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. Are you really a Christian?

ARE YOU REALLY A CHRISTIAN?

Romans 8:14-16 (ESV) 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 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!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…”

Introduction.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV) Paul makes an extremely critical statement, a statement which is a matter of life and death, but even more than that it is a matter of eternal life versus eternal damnation. Listen what he says: 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Another way to say this is, ‘examine yourselves to see whether you are a child of God.’

The topic of this sermon is no small matter. It is so important that we read in Romans 8:19 (ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” CS Lewis made a profound statement when he said: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

Now, you might feel that the answer to this question is an easy one to answer if you put your hope in having walked an isle somewhere, or having prayed a sinner’s prayer because somebody told you to, or having invited Jesus into your heart as a child because a Sunday School teacher told you to, or maybe because you go to church or mumble an instant 2-minute prayer early in the morning, God must just add the water to give it substance. Plain and simple it is easy to state that all Christians are the sons of God. We all know John 1:12-13 (ESV) 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” The next part we do not always meditate on: 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In any case, at face value, all those who received God, who believed in His name are sons of God, or children of God, as long as we remember that they must really be born from God.

However, I believe Paul has more to say in Romans that would help us answer the question more clearly.

If you study Romans you will discover that the first time Paul talks about sonship is here in Romans 8:14. He remains silent on the issue till her, but Paul is not silent on the issue of salvation by grace, he is not silent on the power of the gospel to save, he is not silent about the benefits of being in Christ and he is not silent about the work of the Spirit in salvation and setting us free from the law of sin and death. But for the first time now he tells us something that is so intimate and that is the privilege of calling God our father. This reality that God is our Father snatches Christianity out of the realm of false religions and puts it in the realm of true religion which is based on our relationship with the Living God. It is more than knowing about God, it is to be known by God and there is an evidence that we are known by God.

So ‘are you a child of God, do you know God and does God know you?’ What is a child of God. Is it people who simply claim to be saved? Is it people who belong to a church? Is it people who go through the motions of Christianity or religion? Or let’s put it in a way that will make sense as far as the text before us is concerned: Who are the sons of God?

Let me give you four answers in the text before us, and in particular verse 14-16. These texts will be a good starting point to Paul’s statement to examine yourself.

Point 1. It is all who are led by the Spirit of God.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Notice the little word ‘for’ in verse 14 which serves a very similar purpose to the word ‘therefore’ as it points us back to the preceding verses. Paul had already told us in Romans 8:2 (ESV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” He also told us in Romans 8:9 (ESV) 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.” So the word ‘for’ in part is linked to all of that, but it is more specifically linked to Romans 8:12-13 (ESV) 12 So then, brothers, 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.”

So Paul, had just told the Roman believers that they must kill sin or sin will kill them but the way to kill sin can only be by the enabling work of the Spirit of God in their lives.  It is by the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body. I did a whole series on this under: “experiencing the power of the cross.”

http://logoscc.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=80&Itemid=126

Now remember, the Spirit is not the means by which you kill sin, as the Spirit is a person in the Godhead. We kill sin by the power of the Spirit as we develop the mindset of the Spirit as He convicts us of sin, and so we are in His hands as He convicts us and enables us to make dead the sin that sin that is still alive in us.

So, you need to start at verse 12-13 ““12 So then, brothers, 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,” and then link it to verse 14 with the word ‘for’ 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” or as some translations state it as ‘because’, and then ask yourself this question. Do I deal with sin in my life, and do I do it under conviction of the Spirit and by the Spirit when He convicts me? Then I have great news for you today. It then means that you will live according to verse 13, but it means that are led by the Spirit according to verse 14, and that gives you confidence to say that you are a son of God. Hallelujah!!

I think if you were to ask many people today what it is to be ‘led by the Spirit’ from verse 14, many will ignore the context. But this is WOW stuff. Paul says you know you are a son of God because you are led by the Spirit and you know you are led by the Spirit because you are doing something very practical by the Spirit and what is it you are doing? You are putting to death the sin that still so easily indwells you. Why will you kill sin? Simply because you do not like it? No, because you are a son of God and His household and sin do not go well together. I do not want to sin as sin overshadows the glory of my father in my life, or to put it differently, sin eclipses the Father’s glory and it tarnishes my relationship with Him. The killing of sin has as its basis a trusting in the superior worth of God’s love as a Father.

Too many believers ignore the issue of sin and purely link the ‘leading of the Spirit’ purely to other stuff, supernatural stuff etc. which is not in the text. Now, in part that is true, as there is other stuff, but the emphasis here is different. It is very much the same as we saw previously in Galatians 5:18-25 (ESV) 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. So here in Galatians those who are led by the Spirit are not under law. They have been set free over the condemnation that the law has brought to us due to sin. They are a people who enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, and they are people who live by the Spirit, and how do we live by the Spirit?  Verse 24 starts with the word ‘and’ or ‘but’. It could just as well have started with ‘for’ those who are led by the Spirit, who live by the Spirit or who belong to Christ Jesus, or who are children of God have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Sound just like Romans 8, doesn’t it.  I trust you see the similarities with Romans 8.

In both Romans and Galatians being led by the Spirit is seen as those who fight against the sin or the flesh under conviction of and by the enabling of the Spirit. Christians deal with sin because they are children of God, and as God’s happy family theirs is the fruit of the Spirit.

Are you a son of God, or a child of God? Are you led by the Spirit? Then I must ask, how are you doing on the sin level? So there is your first test.

Point 2. It is people who are adopted by God the Father.

Paul now makes a jump from dealing with sin as evidence of being led by the Spirit which is evidence that we are sons of God, to adoption as evidence that we are sons of God. Romans 8:15 (ESV) 15 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!”

We all know well that the Holy Spirit is our comforter but here He our adopter. Paul says that He is the Spirit of adoption. Now we know that according to John 1:13 we are born from above and that according to John 3 we are born again as children of God. Paul now introduces us to another angle of our born-again experience where he says we are ‘adopted as sons’ which is evidenced in our receiving of the Spirit in His fullness. This is literally a legal transaction executed by the Father. Paul found many ways to say the same thing. So being born from above and adopted from above is literally the same thing.

Now the early Roman Church would understand what Paul is saying here, as adoption was very much part of their social life. Many men would die in the battle field, and when mothers passed away for whatever reason you had orphans left behind. A commentator FF Bruce tells us about it in such a beautiful way: “In the Roman world of the first century AD an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature, and might well enjoy the father's affection more fully and reproduce the father's character more worthily."

Now think about it for a moment. Paul writes this in that context. Now, any child born into a family is a product of what? Is it the love and acceptance expressed towards a child or is it the love expressed between a husband and wife? My parents to put it plain and simple, did not do window shopping, fall in love with me and say we take him, otherwise they might have decided otherwise. Also, an adopted child is no less loved by parents than those who have been born into a family. And that is the way it is with God.  Adoption by God is not just a legal reality but it is backed up by the Father heart of God which is a loving heart.  The Holy Spirit is the one who makes this legal transaction real as we are sealed in the Spirit as sons of God. Let me remind you again of the second part of Romans 8:9 (ESV) “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” It is on the basis of this text that you have to reject the receiving of the Spirit as a secondary reality. Sure you are filled with the Spirit for His purposes over and over again, but you are baptised into the Spirit only once, and that is at your adoption. And of course we know John 1:12 (ESV) 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So son-ship or receiving Christ and adoption by the Spirit and having the Spirit are all one and the same parcel.

I hope that you can say today that you can say without a shadow of doubt that you are born again and that you believe in Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour? There is a last way of knowing based on the text before us.

Point 3. It is a people who acknowledge God as Father.

Romans 8:15 (ESV) 15 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!”

So we are not only led by the Spirit which is evident in our dealing with sin, and also are we not only adopted as sons by the Holy Spirit, but it is by the Holy Spirit that we cry ‘Abba Father’. Earlier I referred to Paul’s teaching in Galatians as far as being led by the Spirit is concerned. But in Galatians he tells us more that fits with this point. Galatians 4:4-6 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Do you realise just how intimate the work of the Holy Spirit is in our lives? Without the Holy Spirit you cannot cry Abba Father. You cry Abba Father, and the Holy Spirit cries Abba Father through you. Now, how does the Holy Spirit do that? Too often we want to experience strange stuff as evidence. I need this experience or that experience to know that the Spirit of God indwells me. Now we have already seen under the first point that the simple process of making dead sin is evidence that we are LED BY THE SPIRIT.

The simple answer under this point is that true children of God do not exhibit a spirit of slavery and fear but a confident, happy, satisfied, loving affection towards God as their ‘Father Father’. Let me just say this. There is not simply true in what some say that the Aramaic word means daddy or papa father to create that childlike image. I also believed so, until I did my homework. The Spirit is not saying Daddy Father. It is not the expression of a little child. It is simply the Aramaic word for Father. It is simply nothing more than a solemn, responsible, adult address to a Father who has adopted us. It is more a sense of a double calling, a dependence, a repeat to ensure I am heard. This affection in our hearts is stirred up by none other than the Holy Spirit. By Him we call Father, Father.

So, what is the issue here? Let me tell you the story of three young boys sitting behind the stable wall. One of the boys took out some cigarettes and offered some to his two friends. One of the boys declined. When asked why he declined, he simply answered that his father will not approve. The other boy reminded him that his father was more than 1000 km away, to which the boy responded. “Even if my father was a million km away, I love him so much that I will do nothing that will break his heart.” This young boy was not driven by fear, or slavery to some laws of his father like, ‘thou shalt not smoke’, the issue for him was not a spanking or hell, the issue for him was that inner commitment towards – and inner love for his father.

So, in each of God’s children there is a reality. If you are led by the Spirit, you are a son of God. How do I know you are led by the Spirit? Very simple, you love what God loves and you hate what God hates and you therefore kill that sin in you before the sin in you kills you. Why do you kill sin, because you are afraid of hell? No, you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of son-ship through your adoption. Ultimately those who are adopted as sons and live by the Spirit kill sin because God is their ‘Father Father’ and they love Him.

Let me ask a question. Why do you not fall back into sin? Why do you deal with any sin? Is it simply because you are afraid or because you love? Let me put it in the opposite. If you are not dealing with sin, can I ask you this morning? Just how much do you love God?

Point 4. It is those who experience the testimony of the Spirit in their lives.

I don’t have time to belabour this point but need to make a few comments.

“16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…”

Let me be clear this morning. The Holy Spirit is not an it, namely some product of God. The Holy Spirit is not a liquid, something you get full of and lose again. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead and if He does not indwell you, you do not belong to God. So, He is real, He convicts, He leads, He comforts, He fellowships with us and now Paul says that the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. I believe there are many ways He does it. He does it through His word, we know that we know that we know that we are children of God in our minds, but there is a subjective spiritual eyes kind of knowledge in one’s inner being that you are a child of God, which causes you to put your focus on God. The mere fact that you are able to cry ‘father father’ is because the Holy Spirit is crying ‘father father’ through you, which is the Spirit testifying with your spirit that you are a child of God.

The Spirit does not testify with your spirit that you are a Baptist or Presbyterian or Methodist, or Dutch Reformed. The Spirit does not testify with your spirit that you are a church member of note to be looked up at by everybody else. The Spirit does not testify with your spirit that you have finally arrived and are now fully Holy with no room for improvement. The Spirit testifies with your Spirit that you are a son of God and because that is true your cry “ABBA FATHER”.

I love the way John Piper puts it. He says: “The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is not a testimony to a neutral heart with no affection for God's fatherly love so that your neutral heart can draw the logical conclusion that it is a child of God and then try to muster up some appropriate affections. That is not the picture. No. The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is the creation in you of affections for God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit IS the cry, "Abba! Father!"

I pray that on this glorious morning you are able to rekindle that love for God, and that you are willing to cry out ‘Father Father’, and to realise that the Holy Spirit in you that draws you to God, cries out in your spirit, ‘Father Father’. The fatherhood of God is not simply a statement of faith or a doctrine we believe in. It is a power and ability given to us by the Spirit by which we delight in being the children of God. The testimony of the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit and true living by the Spirit will always cause us to cry, "Jesus, you are my Lord!" and “God you are my Father!"

So, who are the sons of God? Those who are led by the Spirit of God who as an evidence deals with sin, it is those who are adopted or born from above, and it is those who cry out Abba Father and who know that God’s Spirit testifies with their spirit that they are children of God. And then as a pasella to end the sermon Galatians 3:26 (ESV) 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 26 June 2016