“Led by the Spirit”
Romans 8: 12-17, July 19th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, from the book of Romans, chapter eight, verses twelve thru seventeen.”
Romans 8: 12-17
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
“Having heard these words, written by Paul so long ago, how shall we interpret their meaning to us in this present time?”
“Led by the Spirit”
Verse fourteen of this morning’s reading, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” /Romans 8:12-17/ This is the heart of our lesson! If you are hearing these words and fully appreciate their meaning for you – Praise God! You are filled with the Living Spirit of God! If you are unsure about all this, you are in good company – most folks are unsure about what to do with these words. Sure, you say, “I have seen a few folks with that starry-eyed look!” “Yes sir, some folks get all fired up about the Spirit of God in their lives and they are clearly on Fire!” This is not exactly the response we are looking for. But if that is you – it may be a good place to start. However, most people get filled with the Spirit a little bit at a time. Kind of like charging up your cell phone… it is said that a slow charge typically lasts longer than the quick charge which you might get off the car charger. Now bear in mind, I am seventy-two and I might be wrong about these current technological realities. The key thing is that you get fired up enough to want to know what it means to be “led by the Spirit!”
To help get us deeper into this lesson let us consider this dialog regarding adoption. Let us start with a simple clarification. The difference between an adoption led by the Spirit and an adoption in some family court, is real-simple. You have got to want to be adopted by God, by God through Christ if you prefer. If you do not want it, you will not feel the emotions of a Spirit led life! In our human, mortal lives in which we live, adoption is not something that is driven by the child, but rather by the parent or parents to be! This is what makes this so different. God, in Christ, the Living Spirit of God may have already filed the paperwork to have you adopted into the family of God, but until you acknowledge the agreement, it is not activated; rather it is null and void! The beauty of this, however, is that there is no time limit before the adoption process ends and becomes unattainable. Not in in our human lifetime that is. Christ is our mediator and has already paid the cost of this transaction.
Expanding our discussion, let us look at what others have gleaned from this reading. A theologian I often consult when looking for a ‘like-minded’ scholar is David Lose. Today, he asks this question for us to consider. “…what does it mean for us to live knowing we are God’s beloved children, adopted and chosen and named co-heirs with Christ?” Key words for us to consider: “live knowing.” If you do not know how much God loves you and wants you to inherit the house, inherit the keys to the kingdom, then you will not live knowing you are a beloved child of God. Sad really. Many truly do not know they are loved by the Spirit of the Universe. The life force, that energy that uplifts and regenerates folks like you and me, is here for us this morning. We Christians refer to this Essence as the Spirit of God, the Spirit which Christ promised to send to his disciples after his crucifixion!
Let us ask ourselves some searching questions. What is it that is driving us; what is it that is driving you? We can ask this of ourselves, or perhaps our family. We might even ask it of our church or the place of business we are employed at. What is the driving force? Is it money and finances? Sure, that is part of our social system. But is it the primary or is it the secondary priority on our list? If you are out of work and running out of supplies and the rent is due; then it is of primary concern. In this case you may want a partner to help you along the way or at least help you through the present crisis. Maybe it is time to accept your inheritance! You may need a partner, you may need the family of God, to help you through this difficult time.
In contrast, if your priority, the primary one which drives you, and even excites you every day is to continue to accumulate more and more – way beyond your needs – you made need to take a second look at what is truly driving you! Unless you are building up resources for the good of your family and to help others that are in need. However, if it is fear of economic insecurity or simply greed that drives your life, you may want to stop for a moment and reconsider your priorities. Are you still connected to the concept of a loving God, a God who has been made known to you through the stories of the life, death, and teachings of the man Jesus? If you do, then surely, you have not forgotten what Jesus taught! Those that love God with the same emotion as the man Jesus did, they have become willing to turn to God as a child would to a parent. “When we cry Abba, Father” just as the second sentence in verse fifteen exclaims… then we are willing to turn to the one we know has welcomed us into the family. Our emotions then ought to be like a child reaching out to one’s ‘daddy’ or one’s ‘mommy’! Humble dependence is the driving force of a toddler and young adolescent children! Humble dependence on the Spirit of God’s presences, in our all too human lives, ‘is’ indeed the entrance into the ‘family’ of God!
A great many of us, our families and our neighbors are feeling a bit vulnerable right now. Unemployment benefits established through the stimulus bill are about to expire! The virus is rearing its ugly head… not dying out during the summer heat as once hoped. There are millions of folks like us looking for new hope, new answers, and new clarity, pertaining to what is coming next! The Spirit of God can help us through these trying times! When we accept that we need the revitalizing Spirit, to ‘lift us up’ then we may be ready to embrace our message, which the Apostle Paul was pouring out for us to hear and grasp onto! Paul is telling us that through Christ we are heirs of the kingdom of God – because we have been adopted! And the conduit by which we receive our inheritance is through the Spirit!
Consider this: the medical community, by in large, is telling us some basics, which will help us to be protected from the COVID-19 virus. Wear a mask, wash our hands, and be careful not to touch our own faces, unless we have just washed or applied hand sanitizer; and they are strongly advocating the art of social distancing. We all miss the handshakes, the hugs and such… Yet, it is a small price to pay to keep ourselves and our neighbors out of the intensive care units of our over worked local hospitals! In the same manner, it is a small price to pay, the cost of humbling ourselves in the presence of God, to be welcomed into all that the love and grace of God offers! Each of us have been invited to be a part of the family, we all are welcome into God’s kingdom, God’s home!
Parents, caregivers, and the hand of God, they are there to help us though the hurtles of life. Some are big – some are small. Why would anyone of us refuse to accept help, if, and when we need it! Furthermore, most Americans do not wait until they need help when it comes to protecting their homes, and things like cars and/or trucks. And certainly, we are all encouraged to take out life insurance to protect those we leave behind! If we are wise enough to do this, why would we put off accepting the full support of God – knowing it has been offered!
What do you suspect that most people want right now? Do not work too hard at this, we all pretty much truly want the same things. We want change! We want someone or something to transform this society, this world into a better place to live. Free of viruses, hatred, and constant disharmony! Politics, especially American politics is simply a clash in ideals and methodologies as to how to achieve the right kinds of change and who will be the benefactors! From either side of the street it looks like we are going in the wrong direction, as each sees through one’s own set of biases, priorities, and perspectives. Surely, the Apostle Paul could have made similar statements back at the time of his writings. Romans back in Rome where struggling to hold their empire together. Jews where in agony over the disruption the man Jesus had caused in their society, even more so after his public execution! Common Jewish citizens were caught in the middle. Jesus gave them such hope, but he did not save them from Roman tyranny. The Apostles in Jerusalem were being persecuted. The Apostle Paul was carrying the message of Jesus to those in Rome and throughout the region. In today’s lesson Paul was striving to bring the new followers of the ‘Way’ of Jesus, together; he wanted them to realize and accept that they are were all welcome into the family of God, through this ‘adoption’ process we have been discussing. Today, he was seeking to unite them all – knowing they needed one another – in order to continue growing. It was a struggle for them – just as it is for us today. Therefore, Paul’s message to them – applies to us also!
Let us come together and grow! Strengthened and emboldened by the Up-lifting Spirit of Christ… Paul wanted them, the early followers of Christ, to know they were all invited, Gentiles as well as Jews; welcomed to partake as the children of God in all that Christ had promised. The biggest promise was the Spirit of God which they and we need to transform ourselves! The message we need to grasp is that the promises of God stretch far beyond our human plight! If we only seek the ‘Light of God’ in our human domain, we shall ‘miss’ the power of the Spirit ‘filled’ Realm of the Living Spirit of God in the here and now!