Summary: Four family privilges we receive when we become God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ.
(Note: This sermon was introduced with a drama called "Love of Another Kind" and a song called "Faithful Father").
The reality is that not all fathers are faithful. My father wasn’t faithful. When I was born he was only 16 years old, still just a kid himself. And by the time I was 3 years old, he was gone. Since that happened I’ve only seen him twice.
When I became a dad I swore I’d be different. And I have been a different kind of father to my four boys. But as hard as I try, I still disappoint my kids. I still let them down at times or put too big expectations on them. I hope I leave a very different legacy than my birth father left to me, but still, I’m only a partially faithful father.
Yet we just sang about God being a perfectly faithful Father to his children. We sang, "Father, I can’t explain this kind of love, this kind of grace." That’s really what we saw in the drama: An inability to understand or explain God’s kind of love. It’s so different than what we’ve experienced from those who’ve loved us, and even different from how we’ve love others. Faithful, forever faithful; that’s what kind of Father God is to his children.
Today we’re going to look at four family privileges that we receive when we become part of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. You see, although the Bible teaches that all human beings are God’s offspring by creation, the Bible also teaches that because of the power of sin in our world, we’re estranged from God. In our natural condition, all of us are children of Adam, not children of God. According to the Bible, it’s only when we place our trust in God’s good news about his Son Jesus Christ that we move from being a child of Adam to a child of God. When we move from being a child of Adam to being a child of God lots of things change in our lives. One of those things are the family privileges we’re going to talk about today in Romans 8:12-17.
1. Forward Progress (Romans 8:12-14)
Let’s explore the first privilege together in vv. 12-14. Now at first an obligation doesn’t sound much like a privilege. I mean a privilege is something like getting into a Laker’s game for free or free college tuition. An obligation is more like paying property taxes. It’s to imagine an obligation being a privilege.
But the point here is that our former obligation to our old way of life has been completely broken. The phrase "sinful nature" in vv. 12 and 13 is literally "the flesh" and as we’ve seen throughout Romans, "the flesh" describes life without Jesus, life in Adam, without a relationship with God (Moo 494). According to the Bible, in our natural condition we’re enslaved to sin, and this enslavement obligates us to live life without reference to God and God’s principles for living life. We were stuck, like a person sitting in a car with a dead battery, constantly turning the ignition but unable to start the engine.
But when we trust in God’s Son and become followers of Jesus, we’re no longer in the old era of "the flesh" but we’re transferred to the new era of "the Spirit." Because of this change in where we belong, we’re not under obligation to live our lives to the old era. Our obligation to life in Adam has been broken because now we’re part of God’s kingdom, brought into God’s family, joined to God’s people, the Christian Church. So now we’re free from our old obligation, and we’ve been given the freedom to live a new way.
In v. 14 Christians are described as "sons of God." The word used here doesn’t describe a young child, but an adult child who has all the rights and privileges that go with being an adult child in a family. When we trust in God’s Son, we become part of God’s family, joined to God as our Father, and entrusted with the rights and privileges of adult children.
Children of Adam will ultimately experience death, eternal separation from God. That’s the death mentioned in v. 13, and it’s the inevitable result of being a child of Adam, a person who belongs to the old era of the flesh. People who are children of Adam have no choice but to live according to this old age.
But when we become God’s adult children through faith in Jesus Christ, we’re promised life. This "life" isn’t just future life in heaven, but a rich, abundant, satisfying life walking with God today (Stott 229). This is God’s kingdom life enjoyed in the present.
Being "led by the Spirit" in this section isn’t so much talking about specific acts of guidance as it’s talking about the direction of our life being shaped by God’s Spirit (Schreiner 422). Every follower of Jesus Christ is by definition led by God’s Spirit in the sense that his or her life direction is now determined by God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit gently and constantly prods us in the direction God wants for us. Paul Achtemier says, "To be led by God’s Spirit…means to have changed our future from death to life, to have changed our relationship to God from rebellion to obedience, and to have changed our status from rebellious enemy to beloved child" (138).