Adopted – Already & Not Yet
Like it or not we western folk are children of the Enlightenment.
That is to say, while almost everyone who comes to church believes in God,
most of us believe in a God that is far off, a God who created the earth and who pretty much leaves that earth to its own devices.
This is our norm, since the Enlightenment some 400 years ago.
But it has not always been the way people saw the relationship between God and the world.
Before the Enlightenment, people, Christian people believed that their God not only created the world,
but remained active in it, directing the affairs of the world that he had created.
People believed in the Super Natural power of God to intervene in the world and in their lives.
This was the Christian, pre-Enlightenment, world view.
The natural sciences were an upshot of the Enlightenment.
Through scientific observation meteorologists began to understand the natural phenomena that create weather.
For example, they discovered that there are layers in the atmosphere.
They learned that these layers and the differences in temperature, humidity and air pressure found in them, cause the air to move about and moisture bearing clouds to form.
As these understandings became common knowledge people abandoned the idea that changes in the weather were the work of God.
The people began to view weather as nothing more than changes in atmospheric pressure influenced by various natural causes.
And so, the view that God brought the rain and the wind began to fade from the Christian world-view or belief system.
God became for many a more distant, less direct mover of the things that effected their daily lives.
This distancing of God, this change in world-view is understandable, the popular influence of Enlightenment ideas was a powerful thing, particularly in light of the very real improvements in peoples’ standard of living that the Enlightenment and its hand maid science brought to world societies.
As science began to unlock the mysteries of the natural world it proved difficult for the unseen God to win the argument of the truth of his existence with the seen world because we live and move in a physical realm.
For the first twenty years of my life I believed there was nothing of any consequence in this life that you could not see, touch, hear or smell.
My world view, spawned in the Enlightenment, was thoroughly materialistic.
There was no room in it for things spiritual.
There certainly was no room in it for a God who could and did intervene in life through super or extra-natural power.
And then there was that evening when I was walking to work.
Suddenly I was made aware that there was more to life than met the eye.
A sense of peace physically washed over me.
And I mused to myself, “Hmm, there is more to this world than meets the eye.”
Suddenly I became aware of the existence of a realm that I could not see, hear, feel or smell.
But that was very real none the less.
That was Jacob’s experience.
The experience we know as Jacob’s Ladder.
The big difference was that Jacob knew how to interpret his experience because he already believed that God existed.
And he knew from the stories of his ancestors that God regularly intervened in human history as was the case when his God miraculously opened the womb of his barren grandmother, Sarah.
I on the other hand had no clue how to interpret that epiphany I had while walking to work that evening.
How was I, a child of the enlightenment, a thorough-going-materialist to interpret a sudden realization that there was more to this universe than meets the eye?
Perplexed by the experience I simply continued on to my work place and more or less forgot that strange evening event.
Forgot until some friends of mine, recent converts to Christianity, gave me a whole new context through which I could interpret, or know the meaning of, my peculiar evening experience.
The context they gave me was the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, him crucified for my sin and risen again so that I too could be raised with him on the last day; if I just confessed with my mouth and believed in my heart that Jesus is Lord.
And so, I did.
I was baptized and my world was transformed.
My world-view shifted 180 degrees.
And this is where our lesson from Romans comes in.
The gift of faith in Jesus, that came to me from my friends through the hearing of the word of God, transported me from the world of the flesh and opened up to me the world of the Spirit.
The world of the believer, where by the power of the Spirit we are enabled to live after the law of God’s grace, not after the law of sin and death by which this natural world is bound.
Paul puts this experience as being empowered to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit, indicating that this is an on-going process in the life of a believer.
Paul says we inherit the spirit of adoption, whereby our Abba Father leads us in this life, leading us in this life through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Your God is not a God afar off.
Your God is with you, even in your heart.
All things in this life may not be rosy.
Take our current experience with COVID-19 as a prime example.
Through this scourge we see suffering and death the world round.
But because we believe, and because we are willing to suffer with Christ during this life.
Our unchanging, unchangeable God, will in the end honour his promise, that in Christ, by Christ and for the sake of Christ we will be forgiven and raised with Christ on the last day.
And that my friends is the work of a God who is not a God afar off.
That is the work of a God who is indeed active in this world working through people like you to befriend, to adopt those lost in the materialism of this world.
Let us, each one, determine today to allow our God to work through us by the power of his Holy Spirit.
So that the super-natural power of his light and love may physically shine in this world.
So others may hear, see, feel and smell the truth of God, turn to God and be saved.