17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
This to me is the most comprehensive statement of what it means to be a child of God. It means more than joining a church or signing a card or even being baptized. It means more than paying a tithe or saying prayers or doing religious things.
This scripture shows that when a person becomes a child of God radical change takes place in his moral and spiritual nature. This means more than becoming religious. Many people are intensely religious and are not Christians. There has been no new birth.
The effects of sin on the human nature are considered to be so serious, that, without a new birth the sinner cannot see his way on this Earth, let alone enter the holiness of God. In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus says, “How can a man be born when he is old. “ Jesus replies, “Most assuredly, I say to you unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. “ That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Born of the water refers to the physical birth. Born of the Spirit refers to the renewing, regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. This is the great foundation on which our Christian life rests. Out of that experience will spring every blessing that will come to us in time or eternity.
The first thing that happens when you become a child of God is you are reconciled to God. We are by nature sinners who have violated God’s law, His will. There is a warrant out for us. We are under the sentence of death. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our lost and condemned condition. We than turn to God and throw ourselves on his mercies. We accept the mercies of Christ’s blood and at that moment we become reconciled to God. We surrender all and have peace with God through Jesus’s loving atonement for our sins. We are justified in our Lord Jesus Christ. Justified means “jus as if it never happened” You sinned, you know you did, and in the Lord’s sight you appear as though you never committed a sin. Do you suppose that men will have to give an account to God for every sin, every idle word, every vain and evil thought we have committed? According to the Bible the answer is “yes” if they are not under the blood. Only the blood of Jesus can blot them out.
Another thing happens when you become a born again child of God. You are regenerated. The justification we just described takes place in the mind of God. But, regeneration takes place in your heart until it changes your nature and makes you a new creature. All things are passed away; all things have become new. This work isn’t complete until something happens in your heart. Not only do drunkards, gamblers, thugs and thieves need this experience, but even moral and religious people need to experience regeneration. Before his regeneration the apostle Paul was a very religious man. His outward life and conduct would put the average Christian to shame. But something happened on the road to Damascus that totally changed him. He was born again. He put his trust totally in Jesus, and only Jesus, God accepted him for this reason. His passion became the winning of souls for Christ. When our souls receive this divine touch we are transformed and will never be the same again.
When this happens you are adopted into the family of God. You become an adopted child of God. Eph. 4:4-5 tells us God sent forth His Son…. To redeem those who were under the law that they might receive the adoption as sons. Roman 8:15 but you receive the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out Abba, Father.
Adoption is a legal term. The Holy Spirit is the pledge of God that we are fully adopted as God’s children. Eph. 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself. This predestination is a legal plan of God that assures the guaranteed destiny of all the redeemed. We are God’s children and have been adopted into His family.
It is His business to look after his children. That is what the Psalmist means when he says, “ the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” It is the shepherd’s business to meet the needs of the sheep, to find green pastures and still waters, to lead us in the paths of righteousness for His names sake, to comfort us with his rod and staff, and prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies, to anoint our heads with oil and cause our cup of joy to run over.
The Lord leads the way. We are headed for home now. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In this life, there are aches and pains, the loss of loved ones and friends, and it breaks our hearts. But, friends, we have been adopted into the family of God. These rough times are like sand paper- polishing us up as we look forward to the gates swinging wide open into the courts of Heaven.