2nd Pentecost Sunday / Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church,
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 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.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the 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 God’s children. 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.
“Children of God / Sons of God”
- Led by the Spirit
- Inherit Heaven
Dear Children of God,
Will you give dad a tie next Sunday?…some golf balls?…a shirt reading “World’s #1 Father”? Or do you only see what dear old dad can do for you? Father’s Day, after all, focuses on getting as well as giving. We not only ask, “What will I give dad?” but also, “What do I get from my father?”
Does my father give me anything other than his last name? Even worldly psychologists answer, “Absolutely!” Experience tells us children often follow a father’s footsteps. Statistically, sons of smokers are more apt to smoke — daughters of divorced parents are more inclined to divorce their own husband — children physically abused by their parents are more likely to abuse their own children than people raised by loving parents. Following my father’s footsteps is not always negative, however. Sons of hunters or fishermen are more apt to hunt & fish, daughters of college graduates are more likely to attend college, children whose parents are active in the church (especially when dad worships with them) are more inclined to remain involved in a congregation as they age. For various reasons, children often imitate parents. Our life is so influenced, so shaped by parents – good or bad — a counselor may help me understand myself & recognize my purpose in life by first asking me to identify my father.
Who is my Father? What has he given me? What will I give in return? Wiser than worldly counselors – answering questions we commonly ask — the Holy Spirit uses Paul’s inspired words to lift our eyes to identify God as our Father, calling saints – women as well as men – calling all saints ‘Sons of God’ — “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” Paul writes, “for all who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”[GAL 3] Chosen & adopted in Christ, you & I are sons of God. Forgiven & redeemed by Christ, you & I are sons of God, sons who are instructed; who are expected by the Holy Spirit to “be imitators of our Father, as dearly loved children.”[EPH 5] Jesus himself, Jesus our Brother orders us to duplicate God’s words & works — to “be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
What has God our Father given us ‘Sons of God’? God gives us life — a lifestyle for today, we may say, & eternal life for tomorrow. What does God our Father give us ‘Sons of God’? Impossible expectations! An overwhelming “obligation” to perfectly imitate him! Fortunately, our Father also sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts with his Word to lead us through life on this earth to finally inherit his eternally glorious gift of heavenly life. Receiving the “Spirit of sonship,” Paul points out, you & I possess the power of prayer; we also have an unshakable assurance of salvation as “sons of God.”
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” Paul simply says, assuring our eternal life even as he addresses & encourages our Christian lifestyle today. “Brothers, we have an obligation” Paul writes — “we have an obligation – but not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if I live according to the sinful nature I will die” — “The wages of sin is (always will be) death”[ROM 6] — “but if by the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body, we will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Redeemed by Jesus Christ (whose innocent death as my Substitute erased sin’s permanent penalty), adopted into God’s family by his gift of faith, believers are not free to do whatever I want – no, I am now free to follow God.
Redeemed children of God are set free from sin to live like Jesus Christ. Instead of serving Satan (my only option as a natural-born sinner), as an adopted son of God, my words & actions are allowed to imitate our Father’s eternal Son (Jesus) while liars & murderers continue living like their Father the Devil. Paul expresses a simple, positive proposition: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Children of God are guided by the Spirit who works through God’s Word to imitate our perfect Father. On the opposite side of the coin, souls who do not follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit are not sons of God – a warning not to fool myself by saying I believe but simply choose to not obey God’s instructions today. Enabled by the Spirit, believers are obligated to live like our Lord Jesus Christ who sets aside society’s excuses, overpowers our world’s defenses & erases my sinfully convuluted reasoning as he simply states: “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear – the reason you do not listen to the Holy Spirit’s instructions — is that you do not belong to God”[JN 8]
Members of God’s family listen to God’s guidance. If I will not follow God’s direction, I am not part of God’s family. Could we paint the picture more clearly? At the same time, could we be asked to tackle a more impossible task than to walk in our Father’s footsteps — to listen to the Spirit; to live like Christ? Could Jack Nicklaus, Jr. possibly hope to fill his father’s shoes on a golf course? Could John Kennedy, Jr., expect to imitate his dad’s political accomplishments? No, whatever these sons might do would surely fall short of their famous earthly fathers’ feats. So my words & works (as close to righteous as they may be) will never equal Jesus’ sinless words & works. My incomplete ideas & actions will never match my heavenly Father’s expectation & demand for perfection. As I identify my failure to live up to God my Father’s expectations, fortunately, I do not need to fear I may be disowned. When I sorrowfully see my shortcomings, as I recognize & tearfully repent of my sins, the Holy Spirit thankfully assures me God our Father is not going to judge me by what I do wrong or fail to do right — God has already judged me ‘forgiven,’ God has already declared you ‘forgiven’ because of the righteous life Jesus lived for us & the innocent death Jesus died as our heavenly Father’s perfect substitute for us believing brothers.
When the Holy Spirit leads us saints to listen to God’s gracious words of forgiveness, our impossible, overwhelming obligation to perfectly imitate our Father in heaven actually becomes an opportunity to live as a child of God. Like Jesus Christ – Paul points out — Christians are privileged to pray for God’s all-powerful protection: “the Spirit leads us to cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” In Gethsemane — the night before he would be crucified as God’s atoning sacrifice for our sin — in danger & distress, Jesus prays, “Abba, Father,”[LK 14] asking the all-but-impossible, asking his Father to release him from the excruciatingly painful crucifixion he sees coming if he can save us sinners some other way. Like Christ, whatever troubles us today, Christians can join Jesus to urgently asking our Almighty Father’s assistance — we can boldly, confidently call for God’s guidance, asking his wisdom as we study his Word — we can powerfully plead God’s promise to protect us from every evil for he graciously redeemed & lovingly adopted us as his sons.
Our privilege of praying, our opportunity to imitate Jesus as sons of God who obediently listen to God’s Spirit speaking through his Word is not only an obligation but is also – Paul points out — an assurance we are chosen children of God. As the Holy Spirit leads us to pray; leads us to confess faith in Jesus Christ — as the Spirit leads us here to listen to our Lord’s teachings the way Mary sat at Jesus’ feet learning his truths; as the Spirit guides us to encourage, to care for, to feed one another the way Martha fixed food for Jesus’ disciples — as the Holy Spirit leads us to lovingly speak the truth about one another, to honor & obey our parents, to put any & every one of God’s commands into practice in our lives, we may be assured we are God’s chosen children, for “those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” “The Spirit himself – Paul reassuringly explains — (the Holy Spirit) testifies with our spirit — the Holy Spirit persuades us in our hearts — that we are God’s children.”
At times, my heart may still condemn me. I may not necessarily ‘feel’ like a Christian today. I may have unknowingly or in my weakness walked in sin, falling for Satan’s temptations rather than following God’s guidance. I may be aware my words & actions do not really look or sound like Christ’s. The Holy Spirit will then assure me, not looking at my actions & attitudes, but speaking the absolutely certain, unchanging words of Scripture: “The God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in Christ before the creation of the world… God predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure & will… in Christ we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the richness of God’s grace.”[EPH 1] Working faith in our hearts through his Scriptures, God’s Spirit assures us — working faithfulness in our lives through his power, God’s Holy Spirit reassures us — we are sons God, we are children of God!
“Now if we are children,” Paul joyfully continues, looking from our obligations to our opportunities, “if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God & co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” As glorious as it is to be a son of God today, it will be more glorious ‘tomorrow’ — when we receive all the promises offered Abraham (a Savior from sin; a place in God’s family; a special land where we will live forever). As happy as I may be to be enabled to obediently walk in Jesus’ footsteps today, I will be even happier the last day when Jesus my Judge will invite me, “Come, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”[MT 25] I pray we understand what God has waiting for us: as sons of God, heaven is our inheritance — a perfect place in God’s presence completely prepared for us by Christ, an unearned gift God has set aside for us whenever he will finally end our life on this earth.
Looking ahead to inheriting heaven, the Holy Spirit can point us to Jesus’ life/death/resurrection/ascension as an example of what may & what certainly will be coming. As sons of God, co-heirs with Christ living like Christ, we may be asked to suffer on earth, just as Jesus suffered rejection, ridicule, physical pain, even persecution. Do not be afraid — if I suffer because I am following God’s will for my life, I have no need to worry for I know where God’s sons will end up. Just as Jesus suffered, was rejected, put to death – just as Jesus was raised from his grave & taken into heavenly glory — so his adopted brothers may suffer in this world, but, in the end, in eternity, Christ’s co-heirs will also be raised & we will be welcomed into God’s heavenly glory.
Heirs of God…sons of God…led by the Spirit of God…God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, God the Father gives us life, guides our life; guarantees eternal life. What greater incentive could anyone offer for me to give my life to God as I live for the Lord in time & look forward to living with the Lord in eternity!