Have you ever imagined walking to your mailbox to retrieve the mail only to find an official but plain looking envelope from the office of a lawyer. With curiosity, you cautiously open it to find that you are the honorary beneficiary of someone’s will. Maybe it was the man next door who didn’t have any family that you helped get his groceries? Or the person down the street that you stopped to talk with on your way home from the park? Or maybe it was the uncle who never had any children?
I don’t think I am the only one who ever imagined this happening. After all there is the country song by Billy Currington entitled “People are Crazy.” He meets an old man in a bar and they talk about all things under the sun until the last call at 2 a.m. He leaves the bar never to see the old man again until one day he sees his obituary. “The man was a millionaire. He left his fortune to some guy he barely knew.” See! It happens! At least in songs.
Actually, it occasionally does happen in real life too. I had a friend who cared for her aging neighbor man and when he died he left my friend his house. I don’t know how it ever turned out because his kids didn’t like that very much.
Maybe it’s because mailboxes have become a bit yesterday, but I don’t expect much from my mail anymore except flyers, credit card applications and the occasional bill. You know, the ones I haven’t opted to receive electronically. And I haven’t been adopted into anyone’s family that I know of so I don’t look for that mysterious letter anymore.
I ponder a bit why that might have appealed to me. Why would I even consider the notion of receiving an unexpected inheritance? For me, I think it’s the idea of belonging, of being chosen. There is that longing within to know that I am special and that out of everyone, I have been chosen to receive the honor of an inheritance.
Yesterday I was reading a letter that reminded me I am in line for an incredible inheritance. It’s in my Bible. Paul wrote to the people in Galatia and he said it like this:
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out “Abba Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:4-7
And in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul said:
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves…when he adopted you as his own children…and since we are his children, we are his heirs. Romans 8:15-17
This is genuinely good news! I had to do a little more unpacking. When was I adopted? Did I do some good deed that made God choose me? What will I inherit? Is it now or later?
Ephesians 1:5 tells me that God decided to adopt me and bring me into his family before I was ever created. It was what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure to do it! Before I had the opportunity to do good or evil, God decided to adopt me. Unlike the man in the song mentioned above, I haven’t done anything to earn or deserve the honorary designation of heir.
Jesus said in John 6:29 that “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” and Paul says in Galatians 4:26, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Not only did God decide in advance that he wanted to adopt me, my adoption is sealed when I receive by faith the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
As I continued to unpack this concept, I looked at a couple of the words used in these letters. Greek is a very specific language with about twice as many words as the English language uses. So translators choose the best word, but our English words often are not specific enough to carry the nuances of the original Greek words.
The original word translated adopt in these passages emphasizes that the child has full rights and the same status as a natural born child. Now that might not seem all that ah-ha to you, but that is spectacular to me.
There was a movie in the late 90’s featuring the twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. The girls were identical strangers – one living in an orphanage and the other living in a wealthy family. In the story there was a family who would adopt children from the orphanage to work in their junkyard. The Butkuss family had natural born children, but they would bring these orphans to their home as slaves. The natural born children had a special place at the table while the orphans were relegated to lower positions both at the table and in their responsibilities.
Romans 8:15 says we were not adopted to be slaves in God’s family. We are adopted as children and we have the same rights as Jesus. We are his brothers and sisters. Scripture affirms over and over that we have the same inheritance as Jesus.
Sometimes I have acted like I am a slave in God’s house or at a minimum, an employee. I work hard to maintain my place of favor. I’m afraid I won’t be enough or do enough. Good News! I’m a child! I have a place at the table and it is secured by Jesus. Nothing I do can make me more or less a child of God. I have not been adopted to be a slave.
And as a child I am an heir. The original Greek word translated heir references a person who inherits along with someone else, often with the sense that the coheir is included as a gracious gift. The second party is a full participant in the inheritance, receiving the same gift as the original heir.
The first deposit of my inheritance has already been given to me and that is the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:14 says, “The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised.” And that’s a pretty amazing deposit!
I did a study once on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. I looked up every instance where the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the New Testament. From that, I compiled a list of everything the Holy Spirit does in my life. I think that’s a topic for a different day, but I will say that I was nearly overcome with my unworthiness and God’s goodness in the deposit of the Holy Spirit in my life.
What is my inheritance, beyond the deposit I have already received? Galatians 3:29 says God’s promise to Abraham belongs to me. What exactly is God’s promise to Abraham? Read Genesis 12-17 for specifics, but I am going to synthesize the promise here. God promises to make Abraham into a great nation and through that nation, bless all people on the earth. He promised to protect him and reward him greatly. God promises to always be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants forever.
My Father God will always be my God. He will not change his mind or waver from his decision to adopt me. Eternal life with him, where I will enjoy unbroken fellowship forever, is in my future. Nothing will be able to change that. Revelation 21 is a beautiful picture of my eternal destination.
So not only does my inheritance benefit me today with the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, it has eternal benefits for the future. I marvel in the reality of being a child of God, adopted with full rights, with a place at the table. I am an heir of the Most High God!
I may not have received an inheritance notice in my mailbox, but I learned something even better. I am the daughter of the King! And that’s enough for me!
Until next time….
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.