You Must Know the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption

We have all been adopted.

At least, if you have chosen Jesus, you have been. You hungered after Jesus, you decided you wanted to be part of God’s family, and suddenly, you became a co-heir and a son.

Paul explains this truth and the mechanism behind it in Romans 8:15-17,

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:15-17

In this verse, Paul calls the Holy Spirit by a new title, “The Spirit of Adoption.”

Today, I’m writing this post because knowing The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption is pivotal to working in Christian contexts outside of your own borders.

I say “borders” as an intentionally open ended concept. In the Bible, the Spirit of Adoption propelled the Apostles outside of their national contexts, outside of their families, outside of their personal preferences and comfort in general. Under the blueprint of the Holy Trinity, the Kingdom of God is international, familial, and challenging.

You don’t have to be adopted to know that family at its best is challenging. For that reason, the writers of the New Testament make sure that we realize it is not an option, but a command to love one another.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4:11

The result of willfully choosing to love one another as family is extraordinary, something that only God can accomplish. Indeed, only by choosing to be “knit together in love” can we reach the full expression of God in Christ.

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christin whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Colossians 2:1-3

Experiencing the Spirit of Adoption

Permit me a little story telling to exemplify why knowing the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption is so important. Our God used my family structure, supportive adults, and a variety of international experiences to magnify what I’m about to share.

My family has many textures. Due my parents’ divorce and remarriages, I learned about the Spirit of Adoption throughout my early years. From the ages of 6-14+, I had not just 2 parents, but 4 (counting step parents). I had not just siblings, but step siblings, step cousins, half siblings, and many nieces and nephews.

And the diversity of this flock of people was tremendous! My 4 authority figures alone seemed to embody every extreme:

  • Educationally, from GED (High school) to Doctorate level
  • Professionally, Blue Collar, White Collar, and in between
  • Politically, Liberal and Conservative
  • Ethnically, Italian American, Mexican American, White (Irish Catholic), and White (Germanic Protestant)
  • Regionally, from the American Southwest, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest
  • Recreationally, interested in Go carts, Bowling, Arcades, Fishing, Walks outdoors, Golf, Taking care of pets, Gardening, Beauty products, Shopping, Debate, Coaching, Volunteering, and Playing Sports as a family

It goes without saying that it would have certainly been easier to navigate just 2 authority figures than 4, but our God is creative, and no amount of challenge we experience is ever wasted. The Lord used the many adults in my life to teach me that families who choose one another in spite of diversity are strong.

And yet, the capacity of my family was painfully limited. In the midst of trauma and equally extreme circumstances, the Lord showed me as a child that he would always send people. Like many kids coping with trauma, I sought safe people. I remember specifically analyzing people’s character and integrity from as early as age 7, and deciding who was healthy. Over time, I was adopted by teachers, coaches, friends’ parents, friends, and many grandparent figures. Sometimes, I was rejected because of the ways that my trauma was visible. But more often that not, I was chosen. Over time, I learned that even if it takes a little digging, God puts the lonely in families. His design is for family, and he delights in it.

About 8 years ago, I encountered Jesus and got adopted into the most glorious family imaginable: The Family of God in his Church. While none of us has ever fully arrived, I have benefited from years of healing since those days. I know God as the most skilled Healer. One thing I didn’t expect in coming to faith in Jesus was that people would be even MORE interested in adopting me! In putting my faith in Jesus, I have more family than I’ve ever had in my life, and much greater amounts of commitment. When I once had to collect people out of necessity, now I can enjoy my extended family because I know that there is no family like the family of God.

One of the unexpected blessings of having been adopted by so many kinds of people is that each people group parents their kids in slightly different ways. As an adult, it’s become relatively easy for me to relate well to my elders because I had so many experiences where I needed to be corrected according to the culture of the person parenting me. Depending on the individual’s background, that correction could have been subtle or more obvious! Generally speaking, it was necessary.

A Family of Nations: Adoption and the Apostolic

In Isaiah 43:5-7, the Spirit of the Lord promises to establish his family by collecting faithful people from the nations, from all the ends of the earth.

Read Isaiah 43:5-7 here

In Galatians 3:29, Paul explains that by faith, we have been collected by Christ, reconciled back to God, and established firmly as heirs through the Spirit of Adoption.

So, how is all of this relevant for ministry?

Simply speaking, we all have to decide if we are willing to allow ourselves to be parented by the norms of another culture. Allowing yourself to be submitted to others’ leadership is a lot like accepting their parenting. Similarly, leading others is similar to parenting or other senior family roles. Paul discusses how Family of God dynamics are meant to function in 1 Timothy 5:1-2.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

1 Timothy 5:1-2

Ultimately, you must decide to be led.

For most people, the most organic motivator for accepting others’ leadership is love. When people invest in our lives, we allow ourselves to honor them and we listen. This is what scriptures like 1 Corinthians 13 really illustrate, that all genuine surrender and obedience must first start through love. In the family of God, this means familial love.

When I was younger, my first very good friend taught me this lesson. She was uniquely positioned to call out my bad behavior and challenge me to be different. The love she had for me ultimately motivated me to learn Spanish, visit Chile, and recognize a calling to Latin America. For me, Latin America carries strong connections of adoption and organic friendship, because of her leadership.

You can read more about my experience of choosing and being chosen by the people of Latin America here.

Ultimately, I had to choose to allow myself to be led by her discernment and challenges.

Another memorable example of all this is the effect my Chinese sister-in-law has had on my life. Due to the significant age differences in my family, my brother met and married Lixin when I was somewhere between 12-14. He had always been drawn to Asia, and went there to teach English for several years. At the time, I remember tangibly deciding to make an effort to get to know her and try to be a bridge between her and the rest of the family. As a result, we have become pretty close. She acts in typical older sister fashion towards me (according to the norms of her culture): We have cooked together, she gives me unsolicited (lol) advice about when I should marry and have kids, she treats me to things when we are out together, and in turn, I pay it forward and treat my nephews. I went to China with her and my eldest nephew when he was just 5 and traveled through her hometown and the countryside for 2 months, all across Central, Southwest, and Southern China. We often talk about when we’ll go back and travel to other parts of Asia. Our sisterhood has been a source of life to me and an opportunity to model for my nephews that their family is united, from East to West. To me, returning to Asia carries a strong sense of family because of her leadership.

I could tell you about many other experiences of being parented by other cultures, when I sang in Gospel choir, learning from Asian American and Native American campus ministries in college, and experiences of travel. However, my main idea is that your success in ministry contexts outside of your own corresponds primarily to your teachability and willingness to be led (as family) through the loving lens of other another.

Belonging in New Contexts is Possible Through Adoption

In mid-February of this year, I had a dream that connected strongly to this concept. While the dream had some personal significance related to family reconciliation, there was a larger message inside it for the Church.

In the first part of the dream, I was meeting with my step mother. She was working to reconcile things with us personally. As she prepared to leave the room, she said, “If anyone has received the body and blood of Christ wants some of this cake, I’m putting it right here for you.” I took a big handful of the hummingbird cake, with cream cheese icing. And I thanked her for all she had done for me.

This dream was about the power of God to heal our families. In the second part of the dream, the Lord bridged the concept of family reconciliation to the international reconciliation of his church.

I saw a woman who had the same stature as my step mom. I was teaching others in this setting how to approach her. I asked my students, “What language is best to use?” According to the Lord, the answer was “It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity, personality, or other demographics are. Just use Jesus’ voice.” Speaking with Jesus’ voice was actually better than speaking her same language. Jesus was having us speak in a way that she specifically needed.

In this dream, the Father illustrates the importance of speaking with Jesus’ voice.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30

Do you know his voice? Would you recognize it? Do you know how to speak his words using his voice in a way they can be received? While cultural differences in the Body of Christ abound among cadence, delivery, and tone, you must speak in a way where the people can hear his voice.

It is this voice that allows us to be received, and allows other people to choose us. It is this voice that makes us seem reasonable and trustworthy, and can even provide a healthy sense of challenge. If we speak with his voice, other people will love him through us and adopt us. If we use his voice, we will likely be grafted into the people and the land, because they will make a place for us.

nThis sense of God “making a place” for you within a nation is still directly about the Spirit of Adoption. Paul describes the chosenness of the Gentiles in Romans 11:17-24 through metaphors of grafting vines and trees in agriculture. It is the same general principle at work of being chosen by a people who are not initially your own. Because of the authority that Jesus has to choose us, we ought to mutually chose one another.

Read Romans 11 here

In order to make strong partnerships in an international context, there must be this kind of intentional choosing that comes through love.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:16-18

A Prayer to be Adopted to One Another

So Lord Jesus, give us the grace to choose other people as you have chosen us.

Help us to allow you to dwell in our hearts, so that being rooted and established in love, we may have power, along with all God’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is your love for us.

Help us grasp how great your love is for other people!

May our love not be limited by our national borders and may we speak with your voice.

Draw your children to the sound of your voice across all the nations and make us one family.

Help us choose one another so that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Amen!

Published by Haley Nus

Hello! Formerly of Kansas and Washington, D.C., I am an emerging voice in Holy Spirit-led education reform and youth ministry. I present these materials with an explicit focus on the interdenominational, international, charismatic Church. Check out more on my journey with prophetic ministry, doctoral study, and travel through my end-of-month Monthly Summaries. I take Jesus's invitation to welcome children in his name (Luke 9:48) and Jesus's exhortation to become like children (Mathew 18:3) literally! In order to shape the world well for adults, we must serve the youngest among us so that we will truly understand who we are as sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).]

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