Safe in His Arms
Safe in His arms (rom 8:12-17)
On Monday night they were looting and burning at the ShopRite in Kaalfontein which is only a few kilometers from my home. Megan had gathered a bunch of sticks and clubs next to my bed and I had my 12inch Gurkha knife tucked under my pillow because there was talk that they might head over the our suburb next. And to be honest, I felt a little anxious and fearful as I was thinking – we have no real way to resist a mob if they do begin ransacking our house, no real protection. If we are going to rely on our electric fences and firearms and policing force to protect us – if that is where our hope and confidence lies, then we have every reason to be fearful and anxious about what is happening in our country.
But my children slept soundly because somehow they believe that dad will take care of it and take care of them. Isn’t that how every child instinctively reacts when they feel afraid, or anxious, or overwhelmed – they look for mom or dad and they run….and they will run into the danger, right into the mob if that is where dad is – because their safety is found in dad’s arms, in dad’s protection, in dad’s wisdom and strength and direction, even in the midst of chaos.
That is why, as Rom 5-8 seeks to give us hope, to give us confidence and security and surety, even in the midst of a world that is going up in flames, it points us to one great reality – in Christ we have become sons and daughters of God. In Christ, we have been adopted by the king of the universe and taken up in His arms and thus we are always safe in His backyard.
I can’t think of a more glorious doctrine to consider at a more appropriate time than this great doctrine of our adoption in Christ.
Read Rom 8:9-18
Four facts that accompany our adoption as God’s children
1. Our new leadership (12-14)
2. Our new relationship (15-16)
3. Our new inheritance (17a)
4. Our new calling (17b)
1:Our new leadership (12-14)
First class Conditional statements
Let me start by saying something about these conditional statements from vs 9. A conditional sentence is familiar to all our computer programs, “if…then.” It presents a condition and a consequence, a cause and effect. If the first part is true, then the second part is true also. If the condition is met, then the result necessarily follows. Paul has been making extensive use of these conditional statements to set up a truth table for us as it were. If the condition has been met, if the first part is true – then the second part is also certainly true.
· In vs 9 Paul says, you however, are not in the flesh, if in fact the Spirit dwells in you. In the Greek, the structure shows that Paul has no doubt that the Spirit is in them. He uses a word which can be better translated, seeing that, of since the Spirit of God dwells in you. If the Spirit dwells in you, then you are no longer in the flesh. You are either in Christ, in the Spirit or in the flesh and in sin and death.
· Again in vs 10 he says, if Christ is in you, then even though our bodies still die because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness. There is a new principle of life at work in us. Because Christ is in us, the first part of the if statement has been met and so the second part must also be true – we have new life by and in the Spirit.
· The same in Vs 11, if the Spirit is in us, then resurrection life awaits us. If the condition is met, the result is a certainty.
· Vs 12 and 13 is a continuation of this contrast he is drawing up. We are no longer debtors to the flesh, we are not under the control and dominion and controlling influence of the flesh. We owe nothing to the flesh anymore. We are released from its control
· Vs 13 those who are still in the flesh, controlled by the flesh, led by the flesh await eternal death. Those who are led by the spirit, controlled by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit – will enter into eternal life.
· You are either the one or the other, on the left of the table or on the right, in the flesh on the road to eternal death, or in the Spirit on the road to eternal life.
· There are no Christians, who have Christ in them, who are not being led by the Spirit and putting to death the deeds of the flesh.
· There are no genuine believers who have been justified, who are also not being sanctified; who have been made right with God, who are not being made holy by God.
We have a new leader (14)
Vs 14 tells us the reason – for, since because, every child of God is being led by the Spirit of God.
· Again he doesn’t phrase this in the form of a command – you must follow the Spirit, but as a statement of fact, a reality that is true because we are God’s children.
· He puts the action in the passive – we are being led, pulled along, directed and controlled.
· The contrast is obviously been led by the flesh, directed and controlled by the flesh, being under the dominion and control of the flesh – vs being lead and directed and controlled by the Spirit.
· The Spirit has His divine leash on us as it were and is pulling us inevitably and irresistibly toward Christ likeness, towards practical righteousness, toward fulfillment of the law, as we saw last week.
· It’s not as though He leads us against our will, or we have no responsibility. Vs 4 can talk about us walking according to the Spirit, and vs 13 can talk of us putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. We must walk, we must put to death, we must follow – but the emphasis here is not so much on what we must do, but on what God is doing because we belong to Him.
· We must understand and embrace the certainty here…. If you have placed your faith in Christ, then you are in Christ, His Spirit is in you, your obligations to follow and obey the flesh have been removed, you are being led by the Spirit and as a result, by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body – those sinsful habits and patterns which used to characterize your life are being violently and totally eradicated by the ministry of the Spirit in you.
· Jesus is the good Shepherd and His Spirit in us is able to lead, direct, control and guide us as His sheep away from sin and danger and death toward righteousness and life and peace.
1 Thess 5:23-24: “23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
· Our confidence is not in how well we are able to follow, but how well He is able to lead.
· As God’s children we have a new guide, a new leader and He is more than able to lead His children to victory and safety. Secondly,
2: Our new relationship (15-16)
Paul continues the contrast – we have been freed from slavery, slavery to sin, and death and the fear of judgment and condemnation.
We have received the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit who confirms that we are God’s children and as such are free from condemnation and death.
Adoption is very dear to our heart. We have 4 adopted kids and the main reason we adopted is because adoption is a picture of the gospel. Many children lose their parents due to death, or abandonment or war, or sickness. When life has done its worst and left us homeless and helpless and nameless and hopeless and vulnerable – God comes and says let me give you a name, let me bring you into my home, let me make you my own and give you the richness of my wealth and blessing and protection.
Adoption doesn’t just give us good things, or a place to sleep – an orphanage can do that. Adoption gives us a new family, a new identity, a new relationship with God.
By His Spirit we are lead to be able to cry out to God, that you are my Father – not just a formal father, but an Abba father, an intimate personal father. My Father.
Adoption is all about relationship – it is the highest and clearest expression of God’s unconditional and passionate love for us.
J I Packer has this to say about the doctrine of our adoption:
“You sum up the whole of the New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole N.T religion is you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as His father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament, new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. Father is the Christian name for God”….Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption! ….The revelation to the believer that God is His father is, in a sense, the climax of the Bible (Evangelical Magazine, 7, p 19f)
Because there is no greater title or honour that can be bestowed on any creator than “Son of God.” And through faith in Christ we are sons and daughters of God.
In his book, “Knowing God” Packer devotes an entire chapter to this doctrine – its one of the best explanations of the doctrine of adoption that I have read anywhere. (I’ve uploaded it to the home page of our website so you can read it and attached it as a link to the sermon notes on our website.) He goes on to argue that in the Old Covenant God revealed a covenant name by which Israel were to relate to Him – Yahweh, the holy One, the God who is. The New Covenant emphasizes a new name by which believers relate to God, a name which sums up all that God is to us and that name is Father.
Adoption is all about relationship – God gaining us for Himself, God giving Himself to us and for us. Adoption is personal for God. It’s the highest and clearest expression of God’s unconditional and passionate love for us.
That is the climax toward which Rom 8 is heading.
· Rom 8:28-29 – As we will see when we get there, the term “foreknew” means those whom God set His love on beforehand – He predestined to become sons and daughters like His one and only Son. That in Christ, we might become children of God and brothers in His family. That is the purpose, that is the good toward which God is working all things.
· Rom 8:31 God is for us….
· 8:35 Nothing and no-one can separate us from His love – 37 we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Assurance of salvation (16)
Every parent desperately wants our children to know that we love them deeply and unconditionally. We want them to know that we’ve got their back, that we are here for them, that even if they mess up and disappoint us – we are their greatest ally, their most ardent fan. We always and only want what’s best for them and would do anything for them.
When God wanted to give us an unshakeable hope, He told us that He has become our Father and we have become His children and He gave us His Spirit to confirm and affirm our adoption. The Spirit is the objective evidence that we now belong to God, our adoption papers. He is also the subjective means by which we come to believe it.
One of the most tragic realities is that many adopted children, never really believe and embrace their new identity. At the heart level, they still believe they are on their own, that they can only trust in and rely on themselves and that if they don’t perform as expected they will be out on the street again.
· There is something subjective here but important.
· Assurance of our salvation, or our adoption and new identity. The assurance that we are a child of God is a subjective thing. I can’t assure you, I can’t confirm it. You have to know and God wants you to know – so He’s told you that He’s your father, He’s given you the Spirit as confirmation that you belong to Him and one of the Spirit’s ministires is to convince you internally and personally and subjectively that you are in fact God’s child.
· Assurance comes when 3 things line up
o Faith: I have placed my faith in Christ and am trusting in him alone. I know that I’m a sinner and have no other hope of salvation but what God has provided through the death and resurrection of Christ.
o Fruit: I see the evidence of that faith, the fruit of that faith. I see the Spirit is leading me away from sin and toward righteousness, He is giving me new desires and forming Christ’s character in me at the heart level. Not perfection, but growth toward Christ likeness. So that’s fruit.
o Feeling: The deep conviction that comes from the ministry of the Spirit to my Spirit and tells me – God is my father, and I am his son or daughter and leads me to run to him, to cry out to him.
o If you find yourself running to God and crying to God when you are hopeless and helpless and afraid – then the Spirit is leading you. So that’s the subjective feeling or conviction.
o True, lasting assurance comes when all three align – faith, fruit and feeling. When one or more is missing, we are less than secure.
o Being sure of our salvation, secure in our relationship with God is an important step in our sanctification – which is why God has done so much to give us that assurance and why Satan is constantly accusing and undermining our new identity.
· Gal 4: 6 “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Packer makes this starting statement, “Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers, higher even than Justification”
Our new leader, our new relationship or identity.
3: Our new inheritance (17a)
Obviously, if we are God’s children, then we have a new inheritance. God’s resources are ours, God’s ownership is ours. We who had nothing – have gained everything.
We are heirs of God.
Imagine what is coming your way if you are an heir of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs….Imagine what is coming your way if you are an heir of God – He owns it all, He possess it all.
We are fellow heirs with Christ. All that is Christ’s is ours. He has inherited the name that is above every name. He has become the ruler of the universe, the king of kings, the saviour of the world and its only rightful ruler. We receive all God’s fullness with him and in Him.
· So this reminds us of the magnitude of our inheritance and also the grace by which we receive it. It’s not something we deserve or could have earned. Christ gained it and has given it to us.
Are we really going to worry about our R100 being unjustly taken from us – when we are about to receive an inheritance from God as beloved children?
Let’s just be practical here. Imagine you are struggling financially. You have a number of medical issues that need to be attended to, but no money to sort them out. You have growing debts, no retirement plan, food is running short – you’ve sold whatever assets you had in order to live on, your business is collapsing and you are not sure how you are going to survive next week, much less 10 years from now.
Some of you don’t have to do too much imagining….But imagine your parents are multi-billionaire’s. In fact they have so much money they can’t even spend it all so they decide to give out a portion of their inheritance to their children before they die and you’ve just received the confirmation letter from their lawyers that 127 million rand has been allocated to you and will shortly be paid into your account. This is the part where you have to use your imagination.
At this moment in time, when you receive that letter – you still have all the same problems, all the same shortages, all the same debts – but suddenly, do they matter anymore? Are you going to be thinking about what you owe amd don’t have? You are going to be thinking about what you are about to receive and what you want to do with it. It might take a month or two for the money to clear – but you know your parents have that kind of wealth and they have told you of their intention to divest it to you.
Our Father, who owns it all – has given us an inheritance, one that we share in with Christ – God the Son. One we are about to receive….
Our new leader, our new relationship, our new inheritance.
4: Our new calling (17b-18)
The second part of vs 17 puts the first part in perspective.
Our inheritance is not for now. Health, wealth and riches are not for now. We have not become God’s children in order to enjoy His blessing and His fullness now.
Suffering first – glory later. Hard work now – rest and reward later.
That was the pattern for Christ -first the cross, first the incarnation, first suffering and shame, first obedience to do God’s work – then the resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God.
Christ’s calling was to suffer first and then be glorified and we are called to follow Him in this, to become like Him in submitting to this calling.
“Provided that” – makes it clear that there are no exception to this principle….There are no exceptions! There is no life of glory and ease and comfort and blessing for the Christian now…..
The biblical gospel couldn’t be more radically and completely different to the health wealth and prosperity gospel that is being preached in so many churches. It could not be more different to the glitzy glamourous Hollywood Christianity that is being pursued in many churches.
The Biblical gospel says – renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ in suffering for the gospel. Put on the apron of a slave, make yourself nothing and give your life in the service of the gospel. Suffer shame and loss and deprivation for the sake of the gospel
Vs 18 - Because the glories that await can’t be compared to the slight and momentary troubles we are facing now…. Christians are not called to run to more comfortable countries to get away from danger and difficulty – we are called to run into the heart of the battle, the midst of the suffering and pain, to enter into the plight of the widow and orphan and oppressed and lost and hold out the hope of Christ where its most needed.
Christians are called by God to stay in the midst of a world that is groaning, that is wracked by violence and crime and poverty and hate and sin of every kind. We are called to go into the midst of these communities that have been ripped apart by violence and crime and sin, communities that are literally going up in flames and hold out hope as we help to rebuild them – not with food parcels or motivational speeches – but with real hope as we hold out the gospel to them of God’s unconditional, sacrificial love in Jesus Christ.
We will never be willing to do that unless we believe – that we belong to the King and wherever we go and whatever we do, we do as God’s children. Not just messengers, or servants or slaves – but sons and daughters. We might think of ourselves as slaves, but God thinks of us a privileged sons.
Read Rom 8:19-25
This is our unshakeable hope – this is our privileged calling – to represent God in the midst of this war torn, sin wracked, corrupt and burdened creation and to light a flame for Jesus Christ, to be a beacon of hope – for in this hope we were saved, to this hope we are called – and God has provided no other hope for this world other than what is found in Jesus Christ.
Christian – you are a child of God. You have all of God’s love, all of His protection, all of His resources with you all the time as you carry out this calling.