Pentecost 1b

Preached: June 7, 2009

You're Adopted as God's Children!
Romans 8:14-17

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus our Savior is Romans 8

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption in which we call out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God's children. And if children, then also heirs heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him in order also to be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our crucified and risen Savior:

By the age of fourteen Ethan had already been in a dozen foster homes. His mom had died from a drug overdose when he was five. No one knew who his father was. By the time a foster child turn eight or nine the chance of adoption drops below fifty percent. Ethan's behavior wasn't helping his odds. He already had run-ins with the law: shoplifting, vandalism, smoking pot. Add that to his daily disrespectful and obnoxious behavior toward his foster parents and teachers (when he did show up for school), and it's no wonder no family wanted him. How surprising for Ethan to hear: You've been adopted!

How surprising for you and me to hear those words: You're adopted! Not by earthly parents, but you're adopted as children of God. How surprising!

But maybe the surprise has worn off. So often once we get use to something, we take it for granted no matter how amazing it is. We begin to think it's our right owed to us to be called God's children. That's dangerous. For then we're apt to wander away from God's family, thinking that our place can't be taken from us, and so we disown ourselves. How tragic that a life that had known such a blessing to be called a child of God nevertheless ends up in the fire of hell separated from God's family forever!

On the other hand, sometimes such amazing news that you're adopted as God's child sounds too good to be true. We feel like Ethan and wonder how anyone, much less God himself, could ever adopt me.

To drive out such dangerous doubts and to renew in us that amazing surprise, God's Word today points us to proof of our adoption and privileges you have as God's children. You're adopted as God's children! That's the theme this morning. You're adopted as children of God, children of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let's first consider some proofs of your adoption

A. The Holy Spirit's work proves your adoption

1) What evidence in your lives does the Holy Spirit work to prove your adoption?

The Apostle points us to the work of the Holy Spirit as he writes, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14 NIV). Here is one proof, dear friends, of your adoption into God's family: The Holy Spirit is working in you. He is leading you to fight temptation and say, “No!” to sin. For why would we want to do what is displeasing to our kind and merciful Father in heaven? Why would we want to dishonor his family name? Following the path of sin leads to death, damnation, and hell even for those who once were God's baptized children, but wandered away leaving faith behind. Heed the warning! Listen to verse thirteen right before the text: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:13, 14 NIV). As the Holy Spirit leads you to resist sin, his working in you proves your adoption. For only those who are God's children have the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit is leading you not only to resist sin but also to do what is right and good: to act kindly toward others and speak well of them, to forgive those who sin against you, to serve your God in all you do, loving him above all. He leads us on the path of righteousness not as if we were donkeys or slaves driven on by the rod and whip and fear. That kind of servile, guilt-ridden fear is what gets the people of the world to outwardly act in ways that appear good. The Holy Spirit does not bring that kind of fear again into our hearts. He is not a spirit of slavery. No, he is the Spirit of sonship, of adoption. Paul writes, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship” (Romans 8:15 NIV).

The Holy Spirit leads and we follow, not to earn or merit anything as if we were slaves trying to gain our freedom. Our Father has already freed us by adopting us. We follow the Holy Spirit's leading because that's the way God's children live. For you know the great things God has done for you. You know how he brought you into his family by sacrificing his Son in your place when we were still rebels. The Holy Spirit has brought this knowledge into your heart, and it shows in the way you live your life. Our actions, our choices, our words are the visible proofs of the Holy Spirit's invisible working in our hearts. And when the Holy Spirit works such things in us, we are God's children, for only God's children are led by the Spirit of God.

2) What testimony outside of us does the Holy Spirit give to assure our spirit?

Yet even with the Holy Spirit powerfully working in our hearts, our sinful flesh clings to us. What are we to do when doubts plague us? “Am I still God's child? Have I resisted the Holy Spirit and driven him from my heart? I know how often I fall. Looking inside my heart I don't feel like God's child and looking outside at my actions -- how I've failed!”

Then, dear friend, listen to the Holy Spirit's testimony. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children” (Romans 8:16 NIV), Paul writes. Where do we find the Spirit's testimony? Not by searching our hearts. For who knows where the feelings of the heart come from? From my own self-delusions and false dreams, from the devil's lies and deceptions, from the world's empty promises and shallow pleasures? And how quickly our feelings change! What we see, what we hear, even what we eat affects them. Don't look for the Holy Spirit's testimony by searching your heart.

For you see, to drive out your doubt, to give you assurance and confidence as children of God, the Holy Spirit has recorded his testimony in the Scriptures and the Sacraments. With the water and word of Baptism, the Spirit testifies: “You are God's child, for you've been reborn.” With Christ's body and blood under the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, the Spirit testifies: “You are God's child, for your sins have been paid for.” With the words of Scripture, the Spirit testifies of your adoption again and again in so many ways that even a life time of listening does not exhaust them. His testimony through the words of Scripture and the Sacraments penetrates deep into our inner being so that our spirit becomes in tune with him and echoes his words of testimony throughout our heart and mind. So use the Spirit's testimony in the Scriptures and the Sacraments to drive out Satan's doubts. As surprising as it is, it is true. You're adopted as God's child. The Holy Spirit's work proves it.

And now consider what privileges you have as God's children: You're Father is listening and your Brother has won an inheritance for you.

B. Your Father is listening

1) Describe the attitude with which we approach our Father in prayer.

“And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 NIV), Paul writes. We're adopted as God's children, so we can call out to him in prayer as dear children calling out to their true Father.

Abba was the Aramaic word for father that many Jewish converts to Christianity would have used from little on up to address their earthly father. It's not the equivalent of our daddy. It means father. For you see, although through faith in Jesus God is your dear Father and you are his dear child, yet he is still the Almighty God, the holy One, dwelling in light inaccessible, worthy of all reverence, respect, and honor. Don't forget the first reading from Isaiah 6. He's not our buddy at the bar or the gossip we have coffee with. So we address him with respect as Father, while at the same time we're filled with a child's love and trusting confidence.

Yes, he is your dear Father. Go to him with your woes and pains. Cry out to him. He hears with the heart of a father, for he is the Father who has loved you so dearly that he did not spare his only Son but gave him up for you. Such love will not fail to hear your cry. And as the Almighty God, there's no good he can't do. As the wise, omniscient God, he knows what is best.

Think of a little child who's confident that his father can do anything. He even brags about it to his friends, “My dad can . . .” He knows that his father loves him. So he doesn't hesitate to bring any problem or pain to him. And since he's sure how smart his father is, he simple tells him the problem and then leaves confident that he'll take care of it. For that's how much his father loves him. He's sure of it. Pray to your heavenly Father with the same boldness and confidence of a little child, for you're adopted as God's children.

C. Your Brother has won the inheritance for you

1) What thoughts will help us when we suffer for being a follower of Christ?

And as God's adopted children you are heirs. Your elder Brother, Jesus Christ, has won the inheritance for you. “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” (Romans 8:17 NIV).

We may wonder at times why, if we're adopted as God's children, do we struggle and suffer so much in this world. Look then at your elder Brother, Jesus Christ. What was his life on this earth like? Remember how the world hated him? They abused and tortured and crucified him. And so as we follow Jesus, as we live as God's children resisting sin and doing what is right and good, we too will suffer at the hands of the world, just as Jesus did. The more we stand up for Jesus, the more we attract the world's hatred. We share in Jesus' sufferings. For through faith in him, we are his adopted brothers and sisters.

But by his suffering and death, Jesus won the inheritance for you. For he who is the true God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, laid down his life to bring you into God's family so that you are God's children and co-heirs with Christ, your Brother.

Look at the glory Jesus now enjoys. Having suffered God's just wrath and punishment for the sins of the world, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. He rose in glory, the glory that he will share with you who believe in him. Yes, in this life we suffer for following Jesus, but in the life to come what glory awaits you! “If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17 NIV). For you too will rise from the dead when Jesus returns. You will rise to live in your heavenly home forever. For you are God's adopted children whom he will take home. What a glorious inheritance awaits you! As Paul says in the next verse, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV).

You're adopted as God's children! What good news for you and me. Listen to the Holy Spirit's testimony in the Scripture and in the Sacraments to drive out your doubts. Live your life led by the Spirit. As God's dear children, cry out to your heavenly Father. And anticipate the inheritance of glory that Jesus, God's Son, your Brother, has won for you.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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