Finish the sentence: When [the month of] May starts, I expect to find people doing (fill in the blank). How do you think your life and the life of others will look? …where are they going? …what are they doing? …what occupies them? Do you have an answer?
Honestly, I have trouble even guessing. If you are like me, you just do not know what the future holds. I do not know if school be in session or not. I do not know when we will lift up hearts and voices together in this sanctuary. I do not know if Memorial Day weekend will bring hordes of Downstaters or if the city will be quiet. At this moment the future lies unknown.
That reality brings a wide range of emotions. Hope that illness could be gone, but fear that illness might linger. Excitement for school summer break, but worry that classes will drag into summer. The thrill of summer vacation, but the dread that there might be no getaway. No trips to Grand Hotels or beaches or property or campgrounds. No county fair or street fair. Cautious optimism quickly gives way to anxiety. That’s physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Some days you just feel like crashing to your knees, crumpling into a pile, and crying out, ‘How much longer, Lord? When can life get back to normal?’
Not everyone joins that chorus. The aftershocks of restrictions affect us all— but children press on. Two of my young children (ages 7 & 5) realize what they see on the news impacts them. They know they should be in school. They know public places should be open. Two weeks ago I took my son to WalMart and he knew not to touch anything. Both children understand something difficult is happening right now. Still, what they discuss is amazing. They still expect vacation. They plan going to the farm and seeing family. They talk about taking a [Minnesota] Vikings stadium tour. Right now, vacation is a blur to me. (Sometimes I wonder if we will actually be able to leave the state, or if we must stay here, what will be open!) They have no worry. They have no fear about school time or illness or opening church doors again. If you have been around children, you might notice similar behavior. Children cannot make out the future, but they stand confident that the future will be fine.
Call it ignorant bliss if you want, but I think that’s overstating the case. They have genuine confidence. Even if their plans come crashing down and they’re stuck in summer school and do not see a stadium, they still do not panic. They fear nothing because they have a parent.
Good for them. Right? Good for you too. At this time we do not know what to expect, but God gives two truths to expect. Two factual statements that impact your life today. (1) The Spirit testifies to your adoption. (2) The Spirit makes you an heir of glory. That means, Live Confident, Child of God!
This morning God speaks to you— you who believe that Jesus has set you free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-4). In Romans chapter 8, starting with verse 11, he says: [I]f the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 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.
You realize the same word appears four times in four verses. ‘Spirit.’ No, not a ghost or some vapory mist. The ‘Spirit’ is God. Scripture makes clear: God lives in you. Can you be sure? Yes, because God says: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Out of the billions of people living in the world at this very moment, God lives in your single heart.
That reality shapes behavior now. You are taking in the Word of God. You learn what pleases him. The Word guides emotions and helps form decisions. God’s promises provide strength to step out into the unknown. The Spirit of God inside you feasts on those Words. He builds confidence. The Spirit of God in you testifies to your adoption. You can live confident because you belong to God.
Confidence dwindles when you take your eyes off of the Word. If God uses his Word to lead you, then who is leading you when you no longer use the Word?
Here’s a few headlines snagged from last week:
The sinful nature will seize the opportunity to set trust on you! To think that we do control all things. The truth is, you do not. You did not lay the foundations of the earth. You did not shut the seas behind its doors or stretch out the skies. You do not bring out the seasons or manage every creature (read Job 38-39). You lack that ability. That’s why we get hysterical, we confront the reality that we do not control everything. Fear testifies to our limitations. Fear teaches that we have lost sight of our Father who does have control.
That’s what makes children such an astounding example. They fear nothing because they let the parent handle their needs. God stresses the same point so that you can live confident. [T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Remember, you [and I] are led by the Spirit of God; God lives in you.) You also receive a special title: Son! (And yes, that also describes you, ladies.) God does not elevate one biological sex here; he stresses benefits.
You see, in ancient times the son inherited the entire family estate. He received access to property, wealth, business, cattle— and even responsibility over his mother and siblings. He received full use and full rights to everything! God says, ‘You have full rights to all I have!’ 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.”
‘Abba’ is a Hebrew word. It means ‘father’ or ‘daddy.’ The word describes tender affection between father and child. So, little children chirp: ‘Daddy, you’re home!’ ‘Daddy, can you help me?’ ‘Daddy, let me sit in your lap.’ Why would little kids say this? Because their father demonstrates love. That tender affection flowing from the father increases a child’s confidence. She goes to him for anything, anytime, knowing that he cares for and addresses her needs. How much more our Father in heaven!
You can Live Confident, Child of God! The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. You can curl up in his secure, powerful hands. You can stand confident that the future will be fine.
[W]e are children… You are someone’s child— regardless of your age, regardless of your independence, you will always remain someone’s child. As God’s child, you live underneath his care.
Since we are children, then we are heirs… At this moment, I am an heir to my parent’s estate. They have drafted a Will and I stand in line to receive possessions— but my parents are not deceased yet. Most likely have many years left. Still, I remain an heir. One day their Will will take effect and I will receive my share of their estate.
You (and I) are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… We stand in line to receive possessions. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We will share in that possession; we too will rise from death. The specific day? We do not know. Still, we are heirs, guaranteed to receive the same benefits Christ already has. We remain in line if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
That’s challenging, is it not? ‘Suffering’ and ‘glory’ do not appear to mesh together. If anything, they appear opposites! Yet, stop for a moment and ask: What does a Christian consider ‘suffering’?
Boil it down and ‘suffering’ is when I do not get my way. ‘I cannot finish my goals and get my rest because I must watch the kids all day.’ ‘I pray to God that health restores, but he does not do what I want.’ ‘Other people hoarding keeps me from hoarding myself.’ ‘This virus does not let me make money and spend money and feel secure in money.’ When I don’t get my way, I blame others. I blame them for taking away my happiness— even if that means I blame God and say that following his Word takes away my happiness.
Remember this: Jesus suffered too. He preaches, but religious leaders reject him. He raises the dead, but that only infuriates many. He commits no crime, but is sentenced and crucified. Why does Jesus suffer? Because he put the Word of God first. He suffers because God made him to be our Savior.
Now, look at him. He rose from death and still lives! He ascended into heaven and all things rest set under his feet. No one can drag him out of heaven. No one can stop him from bringing you into heaven. That is your God who put an end to eternal suffering! He belongs to you and you to him!
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. You do not see that glory now, but you will. Just like an heir has not received the estate yet— but he will. God points you to the grave and says, ‘Death cannot hold you. Because Jesus lives, you will live.’
Eternity is set. You will experience eternity just like you experience life today. You will see and smell and hear and touch and talk and walk— except one thing will be different. No sin. No coronavirus. No political bickering. No health-ailments. No financial stress. No uncertainty. Even if life feels pretty comfortable at the moment, it will only get better.
Still, you realize that God is not saying, ‘Well, hang in there. One day it will get better.’ No. He says, ‘The Will is written. You are my child now, walking the path to glory. You will see my glory.’
Children cannot make out the future, but they stand confident that the future will be fine. They fear nothing because they have a parent. At this time we do not know what [the month of] May will bring, but God gives two truths to expect. Two factual statements that impact your life today. (1) The Spirit testifies to your adoption. (2) The Spirit makes you an heir of glory. You hear, have, and hold the Words of your dear Father, the One who control things now and eternally. What fear is there in that? Live Confident, Child of God!