Christians who are afflicted with spiritual inferiority complexes are so commonplace in the church that they have created a distressing problem. The church is filled with troubled people. That is nothing new, and of itself, it should cause no alarm. The church of Corinth, the churches of Galatia, the church of Colosse, the church of Thessalonica, and the congregations in Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea had their full share of troubled members. The gospel of Christ with its hope-filled promises has always attracted the troubled. Jesus' earthly ministry held great appeal to all types of troubled people. When His message is understood today, it is no less appealing to the troubled.
The church should be converting troubled people. Troubled people should be reaching out to the Lord who knows how to give rest to those who are wearied by their struggles and how to free the oppressed from their destructive burdens. The realization of their desperate need coupled with the understanding of the real hope Jesus offers should cause troubled people to cling to Jesus in faith. The church was not established for those “good” people who are convinced that they do not really need to be saved. It was established for sinful people who know how desperately they need forgiveness and deliverance.
While the church must be converting the troubled, it must not cause them to conclude that they are second-class citizens in Christ’s kingdom. They must not enter Christ and His church with the false conviction that the Lord wants “good” people to enter and to serve in His kingdom, but He permits “bad” people to enter the kingdom only if they do not bring their problems. The troubled are not to be converted to live their lives in apology for being “inferior spiritual beings.” They are not tolerated step-children whom the Lord has accepted into His family because He had no alternative.
The problem does not exist because many Christians have problems. In any age, if the church exists as the spiritual body for which Jesus died, it will contain many troubled people. The fact that troubled people respond to the gospel and bring their troubles to Jesus simply means that the gospel is doing the work it was designed to do. Baptism into Christ does not cure a person’s problems; it merely makes him a child of the Problem Solver. Solutions do not come instantaneously. Solutions are the product of faith, knowledge of the Word, spiritual development, loving support and help from the spiritually mature, and time.
The problem exists because of the attitudes these troubled Christians hold regarding themselves. They are convinced that their struggle with real problems in their lives completely disgusts God. They are convinced that God is offended by people such as them who seek to be Christians. Inaccurate concepts have convinced these Christians that God hardly can tolerate their presence. They are convinced that God cannot respond to them as He does to “good” Christians. He will not hear their prayers. He will not be moved by their requests. He will not concern Himself with their problems. They are on their own until they straighten their lives out; only then can they appeal for His help. When they themselves solve their problems and resolve the struggles, then they can pray; then they can ask for God’s help; then He will be moved by their requests; then He will aid them with “acceptable” problems which are “permissible” for “proper” Christians to have.
There are no step-children in the Lord’s family! The tragedy of any Christian seeing himself as an inferior, tolerated, unwanted spiritual stepchild is found in his failure to understand a fundamental truth: Jesus came to save sinners. He did not come for the sake of the “good” people. He came and died for those who desperately need a Savior. Jesus made that fact unmistakably, undeniably clear. When the Pharisees criticized Him for associating with the spiritually undesirable (the tax collectors and sinners), Jesus responded, “They that are whole (literally, strong) have no need of a physician, but they that are sick” (Mat. 9:12). Jesus not only wants to save troubled people, but He also wants troubled people to understand clearly that every baptized believer is a FULL child of God with complete access to the privileges of relationship.
Every person who is baptized into Christ is promised real relationship with God. That relationship is a full, intimate relationship. It is the relationship of a Father with His child. God is not an unfit Father. He does not exploit or abuse His children. He does not withhold love when it is most needed, and He does not use love as a weapon or a bargaining power. As with a good earthly father, the more God’s child needs and wants His help and caring, the more helpful and caring the heavenly Father becomes. No Christian needs to apologize for exercising the privilege of relationship with God. Never forget that the father of the prodigal son is a portrait of God the Father.
Jesus, the Model
To understand the priceless privilege of relationship with God and the richness of its promise, one must begin with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the betrayal night. Mark wrote that when Jesus left his disciples to go and pray alone, He fell on the ground and prayed fervently (Mark 14:32-35). One statement in His earnest prayer was this: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt” (v. 36).
All Christians would agree that no earthly person could equal or surpass Jesus in effective prayer. Jesus had more right to approach and petition God than anyone who has ever lived. He could appeal to God in a manner no Christian would claim or presume.
Please note that Jesus approached God by saying, “Abba, Father.” The word, abba, is an Aramaic word easily translated. Aramaic was the common daily language of the Jews in the first century (and before). The translators often chose not to translate abba because of the unique force of the word. Abba simply means father. It is the heart-cry of a child pleading for the help of his daddy. When a Jewish child was in serious, earnest need of his father’s help, he cried, “abba!” It meant the same thing as the cry of a distressed, anxious child today who hollers, “Daddy!”
The writer of Hebrews, referring to this very incident, wrote of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7, 8:
Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered . . .
Jesus cried, “Abba!” in Gethsemane, and God heard Him and responded to His appeal.
Perhaps all Christians would agree that it was most appropriate for Jesus to cry, “Abba” in His prayer. He was literally God’s Son. God was in the true sense of the word His Daddy. God should have listened to Jesus as a daddy listens to the cries of his child. If Jesus ever needed His Daddy to listen and to come to His aid, it was in Gethsemane.
The Marvelous Privilege
This is the incredible promise of Scripture: every baptized believer has the same right to cry, “Abba,” to God as did Jesus. The reality of a baptized believer’s relationship with God is this: every baptized believer is an actual child of God who can freely, with full assurance cry, “Abba” unto God his Father.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:14, 15, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” In context, Paul declared that Christians do not live for the sake of physical existence. The ungodly desires and ambitions of the physical existence do not determine the life he lives. He lives for the sake of spiritual reality. God’s Spirit lives within him permitting God, through the knowledge of Christ and the understanding of the divine will, to direct his life. The fact that God’s Spirit does reside in Christians serves as irrefutable proof that Christians are sons of God, actual members of the divine family.
Paul’s statement in verse 15 is an essential understanding. Christians were not delivered from the bondage of sin to be placed in a different kind of bondage. They did not escape the terror of sin simply to fall victim to another kind of terror. They left bondage to become children; they were slaves, but they became sons. They left the terror of being the tragic victims of Satan’s slavery to become children who had a spiritual Daddy who cared for and about them. They no longer cry in terror to him who delighted in their fear and suffering (Satan); they now cry to their Daddy who hears them.
Though Paul used the adoption analogy, he made it clear and certain that he was speaking of full membership in the family (vv. 16, 17). God’s Spirit witnessed to their spirit that they were in fact children of God. Each Christian is a full child with complete privileges of family relationship with God. Each Christian is an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Himself. He is as fully an heir as is Jesus because he is as certainly a child of God as is Jesus. Because the Christian is both child and heir, he will be glorified with Jesus if he is willing to suffer with Jesus. Christians who will partake of their Elder Brother’s suffering will unquestionably be glorified with that Elder Brother.
Paul made precisely the same point to the Gentile converts of Galatia in Galatians 4:1-7. Judaizing teachers, Jewish Christians who declared that Gentile converts had to accept teachings and customs of the Mosaical law, had caused Gentile Christians to doubt the validity of their salvation. Paul declared that the Jew needed Christ to become God’s child just as certainly as did the Gentile. Both Jew and Gentile had to be made children of God through Christ. God’s Son had to redeem the Jew from the law and extend the adoption of sons to the Gentile. Gentile Christians were to understand that they were actual sons, full sons of God. Paul stated emphatically, “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (vv. 6, 7). The fact that they were Gentiles did not alter the fact that entering Christ made God their spiritual Daddy.
The Heart of the Matter
Someone might observe, “It is a beautiful thought to realize that Scripture says that any Christian has the right to call upon God as his Daddy just as did Jesus in Gethsemane. It is touching to know that Scripture depicts our relationship with God as being one of a true son to his caring father. However, as nice as it is to think that we can cry, ‘Abba, Father’ if it does us no more good than it did Jesus, it is no more than a pleasant thought. Jesus still suffered and Jesus still died.”
This inaccurate perspective fails to see the blessing of relationship by assuming an incorrect objective in that relationship. Scripture never suggests that the objective of being God’s son is to escape the fleshly problems and troubles created by physical life in an evil world. The objective of being a son of God is to keep from being enslaved, victimized, and destroyed by this evil world. Jesus physically suffered and died, but Jesus also triumphed. God sustained Him, strengthened Him, and resurrected Him. From Gethsemane to the resurrection, in no instance and in no matter did evil triumph over Jesus. Jesus feared both the suffering and the enormous responsibility in His death; God sustained Him in His suffering and gave Him victory in death. The divine Abba did not remove the cup, but the divine Abba did not allow the cup to gain victory over Jesus.
The Christian’s privilege of having a relationship with God in which he can cry, “Abba “ carries the same blessing of being sustained, strengthened, and given victory. The issue is not escape from physical trials and suffering in this world. There is no such escape. The Christian’s divine Abba will not remove his trials, but He will make it impossible for the trials to triumph in the Christian’s life. The son shall remain an heir as long as he keeps his faith and dependence in the Father. Even in death, there is victory.
A Matter of Faith
A Christian who has decided that he is unfit and unworthy for God to help has a basic relationship problem with God. That relationship problem is not due to his being too undesirable for God to help. His sincere conviction that his wickedness and problems make him personally revolting to God is in complete error. His primary problem does not lie in the weakness of the flesh or his problems in life.
His primary problem lies in the fact that he has not understood what it means to be a child of God. He has been told that he is a child of God. He has been told he is in God’s family. He has been told that God is his Father. However, he does not believe he is an heir of God. He does not believe he has the right to cry “Abba, Father.” He does not trust God’s assurances and promises concerning God’s relationship with His children. He truly is suffering from a spiritual self-image crisis. His self-image crisis is a product of an even more serious crisis. His primary problem is a lack of faith.
The faith of righteousness casts all anxiety upon God “because he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5.1).
Chapter Eleven Questions
Why should the church be converting troubled people?
What false conviction must these people not hold upon conversion?
Explain why the church will always have troubled people as a part of the fellowship.
Discuss the attitudes which troubled Christians commonly have about themselves, Why are these attitudes destructive? What fundamental truth do such attitudes ignore?
What promise belongs to every baptized believer?
Explain in detail the meaning and significance of Jesus praying, “Abba, Father” in Mark 14:32-35.
Discuss the teachings of Romans 8:14, 15 about the baptized believer’s relationship with God.
Discuss the teaching of Galatians 4:1-7 concerning the Gentile Christian’s relationship with God.
Did Jesus’ prayer to the divine Abba help Jesus? How?
How will a Christian’s prayer to the divine Abba help him?
Explain why the Christian who has decided that he is unfit and unworthy for relationship with God is having a faith crisis.
Have the class discuss reasons which cause many Christians not to seek a close child-Father relationship with God.
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