Children Of God
Romans – A Gospel Shaped Life Children of God Romans 8:12-17 Pastor Pat Damiani September 9, 2018 On January 7, 2016, Pope Francis released this video. [Show “Pope Francis' prayer intentions for January 2016” video] My purpose in showing this video is not to bash the Pope or Roman Catholics, but to call your attention to a statement that he made in the middle of that video that is commonly heard in our culture today: “We are all children of God” We hear that quite often don’t we? It sounds good. After all wouldn’t it be great if all humanity was all one big family with the same father? Just one problem. As we’ll see this morning, that statement just isn’t true. While it is true that all humans are God’s creation and that we belong to Him because we were made by Him and for Him, we are not all His children. Yes, God loves all people. In fact, He loved them enough that while we were all still dead in our sins, God sent His Son to this earth to die for them. But that does not mean that we are all His sons and daughters. That fact has nothing to do with our religion. Whether we claim to be Buddhist, or Jewish or Muslim or Christian does not determine whether we are God’s children. In fact, as we’ll see this morning, even many who claim to be Christians and say they believe in Jesus are not God’s children. That is because… I can’t be a child of God If I’m comfortable with my sin I know some of you are probably already thinking that this message doesn’t apply to you because you would never be comfortable with your sin. But I would suggest that is a lot easier to do than we might think. Here is how I most often hear that idea expressed: “After all, God made me the way I am. So He understands my anger, my lust, my greed, my envy, my gossip – insert whatever other sin you might be struggling with here. So I’m just acting in a manner that is consistent with the way God made me. So that can’t really be sin for me, right?” My purpose this morning is not to get you to doubt your salvation. We’ve probably all thought something along those lines or otherwise been comfortable with some sin in our lives on occasion. But on the other hand, if that kind of thinking has become a lifestyle, then God’s Word does have a very serious warning for you this morning. And even if you can honestly say that you have never been comfortable with sin in your life, we’re going to learn some really practical ways to allow the Holy Spirit to help us deal with our sin. So this message is relevant for all of us. We last left off in our study of the book of Romans in November 2016, right in the middle of chapter 8, which probably wasn’t the best planning on my part. So before we jump into today’s passage, let me take a few minutes to review what we learned in the first part of that chapter nearly 2 years ago. An overview of Romans 8: 1. The key idea is “no condemnation”. This chapter begins with the idea that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and then Paul closes the chapter beginning in verse 34, with that same idea again when he writes ”Who is to condemn?” 2. Although all three persons of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – are involved in the work described in this chapter, the Holy Spirit is emphasized. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 18 times in this chapter – more than any other chapter in the Bible. 3. Although this chapter is full of exhortation, there is not one command in the chapter. Paul is primarily giving us statements of truth here, not giving us commands about things we are to do. And here is the primary truth we find in this chapter: Jesus condemned my sin so my sin won’t condemn me That means that if I’m “all in for Jesus” I can know for sure: 1. My past sins are not fatal 2. My current struggles are not God’s punishment 3. My future status is not in doubt Conversely… If I am not “all in” for Jesus then Jesus is not in me at all There is no middle ground. Either I’m all in for Jesus and the Holy Sprit dwells in me and I live in the Spirit and set my mind on the things of the Spirit, or I am not all in for Jesus and the Holy Spirit does not dwell in me and I therefore set my mind on the things of the flesh. That does not mean that as a disciple of Jesus I won’t occasionally fall into sin. But it does mean that if I’m a genuine disciple I can’t live complacently in that sin. So with that in mind, go ahead and follow along as I read today’s passage: [Read Romans 8:12–17] We’ve already seen the main idea from today’s message, but let’s be reminded of it again now that we’ve read the passage: I can’t be a child of God If I’m comfortable with my sin Like he often does, Paul takes kind of a circuitous route to get to his main point here, so let me see if I can help you sort this out. This is a continuation of the last section where Paul describes the difference between those who are all in for Jesus and walk by the Spirit and those who are not and who walk by the flesh – their human nature. He essentially repeats that idea here in a slightly different way. He begins by saying that we owe nothing to the flesh, to our old nature, because of all the great things that God has done for us and particularly because of how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. Although he doesn’t say it explicitly, Pau implies here that our debt or obligation is to the Holy Spirit. Once again Paul draws a sharp distinction between two groups of people. Live according to the flesh Live according to the Spirit Die Not children of God Not a genuine disciple No inheritance Live Children of God Genuine disciple Inheritance The first group are those who “live according to the flesh”. He says that they will die. Now since we all know that all die physically, he must be referring here to eternal death and separation from God, not just physical death. Those in that group are not nor were they ever genuine disciples of Jesus. Paul is in no way teaching here that is it possible for a genuine disciple to lose his or her salvation. And because they are not genuine disciples, they are not “children of God” and won’t receive any inheritance from God. Paul really doesn’t spend a lot of time on that group. Instead he focuses on the second group. He writes that this group will live because they “put to death the deeds of the body”. Those in this second group genuine disciples and therefore are children of God which means that they are entitled to the inheritance that comes along with that. Now I’m pretty sure that all of us here this morning want to be in that second group, right? You want to be a child of God. You want to live eternally so that you can receive the inheritance that God has reserved for his children. And we also want to know how we can be assured that we are in fact children of God and that we are going to receive that inheritance. Fortunately for us, Paul tells us in verse 16 that the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And in this passage we find… THREE WAYS THE HOLY SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS THAT I AM A CHILD OF GOD 1. I am killing sin Bible scholar and theologian Charles Ryrie once called Romans 8:13 the most important single verse on the spiritual life in the New Testament. He liked it because it contains a beautiful balance. There is God’s part—"if by the Spirit"—and there is our part—"you put to death." We are reminded here that spiritual growth is not entirely passive – “Let go and let God”. But it is not entirely active either – “I can do this by myself”. Spiritual growth occurs when I do my part as I rely on the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Notice the word “for” at the beginning of verse 14? That is a really important word all throughout this chapter and that is especially true here because it helps us understand what Paul means in verse 14 when he writes about being “led by the Spirit”. The connecting word “for” tells us that being led by the Spirit is connected with the idea of putting to death the deeds of the body in the prior verse. So I don’t think Paul is using the phrase “led by the Spirit” the way we often do. He’s not addressing the idea of God helping us make a decision like which job to take or who to marry or where to go out to lunch after church. I’m not saying that God doesn’t want us to seek his guidance about those things. I’m just saying that is not what Paul is writing about here. We can’t have confidence that we are sons of God just because we are led to the right job or led to marry the right person. In light of the connection between verses 13 and 14, to be led by the Spirit means to be moved by the Spirit to put to death the sinful deeds done in our flesh. It means that with the enabling of the Holy Spirit I fight sin by trusting that what Jesus offers is superior to what sin offers. It is important that the verbs “put to death” and “led” are present tense verbs. That means this is not something that I can just do once and be done with it. It is something that I must do day-by-day, moment-by-moment, as I am prompted by the Holy Spirit. And in a few minutes I’m going to come back to this idea and talk about some practical ways for us to do that. But hopefully at this point, you can see why I said earlier that… I can’t be a child of God If I’m comfortable with my sin The first way that the Holy Spirit testifies that we are the children of God is by leading us into war against our sin. Whether or not we are truly children of God will be evidenced by whether we’re fighting against the sin in our lives or whether we are comfortable with it. 2. The fear of a slave is replaced with the love of a son Enslavement and fear can actually be quite effective in obtaining external compliance. When I was a young child, one of the things that prevented me from doing wrong much of the time was the knowledge that my dad had a belt, and that he wasn’t afraid to use it. But as I got older, my relationship with my dad changed. Instead of being motivated by the fear of punishment, I was motivated to do good because I wanted to please my dad. That is the kind of change that Paul is writing about in verse 15. The second way that the Spirit testifies that we are children of God is that He replaces the fear of a slave with the love of a son. If we are truly God’s children, we will come to a place where we are motivated by our love of God and not by fear. God doesn’t want us to kill our sin because we view Him as a harsh master who will punish us if we don’t, but rather He wants us to act because we have genuine affection for Him and act based on that love. That is why Paul uses both the word “cry” and the Aramaic word “Abba” here. Both words point to the deep, intimate, personal love that the Father has for us and that He wants us to have toward Him. Those who are God’s children don’t just make a statement proclaiming that God is their Father. They cry out from their hearts, “Abba”, which as most of you probably know is an intimate term similar to the way we would use “daddy” or “papa”. All of us were once fearful sinners who were reluctant to enter the presence of God. But when we put our faith in Jesus and become His disciples, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and begins to work in our hearts to let us know that God loves us and that He desires our presence. He creates a deep, burning desire to enter into God’s presence and experience the intimacy of a family relationship in which we can call Him our Abba. 3. I will suffer with Jesus Most of us would probably choose to do without this third witness. We’d be fine with just the killing of sin and experiencing the love of a father rather than the fear of a slave. But since this idea is in the text, we can’t just ignore it. Paul explains what he means by “suffering with Jesus” in the verses that follow. And since we’re not going to go there this morning, the detailed explanation will have to wait until next week. But the short answer is that he seems to be speaking here of the difficulties and afflictions and trials that come from just begin part of this world that has been subjected to futility because of man’s sin. At least one reason that we experience suffering in this world is so that we don’t fall in love with this world more that we are in love with God. So in a sense, much of our suffering is actually a manifestation of God’s grace and mercy. And when we meet suffering on the road to our inheritance and we endure it by trusting in Jesus, the Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. Of the three ways that the Holy Spirit bears witness that I am a child of God, the one that we are probably least familiar with and the one we can use the most help with is the first one. We’ve spent some time recently talking about how to handle suffering in our life and we’ll spend some more time there next week. And I can’t really give you three easy steps to help you feel more like a son than a slave. If you are a genuine disciple, then the Holy Spirit is going to develop in you that desire for deep intimacy with God. So let’s spend our remaining time to talk about: How the Holy Spirit enables me to kill my sin I’m going to work through this a little differently than I usually do. Rather than giving you the answer up front, we’ll look at a few passages and then I’m going to ask you to tell me how you think this works. and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:17 ESV) Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with this section of Ephesians chapter 6 where Paul describes our spiritual armor. All I will say about this verse is that we’ve been talking about killing our sin. And the only piece of the armor that is used for killing is the sword of the Spirit. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— (Galatians 3:5 ESV) Here, Paul is writing about how the God who supplies the Spirit to help us, works miracles – like the miracle of killing our sin. And he makes it clear that is not accomplished by the works of the law, but by hearing with faith. But hearing what? Let’s let Paul answer that. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV) Hopefully by know, you’re beginning to see a common thread running through these verses. Just a couple more. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV) Sanctification is just one of those big spiritual words we throw around that essentially means what we’ve been talking about this morning – killing our sin as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. And according to Paul that occurs when we believe in the truth. But what is truth? This time we’ll let Jesus answer that question. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV) I know that we’ve gone through these verses really quickly, but there is a common thread here that reveals to us how we are to kill our sin with the enabling of the Holy Spirit. So how are we to do that? [Wait for answers] • Through God’s Word Before I give you a couple examples of how this works in real life, let me just point out that if you love God like a son rather than fear Him like a slave, you are going to delight in His Word because that is the primary place we get to know Him. And if you’re dealing with suffering in your life, the Bible is also the best place to go for encouragement. So the Holy Spirit actually uses the Bible as part of all three ways that he bears witness to us being children of God. Let me illustrate how this works: Let’s say that you’re struggling with the sin of covetousness. So you don’t really need a new – you fill in the blank (car, dress, house, gun) – do I have your attention now? – but you decide to go shopping anyway. And you’re tempted to spend money you don’t have to buy something you don’t need. So while you’re shopping you pull up your Bible on your phone and you open it to this verse: Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11ESV) And then you scroll down a few more verses to this one: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 ESV) And if you’re open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, He is likely going to use those verses to lead you to kill the sin of covetousness by forcing you to consider whether you are going to be content even if you don’t purchase that item. And even more importantly you will have to choose whether you are going to trust in God’s promise that He will provide for your needs or whether you are going to run ahead of God and buy what you want even though you’re going to have to borrow money to do that. Or let’s suppose that you are struggling with the sin of lust, however that might manifest itself – in sex before marriage, in an adulteress relationship, in watching pornography, or in some other way. And the Holy Spirit leads you to this passage: See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15–17 ESV) This is a really interesting passage because even though Esau’s sin was not sexual in nature, the author of Hebrews equates sexual immorality with being unholy like Esau. The connection is that Esau allowed his own physical desires and passions to rule him to the point he was willing to give up his inheritance for a bowl of stew. And as a result, his heart was so hardened that he could never bring himself to the place of genuine repentance. There are a number of other passages that indicate that sexual sins threaten to do the very same thing to us. Here is just one of them: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10 ESV) Paul is not saying that any of these things is an unforgivable sin. In fact in the very next verse, he indicates that some of his readers were just like that at one time and were cleansed of that sin through the blood of Jesus. But what he is saying is that those sins which result from being ruled by our physical desires rather than the Word of God have the potential to so harden our hearts that we can never bring ourselves to the place of repentance. And when that happens, we end up losing our inheritance over an adulterous relationship or watching immoral images on a computer screen. So I have to consider whether I am going to be ruled by my fleshly desires that put me in danger of losing the great inheritance that God has reserved for His children or whether I will heed God’s warning and refrain from my lust. I’m pretty sure that every person here this morning would like for the Holy Spirit to lead you. And He can do that however He wants. But as we’ve seen this morning, the primary way He does that is through God’s Word. So that means that if you really want the Holy Spirit to lead you, you need to be spending time in His Word on a regular basis. We began this morning with a video in which the Pope made a statement that is quite common in our culture today: “We are all children of God” But as we’ve seen this morning, that is just not true because… I can’t be a child of God If I’m comfortable with my sin So let me ask you a question this morning: Are you comfortable with your sin, or, are you killing it each day with the enabling of the Holy Spirit as He guides you through the Bible? None of us are capable of fighting that battle perfectly. Because we still possess our sin nature, we will fail in that fight at times. But if you are engaging in the fight regularly, then the good news is that you can be assured that you are a child of God. So you ought to give thanks to God and pray that He will continue to develop a deep intimacy with Him since you are no longer a slave, but a son. However, if you are still comfortable with your sin, then I want to lovingly say to you this morning, that you are not a child of God. But the good news is that you can change that by committing your life to God through faith in Jesus. Because the very moment you make that commitment, the Holy Spirit will come to live in you permanently and will lead you to kill sin in your life. Discussion Questions for Bible Roundtable 1. How would you respond to someone who claims that “we are all children of God?” 2. Why is it significant that we are “adopted” as God’s children? 3. We didn’t get a chance to talk much about the nature of our inheritance as children of God. What does that inheritance include? 4. Paul is writing here to believers (“brothers”). So is he implying that it is possible for a genuine believer to lose his or her salvation? Why or why not? 5. What would you say to a Christian who claimed that they don’t need to read the Bible because the Holy Spirit will guide their life?