Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

How Do I Know I am a Child of God?

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
Last time we considered the blessings and the marks of adoption. A very important issue concerning adoption is the question, ÓHas God adopted me to be His child?Ó Has the Lord actually made me His child? This is a very practical and tender question. Many people wrestle with this question: ÒAm I or am I not His child?Ó

Awareness of Adoption
Not every child of God knows whether he or she is indeed a child of God--certainly, not at the beginning of spiritual life. This awareness is something that grows. Would you like to know if you are adopted to be a child of God? How can you know this? The Bible says: by the inward testimony of God's Spirit. We read about this in Romans 8:16,17: ÒThe Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.Ó

When in the night of our lost condition the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to the heart and witnesses that the Lord Jesus is also given to us for a full redemption and we by faith may embrace Him, based on God's Word of promise, we find the awareness of being adopted as a child of God. How does this awareness start to dawn? Not by knowing that I am a child of God. But such a person says: ÒI love the Lord and I cannot live without Him.Ó Such a person learns to see himself as a lost and depraved sinner before God. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who also opens the eyes for the dying Christ on the cross. It is the same Spirit Who teaches us to embrace Christ by faith and say: ÒAbba, Father.Ó

The Holy Spirit makes us aware of our adoption as children of God for JesusÕ sake. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. The Holy Spirit witnesses, that is, He confirms the truth of the adoption that we are children of God. The Holy Spirit shows that this spiritual adoption is based on God's free and sovereign love and is granted because of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Adoption, therefore, is an act of grace and justice. The Holy Spirit is a witness to this act. He makes God's child aware of that act. He testifies, assures and seals adoption to the heart. He bears witness and He testifies with our spirit.

This is a very experiential matter. The Holy Spirit shows us the sacrifice of Christ and the love of God in our afflictions and in doubt and temptation. In the struggle of faith, it is the Holy Spirit Who testifies in the heart, that it is true: I am His and He is mine. I may share in His Fatherly care and protection. Then you are adopted as a joint-heir with Christ, because He has become your oldest Brother.

How exactly does the Holy Spirit testify of this grace? By the preaching of the Gospel, by the opening of the Scriptures. He leads us so close to the Christ of the Scriptures that we cannot do otherwise but believe this testimony and say: Òyes, it is true, now I believe it and I know it.Ó Then you are consumed by the eternal love of the Father and you see the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus as your praying High Priest. The Spirit witnesses to Jesus as the pleading ground and as the legal ground of salvation. The peace of God is applied to the heart and overwhelms you. Then it is not only the Holy Spirit Who witnesses, but you too begin to bear witness to this hope and the clear and glorious salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

At such a time it is so good to be under the preaching of God's Word. Then it is so blessed to have your Bible in front of you and have its words speak to you. How blessed it is to be on your knees in adoration and prayer for such goodness! At such a time it is as if the Good Shepherd speaks to you directly. Then you see Christ everywhere and it is as if the love of Christ floods your barren heart. What peace and joy are experienced! What a miracle when a child of wrath becomes a child of God's favour, adopted to be His child!

In this way the Holy Spirit brings God's work close to your heart and you seek and find your salvation outside of yourself in Christ. Then, even if many sins testify against us, by the operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we may say: ÒThis God is our God and my Lord and Saviour. This triune God is our Abba, Father!Ó

Let us try to explain further what Romans 8:16 means when it says that the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. This witness of God's Spirit does not happen outside of our own spirit. The Holy Spirit witnesses in the hearts of God's children that they are children of God. They are born again by the Holy Spirit. God's child is under the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit. That influence is noticed. You start to notice changes in your life. You see that things have changed in comparison with the past. Experiences have entered your life that came from God.

What are these experiences? You have an increasing sorrow for sin. You receive a growing love for God and for His service. You receive a hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is a desire for personal holiness. The direction of your life changes. You conclude that God has started a good work in you and furthermore, you conclude that God has adopted you to be His child. For Scripture references see 1 John 2:5; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:1,2.

In this way you can recognize the saving work of God's Spirit in the heart and be assured that one is adopted by God.

Difficulties Regarding Adoption
However, there are two difficulties attached to the awareness of adoption.

1. The human spirit is not always the same. One day you think you are a child of God and the next day you look at yourself and you do not dare say that you are a child of God. You see more sins within you that give you reason for shame. You get the feeling that the Lord is rebuking you for those sins and casting you away. Then the testimony that you thought you were a child of God is silenced and cast away. Here we see clearly that the testimony of our own spirit is not enough.

2. There is also the difficulty of self-deception. Certain changes can be observed in one's life and you think that all is well. But then you are deceiving yourself. You know there are people in Scripture who pretended that they were children of God, but were still lost. Esau had repentance; also Ahab. Balaam also confessed that he had sinned (cf. Numbers 22). There are also counterfeit conversions and there is such a thing as temporary faith. Again, it is clear that the testimony of our own faith is not sufficient to assure me that I am a child of God. Your own reasoning and conclusions alone are not sufficient to conclude and realize that you truly are a child of God.

The Inward Sealing of the Holy Spirit
How can you tell if you have true faith? How can you tell if you have experienced true conversion and true godly repentance? Your own conclusions can be faulty and therefore you need an infallible witness. That witness is the Holy Spirit.

God's Spirit shows you the marks of grace in your life, but He lets you see those marks in His Word. He applies God's Word to your heart. He shows you from His own Word what a child of God is like. For instance, Matthew 5 teaches that they mourn, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and are meek and poor in spirit. Then you see in God's Word what scriptural and true conversion is. The Holy Spirit shows you from His Word that your conversion is a real scriptural conversion. The Holy Spirit applies His comforting, sealing work to your soul. He gives the scriptural evidences that you are a child of God. The Spirit awakens such childlike trust and submission to the Lord that one cries out: ÒAbba, Father.Ó

Our own reasoning and evidences are not enough. We need God's Spirit to convince, convict and comfort us. The devil will always assault our own reasoning. He will even try to assault the evidence the Holy Spirit gives. But through the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit the evil one is silenced. Then one knows by the Holy Spirit and through God's own Word in our heart that I am a child of God and that He is my Father.

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