We are Heirs of God (No Longer Slaves)
Prayer for Illumination
O Lord, you have given us your Word for a light to shine upon our path. Grant us to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching so that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace, published in 1880. This best-seller was made into a movie by MGM in 1959. Since then, Ben-Hur has been considered one of the greatest films ever made and was seen by tens of millions. For many years, the movie has been replayed on TV during the Easter season.
The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the first century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, from the same region and around the same age.
In the story, Judah Ben Hur is adopted by the Roman admiral, Quintus Arrius, after saving him from drowning. Judah, who was a slave at the time, was bought by Arrius. Then Arrius freed Judah, making him a Roman citizen. Once Judah became a citizen, Arrius adopted him. Judah then took the name of his new father, becoming Quintus Arrius’ heir.
In the Roman Empire, succession and family legacy were very important. They needed ways of passing down their fortune and name when unable to produce a male heir.
So it became a norm to adopt young adult males into the homes of high-ranking families. But families with sons were also often willing to have one or more sons adopted to make desirable family connections and to improve their sons’ opportunities. Women were still adopted, yet it was not for succession but for them to be wed to an influential family.
Under Roman law, a free non-citizen could not be adopted by a citizen. A slave could be freed to become a Roman citizen; the freedman, who was now a Roman citizen, could then be adopted.
Today’s text is from the Book of Romans, a letter written by Apostle Paul to the church in Rome. Romans chapter 8 consists of a lot of jewel-like teachings about the core values of Christianity that it is considered such as a diamond of a diamond ring. Here Paul used the metaphor of adoption and sonship that the believers in Rome could easily relate to.
In this chapter, Paul compares two very distinct groups of people - one who lives according to sinful nature; the other who lives the Spirit-led life. Some of the characteristics of the one whose life is dominated by sinful nature are:
1) Their minds are set on what their flesh and their sinful nature desire, such as selfishness, pride, greed, unforgiveness, revenge, jealousy, sexual immorality, etc.
2) They have enmity against God.
3) They do not submit to God’s law.
4) They do not belong to Christ.
5) They will have eternal death; and
6) They are a slave to fear.
On the other hand, those who live in accordance with the Spirit:
1) their minds are set on what the Spirit desires and governed by the Spirit that leads to life and peace;
2) the Spirit of God dwells in them
3) They received the Spirit of adoption
4) They are sons and daughters of God
5) They can call God, “Abba Father”
6) They are God’s Children
7) They become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ; and
8) They share in Christ’s suffering in order to share in His glory.
Pretty opposite, right? Which group do you belong to?
Once, you and I were living under the curse of sin and death. We were living according to our sinful desires. Some of you might object to my statement, saying, “No, no. I wasn’t a bad person. Even before I became a Christian, I was a good person.” Well… maybe. But the Bible clearly says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). There is absolutely no ‘good person’ under heaven.
When we were still sinners and slaves to sin, Jesus Christ broke the chains of sin and death and freed us by His blood. And as Paul said in Philippians 3:20, we became citizens of heaven. And then God adopted us as His sons and daughters. We are God’s adopted children, just like how Judah Ben-Hur became the adopted son of Quintus Arrius.
I became a Canadian in 1992 after I took the Oath of Citizenship at a citizenship ceremony. I officially became Canadian and got my Canadian passport. I get all the rights as a Canadian, but rights come with responsibilities. Do you think as a new citizen to Canada, I have obligations to my birth country or to Canada? To Canada, right? When I became Canadian, I was no longer obliged to the laws of my birth country.
In today’s text, v 12 says, “So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—” We are not obliged by the law of sin and death anymore. Instead, we are now obliged by the law of the Spirit of life. And then now what? The next step is growing in the Spirit - becoming more like Jesus Christ.
V 13 says, “if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Of course, it doesn’t mean just making sure your body doesn’t do bad things. Paul knows that sinful deeds we do are rooted in hearts that are wrong, and so the killing must begin at the root. So how do you do it? You do it by the Spirit.
I’ve killed many lives - mosquitoes, flies, fish, and even many mice, and I needed a weapon to kill them except mosquitoes. I usually use my palms. Ephesians 6 says that the weapon that the Spirit uses to kill sin is the Word of God. It says to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The foremost way to kill sin is by knowing, memorizing, understanding, meditating, and studying the Scriptures.
As you read the Scripture, the Holy Spirit very clearly and undeniably tells you what needs to be put to death, and what area of your life He wants to deal with. And as the Spirit leads you, you obediently try to stop complaining and yelling, start to control your emotion and be grateful for who you are and what you have. This is a life-long process. As you walk with the Holy Spirit, trying to become more like Jesus day by day, you start to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
It’s not going to happen instantaneously, but as you walk with the Holy Spirit day by day, moment by moment, you will notice the change little by little and will be surprised to see how you’ve transformed from a person of rage to a person with a gentle and kind spirit. By this fruit, people will know that you’re led by the Spirit of God, that you’re walking with the Spirit.
The greatest gift we get by receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior is a new relationship with God. Jewish people call God, “Hashem” which is Hebrew for "the Name." In awe at the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for them, they keep the true name of God concealed. It represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relation of God to the Jewish people.
Yet, to us, we have given the spirit of sonship, and we can call the Almighty God, the Most Holy God, the Creator of the universe, and the Alpha and Omega, ‘Abba Father.’ Isn’t it incredible?
There is a syndrome called, Adopted child syndrome. The syndrome includes problems in bonding and resisting bond-building toward his or her adoptive parents; attachment issues; lying and stealing; identity crisis, etc. The basic cause is fear - fear of rejection and fear of separation.
There are countless heartwarming and blissful adoptive family stories but there are also heart-breaking and miserable unsuccessful stories. For some children, it takes time for them to realize that they do not have to do chores for food; that they do not have to hide from abusive and violent adults; that they will not be punished for mistakes; that they do not have to perform well to be accepted.
What about you? Are you afraid of God because He seemed a tyrant? Do you feel that God is so distant that He’s not really paying attention to you and your prayers? Do you think that God is too holy that you need to be sinless and unworldly to follow Him? Does God love you only when you obey His commandment? Is God mad at you for your mistakes?
How would you feel if your own child was afraid of you, that he/she wouldn't come to you or even talk to you? What if your child thinks that you’re so distant that he/she doesn’t know how to even address you or never calls you, ‘daddy’, or ‘mommy’? You would feel hurt and sad.
My daughter, Jane, brought three friends from Toronto last week. Their behaviors and attitudes toward me were obviously different. Jane had no problem hugging me, coming into our bedroom, trying on my clothes and making a mess of my room, driving our car, or asking me to cook what she wanted to eat. Her friends, however, asked Jane to get towels upstairs, had to eat whatever I gave them, and most of all, they couldn’t call me ‘Mom’.
Our God wants you to feel safe and loved. He wants to have a personal and intimate relationship with each and every one of you. His eyes are always on you. His ears are always attentive to you. His hands are wide open for you to run to Him. His heart is full of love for you. And He willingly gave up His one and only Son, Jesus Christ in order to adopt you as His own.
Brothers and sisters, The Spirit of adoption allows us to “come boldly before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) as a beloved child runs to his father in times of trouble. Because of the Spirit of adoption, we can enjoy God without fear and enjoy serving God without feeling obligation. Serving in our Father’s kingdom becomes life’s highest desire.
When you were a slave to fear, when you were children of the darkness of sin and death, God bought you with the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus flows through your veins, and you are no longer a slave to fear.
Believe that you are God’s beloved child, and you can call Him, ‘Abba’. Believe that you are co-heirs with Jesus. So, get rid of your old lifestyle by the power and help of the Holy Spirit. And walk with the Triune God - God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit each moment of your life as God’s beloved child.
Let us pray.
Abba Father, thank You for granting us the right to become children of God and to call You, ‘Abba Father.’ Lord Jesus, thank You for giving Your life for us so that we can become co-heirs with You. Holy Spirit, thank You for guiding us and enabling us to get rid of our old selves. WE love You with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.