Throughout God’s Word we find many, many assurances given to us by God. The word, “assurance,” is defined by various dictionaries as, “Something said or done to inspire confidence, as a promise, positive statement, etc.; A statement or indication that inspires confidence; a guarantee or pledge;” and “Freedom from doubt.” I can’t begin to list all of the assurances, or promises, that God has provided for you and me in His Word, but I can list just a few to set the stage for the study of our Scripture for today.
First of all, I hear so many people characterize God as first and foremost a God who is angry, wrathful, and vengeful and it troubles me. It troubles me because there is no explanation about why God’s anger flares. It is like someone characterizing you as angry and not explaining that your anger flared because someone took advantage of someone you love. With all of the false information that is offered about God, my troubled heart is quieted when I read in God’s Word that He loves us. Take a look at 1 John 4:8-10 with me.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 NIV)
That is a “blessed assurance” my friends. How blessed are we to know that God has loved us, and continues to love us, even when we are unlovable! Along with these verses from 1 John 4, I could list so many more assurances, given by God, of His great and glorious love for people.
There is a looming question in the minds of many of us today and the question is, “Where is God when I hurt? Does God really care about all of these troubles I am having in life?” That is a question you don’t want to take to the streets because you will get all kinds of answers. Our questions are valid and our experiences are real—that is why we need to take these questions to God. In God’s Word we read statements that give us incredible assurances of His presence and purpose in our suffering. Let me give you just a sample from Psalm 34:18 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Well, we could go on and on reciting assurances from God’s Word about answered prayer, forgiveness, guidance, mercy, God’s Sovereignty, and the list goes on and on. Today, I want us to focus on one specific topic that Paul addresses in Romans 8:12-17—The assurance of belonging to God. There are many facets to this priceless jewel. We will not be able to examine all of the facets this morning, but I can assure you that by the time we get to the end of our study you will have no doubt about what it means to belong to God. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Romans 8:12-17.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 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, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 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.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 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 8:12-17 NIV)
In Romans 8 we have been inundated with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Romans 8 can easily be called, “The Chapter of the Holy Spirit.” The great Bible teacher, John R.W. Stott has written,
Looking back now over the first half of Romans 8, we have seen something of the multiple ministries of the Holy Spirit. He has liberated us from the bondage of the law (vs. 2), while at the same time he empowers us to fulfill its just requirement (vs. 4). We now live each day according to the Spirit and set our minds on his desires (vs. 5). He lives in us (vs. 9), gives life to our spirits (vs. 10), and will one day give life to our bodies too (vs. 11). His indwelling obliges us to live his way (vs. 12), and his power enables us to put to death our body’s misdeeds (vs. 13). He leads us as God’s children (vs. 14) and bears witness to our spirit that this is what we are (vs. 15-16). He himself is also the foretaste of our inheritance in glory (vss. 17, 23). It is his indwelling which makes the fundamental difference between Romans 7 and Romans 8. (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans, Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill. 1994. pg. 236)
In our Scripture for today we see many of these wondrous works of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. It is the Spirit’s work in us that assures and reassures us that we belong to God. I don’t want to mislead you into believing that we are passive participants in this great work of God’s Spirit. In verse 12, we read,
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. (Romans 8:12 NIV)
“Therefore” is such an important word to help us understand what will follow. “Therefore,” reminds us to refresh our minds with everything that has just been said before we read what follows. Do you remember what Paul has just written? Going all the way back to the beginning of Romans 8 we learned,
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)
Last week Paul contrasted the person whose mind is controlled by the flesh, by their natural desires, with the person whose mind is controlled by the Spirit of God. In the three verses, immediately preceding Romans 8:12, Paul says,
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if 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. (Romans 8:9-11 NIV)
Because of what God has done, and what He is continuing to do, we have an obligation, but our obligation is not to the sinful nature, or our natural desires, but to God. The Greek word, “?????????” (opheiletes) means, “one who owes another,” or “one who is bound by some duty.” There is not one worship service here at Britton Christian Church that we do not confess the truth of the debt owed. Don’t you remember praying, “The Lord’s Prayer” at the beginning of our service today? Jesus taught His disciples to pray and in that prayer He taught them to say, 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 NIV)
First and foremost our debt, our obligation, is to God. Stop and think of all of His amazing blessings. God has given us life. He knit us together in our mother’s womb. He has sustained our life and blessed us long before we ever acknowledged His existence. God has showered us with His grace. His mercies are new every morning. God has given us His Word to teach us, encourage us, and lead us through life. We didn’t die on a cross to pay for our sins—God gave His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so that we might have the opportunity to know Him. We hear so much talk about love, justice, unity, and forgiveness, but people didn’t invent those wonderful ideals, they have been part of God’s character and His call on the lives of His people since before we were ever born.
All of this is true and yet we cling to our pride and deny our obligation to God. We say, “This is my life and I will live it however I want. Nobody has ever given me anything. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today. If others want to enjoy the good life then they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps the same way that I have.” Paul wrote to the people of Corinth and he reminded them of God’s wonderful blessings with these words. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 4:7 with me.
7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NIV)
We need to think often of God’s many blessings that He has lavished on us so that we will be reminded of our great obligation to live for His glory. I told you, we are not passive participants in the work of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you another example from Romans 8:13-14. Paul writes,
13 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, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14 NIV)
Those who live according to the sinful nature do not belong to God. We talked about that just last week. Now, that is not to say that we will not battle our flesh, or sinful nature, throughout our lives—we most certainly will. We now have the power to do battle whereas before we came to Christ we had no power at all. John Mac Arthur writes,
Because of Christ’s saving work on our behalf, the sinful flesh no longer reigns over us, to debilitate us and drag us back into the pit of depravity into which we were all born. For that reason, we are no longer ruled by the flesh to live by its sinful ways. (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. 1991)
We are no longer powerless over our natural desires. We are no longer ruled by our sin nature. We are no longer victims of our flesh. If we have received Jesus as Lord of our life then we are indwelt by the Spirit of God and are called to put to death the misdeeds of the body. “To put to death” is an interesting phrase that is so important for us to understand. The Greek word, “???????” (thanatoo) means, “to put to death, to make to die,” or “literally to be made dead in relation to (something).” This word in Romans 8:14 is in the present tense. Paul is saying, “but if by the Spirit you are continuing to put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…” As I said, we are not passive participants in this great work; we are called to work with what God is doing in our lives. We must continuously work, by the power of God’s Spirit, to put to death those things about us that are contrary to God’s will for us.
Let me give you a great example of how God works and calls us to work. In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul urges the people of Philippi.
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV)
Paul says, “continue, keep on, working out, living out, not working for, your salvation.” Paul isn’t saying that we work for our salvation, but that we are living out what God has already done in us. He goes on to say, “for it is God who works in your to will and to act according to His good pleasure.”
Do you have a desire to live for the Lord? Do you despise your sin? Do you sense God working in you, drawing you to Himself, calling you to a deeper, stronger, more consistent daily walk? Is your chief desire in life to live in such a way that your life brings glory and honor to God alone? These, my friends, are signs of God’s activity in you and me. We have not arrived, we are not yet what we will be, but God is at work. Paul put it this way.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12 NIV)
I’m not there yet, but I’m working, I’m praying, I’m striving, I’m stretching, I’m laboring, I’m yielding, I’m reaching to take hold of that for which Jesus has already taken hold of me! This evidence of the Spirit’s empowerment is an assurance that you belong to God—God is at work in your battle against your fleshly, sin nature.
Another wonderful assurance that we belong to God is the reminders we get from the Holy Spirit that we are sons and daughters of God. In Romans 8:14, Paul writes, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14 NIV) This is the first time in Romans that the idea of our being “sons of God” appears. The assurance that we belong to God, not as beaten down slaves, but as “sons and daughters” in a family relationship—what a thought! Let’s read the rest of our Scripture for today so that you can understand the depth of this new relationship. Read along with me.
15 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.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 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 8:15-17 NIV)
These verses are jam packed with the implications of our having received the “Spirit of sonship.” That phrase in English was not very helpful for me to be honest with you, but when I learned the word behind the word, “sonship,” my heart melted in gratitude. The Greek word, “????????” (huiothesia) means, “adoption, the installation or placement as a son.” Even though the word is not used in the Hebrew Bible, God describes His relationship to Israel in just this way. It is also used to describe those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.
If you have believed God, received God’s Son, Jesus, as Lord and Savior of your life, then you have been adopted by God and enjoy the full blessings of being in His family. This word for adoption is rare in the New Testament. Paul is the only author who uses it. The word is not found in the Old Testament, since the Jews didn’t practice adoption. James Montgomery Boice writes,
Paul took the idea of adoption from Greek and Roman law, probably for two reasons. First, he was writing to Greeks and Romans (in this case to members of the church in Rome), so adoption, being part of their culture, was something they would readily understand. Second, the word was useful to him because ‘it signified being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature. (James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Vol. 2. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 1992. pg. 840)
Paul may be the only biblical author who uses this beautiful Greek word, but Peter sure understood what God had done in his life and the lives of all of those who had come to know Jesus. Peter writes, in 1 Peter 2:9-10,
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV)
Once we were not a people, but then God acted on our behalf and now we are the people of God! What a blessed assurance!
Because of the work of the Spirit of God in our lives we are enabled to cry out, “Abba Father.” The word, “Abba,” is an Aramaic word used by little children to address their daddy. It is such an intimate, beautiful word, a word used by Jesus in addressing God. You need to understand how scandalous it was for Jesus to use this word that conveys ideas of familiarity and intimacy.
God is holy. He is transcendent. Human lips shouldn’t even say His name, much less address God with such familiar language. The Jewish teachers believed that their people should call God, “Sir,” and not use such intimate names for God. To keep people from saying God’s name, the Jewish teachers taught their people to say, “Adonai” wherever the word “YHWH” appeared in Scripture. They took the vowels from “Adonai” and put them on “YHWH” so that it made the word almost impossible to pronounce.
This past week Herman, Ryan, and I were having our Hebrew lesson by computer. There was a passage of Scripture from Genesis that our teacher was reading in Hebrew. As he read it, he said, “Adonai,” where the Hebrew actually said, “YHWH.” Herman had the headphones with the microphone, so I said, “Tell him that we are confused. The word he translated as ‘Adonai’ doesn’t look like ‘Adonai.’” After Herman asked the question, our teacher went into a long monologue about God’s personal name and that we are not allowed to say it because it is too holy.
Today in Israel and in many other parts of the world, Jews will not even use the word, “Adonai,” they will just say, “HaShem,” which means, “The Name.” God is transcendent and holy, and through the years the Jewish teachers have distanced God’s people from Him even more by the language they use.
We are taught that the Spirit of God within us enables us to cry out, “Abba,” like a little child cries out for his or her daddy. What a beautiful picture! Do you remember when you were young and scared? You ran with your arms wide open and tears streaming down your face as you searched for your rock and protection—your daddy. Did you ever get lost in a crowd and you couldn’t find your parents anywhere? Didn’t you cry out, “Daddy! Momma!” with the hopes that they would rescue you from the scary situation you were in? What a blessed assurance to know that we can cry out, “Abba” to a Daddy much stronger, much more capable than our own fathers ever were.
Not only does the Spirit of God enable us to cry out, “Abba Father,” but the Spirit also testifies with, agrees with, our spirit that we are children of God. What a powerful assurance that we are children of God! There are all kinds of experiences in life that can lead us to doubt if we are really God’s at all aren’t there? There are times in life when I feel alone, when I wonder if God is really hearing my prayers. The Spirit of God reminds me that I belong to Him. There are other times in my life when Satan uses my weak commitment and my struggle with sin to try and condemn me. In those times, I hear a voice shouting at me, “You call yourself a Christian? How could anyone like you belong to God? If they only knew about the real you. You can’t really believe that you are saved!” Have you ever experienced horrifying times like that? Well, each time I have experienced times like that there has been another voice that reassures me, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I have chosen you as My very own.” The Spirit of God reassures me that I am His.
There is another blessed assurance that comes to us through our Scripture for today. In Romans 8:17 we read,
17 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 are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we share in His sufferings. For many years there has been a disturbing trend among Christians. I call it “You can have it now” theology. One of the best sellers in the Christian market in the last two years was a book called, “Your Best Life Now!” Now, I know that some of us are doing really well, as far as material wealth is concerned, but to think that this is as good as it gets is quite absurd to me. I don’t care how good it is for you now, there is so much more.
On the other hand, you might not have it good at all. You may have to scrape just to get by. You may have health issues that limit you from so many experiences in life. You may be alone, with no family to share the ups and downs of life. Whether you are doing well or not doing so well this verse shouts at you with an even reality than anything this life can promise you. God is our portion. He is our great reward. We are heirs of God!
Abraham understood this truth. God changed his reality like no other. Abraham prospered like he never dreamed. He and Sarah were given the son that God promised. He was given the promise of the Promised Land and yet we read in Hebrews 11:8-10.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV)
Abraham’s eyes were not set on all that he had gained. His eyes were set far beyond this life to the Heavenly City, to the day when he would forever enjoy the presence of God. Great is our reward for God is our inheritance!
We are out of time for this study, but come back next week and we will continue on in our study of Romans. Before we go today, I must ask you, “Do you have the assurance that you belong to God?” Do you see the Spirit of God working in your life to help you continue to put to death the misdeeds of your body and mind? Does the Spirit of God enable you seek the glory of God above all else in life? Do you recognize that it is the Spirit of God who enables you to cry out, “Abba,” to cry out to your Daddy? Is God your portion? Is He enough? If everything you had was taken from you—your wealth, your health, your relationships—is the fellowship and promises of God your joy and strength forever? I pray that this morning you have these wonderful assurances in your life, but if not, won’t you recognize that this very morning the Lord is calling you to Himself? Invite Him into your heart and watch Him work.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 21, 2013