Welcome to the Family!
A sermon based on Romans 8:14-17
Sunday, June 3, 2012 – Holy Trinity Sunday
A small boy tragically lost both his parents in an accident. He became an orphan. With no other family to care for him, he was placed in an orphanage. Scared, grieved, and feeling all alone, he hoped and prayed that some kind young couple would someday adopt him, that he could be in a family again. Then, one day, a young couple of extraordinary means met the boy. They told him that they had adopted him as their own son. They showed him the papers, they wrapped their arms around him, and they took him into their home and into their family.
This morning in our sermon text for this Trinity Sunday, the apostle Paul says that we are that boy. We have been adopted. We've been made children of God and brought into his family by the work of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Listen to the wonderful things the Triune God has done in welcoming you into his family, as Paul describes it in Romans 8:14-17…
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I. The Triune God Has Made Us His Children
Unless we understand our spiritual condition by nature, we can't really appreciate what God has done for us in Jesus. By nature we were slaves. We were controlled by the sinful nature, obligated to serve it. Jesus said in John 8(:34-35), "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin… [and] a slave has no permanent place in the family." We were excluded from God's family, in abject poverty, spiritually speaking. We were orphans—all alone with no hope at all. Right before our text Paul says, "if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die…" Notice there's no maybe about it, no, "Watch out because this might happen." "You will die." Born spiritually dead, cut off from God's family, our certain fate was physical death followed by eternal death forever in hell. No wonder Paul describes our natural condition as slaves to fear.
But the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in his great love for us changed all that. He made us his dearly loved children. Paul says, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."
The story is told of an Arab who struck and killed another man. Knowing his certain fate when he was found out, he fled across the desert until he came to a big tent of a tribal sheik. He confessed his guilt and pleaded for protection. The old sheik swore on oath Allah's name that he would protect the man and brought him into the safety of his tent. The next day, his pursuers came looking for the fugitive, but the sheik refused to hand him over. "But, sir," they said, "Don't you know who he killed?" "I have no idea," he replied. And so they told him: "This man has killed your only son!" The sheik was shocked and confused, but after some time he looked at the man he's sworn to protect and said, "You have killed my only son. But I will keep my oath. In fact, I've decided that you shall now become my son. You will inherit all that I possess."
In a similar way, we, by our sins, by our selfishness, by our choices that went against God's will, we as good as killed Jesus—the only Son of God. But God, knowing full well what we'd done to his one and only Son, for no apparent reason at all, adopted us and said, "I will make you my children." The Father chose us to be his own, to adopt us as his children, and he gave his only Son to make it happen. That Son whom you and I killed died for us. He willingly chose to die to take the punishment of our sins and to give us credit for his perfect life, so that we, with sins forgiven, could be a part of his family as his brothers and sisters—though once orphaned, now a part of his family! "We are God's children." Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? It sounds unbelievable. But we can believe it. "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Have a hard time believing you've been adopted? Then go look at the adoption papers—the words printed in your Bible. Those words, inspired by God, the Holy Spirit, cannot change. The Spirit has led you to believe it! God has made you his child. He loves you like he loves Jesus. Believe it! And rejoice that it's true! God has welcomes you into his family!
II. The Triune God Has Made Us His Heirs
Now when God makes you a member of his family, he doesn't make you the black sheep of the family who no one really likes. He doesn't make you the weird cousin that people try to avoid at the family reunions. He makes you his dearly loved son and he gives all the blessings and benefits that that brings.
Notice, it doesn't say he's made you daughters. God inspired Paul to write, "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." But when he says, "you received the Spirit of sonship," he's not being sexist. Remember that in that culture sons, not daughters, received the inheritance from their fathers. Daughters were expected to marry and share in the inheritance of their husbands. It's these special rights of sons that are given to each of us—male or female—as children of God. Since we are God's children, we are also his heirs. We receive blessings now and we will receive an even greater inheritance from God, namely the glory of heaven, in the not too distant future. And that gives us cause to rejoice right now—even in the midst of suffering and pain.
A young couple had trouble conceiving and so decided to adopt. A few months later, to their surprise, God blessed them with a pregnancy and another baby. A few years later an old friend was visiting and asked the parents, "Which one is yours?" "They both are," was their immediate response. "No. I mean, 'Which one is your natural, biological child?'" The parents looked at each other, and with a knowing smile, together replied, "We don't remember." When God looks at you he intentionally forgets the difference between you and Jesus. You look the same to him. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."
What comfort that brings! When a little kid wakes up in the middle of the night terrified by a bad dream, they call out to mommy and daddy, who always come to comfort them. What do you do when your house is being foreclosed, when you lose your job, when you are about to lose someone you love and you're scared? Cry out to dad. "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"
Parents can't make the bad dreams go away, they can't stop the storm outside, they can't make the fever go away. Parents can comfort and help, but they can't always take the problems away. But your heavenly Father can. And he promises he will.
Now he may not give you your house back, your health back, your job back, your loved one back, but he will give you something even better. He'll give you eternal glory in heaven. As children of God, you're also heirs of God and will inherit what he's prepared for you. Paul continues in verse 17: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
We will most certainly share in God's glory! But—and I want to be clear on this—not yet. Paul says that for now, "We share in his sufferings…" And the very next verse, after our text says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." In other words, we will still suffer in this life.
But let's go back to that orphan boy for a minute. Imagine if that wealthy couple who adopted him told him, "We are adopting you. You will be our son with your own room, with plenty of toys, with all you've ever dreamed of. But… not yet. We have to go on a trip. We'll be gone for two weeks. But when we come back, we'll take you to your new home to be with us."
How would that boy react? Would he still mope about feeling sad and dejected? Would he still hang his head feeling hopeless and all alone? Not if he believed what they said. Instead he'd be excited and eager for their return, counting down the days until he would begin his new life. The promise of a much brighter future would far outweigh his present suffering that might still linger on for a while.
Now, I don't mean to trivialize the very real problems and struggles that I know some of you are going through and that I don't know about at all for others of you. But in view of the blessed privilege of being a part of God's family right now, that we'll enjoy one day soon with the Triune God himself in heaven, whatever we suffer here on earth for a short time is not that big of a deal. If the entire length of this room were a timeline of eternity, how would you mark the time spent on earth? Any suffering you endure here would still be much smaller the smallest microscopic spec, wouldn't it?
That doesn't take your problems away, I know. But it does give you some perspective, doesn't it? When you've given your two weeks notice at your job, when you're months away from retirement, or days away from your dream vacation, it doesn't bother you so much when your co-workers are rude or your boss acts like a jerk, because you know you'll be out of there very soon. Well friends, we're only here for a short time and will soon enjoy the inheritance that is ours as a part of God's family for all of eternity. "… our present sufferings [aren't] worth comparing with the glory that [is about to] be revealed in us."
So focus on the overwhelming grace of our Triune God, who adopted us as his own, who rescued us by his blood, who testified to us and gave us our faith. And let go of that petty argument at home. Let go of the grudge you've been clinging to. Let go of seeking to serve yourself. Instead, remember who you are: Though you were once slaves doomed to die forever in hell, you've been rescued. You've been adopted. You are children of God, a part of his family. You are heirs of God with an eternity of glory that you'll receive soon.
Now, in thanks to him, live for God, your Father. Not because you have to as if you were a slave again. Not because you fear the consequences if you don't. But with a debt of gratitude that he's made you his child. Live for your brother, Jesus, to show your unending thanks for making you co-heir with him. Rejoice in the Spirit, dear friends, who by the Word and the faith he's given, has changed your status—that you are no longer slaves with no hope, but are adopted as God's dearly loved children with full rights of sons. Live as heirs who know you will be in glory soon. In Jesus name, dear friends, welcome to the family! Amen.