"The Power of a Spirit-Given Adoption!"#84-46
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 16, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:What difference does it make how I live now?)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Romans 8:12-17
Our text Romans 8, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God, they are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again. Rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship and by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself testifies with our Spirit that we are children of God. 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."
Christ has risen. He has risen, indeed. Hallelujah.
Now this might seem like an odd question, but I want to ask it anyway. Have you ever been an orphan? I want you to think about that for a moment. If you had parents who cared for you, provided you with a good education, a great work ethic, you might say that you don't know what it's like to be an orphan. Well, Sylvester Opiyo does. Today he's a pastor and evangelist, but as a boy he was an orphan. He lived in the slum villages of Nairobi, Kenya.
However, some friends from a local Lutheran Church gave him a hand up. Pastor Sylvester was so thankful for the ability to receive his elementary, college and, finally, his seminary education that he chose to stay and work among the orphans of Kenya. Now he could have come to the United States and provided a much richer lifestyle for his family. He's been to the States on visits; he's had chances to stay. There would have been nothing wrong with that, but he felt compelled to stay in his own home country and bless those who-like him-grew up with nothing.
He does so to this day, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of the joy he has for the Lord's redeeming work in his life. Now listen, maybe you don't consider yourself an orphan, but let me tell you, we've all been orphans in one way or another. St. Paul reminds us of this in Romans, chapter 8, beginning in verse 12. In fact, there's a real possibility that we can orphan ourselves. Whenever we give ourselves over to our base feelings, to our gratifications in our flesh, we risk serving just ourselves.
The worst thing about that, we find ourselves far from God's intended purpose for us, orphaned. Paul writes, "Therefore brothers and sisters we have an obligation, but not to the flesh to live according to that, for if you live according to the flesh you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." I don't want to make any assumptions, but I know a lot of you listeners are Christians. If you're not or you're not sure and have been led to listen to this program today, we are so thankful. God has a special place for you in His heart.
In fact, He extends His love to you-no matter how orphaned you are or you may feel today-because He has already made provision for your adoption into His family. So all of you listen closely today to those early Christians who lived in a world that challenged the Christian faith on all sides. St. Paul has a first line of defense and support: encourage people to know the blessings that came with their Spirit-given adoption in Jesus.
The first blessing then is the gift of a new lease on life. Let me say that again. The first blessing is the gift of a new lease on life. These days cars and trucks are engineered to be highly efficient with smart technology. I recently took my car into the shop because it was shifting automatically but erratically. The diagnosis: the computerized transmission had somehow recalibrated itself. This happened the day after the transmission had been flushed by the service technician. That process had probably knocked loose some residue that got caught in a gearing mechanism.
The computer picked up on the change, and it learned a new habit-in this case, a bad habit. Who knew that transmissions can pick up bad habits? So the tech performed a computer reset and poof, the erratic shifting went away. It's been smooth shifting ever since. In a way that analogy might help explain what St. Paul is revealing to us in this section of Romans 8. Our brains might be compared to a fabulous super computer, wonderfully created and engineered by God. Our brains are super in tune with our bodies.
The brain quickly learns what our bodies desire for good or for ill. Unfortunately, it's not always in tune with how our Maker engineered us to perform. St. Paul does an expert analysis when he admits in Romans 7, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do, that's what I keep doing." Just like my transmission that decided to shift erratically and couldn't readjust itself, so our own beings left to themselves can live erratically, driving us to the point of self-destruction.
We need an external reset, and it's ours by the Spirit of God. With that reset we get to start living Christ-like lives for others. The Spirit leads us to be more Christ-like, living and serving to the good of others. In fact, the power of a Spirit-given adoption is like a new lease on life. It gives us the reset in life that comes in Christ by His Spirit. Then it shows itself in how we live and serve. But that's not all. The second key blessing of our Spirit-given adoption is a new identity.
On October 1, 1979, the Coca-Cola Company aired its famous commercial featuring NFL superstar Mean Joe Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers, trading his soiled football jersey for a kid's bottle of Coke. Are you old enough to remember that commercial? The famous line from the commercial is "Hey kid, catch!" Mean Joe tosses his jersey and the kid catches it with a great big smile. The commercial fades away as Mean Joe Green guzzles down that bottle of Coke. There's something about superstars and kids sharing a special bond. Oftentimes it's a whole lot more than trading a jersey for a soda.
You know, when superstars make hospital calls on kids who are being beat up by, let's say, cancer, there's something wonderfully inspiring about that interaction. The superstar makes that kid feel special, whole, and even miraculously alive. It's really fabulous when the superstar recognizes that the kid's battle is so much tougher than what goes on in a football or a basketball game. The Bible helps us then to appreciate what it means to be spirit-adopted. Here it reads, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God, they are children of God."
You see, when God puts His Name on you as He does in holy Baptism, you are a child of God. Receiving His gift, you and God share a special bond and, more than that, you've got a new identity. You are a child of God. In some cultures, if a son or daughter goes against their parents' desires, mom and dad completely cut them off from the family. Has that happened in your family, or has that happened in the life of someone close to you? If so, you've seen the pain and you've witnessed the harm of the loss of that identity from that kind of shunning.
Some sons and daughters who worry about going against the family actually fear living. They live with a huge hole in their being and they experience no real fulfillment. It enslaves them. Well St. Paul assures us today that we don't need to fear such separation, even when our misdeeds and sinfulness wage war within us. Romans 8 says, "The Spirit that you've received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again." Your identity in Christ is kept whole by the power of the Spirit's adoption of you.
The third key blessing of a Spirit-given adoption means that you have an amazing Father. St. Paul wrote, "And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" Abba's a word in the Aramaic language which means father, daddy. It's a term of endearment. A few weeks ago we celebrated Father's Day. There are a lot of great and godly fathers in our world, thank the Lord, but even if you didn't have such a father, today God invites you to receive His love as the perfect Father in your life for your life. Even if you feel orphaned from God Himself today for whatever reason, He wants you to come home.
I remember a classmate who was adopted into her family whereas other siblings were naturally conceived by their parents. You know how kids can be sometimes. My classmate would be teased, sometimes mercilessly, that she wasn't a real member of the family because she had been adopted. She wasn't real flesh and blood. You could tell that bothered her. Then someone brilliant and caring shared with her something she would never forget. This wise adult said to her, "You know, Sarah, your parents love you. Your mom and dad were blessed to have your brothers and sisters; however, they didn't really know what they were getting before they were born. But you, they got to pick you. They chose you. That makes you extra special."
Wow! Just try to imagine that for yourself. God wants you to receive His love in much the same way just like an orphan who suddenly gets to live as the son or daughter of the most important man or woman in town. Because when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He made your adoption into His eternal family a reality. There's really nothing in the world that compares to that. That's what the Spirit gives to you and me. We've got a new Father who chose us in Christ. He's adopted us as His own.
God our Father knows you and me well, sins and all, but in Christ He still chooses us. He calls us to Himself. He calls us to trust Him, to obey Him, to follow His lead. Why? Because He really, really, loves us. Too often we treat His love, His kindness, His direction, as something that gets in our way, something of a hassle. Like those days in junior high, we treat God like we used to treat our parents, even when they were doing right by us. We talked back. We got a little sassy, even upset, because we wanted things our way, not their way, even if theirs was the right way.
Now be honest, sometimes even as adults we act that way toward our Heavenly Father. We get hurt and upset and mad because something in our life didn't go right or when someone in our life was severely hurt or torn from us. Many turn away to atheism because they're mad at God. Yet here's the thing: God our Father still comes for us with His grace and love demonstrated in Christ, on our behalf.
He brings His tenderness to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit to give us faith to know that even when we don't understand what's going on at the moment, we can count on our Heavenly Father-period. By the power of the Holy Spirit we cry out, "Abba, Father!" It would be like a little boy or a girl crying out to their father, saying, "Daddy, Daddy!"-crying out to someone who always is ready to wrap his strong loving arms around them.
Finally, the fourth key blessing of a Spirit-given adoption means you have new purpose. In the final verses of this passage, St. Paul is really going to bring it home for you and me. Living in this world can be really trying; it can be difficult, sometimes miserable, defying literally, defying happiness. You know it's only that way when you don't see a God-given mission to it all. When you don't see a purpose in something, it can be terribly difficult to lean into that life. That is the final gift of our adoption that I want to impress upon you today.
The power of a Spirit-given adoption means you have right now in your life, real mission, real purpose. Romans 8 goes on to say, "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we're His children then we're heirs, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we might also share in His glory." Charles Murphy was a multi-millionaire banker, the epitome of success, the all-American type, who owned a 19-room palatial townhouse in New York City.
He made millions for investment bankers. However, at the age of 56, all he could think about was losing his wealth and worrying about not providing for his family. Friends and coworkers tried to console him otherwise. He couldn't get it out of his mind. He checked into a hotel one day, took the elevator to his room on the 26th floor, and stepped out his window. He took his life because he couldn't see past himself and the worry of losing it all. Now if someone like Charles Murphy, a person who seemed to have it all, can lose it so easily, what could make the difference or keep a person from such a destructive end?
Well, that's probably the wrong question. It's not what can make the difference; it's who can make the difference. The Holy Spirit who has adopted us as His own also provides for us an eternal inheritance. St. Paul teaches it straight. "Now if we are God's children, then we are heirs, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ." Now most of us listening today probably don't have a bankroll the size of Charles Murphy's, but you dear friends, if you believe in Jesus Christ, the One who died and rose for you, you have an inheritance Mr. Murphy could never give his wife and kids.
Everything that Jesus Christ conquered in His mission is already yours. There is no need to worry about what you might win or lose in this life. In fact, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you've got the ability to participate in a mission that at times may not look very successful, at least in comparison to the world's bankers and Wall Street brokers. But, incredibly, you are Christ's person by the power of His Spirit, with a mission to bring His hope and love to those in your life, in His Name.
So today's the day for you. God the Father wants you to receive by faith the reality of His adoption in Jesus by the power of His Spirit for you. With that comes a new purpose, the certainty of a relationship with your loving Heavenly Father, a renewed identity, and an ever-renewing lease on life. Right here, right now, with that identity, that lease on life, that renewed purpose, look around! There are hundreds of people who don't know the love of an amazing Father right in your home community.
These are people who don't know the love of our Heavenly Father, who don't know that they're living, more or less, as orphans. They may not even know that there's another way of living life for all it's worth. When you know your status in Christ by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you don't wait for the world around you to change. You become God's transforming agent in the lives of others because He lives for you; He lives in you, and He lives through you, too. Adoption in Christ by the power of His Spirit, that's a life to be lived, now and forever. Trust Him. Amen.
Action in Ministry for July 16, 2017
Guest: Rev. Peter Kirby
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry, your call to action in response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ. Pastor Seltz, in today's message you reminded us that we were all spiritual orphans at one time until God adopted us into His family through faith in Christ.
Pastor Seltz: What a powerful message that is for us and, you know, many of us have also been blessed to be part of a loving family, here and now. We really don't know what it's like to be an orphan. Many others know that only so well.
Mark Eischer: Joining us today is our colleague Peter Kirby, the area counselor of our international ministry centers in Asia and Europe. He's here to tell us about some work that's being done with orphans in Russia.
Pastor Seltz: Yeah, Peter, thanks for joining us.
Peter Kirby: I'm glad to be here.
Pastor Seltz: Now Peter, first of all, give us a little background on what's going on in Russia as far as the orphans are concerned.
Peter Kirby: Well, Russia has been in the news a lot lately, but what you don't hear much about are the economic conditions for the average person who's living in Russia. Russia depends a lot on oil and gas sales as a country for income and the falling oil prices in recent years have really created a lot of economic hardship for the average Russian. Many adults abuse alcohol or drugs because of the pressures of daily life, unemployment, and low wages.
Although there are some true orphans in Russia who have lost both parents, many more are abandoned by parents who have drug or alcohol problems or who have been removed from their homes by the government because the parents are not caring for them. They may be struggling in school because of the lack of parental support and, sadly, many of these children may have also suffered abuse at home. So there are many challenges and needs that the orphanages try to meet.
Pastor Seltz: Tell us a little bit then about how Lutheran Hour Ministries is helping.
Peter Kirby: For many years we've had a musician, Igor, who is visiting children in these homes that are scattered throughout the western part of Russia. He shows care for them through his music and the programs that he puts on for them, and also just his presence there. Quite often he's bringing in gifts to them if it's Christmas or other holiday seasons.
We're also helping to support troubled children's ministry through food, programs, and Christian care in St. Petersburg and surrounding cities. In all of those activities, though, we're taking time to share the love of Jesus Christ with these children because it is His love that motivates our giving and helps us to see their needs and to care for others around us.
Pastor Seltz: Yeah, they're not alone.
Peter Kirby: Originally, when we started in Russia we had a ministry center in Moscow, and he worked with us at that time as well.
Mark Eischer: Going back many years. Then what happens then when these children receive the help they need, both physically and spiritually?
Peter Kirby: Well, our musician Igor shares stories often about how appreciative these children are that he came and performed a concert for them and brought them gifts. They want to be loved so badly and they are so appreciative when someone shows that love to them. I've been blessed to visit two of our supported ministries in the area around St. Petersburg, and I saw the joy on the faces of the children to know that they have a safe place to get away from the challenges at home for a while and to be cared for with unconditional love.
Pastor Seltz: When somebody actually takes an active role in saying, "I really do care for you," and reflects God's love anyway, it can make a huge difference in a child's life, right?
Peter Kirby: Yeah, and that's really what they're missing. They're being cared for physically in these group homes, but they're really missing that personal attention and somebody who's really caring for them and showing them that love.
Mark Eischer: What are some ways listeners can help and be involved with this ministry?
Peter Kirby: We would always ask our listeners to pray for the children and especially the orphans in Russia-that God will continue to provide for their needs and help them to find peace and joy in His love. Also, we cannot care for these troubled children and orphans in Russia without your sacrificial gifts in support of the ministry there that helps us to reach out with God's love in these very tangible ways.
Pastor Seltz: Well Peter, thank you again for bringing this good news to us about this ministry and thanks for joining us today.
Peter Kirby: It's been a joy to be with you for this broadcast.
Pastor Seltz: That's our Action in Ministry segment today-to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
Mark Eischer: For more information on our ministry efforts in Russia, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry, or call 1-855-John316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our e-mail address is info@LHM.org.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 16, 2017
Topic: What difference does it make how I live now?
Mark Eischer: If God forgives me, what difference does it make how I live now? That's our question for today for our Speaker, Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer.
Pastor Seltz: Wow! What a question, Mark! We read in the Bible about the thief on the cross who was saved right before he died, and we might think, well, why should we live out our faith if we can just repent at the end and still go to heaven?
Mark Eischer: We might think of people who lived wicked, wanton lives and then repented and converted late in life. I suppose we should be glad that they finally received God's grace but, at the same time, it doesn't seem quite fair.
Pastor Seltz: Well, you're right. God's grace isn't fair, and that's kind of the point of grace. God gives us what we don't deserve-and that's all of us. He gives us His forgiveness, His life, even though we don't deserve it.
Mark Eischer: Okay, but if I can do whatever I want right up until the very end and then still receive God's forgiveness-why live any differently now?
Pastor Seltz: The answer is both simple and complicated. First of all, God didn't create us just to die and go to heaven. Christianity's goal is not just to get to heaven when we die. Salvation is the aim of it, yes, but salvation is much more than just going to heaven when we die.
Mark Eischer: What do you mean?
Pastor Seltz: Well, God created us to live a certain way, to live joyfully, abundantly, as His children. So, to live against His will-for us the Bible calls that sin. It's literally contrary to the way we were made. If we believe in God and what He tells us in the Bible, living in sin is actually not good for us or for anyone in our life. Living according to God's will, which is really the best possible way-we live that way now and forever.
Mark Eischer: Okay, I think that makes sense, but there's also this idea that sin is a lot more fun and living like a goody-goody is really boring.
Pastor Seltz: Well, and that's exactly the lie that the world and Satan himself has taught us. We have this idea that God's will is somehow oppressive and that if we want to really live fully, we need to be free to do whatever we want. That's really not true. In fact, because God's our Creator, He's the One who loves us more than we love ourselves, His will is always the best thing for us. Again, the Scripture says He truly wants what is best for us.
Mark Eischer: Okay, He doesn't want us to sin, and you're saying that living in sin is actually bad for us, but to live according to God's will is good for us.
Pastor Seltz: Abundantly good for us-because humanity was created to live according to God's will, and so living according to God's will, every moment of every day, that would be paradise for us, but also for those in our lives.
Mark Eischer: Now Jesus came to forgive our sins and to give us eternal life in heaven, right?
Pastor Seltz: He did, but He came to do so much more. He came to free us from the grip of sin so that we can live in the goodness of God's love. So His death and resurrection isn't just the solution for the end of our earthly lives, it's the means through which we can begin to live every day as God desires.
Mark Eischer: Living as God desires, that's much better than living as I desire?
Pastor Seltz: Yeah. Be honest, we all know the answer to that question. God desires us to live in His love and to love those in our lives His way. We're not created to be selfish, self-centered, greedy, and unloving. That stuff kills. We're created to enjoy God's creation and to live life in His love.
Mark Eischer: All right, back to our original question, why should I live according to God's will now if He will just forgive me in the end-no matter what I've done?
Pastor Seltz: Well, the best answer is always found in the Scriptures. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, "For the love of Christ controls us. He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised." Now think about it, Paul here doesn't even mention heaven. He's talking about living, really living.
Mark Eischer: Yeah, but what about heaven?
Pastor Seltz: Well, heaven's important. Eternal life is indeed a promise, but we shouldn't look at those things as separate from our present lives. Christianity isn't so much about trying just to get to heaven. It's about living as God created us, now and forever.
Mark Eischer: Okay, but if we should live however we want, will God still forgive us in the end?
Pastor Seltz: Mark, faith in Christ would say that misses the point. Living your way, living sinfully, that's what destroys. Living in Christ means we get to live His way for others-the way He loves us. There is joy in that way of life, now and forever, and so knowing that, the question really is-why would you want to live any other way?
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Oh, That the Lord Would Guide My Ways" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)