All are included in the family of God, and to exclude any is a grave injustice to the whole family as well as to the individual.
In verse 21 of today's Bible reading, Romans 8:12-25, and this is in The Message, it says, "Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens."
And so the Lord is inviting us to look forward to what is to come. And I think that we've been talking about the scriptures through the lens of justice. And just right there, it stands out to me that what we look forward to is just only as we all can look forward to it, not if some have some future that they are anticipating with joy at the expense of others whose futures are being detracted from or made worse by whatever we're looking forward to. It's something that we want to keep everybody in mind for and how things affect everybody when we look forward and make our plans and our thoughts about where we're headed and what we're doing. And then when we do, then we can be confident in what God is leading into.
Transcript of sermon Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on July 19, 2020 at Briensburg UMC
The particular passage here, I focused in on the middle verses there. The verses 14 through 18. And the whole passage is part of that letter to Romans where Paul says things like that. There is now no condemnation for you. We don't have to go and feel that we're under the condemnation of God, but we have been brought into the family of God. And so that's what this particular passage this morning emphasizes. And so in the Gospel lection for today is about the wheat and tares and letting them grow together. And we think about that in terms of our lives. We let all the ideas kind of grow together and we trying to nurture and strengthen those that are good and right and wholeness and inclusive and loving and caring. But there's also going to be other ideas that other people are going to be strengthening and working with. We have to focus on what God invites us to and as his children, as his family.
Children of God
Those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. Vs 14 (GNT)
So as the children of God, in the Good News Translation says those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. In our particular theological heritage and that of many other Christians is the idea of the image of God, that we all are made in the image of God. And that that is an indelible part of who we are. Nothing can change that. Nothing can take away from that. We can cover it up. We can pretend it's not there. We can ignore it in ourselves and each other, but it's still there. We're still made in the image of God. God's image, the essence of who God is, is still really who we are made to be like. And so in that sense, when we look at any person and we can look at them from that viewpoint, as the children of God together with us. So we can know that when we are the children of God and you are the children of God, and they are the children of God.
And then even those who don't believe in that, who believe that humanity has fallen and lost that image of God completely. And they say all believe that when you place your faith in Christ, you get it back or you get born again into, that would be part of the definition of born again for some is that that image is restored. So either way, we're the children of God. We're the children of God.
And then what Paul says here though, those who are led by God's Spirit. And sometimes we might not be being led by God's Spirit. We might sometimes forget or decide to ignore God's leading, but we're still the children of God, we don't go back and forth between being the children of God and not being the children of God. But sometimes we may not be acting like it. And so we're invited to always be acting like it, to be trying to work on our lives, to where that we are more and more living up to our namesake as the children of God and encouraging others to do the same and seeing that in others and drawing it out and pointing to it, looking for the good in others, looking for the image of God in others, and highlighting that, bringing it out, to help them to experience also the blessings of being in the family of God.
Spirit of Adoption
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Vs 15 (KJV)
And then Paul in the next verse says that, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry 'Abba, Father'." And in The Message translation he puts it, "What's new, Papa?" We have a person here who's here in the spirit is almost every Sunday who went on to be with the Lord several years ago now, Ray Wyatt, and he always emphasized just about every time we had any kind of get together about, he called God "Papa." And that he emphasized that closeness between our paternal relationships and our maternal relationships, our relationship with our parents, the fathers and mothers, the closeness that we would ideally have there, with the closeness that we would ideally have with our heavenly parent, with God.
And that's what Paul is bringing out here with the word Abba. It's like Papa, Mama, Daddy. And the term of that kind of a closeness and relationship, rather than what oftentimes we think of as formal and far and distant, of God being out there in the universe someplace, and He is, God's out there everywhere, but close to us, as close as we are to ourselves. And so we haven't received the spirit of bondage to fear. That can cover a lot of territory. So I want to make a list, but just basically it's anything that's not that spirit of adoption. Anything not that closeness. We haven't received a spirit to anything that takes us away from that closeness and love. And that rather, that brings us in as the family.
And so whether we felt like we were as a family before or not, we are now. Paul puts another way like a tree being, a plant being grafted into another plant to become one with that plant. We have that song I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God. And I am, aren't you? I'm glad I'll be a part of the family. I'm glad you're a part of the family. And we should try to help encourage others to feel their part in the family. We're all one family, family of God, brothers and sisters. And we're all a part of this family. I praise God for that. We share this heavenly parent of God.
God’s Spirit Bears Witness to Our Spirits
God's Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God's children. Vs 16 (GNT)
And then God's Spirit bears witness to us about this. "God's Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are the children of God" (GNT). I like the idea of God joining the divine Spirit with our spirit within us. And God speaks to us and confirms this to us. We might witness to one another what we think and what we've experienced and what we are understanding is, but underneath all of that is God himself bearing witness to each of us. And to all, that we are God's children. And we can hear that voice speaking within us. And we can help others hear that voice. We need to amplify it. And echo it.
I think that too is a justice issue, that people not only often not told that they are the children of God, but sometimes often told that they're not, when they are, and much of their joy of life that they could already be experiencing, they're missing because they don't know. And because someone is trying to exclude them and trying to tell them some other message and sometimes going to extreme lengths at this misinformation and distortion that the Spirit of God is moving among us and within us and through us to communicate to us and to all that we are the children of God, that God loves us and wants us all to be together as one family, of people who love one another and who care about and encourage and support one another and help each other find our true nature, our divine nature as the children of God.
Joint Heirs with Jesus
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Vs 17 (KJV)
And then this next verse 17, "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Now we get down to where the rubber meets the road a little bit. Surely he's not really talking about money, inheritance of money, because we see Christ himself not inheriting that. When Christ lived a life of what seemed like the physical world poverty, but think how rich that he was with the spiritual gifts and graces and how those are a part of our inheritance, with the bearing of fruits, with the ministries that Christ ministered, that we mi now to one another. And to the extent that we received those and use them in our lives. And we are experiencing that inheritance now, of love and joy and peace and a friendship with one another and fellowship that is eternal.
So that it's not just in the life with the world to come, although it is. And that's beautiful. So we need to think about that life of the world to come, think about heaven. I love to have my thoughts about heaven and to think about how wonderful that will be, when everybody's all united together in love that has been brought to perfection, and all of the joys and all of the eternal life that is there. But we're also invited to make all of that as much as we can a part of our daily life right now, this hour, this day, in our relationships with one another. And to that extent, we're actually receiving our inheritance.
And isn't that more important than any kind of earth, just a worldly types of inheritances that we could receive.
The Coming Glory
I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Vs 18 (GNT)
We want that. We want that love. We want that peace and joy in our hearts, that is there regardless of the difficulties and struggles that we might be going through, which is what Paul begins to talk about in this next verse when he says, "I consider that all we suffer at this present time cannot be compared with the glory that is going to be revealed in us." And he goes on throughout the passage that Mitch read about the hope, the hope of glory, and that hope that we have. Perhaps the greatest injustice as it relates to this passage is the deprivation of hope. And that's been going on a long time. People are using the religion to take away and steal away the hope of other people. And when they do that, you're depriving, not us of course, but whoever does that is depriving somebody of the essence of what we need to look forward with anticipation and joy to the future.
And one striking example that associates with the injustices that we're dealing with as a country today is the slave Bible that they used to use. They used to tear out the books and passages of scripture that would give a slave any hope if they happened to read it. And try to impose that on people. We could probably just come up with all kinds of things that are oppressive and that make people feel like that they cannot be a part of this inheritance, that they can't be a part of society, or they can't be a full part of the church or anything.
And we stand against all that, because we stand for hope.
We stand for hope. We stand for inclusiveness and for justice for all. Just like we're supposed to say that in our pledge whenever we say The Pledge of Allegiance, "liberty and justice for all." It's not just for some. I like that button I've gotten that says "Justice is not just us." Not just one group or another, not one viewpoint or another, but for all. We all grow together. We all love together. We all live together and we suffer together and we rejoice together. That's how things that Paul drives at in his letters. And as he says that whatever struggles we're having in doing that, whatever difficulties and obstacles we might come up against, whatever push back there may be is nothing compared to the joy when we get through it all, the joy as it becomes reality.
And so it may be difficult. It may be slow going. It may be some that don't like that or there may be some obstacles and there may be all kinds of trouble that we would go through to get there, but just keep your mind on where it is we're going. Think how beautiful it is, how wonderful it is when all God's children are at peace and in love with one another. Amen? Just picture it, think about how it feels, where there's, as the promise that as God put it in the end of the Bible in the new Jerusalem imagery of the city of new Jerusalem. And He said that "the tabernacle of God is with people. God himself shall wipe away every tear from our eyes. There shall be no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death."
And that's the promise God said, God would take care and make sure that happens. That sounds pretty good to me, doesn't it? Doesn't it make you feel good?
Well, it makes you feel good when you think that people can be as Steven prayed in his invocation, from all different backgrounds, all different lifestyles, and all different viewpoints. And yet we all are in harmony with one another, we're all in peace and love with one another. When we don't have to worry about whether somebody loves us or doesn't love us, we know they do. When we don't have to worry about any of that. We just grow together and learn together with each other and from each other, supporting and encouraging each other with full confidence, that we love one another as Christ has loved us.
Feels good then, doesn't it? Make you feel kind of happy. Might make you feel like shouting after a while if you keep thinking about it. And so that's what Christ invites us to in this passage. The Lord is inviting us to put on our heavenly outfits, put on our spirit of adoption, put on our being a child of God as the way that we relate to each other to the world around us. And everybody's not going to like that. A lot of people aren't going to like it. Everybody might not respond to that, but a lot of people will. And then it will grow and build from there, until finally it's all brought to its perfection and we're good. We got to be a part of it all this time.
"Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens." In the name of Jesus. Amen.