Sunday, November 06, 2016
Sermon: Romans 8: 12-17 Children of God
This morning I want you to take a chance on me. I’ll need you to gimme gimme gimme your attention, because knowing me knowing you, this is something you need to hear today. In fact, it’s better than money, money, money, and if you get what this morning’s sermon is all about, then you’ll get on like a dancing queen.
This morning we’re thinking about Abba - but not the Swedish pop group. Instead, we’re thinking about our Abba, and being able to call God Abba, as Paul says in verse 15. ‘By whom we cry, Abba! Father!’
We’re in a short series, as we work our way through Romans 8, and think about living by the Spirit. A fortnight ago, we heard about the wonderful good news that ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ We already know the verdict on the last day; we’re already confident that nothing can condemn us because we are in Christ. Now that is good, and great, and wonderful, but there is even more to the Christian life than just knowing that truth.
Today, Paul opens up a bit more of what that means for us, as we are brought into God’s family and receive the inheritance. So let’s dive in at verse 12, as we unpack the glorious riches of Christ.
Verse 12: ‘So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.’ Paul says that we are debtors, that we owe something to someone. He doesn’t spell it out here, we’ll work it out in a second, but notice that he tells us who we don’t owe anything to.
‘Not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.’ I wonder if you’ve ever changed jobs. You’ve worked hard for your previous employer, but now you work for your new boss. And then your old employer comes round, asking would you do a wee something for them. Could you help out? You would be able to say, I don’t owe you anything. I’ve finished working for you, you don’t control me any more!
That’s what’s going on here. Paul has showed how we have been rescued from living according to the flesh, living according to our own desires. We don’t owe it anything - our time for living by the flesh is finished. But you might still be wondering, well, who do we owe something to?
Look at the contrast Paul sets out in verse 13: ‘For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’
These are the only two ways we can live - either by the flesh (the path that leads to death), or by the Spirit. So it must be the Spirit, to God, that we owe everything. We’ve been ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven - everything we have is because of God. So how do we pay our debts? How do we respond to God’s good news?
It’s by the Spirit, as we put to death the deeds of the body. Do you see how strong this language is here? It’s not just ‘don’t do those things you used to do’, it’s ‘put to death the deeds of the body.’ But it’s not something we can do by ourselves - it’s ‘by the Spirit’ - we need his power to lead us and change us, to kill off our sins.
When you look at the two ways to live, which do you think is the easy one? Living by what pleases you, or killing off your sin and living to please the Spirit? It would be far easier to do what you want. The struggle is to put to death the deeds of the body, because, deep down, we might still want to do those things. But there is encouragement here. You see, if you’re struggling, if you’re fighting against your sin, then that’s a good sign. As verse 14 continues: ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ If you’re struggling with sin, if you’re (by the Spirit) putting it to death, then you’re being led by the Spirit. And if you’re led by the Spirit of God, you are a son of God. (Or a daughter! The language of sonship is because at this time only the sons inherited from their father).
What an encouragement! Perhaps this week you have been discouraged by your weakness; by how easily you’ve slipped again. You know better, you try harder, and still you fall. The fact that you’re frustrated is a good sign! It shows that you’re led by the Spirit, and that you are a child of God.
And it comes through the Holy Spirit, verse 15: ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’
The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to bring fear and slavery. Rather, he is the Spirit of adoption. He brings us into God’s family, he makes us into a child of God, and teaches us how to call God our Father. Abba (not the Swedish pop group), Abba is the word for dada, daddy, dad, in Aramaic. It’s by the Spirit that we can call the God of the universe our dad. We who were on the outside are brought in by the sacrifice of Jesus, and the work of the Spirit confirms what has happened in our hearts.
‘The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’
The Spirit confirms that we really are God’s children, and he also confirms that we are God’s heirs. God’s inheritance is for us, for all who believe, for all who are his children, and the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
What a transformation in a few verses! From owing everything for our very lives in verse 12, to inheriting everything in verse 17. Everything the Father has is ours in Christ. The glory lies ahead, and in the meantime, as children of our Abba Father, we are called to live by the Spirit, and put to death the deeds of the body.
Perhaps as you hear of what the Christian life looks like, you think to yourself, that sounds great, but I’m not there. I just do what I please. I live according to the flesh. Turn around today! Don’t stand around on the outside any longer! Come in, come home, and know the God of the universe as your Abba, your dad.
But maybe you are a Christian. You’re finding things tough. Sin keeps popping up. You keep doing things you don’t want to do. You’re struggling. Be encouraged by the Spirit living in you, leading you to keep fighting as you put your sin to death. You’re not living in slavery and fear; you’re adopted as a son, a child of God.
God gives you what you need to live for him - the power of his Holy Spirit dwelling in you. Keep going! Keep fighting!
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 6th November 2016.