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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Romans

Christ's Spirit and Convincing us we are God's Children

Romans 8:14-27

Three simple and obvious analogies.

One thing about life is that we become so accustomed to something wonderful, we take it for granted. We have yawning indifference to those things that are crucial for our lives.

For example, political freedom. How we enjoy living in America and enjoy the pleasing tastes of democracy. We love our freedom of speech, our freedom of worship, our freedom of the press, our freedom of not being afraid of our government. But sometimes, after we have lived here in America for so long, we get used to these freedoms and begin to take them for granted.  We become complacent. Less than fifty percent of our eligible people vote. We can take our freedoms for granted and yawn with indifference that we are free.

The same is true of our abundance of good food and water. We live in the breadbasket of the world. We enjoy the fresh succulent tastes of fruit from all over the world. Pineapples, watermelon, kiwis, coffee, tea, all coming to us from around the globe. And clean, pure water comes right from our tap. We don’t walk a half mile to a well for clean, pure water.  And once again, we can become complacent, and yawn with indifference at something crucial to us.

The same is true for the air we breathe and the atmosphere that protects us from cosmic rays from the universe. We all know that we are living within a membrane around the earth called the atmosphere and it is about fifteen miles thick. Throughout all the rest of the infinity of space, we are not aware of another planet with such a membrane of air in which life can develop and exist. Do we rejoice in ecstasy over the air we breath? No. We yawn with indifference at something crucial to us.

Similarly, in the Christian faith, we hear it so often:  that we are children of God. We hear that God is our personal father, that we are heirs to eternal life, that we enjoy the privileges and pleasures of being a child in the father’s house. We hear these truths so often that we can yawn with indifference at something crucial to us. 

Just the opposite. That is, I am thinking of something crucial to us and we are not indifferent. I loved being a child growing up in my home in Jackson, Minnesota. I loved my home, my mother and father, my brother and sisters, my friends. Years ago, there was a psychological theory by Eric Berne called transactional analysis and he said that each of us has a child, an adult, and a parent within. Sometimes the child rules in us; sometimes the adult and sometimes the parent.  Eric Berne says that we are a healthy “child” in us; that we are secure deep within and that childhood security gives us a happiness in live, a joy of being alive. A man by the name of Missiledine wrote the book, THE INNER CHILD OF YOUR PAST, and suggested that we all benefit enormously if we have this inner healthy child within us.

I loved and love our children, all three of them. I loved to watch them being children. O yes, you want them to grow up but I love “the child” in each one of them. My hope is that they have a healthy and happy inner child from their early childhood. A healthy inner child is filled with security, happiness, abounding in hope for the future.

And grandchildren. I can’t get enough of them. Our grandchildren teach us how to be children once again. They are so playful. How I loved taking my oldest grandson up snow skiing, and to get him onto the chairlift for the first time, I took snowballs so we could bomb people below. Katie, the four year old, and I played make believe the other night as she served me a make believe breakfast, eggs, toast and coffee. And Nate the baby. He crawls up our carpeted steps up to the living room, looking around and laughing. What fun. Who is the child in this family, anyhow? I love my grandchildren; love is alive; and that love is crucial to both them and me. All people need to have a healthy sense of an inner child, a security that is just assumed. Our grandchildren can remind us anew of the importance of a healthy inner child which is filled with security, happiness and abounding with hope for the future. 

It is with these images that we approach the sermon for today from Romans eight.

Previously, I have mentioned that we have had one sermon on chapter two, one on chapter three, four, five, six, and seven. But when we get to chapter eight, we have five sermons. Why? Because many theologians feel that chapter eight of Romans is the high water mark of the whole New Testament. In chapter eight, the floodgates below the highest dam in the world are opened, and the power of Spirit of Christ flows mightily into our spiritual lives. Prior to chapter eight in Romans, there are only two references to the Spirit; in Romans chapter eight alone, there twenty-one references to the Spirit. Chapter eight overflows with the abundance of the Spirit.

In chapter eight, the first thing that the Spirit does in us and to us is to ignite our spirits and make our spirit alive. I used a children’s illustration of a sparkler from the fourth of July. I light a sparkler and then tried to light a piece of glass with the sparkler, then a piece of metal, then a piece of wood, and nothing ignited. When I touched the lit sparkler to another sparkler, that was made out of the same stuff as the first sparkler, that second sparkler lit up and showered sparks. So it is with us. We are made out of the same stuff as God; we are spirit stuff; we human being are spiritual; there is a spiritual component in all human beings throughout the globe, and when Christ’s spirit touches our spirit, our spirit comes alive. The firs thing that the Spirit of Christ does to us and in us is to ignite our spirits in us and make them alive. In that same sermon, I used a second analogy. I took a pitcher filled with dark blue water, representative of the love of Christ, and poured into a glass slightly filled with light blue water. When the Spirit of Christ is poured into our spirit, when Christ’s love is poured into my love, it changes everything about me. The quantity and quality of the love is change in me.

The second thing that the Spirit does to us and in us is to put to death our sinful nature, that unhealthy pieces of our personalities, those defects of character that we all have. The Spirit in Romans immediately goes to work on our defects of character, on our unhealthy pieces of our personality and changes them. When his Spirit is alive in us, we are motivated to change those unhealthy pieces of our personality and to do the work of daily change. We don’t look for instant miraculous cures of these defects, but the Spirit motivates us to have “the courage to change the things we can” in those unhealthy pieces of our personalities. We heard the prayer, “Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” The Spirit puts to death that defects of character.

The third thing the Spirit does in us and to us in Romans eight is to convince us that we know we are children of a personal God, that God is abba, that we have an inheritance that is imperishable with Jesus Christ, that we enjoy the pleasures and possibilities of being a child, that we enjoy security, happiness and abound with hope.. That is what the sermon is all about today.

Would you please take your bulletin insert so that we can study Romans 8:14-27.Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons, are children of God.”

The word, sons, and the word, children, are used interchangeably in Romans 8. Look at the italicized words in your bulletin insert, and you will clearly see that the words, son and children, are used interchangeably.

Let us focus on the phrase, led by the Spirit.  What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? It means to have the Spirit of Christ alive in you and permeating all of your decisions. We know what it means to be led by someone. It means to follow after them, to listen to their directions, to follow their directions to follow their guidance. And so we are led by the Spirit of Christ in all that we do

Different Biblical authors say the same thing. The Apostle John said that we were to be born of the Spirit. Luke, the physician and author of Luke/Acts, said that we were to be filled with the Spirit. The Apostle Paul said that we are to be led by the Spirit.

Focus on the phrase, children of God, or sons of God. When the Spirit of Christ is inside you, you become convinced that you are child in God’s heavenly family. You become convinced that you are not an orphan in a endless universe, not an animal that fodder for the next generation of plants, not the highest intelligent primate who is part of  the evolutionary chain of life. But…. that is precisely what I think sometimes in the recesses of my mind. The dark and doubting corners of my mind tells me that I am only a lost orphan in this infinity called space. The dark and doubting corners of my mind tells me that I am nothing more than an animal that dies like all the other animals on earth and becomes fodder for the next cycle of plants. The dark and doubting corner of my mind tells me that I am only an intelligent primate in an evolutionary chain and my closest ancestors are the chimps.

And then a miracle occurs. The Spirit of God gets inside of me. The Spirit of Jesus moves miraculously around my mind. The Spirit comes alive in me and convinces me once again that I am a child of God, that I do have a heavenly father, that I can call this heavenly father by name, and that I have this inheritance of a future life, and I abound in hope for the future. The Spirit of Jesus comes alive in me and fans the fires of hope and douses the ashes of doubt and despair.

That is what chapter eight of Romans is all about. It is about the Spirit of Christ who convinces us that we are children of a personal God.

We ask a question: who is a child of God? Some people would say that anyone who is born is a child of God. The Klewins are here today with their new baby and when the child was born, they said this is a child of God. Any one who is born is a child of God. Others would say that if only if you a Christian are you a  child of God. Others would say that only if you are good Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals are children of God. Still others fanatical groups would claim that only the members of their cult are the children of God. But this passage says that children of God are those who are led the Spirit; John says that children of God are born of the spirit. Luke says that children of God are full of the Spirit. For Paul, John and Luke, a child of God is not simply a baby being born. A child of God is not simply one who wears the label Christian. A child of God is not simply a person who was born a Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist or Pentecostal. Paul has a definite definition as who are the children of God: those who are led by the Spirit. Earlier Paul said that if a person does have the Spirit of Christ, that person does not have Christ. 

I believe this is a fundamental truth to this. When the Spirit of Christ is in you, you no longer secretly think you are an orphan in an infinite universe, no longer secretly believe that you are merely animals to be the fodder for the next generation of plants; no longer do you secretly think that you are merely an intelligent and highly developed primate.  But finally, you are convinced that you are children who belong to a personal God, who knows your name, having an everlasting inheritance with all the  rights and privileges of being a deeply loved child, and therefore you abound in hope.

Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.” The Spirit of being a child of God. Paul consistently contrasts the spirit of being a servant in a house and the spirit of being a child in the house.

Paul uses the same logic in other of his letters. The offspring of the slave woman Hagar are contrasted with the offspring of Abraham and Sarah. Hagar was not a genuine wife of Abraham but a concubine or mistress;  Sarah was a genuine wife. The offspring born to Hagar were called slaves or servants; the offspring born to Sarah were called children. For Paul, you wanted to be born a child and not a servant.

Let me illustrate this: that we want to be children rather than slaves in a house. Let me give you the illustration about being a servant at the White House. A servant is not part of the first family in the White House; a servant is only a servant, is always nervous around the President,  is always fearful of not doing the job correctly for the president; a servant is always subconsciously worried about being fired or losing his job; a servant is definitely not part of the will and the inheritance of the President. So there is a strange miracle and the President adopts the servant to be his child. What a turn about. Suddenly, in a moment, everything is changed. The tensions of being a servant are suddenly gone. The servant is now a child, a son or daughter who enjoys being close to the President, is no longer nervous about having to please the President to get the President’s approval. There is love, not to mention a grand inheritance.  It is all being part of a family. When the Spirit of Christ lives in you, you know that you are family. The relationship is totally changed when you are children and not servants. … And so it is with our relationship with God. When the Spirit lives in us, we know that we are children and not slaves. We are close to God and comfortable in being close with God. There is no nervousness when close. You are child in God’s house. You don’t worry about losing your job when you mess up and don’t do life perfectly. And with God, you have an inheritance.

Romans 8:16 “When we cry, ‘abba Father,’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” When we cry out to God, Dad, Pappa, this is an indication that the Spirit of Christ is already living in our spirit, and so we are children of God. When we call to God personally in our prayer life, calling God something similar to the term “papa,” this reveals an intimacy with God, a familyness with God, a connection with God that we are his children. It is wonderful what someone knows your name. That they know your name often means that you are close to them. God knows your name and knows the numbers of hairs in your head.

Romans 8:17  If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order than we are glorified with him.” Once again, keeping it “all in the family,” if we are God’s children, then we are God’s heirs.

My parents died and we received an inheritance. It wasn’t much money, I think just enough to buy airline tickets for the family back for the funeral. But more important than money was the vast legacy that I received from my family. A great childhood, love and care and affection totally showered upon me, a zest for life, discipline for work, learning the quality of love that make for great family. I want you to know that I collected  a great inheritance from my parents while they were alive. And so it is with us with God. We do not need to wait for eternity to collect our inheritance of everlasting life with God. Today, at this time, we receive a quality of love from God, knowing that we are God’s treasured children, receiving great values, a moral code, and most importantly, a way of loving that comes from Jesus Christ. We don’t have to wait for heaven to collect our inheritance; we start collecting our inheritance right away.

Also, If you are part of the family, your name is in the will. If you are an authentic part of the family, you will receive an inheritance. And for most of us, our children are our heirs. We have three heirs in our will: our three children, Anne, Joel and Nathan. None of your children are in our wills; none of your children will inherit the millions upon millions of dollars from our estate. (Smile) Why? Because your children are so bad? No, we all know why. Because they are not our children; they are not part of our family. So also, the Apostle Paul is clear that when we are led by the Spirit of Christ, we know we are children of God and therefore we know we are God’s heirs.

“Provided that we suffer with him and therefore are glorified with him.” Genuine love always suffers with and for people in the family. That is what it means to be family; when one members suffers, we suffer with that person. Yes, we cannot be a Christian unless our love suffers with those around us in their suffering. That is the way that genuine love is. When I was sick and in the hospital for seven awful weeks, my family rallied around me in my suffering and took great care of me. Families always do. And so it is with our Christian family and our human family around the globe: we suffer when others are suffering and we take great care of them. The love of Christ poured into our hearts transforms the kind of love that we have inside of us and our love now begins to reach out to people in their suffering.

Focus on Romans 8:23, that we are the adopted children of God. The Apostle Paul uses this concept of Roman adoption. The concept of adoption is not found in the Old Testament but was common in the Roman empire. In the Roman empire, adoption meant that all the previous debts of the adoptee were cancelled. The adopted child had all the rights and privileges of a biological child. Having experienced the joys of adoption years ago, I personally know the pleasures of understanding that we are adopted into the family of Christ. The Spirit convinces us that we are adopted children of God.

Romans 8:24, 26 “For in this hope we were saved. Now, hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  Paul like the word, hope. Paul says that we as Christians abound in hope, bounce with hope. At the end of the book of Romans, Paul is very clear that having the Spirit of Christ in us, we abound in hope. That is the way children are, abounding with hope. Only adults grow up to be more cynical, but not children. The very nature of children is to bounce with hope as to the possibilities in their future. Because of the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we, as God’s children, abound in hope.

Romans 8:26, The Spirit intercedes deeply for us and teaches us to pray, to converse with God. When you know that you are a child of God, you learn to talk with God as a close friend. We learn how to pray and we learn to talk with God often, just as we would with a close friend.

So the sermon is over and we are reminded that when the flood gates of the Spirit of Christ are opened, there is power, the power of the Spirit. The Spirit convinces us that we are indeed children of the heavenly Father. As we all know, it is crucially important for us to have a healthy inner child when we are adults. Amen.

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