Today we were blessed to hear a message from Derwin Gray, Pastor of Transformation Church.
Labels impact us. We buy things based on labels and they affect how we see ourselves. But the most engrained label we embrace is perhaps the most destructive.
1. Many of us are wearing a life-destroying label: “Orphan.”
People often experience abandonment and disappointment from their earthly fathers, but we are not spiritual orphans. God is our gentle, protective, loving Daddy.
Many people didn’t have the blessing of an earthly father to touch us with affirmation of love and grace. People often experience abandonment and disappointment from their earthly fathers, but we are not spiritual orphans. God is our gentle, protective, loving Daddy.
God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5
When we don’t know the Father who gives us security and an identity, we look for it in other people, accomplishments, and possessions. Pastor Derwin shared that he chased after football as his god to give his life meaning and affirmation.
Sometimes even Christians who know we have a loving Father still strive to please Him by filling our lives with spiritual activity. We long to hear God’s affirmation of what we do (reading our Bibles and doing ministry), when His affirmation actually flows out of what Jesus did.
- Orphans feel anonymous.
The word “anonymous” can be defined as “lacking uniqueness or distinction.” When we allow orphan wounds to limit our lives, we become anonymous people. Lacking connection to God our Father, we do not know who we are—we feel orphaned and lose the capacity to discover our uniqueness. When we feel anonymous, we roam through life lost, looking for a love and an identity that no human, no job, no amount of money could ever provide.
- Orphans feel abandoned.
Pastor Derwin learned at a young age that if he got close to other people or relied on them, that he would get hurt. So at age 13, he put a fence around his heart and locked himself away for protection. He began to sabotage relationships, believing that people would just end up hurting him anyway.
- Orphans feel afraid.
Orphans have fear because their identities are not secured in our loving Father, and therefore are easily threatened or attacked. Jack Frost writes:
“The orphan spirit causes one to live life as if he does not have a safe and
secure place in the Father’s heart. He feels he has no place of affirmation, protection,
comfort, belonging, or affection. Self-oriented, lonely, and inwardly isolated, he has no
one from whom to draw Godly inheritance. Therefore, he has to strive, achieve,
compete, and earn everything he gets in life. It easily leads to a life of anxiety, fears,
Pastor Derwin experienced this firsthand. His parents were sufferers of various abuse and addictions, and as he says, “hurt people hurt people,” so he was raised primarily by his grandmother. At age 13, he found a savior called football. It became his god, a ticket to the heavenly American dream and an escape from the hell he experienced as a child. He played on a great high school team, got a scholarship to BYU where he met his wife, went All-American, and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Then everything got turned upside down in 1995. His team made it to AFC championship game, he was nominated for the Pro Bowl and was team captain. But then he realized that he had everything he thought he ever wanted – a wife, success, money – but he still felt he was at the end of his rope, clinging to the bitterness he felt over his childhood hurts, and likewise hurting others. He felt he didn’t have the capacity to love his wife the way she deserved because he didn’t have a source of love.
Back when Derwin was first drafted to the Colts in 1993, he met a teammate known as “the naked preacher” who would strike up conversations about Jesus while wrapped in his post-shower towel. An uncomfortable initial conversation led to a 5-year conversion process for Derwin. Then one day while at training camp, Derwin called his wife and told her he wanted to be more committed to her and committed to Jesus. He knew for first time that the love I had been looking for all his life had finally found him. He realized the Jesus was made a mess for his sin so that he could be made a masterpiece.
2. Time for a new label: “Adopted.”
- God gives us His adopting love.
God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5 NLT
When Derwin’s children were little, the intense love he felt for them when singing them to sleep at night would sometimes make him weep. This is what God the Father does: He weeps with pleasure over you! God’s pleasure with us is based exclusively and solely in Jesus. His Daddy wants to be your Daddy. Before time ever began, before your parents ever met, God said He loved you. Before you ever called His name to draw near to you, He was already on his way.
- God gives us daughtership and sonship.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15 NLT
How you and I see ourselves will determine how we live, so God wants us to see what He sees when He looks at us: Jesus. Though Derwin grew up with a difficult stutter, God eventually gave him the confidence to become a great student and leader. This was only able to happen because the Spirit of God let him know that his new identity was in Christ as a beloved son of the King.
God has epic things for you to do as a son or daughter of the King. If you recognize who you are in Christ, you can embrace the life that God has planned for you.
- God gives us friendship.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:8-11 NLT
You are made right by the blood of Jesus. You are no longer defined by your past because of what Christ has done. Realizing this will create in you a heart of worship, a spirit of adoration, and a life that wants others to experience that grace.
In 2001, as Derwin was writing letters to family and friends to tell them about Jesus’ love for them, God told him to find his father again. The old doubt and bitterness resurfaced; Derwin’s father had hurt and abandoned him. He didn’t deserve forgiveness! But then God reminded Derwin that He didn’t deserve forgiveness either, yet He had sent Jesus to find him. So Derwin wrote and sent the most difficult letter of his life, expressing love, forgiveness, and a desire to know his father again. After some time passed, he received a letter from his father. Derwin had already decided to be okay with whatever the response would be, because of his Heavenly Father, but the response was positive. Derwin’s dad thanked him for his forgiveness and told him that he loved him.
At the end of the day, all of us are searching for love with no attachments. But no human can give this; only God can! So Pastor Derwin left us with a challenge today: write God a letter and thank Him for adopting you into His family. Maybe you can even share the letter on Facebook or with someone else who needs to know God’s fatherly love!