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July 12, 2020 Finding His Children
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ
This morning, let’s focus on our Epistle Lesson for the day from Romans 8; which puts before us the idea of ‘son-ship.’ Let me first explain the use of the word ‘son’, so that we are not distracted by how our world likes to make a competition between the idea of ‘son’ and ‘daughter’. The HSp in the Bible is not interested in our petty complaints when Scripture uses the word ‘son’ but not the word ‘daughter’. In the context of Romans 8, the point is NOT between male & female, but between having a future ‘inheritance’ OR having a future ‘nothing.’ So, the word ‘son’ is used to comfort all of God’s children, who are adopted by baptismal grace, for a heavenly inheritance = a promise which includes /male & female, /young & old, /Jew & gentile, /slave & free.
This is one of those places where the Bible expects us to conform our thinking to the way God wants to talk, & not the way we (or our world) wants to think. So the Bible gets accused of being ‘male-dominated’ (or patriarchal), & gender-biased; & that’s just false. Those making that complaint are distorting the faith & thinking backwards. The Jewish culture didn’t invent this idea of giving the family inheritance to the first-born male child. God gave this idea of connecting ‘son’ & inheritance; & He did it because God-the-Father had a plan to send His first-born Son into the world to claim US as His glorious inheritance. Therefore, this language of son-ship & inheritance comes from God’s language of our salvation.
The Israelite focus on the blessing of the first-born son was designed by God not to treat daughters or 2nd-born sons as less important; but to point us to our salvation thru the Son-of-Heaven ~ Jesus. God does make created & divine differences between male & female; but He has never made one more important than the other = male & female are equal AND different.
We know this equality is true, because it matches with Galatians 3, which says: (26-29)
“…for in Christ Jesus you are ALL sons of God, thru faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, …neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you all one (or equal) in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, & heirs according to promise.”
All of our lessons today have something to do with the sowing the seed of God’s Word. God’s Word goes out from His mouth & accomplishes His purpose = that is, to cause people to believe in Him & be saved. Matt.13, Jesus tells of the sad reality that God’s Word of grace in Christ will not always be received for faith & salvation; sometimes it’s rejected. But if anyone will be saved, it will be because of that Spirit-filled Word taking root & bearing fruit in them.
And in Romans 8, Paul is explaining how the Spirit is at work in the ‘sons of God’, =that is, in the children of inheritance= in whom God’s Spirit-filled Word is living & active. This reminds us that the Holy Scriptures -the Bible- is the instrument which the Holy Spirit uses to teach us to believe His promises in Christ, and to live by the commands & ways of God. The Spirit works with the Gospel on the souls of fallen men, women, & children to bring us to Jesus, the chosen Savior, who died for our sins, & rose again, to make us ALL like the Father’s Son, & fellow heirs of Eternal Life.
Paul explains that the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit, like planting a seed in us == so that our soul becomes like a new plant, a new birth of life in Christ. This is how we receive adoption as the Sons of God thru faith. God makes us His own living children who look forward to His promise: the inheritance of a heavenly life to come.
Paul also speaks in terms of ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’. He says that living ‘according to the flesh’, =that is, disobeying the Father= makes you & me a captive slave to sin & death. So, the Father has sent His Son to rescue us, and give us the gift of son-ship, which comes with that inheritance. To illustrate this contrast between the ‘spirit of slavery’ and ‘the Spirit of adoption’, let’s use our own little parable.
A Disney movie quote goes like this: “A nice neighborhood, a beautiful home in a (sea) anemone with a wonderful view, and four hundred little eggs.” This was considered paradise to Marlin & Coral, two clownfish in Disney’s movie, ‘Finding Nemo.’ But soon their paradise is lost. A large, hungry fish attacks the neighborhood, knocking out Marlin; destroying their home & eating the eggs. When he awakes, everything is gone except one little egg, which he names Nemo. Nemo is born with an underdeveloped fin, & a desire to prove his independence. Marlin is a good father, and given the circumstances, is very protective of little Nemo.
On Nemo’s first day of school, despite his father’s warning, Nemo disobeys and swims too far from the school. Little Nemo is captured by a deep-sea diver, who is a dentist, who keeps fish in his office aquarium. This starts the adventure of the rest of the story of ‘Finding Nemo.’ Marlin -the loving father- goes literally to the end of the ocean to find his beloved son, and bring him home. The adventure includes dangerous encounters with anglerfish & jellyfish, pelicans & sea gulls, whales & turtles, sharks, and humans.
In many ways, you & I are like Nemo. We are all children, who have had fathers. We have all been in the position of honoring our God-given father during this life. This is the 4th Commandment of God: Honor your father and your mother. *What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise our parents and masters, nor provoke them to anger; but give them honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.
It was when little Nemo dishonored his father that he got in trouble. He despised the fact that his father was so protective of him & has so many rules. He wants to live his own life, so Nemo boldly swam his own way, disobeying his father. This sin & its consequence drives the rest of the story. It’s amazing how one little sin =like not listening to your father= can lead to so much trouble for a life. Maybe you & I know how rebelling against our fathers turned into trouble in our lives.
This is how it was for the first children of the first Father = the Creator of heaven & earth. Adam & Eve lived in true paradise, even more magnificent than the wonderful images of the Great Barrier Reef in the movie. But that garden-paradise, called Eden, was lost when Adam & Eve disobeyed their heavenly Father, & ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. That day their relationship with their Father died; they were cut-off from the family, a spiritual death, with no inheritance. Now they would face physical death as well. They were now slaves of sin, captive to death, unable to free themselves, with no good future.
Today, you & I still suffer the effects of that original-sin in our being. That in-born sin caused you, at times, to disobey your earthly father. Likewise, that fallen flesh causes us to despise & disobey our Heavenly Father, & not live by His holy Word-for-life. It doesn’t matter whether we disobey Him on purpose, or in weakness, we are accountable for our sins against our Father.
We don‘t have to guess what these sins are; God‘s Ten Commandments show us right from wrong. ‘Thou Shalt have NO other gods before Me’, he commands. At times we have swum our own way in life = making ourselves as ‘god’ of our life. /We have not always honored His Sabbath Day as important to our lives; /we have cheated & stolen from others; /we tolerate the world’s sexual immoralities in our lives & in others; /we slander those we don’t know, & gossip about those we do know. Our ‘flesh’ wants to be ‘our own fish’ & do our own thing; we don’t like that our Father is overly protective of us, & has too many rules. But the fact is that we are slaves of our old nature.
In Romans 8, 2 possibilities are laid before us: “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”. When you were young, and you honored your earthly father & mother, things in your life went much more smoothly. So it is with our heavenly Father. But since we sin, & we do what God has commanded us NOT to do, that sin has caused great problems & pains for us.
The holy justice of God’s Law demands that God-the-Father disown sinners from the family. The devil likes to throw this in our face. Because of our sin, we are children of slavery & not God’s children; cut off from God’s family, and headed for eternal separation in a placed called hell. Remember when Jesus told the Pharisees that the devil was their ‘father’ ? (Jn.8)
But part of the story of ‘Finding You’ is that God-the-Father was not satisfied with letting you be a slave of sin & be condemned. That’s why your Heavenly Father warns you of the danger of living according to the flesh, and commands you not to do certain things. He knows that sin leads you into a much worse fate than being held captive in a dentist’s aquarium.
“If you live according to the flesh you will die.”
And so, your Father has gone all-out for you. Paul says, “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” In other words ‘fear not ~ I have given you a new spirit’. Your Heavenly Father wants the best for you, His born-again-child. His love is far greater, more sacrificial, and more real, than a Disney character. In the movie, Marlin faces all kinds of trouble, injury & death to find Nemo. /He is chased by sharks thru a minefield; /dives to the darkest depths where he’s almost eaten by an anglerfish; /he is swallowed by a whale; /he barely maneuvers his way thru a school of stinging jellyfish; /& he rides the treacherous Eastern Australian Current. What great love this father showed for his son = but it’s just a story.
So, *what does REAL love look like? As you & I were caught as slaves in the net of sin, death, & the devil, God gave-up His only Son to rescue us. Jesus didn’t almost suffer many things to rescue us; and He didn’t almost die in order to set us free. Jesus was rejected by the world He loved; Jesus was abandoned & betrayed by His disciples; He was falsely arrested & convicted; beaten-up & whipped by soldiers, & nailed to a cross. Jesus died in your place.
God-the-Father abandoned His Son so that He could adopt YOU as His child. “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! (papa) Father!’ You & I have been given the gift of ‘son-ship’. We have been brought into God’s family; not by our ‘decision’, but by God’s choosing & working. And now He calls us to remain in His family! Swimming away again & disobeying Him is slavery. Our freedom & blessing comes from living by the Spirit, living according to His Word & instruction, which bears the fruit of Eternal Life.
The last word Paul focuses on is the word ‘heirs.’ The children of God are entitled to an inheritance. Baptized into Christ our Savior, living by the Spirit of God, you are set to receive a wonderful inheritance. Just as the Perfect Son -Jesus- received power & glory, and honor & the full blessing of heaven, because of his trust & obedience to the Father, so Jesus has opened the way for you & I to be fellow heirs, receiving a share in the life to come – as a gift.
The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs = heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
This is saying the same thing as we read in 1Pet.1: “Blessed be the God and Father ….. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope thru the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable,… kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded -thru faith- for a salvation ready to revealed in the last time.”
This is the promise made throughout the whole Scripture; it’s the promise of the Father’s real love shown to us in Jesus, so that ALL who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. That Word about Jesus is like a seed, which the Spirit plants in us so that we have a new life, & will bear fruit for His kingdom. This is your good news. Don’t swim away from it & lose it. Rejoice in that Word; live it, and share it with those around you.
Little Nemo was saved by his father = a nice little story. The REAL story is that thru the Water & the Word, you have been rescued by your Heavenly Father. And you have received what Jesus earned for you on the cross: you are adopted into God’s family, to live as His holy child, until you receive the heavenly inheritance. That’s God’s promise to you!