Being a Member of God’s Family on Earth
February 16, 2023 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.
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“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NKJV).

What amazing love, incredible goodness, and unfathomable privilege the Father has bestowed upon us in inviting us to be members of His family. We are given the opportunity to become heavenly royalty, princes and princesses of the celestial government—as the apostle Paul says, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

Do you recognize your royal status? Do you live like a member of the house of God? Do you carry yourself with the dignity, confidence, and grace of one who lives to represent their heavenly Father? Do you feel and live out the value and worth God has placed in you as His royal child?

Of course, to receive the benefits of being part of God’s family requires that we are, in fact, members of His family. So how does one become a member of the family of God? Is there something more to it than just being born?

I have heard some pastors ask their audience if only our obedient children are considered members of the family. They ask, “Aren’t your rebellious children still your children? So aren’t the wicked, the unrepentant, considered children of God—just children behaving badly?”

Some might point to the genealogy of Christ in Luke chapter 3, which ends:

… the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God (v. 38 NIV84).

From this verse, they conclude that since Adam was the son of God and we are all descended from Adam, then every human is a child of God—some are good children and some are bad children, but all are still God’s children. What do you think of this idea?

What did Jesus mean when He said to the Jewish leaders:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NIV84, emphasis mine).

Isn’t Jesus making a distinction between being born a descendant of Adam, of being part of the human family, and what it means to be part of God’s family?

The apostle John tells us that “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12, 13 NIV84, emphasis mine).

If we become children of God when we believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, wouldn’t that mean we were not considered children of God before we accepted Him?

Consider these verses:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26 NIV84).

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:14–17 NIV84, emphasis mine).

It would appear that to be a member of God’s family, we must first be born into the world physically—born into the human family—and then we must be reborn spiritually, reborn into God’s family.

Why? To be considered part of God’s family means and requires that we bear the image of God, that we have God’s law, methods, principles, and character within us, and that we look like God to the world. Whereas those who internalize and embrace the principles of selfishness and sin become like Satan in character, look like him, and are considered part of his family.

Notice what John tells us:

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother (1 John 3:8–10 NIV84, emphasis mine).

Children resemble their parents, carrying within them attributes of the parents, genetically and physically, yes, but also in attributes of language, character, practice, and beliefs.

Likewise, those who are born of God become like God; they carry within themselves the attributes, characteristics, methods, and principles of God (the seed of God), thereby resembling God, having been restored to the image of God and, thus, are part of God’s family. With that new heart-orientation, they do not go on living for self but, instead, live for the glory of God and the benefit of His kingdom. They live lives of service, of usefulness, of other-centeredness rather than lives seeking to aggrandize self. Such people live like Jesus and, thus, carry His image into the world and are considered part of His family.

In contrast, those who internalize the methods, principles, practices, and characteristics of Satan and thereby become like him are considered part of Satan’s family because they resemble him and carry around his image.

John confirmed that the children of God live like Jesus lived when he wrote, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

Does this verse make you uncomfortable?

Do we believe that, via the Holy Spirit, we are reborn, that we receive new hearts and right spirits, that the “seed” of God is planted within us? In other words, we receive the very life of God, we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and it works a change in us so that our motives, desires, attitudes, understanding, perspectives, and practices change, and we grow, develop, transform, and become ever more like Jesus!

Or do we instead believe that we merely have a legal adjustment in a book, have adoption papers filed in the heavenly court, and are legally declared to be part of God’s family—even though we go on living sinful lives and still look like Satan in character?

Which idea are you more comfortable with:

  • Those born of God will go on sinning until Jesus returns, or
  • Those born of God will not go on sinning?

What law lens do you understand this through? What is the essence, the root, of sin? Is it deed and task performance, or is it attitudes of the heart? And the root attitude of sin is distrust of and disloyalty to God, attitudes predicated upon fear and selfishness.

Those reborn into the family of God may be tempted by fear and selfishness, they may have struggles in personal performance, they may make errors in judgment (like Peter did when he didn’t associate with the uncircumcised), but they do not break trust with God. They remain humble; they have hearts that love truth and are willing to be corrected and grow. They love God and others. They do not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11). Thus, they develop, advance, and grow in godliness—in the same way that children grow. This growth in godliness is evidence that they are children of God, that they are part of God’s family, and that they are not going on living in rebellion (sinning) but are living victoriously.

We become part of God’s family when we are reborn through Jesus and become like Him in character, people who live out the principles of God—truth, love, and freedom—in how we treat others.

 

 

Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.