Matthew 7:11 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
The privilege of having God claim you as his own child is something he wants for everyone, but which is known to only a special few. Even now, after God has called us to faith and made us his children, we still don’t deserve such a distinction. Jesus says that you and I are “evil.”
Does that seem a little strong of him? We usually reserve the word “evil” for pathological criminals, the kind of twisted people who abuse children, or torture others, or display no conscience whatsoever. Jesus is speaking here to Christians! In fact, he is talking to the future Apostles of his church. We will admit nobody’s perfect. We can go along with being called sinners. But evil? God obviously considers even our sins a serious offense, while we are tempted to excuse or minimize them.
And yet, the wonder is that evil people like you and me can still call God our Father. How can this be? God has graciously adopted us as his children. When my children were little, we used the book Little Visits with God for our family devotions. One of the devotions told the story of a little boy named Jerry who had been adopted by his parents. When he found out he was adopted, he said to his father, “You love me a lot, don’t you?” “We do,” his father said, “but what makes you say that?” “Well,” said Jerry, “you made me your son even though I wasn’t really your son. You didn’t have to do that.”
So it is with us. God made us his children even though we weren’t really his children. He didn’t have to do that. And what makes our adoption so much more wonderful is the sacrifice our Father made in order to make us his children. Paul assures us in Galatians, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5-6, NKJV). God did have one Son who was a natural part of the family, his only-begotten Son Jesus. God so loved us, he so desired to adopt us as his children, that he was willing send his only Son to live and die to pay for the sins that kept us from being God’s children. And though Jesus himself had to sacrifice his life to make us part of God’s family, the author of Hebrews assures us even Jesus is not ashamed now to call us his brothers.
Our adoption was sealed when the Lord brought us to faith and gave us his Holy Spirit. Paul wrote the Romans, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
This truth was impressed upon former Jehovah’s Witness David Reed in a very moving way. Mr. Reed spent years having it pounded into his head that the only proper way to address God was as “Jehovah God.” After studying the Bible on his own, he came to realize that Jesus is God himself. He began to break away from his former faith. One morning as he began to pray to God in his car on his way to work, the name “Father” just came tumbling out of his mouth. It was then he remembered, “you have received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” He then realized what an intimate relationship we have with our heavenly Father because of Jesus!
Do you see what this has to do with our prayers? Since God himself has made us his children, since he invites us to call on him as our Father, we don’t have to be afraid to approach him in prayer. We ought to have the highest respect for him, this is true. He is still God, and he is not anyone for us to trifle with. But since we know that God is our heavenly Father, we have a child’s confidence in prayer.