You sometimes get the feeling when you begin to talk about adoption with some individuals that they feel like you are talking about a lightweight doctrine. Not so! Adoption is one of the highest and most significant privileges the gospel reveals. In fact, J.I. Packer once said if he were asked to summarize the New Testament message in three words his proposal would be “adoption through propitiation and I do not expect to ever meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.” If you are able, we would love to have you come and explore why he says that with us on March 1 and 2nd at Together for Adoption South Africa. For now, I thought I could share a couple more biblical proofs caring for orphans is such an important part of worshiping God.
Do you want revival?
For a Christian, that’s a strange question. Of course we want revival. Desperately.
A better question might be, is there any way we can prepare ourselves for it?
Our minds immediately run to the importance of prayer. They should. But a few years ago I was reading a sermon by Jonathan Edwards in which he notes another way the Bible seems to indicate we can get ourselves ready for revival.
He makes a surprising connection between deeds of charity and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit..
“If we really want an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we must not only spend a great deal of time in the duty of prayer crying earnestly to God, but we must also abound in deeds of charity and love.”
Now, please understand it’s not that we earn revival. The price is too high to be able to purchase it. Jonathan Edwards understood grace and the sovereignty of God.
But still he noted passages like Isaiah 58.
Israel comes to God with a problem. They feel like they are fasting and seeking Him and He’s not showing up and they want to know what’s happening.
God comes to the people with an answer. He tells them the kind of fast He wants.
“Is not this the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house, when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
God connects deeds of charity with worship and what will be the result of this kind of worship according to God?
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily. Your righteousness shall go before you. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer. You shall cry and you will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noon day and the Lord will guide you continually.”
In other words, a kind of revival.
This may be part of why we see such a passion for this in the early church. This is something the early church was passionate about. This concern for the poor, especially widows and orphans, is not only an Old Testament concept.
One of the very first things the early leaders of the church did in Acts six was what?
Establish a way to care for widows. When Paul writes a letter to Timothy explaining how to run a church, he gets very specific about this in First Timothy five, saying, “Honor widows, who are widows indeed.” He lays out a plan for exactly how the church is to go about doing that. A quick survey of the New Testament reveals that someone has written a startling level of commitment to ministries of compassion.
Tabatha was a woman whose chief occupation was helping the poor. Acts nine, Barnabas was a man of some means, who made a mark on the early Christian communities by supplying the needs of the poor out of his own bank account. Acts four, by spearheading efforts and taking up collections for famine stricken Judeans. Titus was a young disciple of Paul, who organized a collection for poor Christians in Jerusalem.
Later, he superintended relief efforts in Corinth. Paul was a man himself who is deeply committed to remembering the poor. I think a fascinating passage of Scripture is Galatians, Chapter two, where Paul describes his meeting with the leaders of the early church. You think, “What must they have talked about in this meeting? Doctrine, and they must have talked about big doctrine.”
We know, in fact, they did talk about big issues. But I picture it Paul is about to leave, he’s about to get up to go and he says, “The only thing they asked me at the end was to remember the poor.” He was about to go. “Paul, remember the poor.” What does Paul say? “That’s the very thing I was eager to do.”
The good Samaritan is the lead character in one of Christ’s best‑loved parables. When all others, who were supposedly righteous, skirted the responsibility of charity, the Samaritan took up its mantle. Christ concluded, “Go and do likewise.”
As someone has written, “These early Christian heroes fully comprehended that religion that our God and father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress. They knew that true repentance evidenced itself in sharing food and sustenance with the hungry.”
When you trust God, when you trust God, when you are worshiping God, when you believe God is for you, you are not nearly as desperate to be for yourself.
When you are worshiping an idol, that idol has nothing he can really give you. That idol doesn’t answer your prayers. He has nothing he can do for you, so you have to be about yourself. You can’t think about the vulnerable. You can’t think about the needy, because you have to get what you need to get and you need to fix your life just the way you like it. But when you are worshiping God and when you are coming from God and when you understand the gospel that God, the father, the creator of this universe, is entirely for you, that frees you up to be for people you never would be for normally. Because you know God was for you and you didn’t deserve that.
It’s never about being saved by showing mercy. It’s always about that the person, who has truly received God’s mercy, shows it.