The Adoption Process


Pastor Dan and Amanda with their 3 biological children and recently adopted son Noah

Audio: [29:17]

Pastor Dan Borgelt:
“I will admit, that
I was looking for the opportunity to plan a series where I might be able organically, naturally share with you, some of our experiences in China over the last few weeks… and I would say above all the things that we experienced, one of the things that stood out to me the most, certainly the funniest, was seeing all the English translations of various things.

TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: This 3 minute introduction to the sermon is best heard… well, actually heard LIVE with projected pictures, but since there is no video, listening to the audio and his word picture description does the justice that my transcription here alone would not.
To hear this omitted part of the transcript, please go to audio [00:00:27 to 00:03:56] – IT IS VERY FUNNY  🙂

CONTINUED from recording @ [00:03:56]

“My wife Amanda was in a store doing some souvenir shopping, and I was sitting out with our guide, and I had our adopted son Noah… and this Chinese girl came walking down with a T-shirt that really caught my attention, because I had only one word across the front of it and it said,


It got my attention, and I started to kind of fumble towards her when I realized I needed a translator… so I started to look for the translator, and I wanted to tell the translator like, “Get her attention, stop her, I want to talk to her about her T-shirt, and the Chinese girl stopped, seeing all that I was doing, and she said to me in perfect English, Can I help you?”  (LAUGHTER)

And said, “Oh, you speak English?” She said, “Yes,” and I said “I just noticed your shirt…” and she said “Yes, I was adopted.”

And so I showed her Noah, and told her we were there for the adoption purpose… and then I realized she was there with her Caucasian, American sister who was walking with her. They were there with their parents, and they were adopting two more younger children from China.

And so we talked about that forbrief, pleasant conversation… but as she was walking away, I noticed the back of her T-shirt which had these words on it,

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

And I thought, what a beautiful example of how there is PHYSICAL adoption and then there is SPIRITUAL adoption, and how there are so many parallels between the two of them… and from that point on I knew I definitely wanted to preach about this topic for the next couple weeks.

See… indeed, I want to talk to you about spiritual adoptionand draw many parallels between that and physical adoption.

And I love the fact that the T-shirt quote I read you is from the Bible; it’s from the Book of Ephesians 1:5.

And I just love when God… don’t you love when God takes a concept that we’re familiar with… that’s sort of tangible to us… and he uses that concept to describe a far more profound spiritual reality in our lives. 

And that’s what he does with the word adoption. He takes this idea that many of us can kind of grasp, whether we’ve done it or not, we can kind of relate to it, and understand some of it’s concepts… and he uses it to describe our relationship with HIM in this passage of Scripture.

Gold Dividing Line

So what I want to do is talk to you about the Adoption Process this week.  How do we go about getting adopted spiritually?  And then next week, I want to talk to you about the Adopted Life— how does that change the way we live our life with each other, and with God, if we have indeed been adopted into his family.

But for this week we want to talk about the adoption process, and looking at four points from this passage of Scripture:

  1. The adoption Need
  2. The adoption Work
  3. The adoption Cost and
  4. The adoption Faith

…all subcategories of the adoption process.

How do we go about getting adopted into the family of God?


First, the Adoption Need

I want to read the above passage of Scripture in its context and walk through it a little bit with you… but we don’t even really need to do that to talk about the adoption need. Because we’ve already read that in Ephesians 1:5 the word adoption occurs.

The word adoption implies so much… it implies that there was a previous reality in someone’s life.

We could talk about Noah’s adoption, we could say, “Oh, he’s now part of our family and he has a mom and dad and siblings, and a nice house, and a big yard, and church family…”  and we could all focus on that side of the adoption…

But the fact that he had to be adopted implies that there was a previous life for him too… doesn’t it?

The doctor told us this past week at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, that he was probably prematurely born.  That he probably experienced a period of time where he was severely malnourished.  We know that he was abandoned.  We saw where he was abandoned by his biological mother… we saw that place, it was not a place you’d want to walk around at night, let alone have a baby there by themselves.

We know he went from there to living in an orphanage where he was one of like three hundred kids, and then eventually got a foster mom… and I would think by the time he had a foster mom in this sort of foster home, it was about as good a situation as an orphan could have, but we still would have looked at it and thought, “Wow, this is really bleak.”

20130503103237He’s adopted and it’s a thing to celebrate

but the reality is that because he was adopted, he_had_a_previous_reality_as_well…  a previous life.

Noah was not born into our family, and the word adopted implies that reality. 

So what does that mean when God says we’ve been adopted into his family?

It implies the same thing… that we are not naturally born into the family of God.

If you’re counting on the idea that you are a child of God because you heard that all the children in the world are God’s children and that they’re all just naturally God’s children, and you’re a child of God because of it… you haven’t done anything really wrong to mess it up... that_is_not_what_the_Scripture_teaches.

The Scripture, by saying we must be adopted into the family, is implying that that is not the natural family that we are born into… that is not the natural state that we are born into.

Noah wasn’t born into our family, he had to be adopted, and the Bible is saying the same thing: “We are not born into the family of God, we must be adopted into the family of God”.


So what is our previous life?

If that was Noah’s previous life, what is ours?

There are so many passages of Scripture that we could look at that describe our previous life as being a bleak state before our adoption, but the most clear one is right here in Ephesians… just one chapter over in Chapter two starting in verse one the Scripture tells us this:

Ephesians 2:1-3
Made Alive in Christ
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of God’s wrath” (not Children of God).

You see the Scripture teaches us, “We’re not born into the family of God”… that whole idea that exists out there is a lie and it’s a lie of Satan, because one of the greatest lies of Satan is to convince you that you are better off than you really are before you are adopted.

One of the other greatest lies a Satan is to convince you that you’re worse off than you really are after you’re adopted, but we’ll talk about that next week.

But for this week one of the greatest lies of Satan is to convince you that you’re better off than you really are before you’ve been adopted.  Satan is telling you, “You’re OK, you’re just fine… you were born into the family of God… you’ve been a good person, you’re all right… so many people have been way worse than you, surely you’re part of the family of God.”

He wants to elevate your confidence and your standing in him, and it hasn’t happened yet… you haven’t actually been adopted… he wants to remove the need for adoption.

But the first point I want to make from this passage, the Biblical point is, there is an adoption need as a part of this adoption process, and that’s what I think the Scripture is teaching us here.

Gold Dividing Line

  1. The Adoption Work

Not only is there an adoption need, but there is also the adoption work as well.  And to uncover the adoption work, I want to just go back and re-read that passage of Scripture in Ephesians 5, and I want to read it in its context, and I want to ask you a simple question as we’re about to read this passage.

There’s a lot of stuff in this passage; we could preach on it for weeks.  There’s a lot of rabbit trails that we could go down with this passage… it has some controversial words like predestination, and some other stuff in there that we might disagree on… but I’m hoping that with this one question, we will be able to agree, by the time we finish reading it.

And that is…

When it comes to the adoption process, who is doing the majority of the work?  

Is God? … does God do the majority of the work? … do we need to do the majority of the work? …or do we somehow meet halfway?

What are you counting on in your life?

Let’s hear this passage of Scripture and I want you just to ask yourself who does the majority of the work… who’s the active agent in this adoption process?

Ephesians 1:3-9
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,”

I think we can pause there.  So let me just ask you the question… when it comes to this passage of Scripture,

Who is the more active agent in the adoption process… God or us?

Yeah.  If you read this passage of Scripture with any level of open mindedness.  You’d have to say God is the active agent in it.  Don’t get all caught up in some of the other words that we might disagree about or argue about… I think we can be united in the reality that if we’re going to understand the adoption process we’re going to have to embrace the idea that the adoption process is primarily done_by_God. 

Which means… if we’re going to be adopted by God, if we’re going to understand our adoption, we’re going to have to stop trusting in our character and start trusting in God’s character. 

We’re going to have to stop trusting in what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we’re going to do… and we have to start trusting in what God has done what he’s doing and what he’s going to do.

We have to shift from ourselves over to God and embrace the reality.  That the Scripture says we need to be adopted, but that God is the one doing the work.

– – – – – – –

We’ve all heard stories about children who are trying to be adopted, and we hear about the work that they do to try to be adopted.  They know prospective parents are coming by, and they clean themselves up, and pretty themselves up, and try to be on the best of their behavior, because they’ve seen their friends be adopted, and they just want to join that fold.

And we think about it in those terms.  Then we think, “Oh, the person being adopted does the work.” But we have to realize that that’s actually not the big picture.

In the majority of cases, and certainly with international adoption, parents choose their child without ever having met them before. We see a few pictures and a little bio, but for the most part it has nothing to do with the child at all.

Instead the parents are left with the responsibility to pay for the adoption, to do all the paperwork, to do the travel.  They’re the ones that go and pick up the child… the one doing the adopting does the work, not the person being adopted.

And it’s true Spiritually as well.  God is the one doing the adopting and he does the work not us.

And I want you to just rest in that… to find peace in that reality… to let that wash over you.. and say, “You know what… maybe I can take a deep breath… and stop acting like this poor orphan child trying to get God’s attention, trying to become pleasing enough to be brought into his family,” … because it’s not about your character… it’s not about what you’ve done and what you haven’t done.  It’s about God’s character, He’s the one doing the adoption work… rest in his character.  Rest in that reality.



So not only is there a NEED for adoption, but there’s also the adoption WORK, and thirdly, there’s the adoption COST.

  1. The Adoption Cost

In natural adoption there’s obviously a significant cost involved. It varies depending on what country, whether you’re adopting domestically or internationally, etc.

When we were in China, I got sort of the nerve to ask one of the other American families who were with us, adopting as well, how much their adoption had cost. They were with a different agency and I was just kind of wondering, had we kind of gone rogue, or were we experiencing the norm?

He said, “Well… we’re probably at about the forty five thousand dollars mark”, and I said, “Yeah I think that’s right about where we are.”

And I just want to pause there and say, we could not have made that happen without you, and some of our other family.  So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts; this child here is made possible because of our church family. So thank you.

But when I compare that cost, as outrageous as it sounds, I have to remind myself that we left with three kids and came back with four–we gained a child. But the Gospel tells us that God gave his one and only Son… that He lost a child in the adoption process that it cost him not forty five thousand dollars, but it cost him everything.

In Ephesians 1:7 the Scripture tells us this,

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,”

That’s what it cost God to adopt us into this family.. His one and only Son’s blood… and he paid the price.

And it didn’t begin just with the Cross… the Cross was the culmination of it.  It began really with the Incarnation.

When Christ left Heaven and became fully human and fully divine he began paying the price for our redemption.

And by the way, as sort of a side bar, as he was about to be born, God told Joseph, what?  Basically, he told him to adopt his son… in essence saying, “I know this isn’t your child, but bring him into your home and treat him like he’s one of your children.”

– – – – – – –

So it began with the Incarnation.

It cost him… every time he stood up to the face of temptation… the type of temptation that we have given in to repeatedly in our lives, that he said “no” to.  The cost continued, and then finally he willingly offered his body and his blood as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

It cost him everything.

The adoption NEED… the adoption WORK… the adoption COST…and then finally,

  1. The Adoption FAITH.

Now as I talk to you about the adoption faith, I’m bringing up this subject because I didn’t want to leave you thinking that there’s no expectation from God in you in this adoption process.

So here’s what the Scripture says in In Ephesians 2:8-9

“by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So the Scripture says it’s been by grace that we’ve been saved through faith.

Repeatedly in the Bible, there’s a relationship between our having faith and God’s grace.

Now God’s grace is this idea that it’s unmerited favor… it’s the idea that he will treat us better than we deserve.

So when God puts grace and faith together in the same passage like this, what he’s essentially saying to you and I is, “We ought to have faith in God’s character, in God’s grace.

Our being adopted relies on us trusting that God will treat us better than we deserve.  Not counting on the fact that he will treat us how we deserve… the last thing we want is God to treat us justly.

What we desperately need is for God to treat us, mercifully with graciousness. 

So we have faith in the gracious character of God that he will treat us better than we deserve.  

Now that’s a reality… we have to have that faith; we have to place that faith in Jesus Christ.

But notice what the passage of Scripture says.

In keeping with our theme that God is the active person in all this… in keeping with our theme that this is about God’s character and not our character the Scripture says this,

 Ephesians 2:8-9
“by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

… there’s nothing to boast about at all in this whole process.  It’s all about the character of God.

Gold Dividing Line

You know… about week two into our time in China, we were in this last city that we were in for the last week… and one of our kids’ favorite pastimes was that when we didn’t have something that we had to be going and doing… in the afternoon, while Amanda was putting Noah down, I would take the kids to the pool.

And one of the days while we were there at the pool, I sort of got this illustration in my mind…  it was an illustration about how God adopts us through His grace… and us just trusting in him, placing our faith in His grace…

…and it was this idea of someone who was drowning in a pool, struggling in a pool, and someone diving in and rescuing them.

And I had that thought… and I had it three days in a row… I had this sort of illustration come to my mind.  And each time it came to my mind I kind of pushed it back away… like, “Actually that’s not good enough God… that’s just not going to work, because it’s just an illustration… it’s not a real story.”

And real life events and stories work so much better than me just telling you about… “imagine if somebody was drowning…”

So… (light laughter)… the last day we were at the pool… I was there with my kids, and there was only a couple other people at the pool… it was an outdoor pool… a big nice outdoor pool.

There’s a shallow end, and a deep end… and our kids were in the shallow end, and I was just sitting in a chair along the side of the pool because I need to keep an eye on Levi still when he swims…

…and so anyways I was there watching our kids… and I saw this six year old Chinese girl who was swimming in the middle of the deep end… and as she was swimming, she stopped… her forward momentum stopped.

… and if you’re not a good swimmer, you know that could be a bad thing. And she started kind of standing up vertically… and she started sort of bobbing… and she starting to kind of kick and splash.

…and she made a noise as she was doing that.. I don’t know what she said, or what kind of noise… but it caused me to stand up on the edge of the pool, like this girl’s in trouble.

And then she went under the water and came back up and she yelled out for help.  I thought she was yelling out for her father… he was in the deep end, on the opposite side of the deep though… already in the water, and he saw her and he started to swim towards her… but I mean.. he clearly hasn’t watched Michael Phelps swim at all (LAUGHTER)…

I mean he was kind of dog paddling himself… he wasn’t making real good time, ya know… and I was confident that he was going to save her life, but to what.. trauma.

I mean because she’s already starting to go under, and he’s getting there kind of slow, and I’m a dive into the pool away.

And so I’ve got my shoes and khaki shorts and shirt on, and I just dove into the pool, and I came up and grabbed her in one arm, and started to swim with the other arm, and he was still just a few feet away… and he started immediately saying, “Thank you.”

And I asked the girl, “Are you OK?”  And she said, “Thank you.”  And then the mom came over and said, “Thank you”… and the lifeguard, who knows where he was, but he said, “Thank you”.

I was kind of expecting like a bottle of wine in our hotel room… (LAUGHTER) or something like that… but nothing like that happened.

Anyway so we get her to shore, and all the “Thank yous”, and it kind of moved on.. and I first remember thinking, “Next time you tell God, that’s not a good enough illustration… you better be careful” (LAUGHTER).

But… I remember thinking just how neat it was that when I took a hold of her she stopped… she didn’t kick or scream, or anything else anymore.. she just stood still and let me rescue her.

…and apparently, she felt completely at ease in that situation.

– – – – – – –

And that’s what the Bible is saying… we have to have… if we’re going to be adopted into the family of God… we have to have faith in God’s character and his ability to rescue us.


And see here’s the thing… there are some people who are here this morning who are in the deep end… and you’re drowning… and you’re still believing the lie of satan that you’re OK… and you’re not OK.

You haven’t been adopted into the family of God… you weren’t born into the family of God… and you_need_Christ to rescue you…

– – – – – –

Some of you… you’re in the deep end, and you know you’re struggling… you know you’re struggling… but you don’t know who to cry out to.

This passage of Scripture is saying, “Cry out to God’s one and only Son Jesus and be redeemed by His blood”.

– – – – – –

Some of you though… you have cried out to Christ, and you have had him dive in, and he has a hold of you, and he is swimming you to solid ground, and you are still kicking and screaming as if you have to save yourself.

– – – – – – –

And some of you… this is just really bad… He has rescued you years ago, and put you on solid ground, and you’re still over there on the side of the pool… kicking and wailing and screaming as if you are a drowning child … and you are not anymore.

You_are_adopted_into_the_family_of_God. You are a child of God, trust in His character, and his ability to rescue you.

– – – — – –

I’m going to invite our Praise Team to come forward.

We’re going to go ahead and pray and then sing our closing song together.

Father… as our church bows before you, we do so humbly… recognizing that you are God and that we are not… and we thank you for that reality. We confess to you the times that we mix that up… especially when it comes to us being just received by you, both now and for all of eternity.

Will you grant us, as this passage of Scripture says, “The faith to trust in your grace.”

… just to trust in your character… to trust in your adoption process and have the confidence of being your children.

And as we look forward to next week… we invite you to begin working on our heart, and show us what it means to live amongst each other and in relationship to you as your children.

And for those who might be here this morning who feel like they really are drowning in the deep end… and who have never cried out to Jesus Christ–our church prays for them.  We’re glad they’re here.  But we’re not glad that that’s what’s on their mind and on their heart… we want it to change.

We want them to become part of the family of God, and we pray that you would work on their heart to help them to see their desperate need to be adopted.  And their ability to place their faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. We ask these things in his name.  Amen.

Part 2: The Adopted Life audio
(no transcription yet)


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