Today is that day in the church calendar when we celebrate the fact that God is a Trinity. It’s the day when we remind ourselves that God is three persons in perfect union. The day when we remember that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons in a perfect relationship of love – three persons who comprise the perfect ‘family unit’, you might say.
The great news in our Bible reading in Romans today is that we can become part of this perfect family. Romans chapter 8 tell us that every person who becomes a Christian becomes one of God’s children. It tells us that when we put our faith in Jesus Christ we become sons and daughters of God. Verse 16, in particular, tells us that the Holy Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.
But so what? What are the advantages of being adopted into God’s family? What are the positive consequences of becoming a child of God? As we look at Romans 8 today, I think we can identify three great privileges of being a child of God:
- Firstly, it means we can call God our Father
- Secondly, it means w’re being made into the family likeness
- and, thirdly, it means we can look forward to a future inheritance.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
- Christians can call God ‘Father’
Last October I took my first assembly at Gidea Park Primary School. Before I began, I was introduced to the pupils by Sue Rudge, the headteacher. She told the children that they had to call me Reverend Phil. But one person, she said, was allowed to call me by a different name. She pointed out that one person could call me ‘Daddy’. That person was of course my son James, sitting cross-legged on the front row!
James can call me Daddy because he has a much closer, deeper relationship with me than any of his classmates. James doesn’t have to wait until I next take assembly at school to meet with me. He doesn’t need to ask permission to talk to me. He knows he can approach me at any time, and he knows he can expect my full attention and affection.
The excellent news in our Romans passage today is that Christians can enjoy the same relationship with God. Christians can call God our Father. We can enjoy the same level of access and intimacy with God that a child enjoys with his or her human father. As Verse 15 tells us today, Christians can call God “Abba, Father”. Abba is an Aramaic word – a word that is close in meaning to ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy’. A word that conveys love, trust and total dependence.
This is great news, isn’t it? It means that as Christians we don’t approach God as a distant Creator, as a stern Judge or as a ‘Headmaster in Heaven’. On the contrary, it means we approach him as a loving Father. As someone who knows us intimately. Someone who loves us dearly. Someone on whom we can totally depend.
When Christians call out to God, he doesn’t look down on us as merely creatures or as anonymous offspring, but as his beloved children, his own sons and daughters. This is a truth that should give us great confidence that our prayers are heard. A truth that should inspire us to pray more frequently to our Heavenly Father. A truth that should encourage us to pray more often with our Christian brothers and sisters. Do join us this Wednesday evening, for example, at our church’s monthly prayer meeting, as we seek our Father’s blessing on our ministry here at St Michael’s.
- Christians are being made into the family likeness
As well as being able to call God Father, Christians are also being made into the family likeness. If you were here last week, you would have heard about the work of the Holy Spirit in every Christian’s life. One of the great works the Spirit does within us is to make us more like God, and more like Christ, in our belief and behaviour.
Family members often have a physical resemblance to one another. The same hair colour, similar facial features, a similar height and build etc. People instantly recognise me as my father’s son for example – we are both tall, slim and thinning on top! As biological relatives, my father and I share a family likeness.
The same is true for spiritual relatives. As Christians’ our actions and attitudes, rather than our physical appearance, will begin to show a family resemblance to our heavenly Father.
In verse 14 today we’re told that if we are sons of God our lives are ‘led’ by the Spirit of God. And as he leads us God’s Spirit will make us we more like God’s Son. Over time, the Holy Spirit will make us holy and convince us we are God’s children. He will ‘sanctify’ our hearts and minds to make our beliefs and behaviour more like Christ’s. In particular, the Holy Spirit will produce his fruit in our lives. Fruit like kindness, love, gentleness and self-control. Characteristics that Christ exhibited throughout in his earthly life.
And so the second great encouragement we should take from Romans 8 is that if we are children of God, we are being made in the family likeness. If we are Christians we are ‘work in progress’. We are a construction site (you might say), where God’s Spirit is building a Christ-like character within us. And that is great news.
- Christians can look forward to a future inheritance
My parents are both retired, and travel very frequently on foreign holidays. Over the past couple of years they have been to places as diverse as Vietnam, Germany and the Canary Islands. They often tell me that they are going ‘ski-ing’ on holiday – ski-ing stands for ‘spending the kids inheritance’. It seems my chances of a big pay-out one day are diminishing fast!
Fortunately, as Christians, we can all look forward with certainty to a future inheritance from our Heavenly Father. If we are God’s children we will certainly receive great blessings from him in the future. This is the great news found in verse 17 today. It’s a verse that tells us every Christian can look forward to a future inheritance from God. Let me remind us what it says: “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 in his glory”
Those words assure us that every Christian can look forward to a great future in the world to come. When this life is over our sufferings here will come to an end and a glorious inheritance will be ours. As sons and daughters of God, every Christian can look forward to a new body in a new world, a world without death, disease or decay. A world where we will live with our Father, and all our Christian brothers and sisters, forevermore.
And we can have great confidence that this great inheritance will come. We can have such confidence because God has already given one son of God his inheritance. When God raised Jesus from the grave and gave him a new glorified body he did once, in this world, what he will do for every Christian in the world to come. Easter day was a foretaste of the great day when every Christian will receive their glorious inheritance from God. As Romans 8 verse 11 puts it, “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you”.
As I finish this morning, I hope we have come to realise that we are more than merely creatures. If we are Christians here today we are children of God – sons and daughters of a loving Lord.
As God’s children we have the privilege of being able to call him Father. As God’s children we are being made in the family likeness by his Spirit. And as God’s children we have a great inheritance to look forward to in the world to come.