Life in the Spirit, part 3 "The Family"

Life in the Spirit

Part 3 “The Family”

It is popular in our culture today to say, “Everybody’s in the family of God; God is the father of everyone; we are all brothers and sisters on planet earth.” That sounds nice and inclusive, doesn’t it? I admit that I like the sound of it; however, is it the truth? Because if it is not true, such a philosophy misleads people into damnation.

Truthfully, the Bible never teaches God is the father of every person on planet earth. Jesus said to some religious people in John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…”

The Bible does teach the universal neighborhood of man. In other words, we are all God’s creation, and we are all in this global neighborhood together. Again, Jesus said, “We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Therefore, we are all neighbors and God’s creation, but we are not all God’s children. Quite frankly, there are some people who are in the family of God and some people who are not. If you think that sounds narrow-minded and hateful, it is not. It is just a fact.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If you believe the Bible, then this is what you’re going to believe. Like it or not, the fact is there are two groups of people—those in Christ and those that are not in Christ. Those in Christ are God’s children because they have born of His Spirit. It is my desire, hope, and prayer that everyone in this room, or whoever reads this sermon, will do what is necessary to become a part of God’s family today. After all, God wants you to be in His family!

John 3:17 God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So, examine yourself to see if you are in God’s family as we continue reading in Romans 8 about life in the Spirit.

Romans 8:12-17 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Notice, those who are in Christ no longer set their minds on the flesh nor live by the desires of their flesh. They put to death the things of the flesh and set their minds on the Spirit and live according to God, the Holy Spirit. This death to self and life in the Spirit causes God’s children to be filled with His peace and joy.

Unfortunately, there are many in church who are just enduring religion in hopes of eternal life, and for them religion is drudgery and a struggle; something they have to do in the flesh. In their case, something is missing and that something is the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ. This is a serious problem, for we just read, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

So you see, the Spirit of Christ identifies who has been born of the Holy Spirit and thus is a child of God. If you are God’s child, you should be enjoying four benefits mentioned in these verses that God’s children experience.

First, look at verse 14 again, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” That means if you are being led by the spirit of God you are a child of God, but if you are not experiencing the leadership of the Holy Spirit, you have to question, “Am I in the family of God or not?” And if you are not sure, you need to do whatever is necessary to become sure.

It would be helpful if God put a big red star right on His children’s forehead so we could tell who is a Christian. But God doesn’t do that. Instead, He says we need to look for other evidence. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

The fruit of God, the Holy Spirit, is found in Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

These verses describe a life in the Spirit. Do they describe your life?

Closely related to fruit is another critical piece of evidence in Romans 8:14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Conversely, if we are not led by the Spirit, we are not in His family.

So, how can we know if we are we led by the Spirit? Jesus told us.

John 10:25-27 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

God’s children follow the voice of Jesus, which is the Holy Spirit. Have you ever heard a Christian make statements like these, “I just felt led by the Lord to pray for you”, or “God told me to give this money”?

You may have thought they were a little “weird”, because you have never sensed God leading you to pray or do anything. If that is the case, you probably need to examine whether or not you are truly saved, because God speaks to His children and His children recognize His voice. It is a benefit we enjoy for being His child.

Maybe you have heard God in the past, but you haven’t heard God for some time. Why not? Well, what was the last thing He told you? Did you do it? If not, He could be waiting for you to obey the last thing He told you before He tells you anything else. Repent, draw near to God, and meditate on His written Word. Then you will hear God speak again, for God leads His children.

Secondly, verse 15 tells us, “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” When we are born again of the Holy Spirit, God adopts us as His child. We become His heirs.

Verse 17 says, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hold back the suffering, but I’ll take the glory!” Well, we don’t get any glory unless we suffer with Christ in this world, the same way He suffered. When we suffer rejection as He did, it means our persecutors can see Christ in us and it is Christ they are persecuting. As a result, our reward in Heaven will be great.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

“Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus said. We can do that if we remember the suffering we endure now is no comparison to the glory we’re going to receive. What will we receive? Everything that God is, and everything He has. As God’s children, we are heirs to all that!

So, the benefits of life in the Spirit are number one: we are led by the Lord; number two: we are adopted into God’s family; and here’s the third wonderful benefit: as children of God, we enjoy intimacy.

When we think of intimacy, we usually think about loving someone as in a marriage relationship. I have a level of intimacy with my wife that I have with no one else on the face of the planet. And because we have this intimacy, I address my wife in different terms than I would anyone else. The same is true of my children. I use words to address my children that I do not use for anyone else and vice versa. Those words identify and exhibit our intimacy.

Verse 15 says, as children of God, we can have an amazing level of intimacy with Almighty God. It says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

“Abba” is an Aramaic word. It’s like our English word, “Mama,” or “Dada” or “Papa.” It is the baby-talk term of endearment. This word is only found three times in the entire Bible. Jesus was the first to call God “Abba”.

Mark 14:36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying before His crucifixion. He was distressed about what was going to happen and so He cried out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Now we must understand: none of the Jews in the Old Testament ever called God “Abba” or “Daddy.” The Jews were afraid to even speak the name of God! Imagine the disciples listening as Jesus fell on his face in the garden of Gethsemane and turned his face to Heaven and cried to the Creator of the universe, “Daddy…I need your help!” That is a level of intimacy with God the Father that they had never heard of or experienced. The amazing thing is the Bible says you and I can have that same level of intimacy with God!

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Hallelujah! Every child of God should be praising Him right now for our redemption, our adoption, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us! We are not condemned! We are God’s child, born of His Spirit! We have intimacy with God, for we are in Him and He is in us! We are His heirs! Hallelujah! And after rejoicing and praising God, we can reflect soberly about this intimacy.

The key word here is “crying”. Jesus was distressed when he called God “Abba”. And Verse 15 says, “and by him we cry Abba.” Therefore, when it says, “cry Abba” it doesn’t mean we just waltz into the Holy of Holies and say, “Hey, Daddy-O! How you doing?”

You see, what the Word of God is saying is that when we are in God’s family, we can have a level of intimacy with Him that is beyond religion! As a child of God, we have the privilege when we are burdened, hurting, lonely, discouraged, or distressed to enter His presence and cry “Abba, Father, help me!”

Do you have that intimate relationship with God the Father? Do you feel close enough to God that you can cry, “Abba” when you’re hurting? Can you enter into His presence and intimately express, “Daddy, I love you!” Intimacy is one of the benefits of children of God.

Think about these benefits of life in the Spirit: we are guided by God, we are adopted by God, we have intimacy with God, and fourthly, we have the assurance of our salvation!

When I ask people about their salvation, I get various answers. Some will say, “Yes, I am saved” or they may say, “I hope so,” or, “I think so.” Those answers tell me a lot about their relationship with God, for every child of God knows for certain they are a child of God. It is not positive thinking or self-delusion. They don’t have to convince themselves or have someone else convince them. They know it in their spirit! Verse 16 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”.

The Holy Spirit gives conviction that we need salvation and He gives assurance of our salvation. If you don’t have that assurance right now, something’s wrong. You may need to truly be saved by being born again of the Spirit! Because, “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”.

How does He do that? Well, when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, confess Him as the Son of God, and make Him Lord of your life by repenting of sin and being baptized, you are in the condition to be born again of God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to live inside of you and He tells you (not the preacher), “You are saved. You are my child.” In other words, you have an inner sense of the presence of God. He is in you and you are in Him. The Holy Spirit tells you who you belong to. He speaks to you, leads you, guides you, disciplines you, comforts you, teaches you, and fills you with His fruit. You experience an intimate relationship with Him.

Let me illustrate this with a question. Who are your parents? Most of you know, don’t you? Are you sure you are their child? Of course you are sure, and you are even surer if you were adopted. You’ve lived with them, and they’ve raised you and you love them and they love you. There’s no doubt. You know you are a part of that family. You have an intimate relationship with them.

Therefore, if you are guided by God, adopted by God, and have intimacy with God, then the Holy Spirit will give you the assurance of your salvation with His peace and joy!

Does this life in the Spirit describe your experience? If not, perhaps it is because you have not been born of the Spirit, or perhaps you are ignorant of the life in the Spirit that is ours in Christ Jesus.

The enemy can’t take us out of the family of God, but he can distract us and bind us with religion. He can keep us ignorant to the benefits of being a child of God, so that we’re not enjoying the life in the Spirit!

It reminds me of a story I read about a couple that moved from Europe to America. They were legal immigrants and they wanted to bring her parents over for a visit. So this couple saved their money and sent it to her parents to buy tickets on a ship.

As her parents were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, they would look into the dining rooms where they were serving delicious meals and the smell the food, but they would go back to their cabin and eat the bread and cheese they had packed, even after it got stale and moldy.

After they arrived in New York City, the daughter took their suitcases into the bedroom and was unpacking them. Instead of a lot of clothes, there were half-eaten, stale loaves of bread, moldy remnants of cheese, and some cracker crumbs. She called her mother into the bedroom and asked, “Mother, what is this?”

Her mother just smiled and said, “Sweetheart, we were so glad you could send us the money for the trip over here, but you know, we didn’t have any money to buy food in the dining rooms of the ship.”

Her daughter said, “Mom! Every single meal was included in the price of the tickets? The entire trip you could have gone into those dining rooms and ate anything you desired! It came with the ticket. And there you were—munching on moldy bread. That’s tragic!”

Well, let me tell you what’s more tragic than that story. There are thousands of people in church that aren’t enjoying the benefits of a life in the Spirit! They are chewing on the moldy old bread of religion in the flesh instead of enjoying the banquet available to the children of God who are filled with Holy Spirit.

Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit); my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Do you want to enjoy a life in the Spirit? If so, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross. Publicly confess your faith and act on it by repenting of your sin and following Jesus in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit who will give you a new life in the Spirit. You will learn to recognize and obey His voice. He will give you assurance that you are a child of God.

If you are already saved, ask your Father in Heaven every day to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Then set your mind on the Spirit and not your flesh, for if you walk by the Spirit, you will bear the fruit of the Spirit and enjoy a life in the Spirit.