SERMON BY THE REV. AMOS MCCARTHY
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, JULY 23, 2017
Title: “The Uniqueness of the Christian Fellowship in the Family of God.”
Text: Romans 8:12-25. 12. “Therefore brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live by it. 13. 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. 14. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15. 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 son ship. And by Him we cry, “ Abba, Father.” 16. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17. 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 His glory. 18. I consider that our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. 24. For in hope that is seen in not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
John Wesley in his theology of the Holy Spirit brings to the fold, the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Wesley points out that the work of the Holy Spirit is very important in the Christian life and experience. Drawing from II Corinthians 13:14, Wesley teaches that anytime a Christian go through a godly situation, it is by the grace of Jesus Christ, the love God shows us, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy spirit. And so we will all agree, that the Holy Spirit is needed as we sojourn in this world of constant violence, crimes, abuse, mistreatment, lies, deceit, and all manner of suffering. If we as Christians will groan with the suffering of this world, be tolerant, and accept each other, the Holy Spirit is salient in achieving that fellowship. If we as Christians will hope for the glory of God, which God will fulfill in our inheritance of eternal life, a life full of the Spirit is significant in our guidance to enjoy such glory.
In the passage of scripture under consideration this morning, the Apostle Paul reminds us Christian, of our duty, not to live by our sinful nature, but to live according to the Spirit of God. The sinful nature brings about human suffering: disease,poverty, war, and many other things, which are not pleasant at all. Paul reminds us however, that the sufferings encountered by the family of God can be tolerable. By groaning with our fellow humans in suffering, we Christians suffer with Christ and thereby receive the glory of God which is to come. The Spirit of God gives testimony to the fact that, we all are children of God in the family of God: through the Spirit we embrace sufferings, so that we enjoy the glory to come. Isn’t that wonderfully unique as we fellowship together as a family of God? Isn’t it even more unique, when we groan in each other sufferings, so that we may suffer with Christ and receive eternal glory? Let me share with you all this morning, the uniqueness of fellowship in the family of God.
Let us first consider it a fact, that a uniqueness in the fellowship in the family of God is that we live a life full of the Spirit of God. Verse 12 and 13 of Romans 8 reminds every Christian of a duty. It is a duty to not live by the flesh, but an obligation to live by the Spirit of God. This debt of gratitude is to put to death the sin in our bodies, which is known as the mortification, or the putting to death, the sins of our bodies. Even Jesus Christ was handed over to wicked men, and crucified to take away our sins. Jesus was put to death so that we may have life. So we have the duty to put sin to death, so that we may have life. This is only done by the empowering of the Holy Spirit or by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If we are already Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies. This idea of being led by the Spirit is to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is all powerful. In the Genesis account, the scripture tells us that the earth did not have any form and was empty, until the Spirit of God moves over the earth. God Spirit hovers over the formless, shapeless, and purposeless earth. The creative power of the Spirit of God, brought the physical earth into being. God spoke and everything came into being. If you have not given this any thought, think about it this way: This same Spirit moves over the sinful person and brings life out of that dead nature fill with sin. The first requirement of a good preacher is not the eloquence or the charisma or the ability to charm his way into the hearts of people, but knowledge of the word of God and the ability to teach it. That knowledge comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has knowledge of the deep things of God. Jesus Christ attests to this in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you in all the truth…” The Holy Spirit has knowledge about truth which is found in the word of God. The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to scriptures and how to make scripture applicable in our lives. If a Christian person who reads the scripture every time is tempted to burglarize a home, the Holy Spirit reminds that person of his obligation not to steal. The person who is being guided by the Spirit will resist the urge to commit that crime. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, who will guide us into the word of God, and teach us how to apply it to our lives. Like a surveillance video that watches everyone when you arrives in the parking lots of Dillon’s, leaves your car, enter through the doors, shops and check out your goods, the Spirit of God follows us everywhere we go. It watches over us, the Spirit of God is tone to everything we think about, and everything we do. The Spirit reminds us about the sins we commit, tells us through our conscience that we are in error, and we become guilty and do the right thing. Despite the rebellion we carry out, God never forgets us. God Spirit guides us through the dangerous nights, storms and tornadoes and keeps us safe. Many times, we are blinded by these realities due to sin, worries and anxieties, loneliness and grief, disaster and death, illness and sufferings. It is important for us to remember that God, through His Spirit, protects us and is our strength and shield, a constant help in trouble times. The Psalmist says, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? Even when the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” The Holy Spirit will guide us. He bears the attributes of God: He is all powerful, all- present, and all knowledgeable. His presence even testifies that we are the children of God.
Uniquely, we are God’s Children in the Family of God. In the Roman world, adoption was an important matter. It was important and complicated. In this passage of scripture, Paul is not looking at the steps in Roman adoption, but the consequences of being adopted. In this token, the person who is adopted lost all his or her rights in the family he or she at one time belonged. The person assumed all the rights as a child in the new family. Also, that person became heir to the estate of his new father. In legal terms or according to law, that person’s old life was completely wiped out. It followed that all debts were cancelled and the person entered a new life. The adopted person was completely the son of his new father. There were seven witnesses that attested to adoption in Roman adoption process. Using Roman adoption system as a guide, Paul is painting a picture of Christians being adopted into God’s family, as he addressed the church at Rome.
In verse 14 Paul tells us that Christians, “who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” The Spirit also testifies with our Spirit that we are God’s children.” This is done when we spend time in prayers with God. This translate every Christian from the bonds of sin into a wonderful relation with God. At one time, the Christian lived in sin, and controlled the absolute sinful nature. Fortunately, the Christian belief in God helped the Christian to take on a life full of the Spirit of God. This work was not achieved by the Christian person, but by the mercy of God. God made it possible for the old debt to be wiped clean. In the new life, the Spirit testifies that we are now God’s children. Not only God’s children but joint heirs to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Christian inherits all the riches Christ has by being God’s Son. Now if Christ suffered, the Christian also suffered with Him. Christ is raised to enjoy glory with God, the Christian also will enjoy glory with God. Why then do we groan?
Despite the fact that Christians are adopted in the family of God, the Christian live in a world, where the realities of the human situation exist. In our inner man, we still battle with the sinful nature. We wrestled with sin. We battled with our own evil human nature of hate, jealousy, envy, love for material possessions, lustful desire, covetousness, lies, deceit, and many other things that brings barriers between us and God. Outwardly, the Christian live in a world of death and decadence. This is true because the first human family transgressed the law of God. God had told Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” This ushered in human suffering. In that state, man live in death and decay. According to Paul in this passage, man now waits for a state of liberation. In the passage, Paul further reminds us that through the testimonies of the Holy Spirit, man long for the total fulfillment of enjoying the glory of God. In this same sphere, the Christian lives in Christ and Christ lives in him. It is important to know that, while we live in this sinful world, we look beyond the world to God. The christian does not see only the world, but the Christian see the power of God’s mercy. The power of God’s love. If this is true, then the Christian must always look to God for hope. Paul here envision hope for the human race.
Uniquely we can hope to enjoy eternity with God, looking to God for to bring this to past.
In Hampton Sides’ “Ghost Soldiers,” the story of the infamous Bataan Death March is told. According to this ‘Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission,’ the United States Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Some of the men were held as POWs and were forced to walk more than 70 miles. The POWs called themselves Ghost Soldiers because they thought they had been forgotten by their nation. Like Senator John McCain of Arizona, they were kept prisoner of war for more than three years. Over 500 of these soldiers were kept in the horrible Cabanatuan camp. They were giving up hope, because they heard terrible stories of POWs being executed as Japanese soldiers were retreating. About 120 US soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas overwhelmed the 8000 Japanese soldiers in this outstanding rescue narrative in the history of war. One of the POWs, who was crying in a dark corner of the barracks, told one rescuer Alvie Robbins, “I thought we’d be forgotten.” Alvie Robbins told the POW that “they were not forgotten.” Today, some of us feel that we have been forgotten by God in our hurts and frustrations. We are apt to ask, where was God when my husband died, where was God when my child died? When will God restore earth to its original form, where there will be no sufferings?
Verses 24 and 25 underscore the hope, and the glory Christian would enjoy as children of God. This passage has in it, the fact that God will restore humankind to its original goodness. It is clear that that promise is pending. All humankind can do is to hope in it. In verse 23, we see that the Holy Spirit makes us to taste of the fulfilment of this hope. This opens a state of communication between the Christian and God. Such communication takes the form of prayer. We pray because the confidence in the hope lies in God’s hand. God will come and prove Himself. We just have to lean unto His everlasting arms. The songwriter in a famous hymn says, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine. Leaning on the everlasting arm. What a blessedness, what peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm. O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim’s way, leaning on the everlasting arm. What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm.” In the last verse of this hymn, it asks the question, “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arm?” In answer to that question it continues, “I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.” Church let us lean on Jesus while we work in this pilgrim way, where there would be no suffering, knowing that God will come and get us.
There uniqueness in the fellowship of the family of God is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into living a life of the Spirit; the uniqueness to be sons and daughters of God; And the uniqueness to place our hope in God for eternal glory.