Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ... Ephesians 1:3-5, appointed for the Second Sunday after Christmas
Who are we? Are we really "children of God?" Most of the time, we use that term as a euphemism for "any human being." Even the Apostle Paul, in his sermon in Athens, seems to leave room for this interpretation:
From one ancestor (God) made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him — though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” Acts 17:26-28
But Paul goes on to say that we've severed that relationship. We've gone to live under another's roof:
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ vv. 29-31
So a vague acknowledgment of "a Creator" is insufficient if that is the extent of our relationship with God. It is not enough to admit to some distant divine ancestry while living our "real life" as children of "the world, the flesh and the devil." Our true Father's will is that we turn back to Him - repent - and this is accomplished through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said "You must become as children if you are to enter heaven."
That is the true nature of our "Baptismal Covenant." We renounce the world, the flesh and the devil, and affirm faith in Jesus Christ. Like the headstrong, shortsighted and lost son in Jesus' beloved story, we recognize that our Father's house was the good place after all, and we leave behind false friends, empty promises, muck and mire to go back.
There are three main New Testament ways of describing true children of God, those who actually come to live under the roof of their heavenly Father.
The first is "reborn." Last Sunday the church heard the First Chapter of John, which tells us that "all who received (Jesus), who believed in his name, (received) power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." There is a spiritual rebirth that can replace anything we've received from the world, the flesh and the devil.
The second is "adopted." That is in the reading from Ephesians. "(The Father) destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ." We might have signed on a dotted line someplace and become dependents of the world, the flesh and the devil, but through faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted as full members of God's family, His own children.
The third is "Christ-like." This showed up in the Morning Prayer lesson yesterday, from the Fourth Chapter of Ephesians. "We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." The true children of God become more and more like the unique Son of God, "the firstborn from the dead." The beautiful words of I John 3:2, often read at burials, point to Christ-likeness as the character of God's children: "Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is."
The Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas tells us that God "wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored" us. Perhaps all humanity can share the claim of "wonderful creation" as God's offspring. But only those who accept restoration on the Father's terms - through Jesus Christ - are living as true children of God. Only they will turn toward the Father, through the Son, in true worship inspired by the Holy Spirit:
...to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6
How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. Psalm 84:1