Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Our Adoption - July 13, 2014 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Romans 8:12-17
The Apostle John tells us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is” 1 John 3:2 (ESV). In other words, John tells us the same thing Paul has been telling us. Over the last couple weeks Paul has been telling us the importance of hearing the Law and the Gospel, the importance of properly distinguishing between the Law and the Gospel, and the importance of realizing our own state of being, that is that we are at the same time both sinner and saint. John simply expresses this as telling us that we are now, at this time, not what we were before, and what we were before was complete lost and condemned sinners, and yet we are not what we will be in heaven, that is in heaven we will be complete saints, but instead we are on this road of life as sinner/saints. This morning Paul out lines for us what we were like before being saved, as he says, before being adopted, and what we are like after our adoption.
Remembering David’s words, ‘we are conceived and born in sin,’ Paul tells us, beginning at verse twelve, “12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For 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” (12-13). Immediately after birth and truly from the moment of conception before we were baptized, before we were given faith, we were lost and condemned creatures. There is no way around this unhappy scenario. Before our Lord gave us faith our spiritual status was that we were lost. But as I say that, let me assure you especially if you have lost a child as a stillborn, that God can and does also work through the means of His Word, so as a young pregnant mother attends divine service, indeed God can and does work through the Word that child in the womb hears to give faith as well. My point is that we are conceived and born in sin, it is in our DNA and thus we see the need for the washing waters of Holy Baptism as soon as after physical birth as possible.
Perhaps we were not given faith until we grew older or perhaps we rejected the faith given to us at an early age. And yes, even at this time in our own lives, even after being given faith there are times that we try to live according to the law. We try to live as if there is something we can do to earn, at least some bit of our own salvation.
And then something wonderful happened. Paul tells us about our adoption in verse fourteen, “14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (v. 14). We are adopted as children of God. How are we adopted? We are adopted as the Holy Spirit gives us faith through means of grace. We are adopted at Holy Baptism. When we are brought to the waters of Holy Baptism and water and God’s name are put on us we are saved. As we heard Peter say it back a few Sundays ago and as we hear him say every time we have a Baptism, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Yes, Baptism saves us. Baptism is not something we do, but is what God is doing and what God is doing is that He is saving us, giving us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Yet, not simply through Baptism are we saved. If we are not saved through the waters of Holy Baptism, then we may be saved by the very Word of God. The Bible is also a means through which our Lord adopts us as His children. Remember the Bible is the Word of God and it does what it says. So, as we read or hear His Holy Word, the Holy Spirit works through that Word to give faith, to strengthen and to keep us in faith. Of course here we understand that if and when we are given faith though the Word of God our natural desire will be to want to be baptized, not to show God anything, but as a natural response of faith. These are two of the means our Lord has of giving us His good gifts and blessings.
But there is more. Not only does our Lord adopt us through His means of grace, He continues to be with us to strengthen and keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit strengthens faith through means as well. We pick up with Paul’s words in verse fifteen, “15For 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!’” (v. 15). We are a church that believes as our Lord so teaches in His Word that our Lord comes to us through means, namely the means of grace. That is why we worship the way we worship, that is liturgically. Because we believe that Holy Baptism is important we begin each service with an invocation, an inviting of the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reminding us of our Baptism. Because we believe the Lord comes to us through the Word of God our service is permeated with the Word of God, even our saying back to God the very Words He has given us to say. This is not simply a way to flatter the Lord, but because our Words are inadequate and because His Word is His Word, there is no better way to worship than to say back to Him the very Words He has given us to say. Because we believe we are sinners and are in constant need of forgiveness, in almost every worship service, in one way or another we have a time of public confession and absolution. We believe that through the very Words of God, spoken through the pastor that we have what God gives, namely, forgiveness of sins.
We hear the very Word of our Lord read to us straight from Holy Scripture and as it is proclaimed through the preaching of the Law and the Gospel. And we also hear the Word through our liturgy and the hymns we sing.
And finally, because we believe our Lord has also given us His Holy Supper as a means through which He also gives His good gifts and blessings, we come to His Supper wherein we are given to eat His body and drink His blood until He comes again and through this sacred means we participate in His life, suffering, death and resurrection and so we are given forgiveness of sins and strengthened in faith. Yes, these things, these means of grace are the ways in which our Lord comes to us to give us His good gifts and blessings and that is why we worship the way we worship. If we believed something else, then certainly we would worship in a different way, and as we see others worshiping in different ways, then we can see it is because they do have different beliefs.
To sum it up, our Lord adopts us as His children and He does this through His means of grace, the Bible, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Now that we have been adopted into His family what is life like now, after adoption. We pick up with Paul’s words at verse sixteen, “16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and 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” (v. 16-17). Now, since we have been adopted as children of God, now we live life as children of God, that is we live life as brothers and sisters of Christ. With God’s help, and even though we know we will make mistakes and we will backslide, yet with God’s help we strive to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. We strive to build each other up as brothers and sisters in Christ. We look out for one another. We realize that caring for one another is not simply the elder’s and the pastor’s job, but is a joy we all share. We realize that being a member of this congregation and of the family of God means giving of ourselves, our time, talents and treasure, for the purpose of building the Kingdom of God. We have a whole new attitude about our life.
And we live life looking forward to eternal life, our eternal inheritance. We no longer spend all our time with our eyes focused on this world and the temporariness of this world. Instead we spend our time on getting ourselves ready and keeping ourselves ready for our Lord’s return or for our passing and going to Him. We spend our time making regular and diligent use of the means of grace because we know that this is how He comes to us. We have a desire, a yearning to worship as often as worship is offered. We read the Word every day. We remember our Baptism, every day. We confess our sins every day and every Sunday we publicly confess and hear those most beautiful words of forgiveness. We partake of the Lord’s body and blood and as often as we do this we participate in His death and resurrection.
So, what does this mean? As usual, and as we need to hear every week, Paul reminds us that we were conceived and born in sin. Not only that, but we daily add to our sinfulness. We cannot help ourselves. We are conceived and born in sin so sinning comes natural to us. And so we know that daily we need forgiveness.
We are reminded and each week we need to be reminded that we were given faith. Faith is not something we got ourselves, it is not something we did, but it is a gift given through means, namely through the means of Holy Baptism and through the means of His Holy Word. And since these are the means through which we have been given faith, then we realize our need to make diligent and regular use of these means so that we might be strengthened and kept in this faith.
Being given faith, forgiveness, life and salvation we are reminded that now we live lives of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and well and continually working through the means of grace to give us the strength and courage to live lives of faith. So, what is there to fear in this world? What is the worst thing that can happen in this world? Most people will say that dying is the worst thing that could happen. Well, when you die, by faith in Jesus you go to heaven, and that is a great thing, so then back to the question of what is there to be afraid of? Nothing. And the Holy Spirit works in us to give us the courage we need to live lives of faith in this world
And finally, we look forward to eternal life, not in fear, but in anticipation. We know that heaven is a wonderful place filled with God’s glory and grace. We know that we have the certainty of eternal life in heaven, it is ours now. Certainly we will not move in until we pass on from this world, but heaven is ours and so we may rejoice and even anticipate our final move into our heavenly home.
Paul’s words this morning are nothing new. He knows about our adoption as children of God and he knows about the importance of the means of grace. Perhaps our Old Testament reading was on Paul’s mind when he penned these words to the Romans. “10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). Yes, God’s Word does what it says. And if you listened closely to the Gospel reading for this morning, even Jesus related the importance of the Word of God and its power to give faith, meaning to bring us into adoption as His children.
Finally, we are again reminded that it is all God’s doing, all God’s giving and all our being given to. It is God who runs the verbs and so we know we get it right. And so we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.