At some point in our faith experience, discipleship must become personal. It must expand from corporate life and experiences in the family of God into something very personal, individual, and private. The corporate experience (being part of the family of God) is an important setting for faith development; but when it becomes the only experience—that is, when attendance, group study and worship, fellowship activities, and even ministries are all social events—discipleship will not deepen into a personal and transformative experience. Until we begin to focus on ourselves as individuals in personal relationship with God, the experience of God’s grace will not touch us at the deepest levels of our being. Isn’t it ironic that the things we value most about our church experiences can end up being a detriment to our personal growth as disciples?
Just as all that God is was focused through the incarnation in one person, Jesus Christ, so all that we are and all God hopes for us to be is focused on us as individuals. Our personal experiences with God’s grace are what truly transform our self-understandings, our natures, our very beings. The personal transformation begins in the personal experience of redemption—God through Christ redeems us from our selfishness and sinful ways. The evangelical tradition emphasizes this personal redemption strongly, but too often it focuses more on what we are saved from than what we are saved to. When that happens, redemption becomes an escape from the bad consequences of sin rather than an escape to a new level of self-understanding about our relationship with God and our lives lived in personal relationship with God.
To me, the most powerful image of this personal transformation is centered in each of us becoming a child of God. Think for a moment about John’s affirmation that Jesus was God’s one and only son. Do you recognize the significance of the gospel’s affirmation that you too can entered into that kind of relationship as a son or daughter of God? What Jesus was in terms of his one-and-only exclusive relationship with God is exploded into the potential of whosoever will may become a child of God.
Adoption holds a special place in my heart since two of our daughters are adopted and were adopted before we birthed our third daughter. Because of our personal experience with adoption, the biblical expression of our being adopted as sons and daughters of God is a powerful one to me. Just think! We are granted the same relationship with God that Jesus has. Not only are we children of God, we are joint-heirs with Christ. That idea produced the title of today’s post, which I drew from the old gospel song: “I’m a child of the King, a child of the King. With Jesus, my Savior, I’m a child of the King.”
The corporate experience of “we are children of the Heavenly Father” is one dimension of faith that is important and helps us to build community. But the transformative experience doesn’t come through the community experience. It comes from the individual, private, personal experience of grace when we discover, “I’m a child of the King!”