benefits? More than anything else, we benefit as seeing others set free from whatever binds them and as we watch them become adults of God too. We share the joy of our Lord. As we live to follow our Lord, we give him joy, and as we see our children and others growing to be adults of God, we get a taste of that as well. The final joy, however, is not here. It's in heaven--in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

Note: This is a first attempt to get ready for preaching this coming Sunday. Please comment or email and let me know what you think, or if you see anything I missed.

*See Matt Skinner's commentary on the gospel text at "Working Preacher" by clicking here.


  1. Great post! See you tonight?

    Love, Mike

  2. thanks... what's tonight? Morris Bible study or something else??? I know I've got executive committee... =]

  3. Bible study at 8. You are always welcome.