Adopted! And That’s Final!

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!”  Romans 8:15

It’s really hard to say what might be the most important verse in Romans 8 but this one has to make the top five.

God does not withhold what we need as children. He is generous with words, and word pictures, to let us know where we stand with him.  Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we don’t ever need to live in fear of not being good enough anymore or of being cast out of His presence. No more will a spirit of slavery spread insecurity like a cancer throughout our soul.  We can rest in our adoption.

“Adoption” is huiothesia in the Greek, which means, “to have an installation or placement as a son.”  Adoption means being taken from one family and placed in another.  It means receiving a whole new status that cannot be nullified, even if the children are difficult and dishonoring.

Satan, the father of all children (unless adopted by Christ,) is the worst of fathers.  He is not nurturing but cruel.  Though we all once belonged to him, there was never a warm sense of security.  Everything Satan isn’t, God is!  Whatever we experienced as children that left us wanting can be erased in the arms of our new Father.  It’s never too late to ask for what we need.  The healing we seek rests in the power of His words and the Spirit who breathes them into our needy hearts.

I never knew security until I found it in You.  There’s no peace like the peace I feel because I’m Yours.  Thank you.  Amen

A Gift Can Be Complicated

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  Romans 8:12

The giving of a gift can communicate different things. It might say, ‘I love you.’ Oh, but it can just as easily convey the message, “Now, you owe me!’ I’m sure you’ve received both kinds. I have.

It’s tricky, isn’t it? I’ve had people tell me that they receive far more gifts with strings attached than they do gifts that are freely given to enjoy. Feeling indebted to people we can’t fully trust is a heavy burden. Let’s face it ~ how some people expect to be repaid can be right out expensive. How many have stayed in a toxic relationship just because of guilt or obligation! Here’s an additional challenge ~ If I’ve been accustomed to getting gifts with strings attached, then I won’t be able to accept free gifts without thinking I surely must owe something.

Can being a debtor be a good thing?  Yes, as long as it’s with Jesus. He is my Savior, He gives without strings, and then invites me to give back my life, not out of guilt (indebtedness) but out of joy and gratitude. What cures sterile Christian service that feels mostly obligatory? Falling in love with the Giver. He is incapable of manipulating and using me to get His needs met.

I am safe to love You with my life. I can not give back too much because You already gave me everything. It is love that constrains me, Jesus. Amen

My Altered Past

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

Harry Ironside, one of the first pastors of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, said…“Christians are people whose past has been altered.”  The resurrection power of Jesus has forgiven their sins and forever stripped Satan of his right to damn them.  What power!  Without Christ’s death, my sins would have been enumerated and posted on my own cross.  I would have died the death of one condemned.  Hell would have been my end.

If my past has been altered, forgiven, then why does my past still affect me so much?  Is it possible that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead can also make me new, in every way, on the inside?

  • If an angry mother raised me and I still tremble in the presence of anger, Christ’s resurrection power can deliver me from fear and make me bold.  I can be calm and prayerful though others rage.
  • If I was raised to be someone’s puppet and never had a thought or dream of my own, Christ’s resurrection power can deliver me from the control of others.  I can be free to follow Christ and follow His plans for me.
  • If I was criticized relentlessly for most everything I did and still feel a crippling fear of doing something wrong, Christ’s resurrection power can deliver me from playing it safe.  I can become a Joshua who goes forward in the God’s confidence to conquer spiritual mountains.

How does this happen?  Not by a simple prayer and one-time event.  While Jesus washed away my sins through one event, His own death, the process of being made new on the inside is progressive.  It’s something God does, but with my full cooperation and involvement.

Wouldn’t it be tragic to get to heaven and see a picture of who I could have been if I had trusted Jesus, and His Word, to really change me?  If I am a radical disciple, a woman who has great faith in the transforming power of Christ and every Word He speaks, I will cease to resemble the person I was in my past.  Jesus calls each of His children out of the grave, offers to unwrap the grave clothes so that we can be free to live in resurrection power.  To what extent am I allowing that?

I just realized, Lord.  It’s called sanctification.  Peeling away the grave clothes.  May it be!  Amen

If I Am Alive To God, Then . . .

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  Romans 8:10

If Christ lives in me, I have full access to Him; everything that He is and everything that He has promised to give to me. He withholds none of it. He plays no games. I am not used for sport. He is not emotionally unavailable. He does not make me earn His approval. As my Savior, He opens His heart and lets me in without restrictions. This level of intimacy is to extend in both directions. I have been given full access to Him and He wants full access to me.

You’re familiar with the term, “He’s dead to me.” It is usually spoken by one family member regarding a relationship he has with another member of the family. One, or both, has declared the relationship over. Access is denied. The time for reaching out has passed. The heart is closed. This, unfortunately, can describe some of the dynamics that are in place between us and God. Oh, this should not be.

  • If I am alive to God, His voice quickens a response inside of me.
  • If I am alive to God, His feelings about me matter.
  • If I am alive to God, His promises are lifelines and His warnings are heeded.
  • If I am alive to God, His words are a rudder for how I approach everything.
  • If I am alive to God, every obstacle that would cause me to be suspicious and distrustful of Him is addressed immediately.
  • If I am alive to God, I won’t hide in corners.
  • If I am alive to God, I won’t withhold expressions of love and worship.

There are times I have felt estranged from God, not because He went away from me but because my own heart was in a bad place and I pulled back from Him.  Even though God was near, I made myself numb to His impact.  Ah, but when I am alive to Him, how differently it feels. The contrast is exhilarating as I relax in perfect holiness.

This is what comprises progressive sanctification.  As I am open and yielded, I am changed by every Word He speaks and every move His Spirit makes. I am caught up into the rhythms of the Trinity and know what it is to feel eternity in my heart.

  Lord, I will stay alert so that no one, and nothing, can try to shut down my heart, or even to numb it.  I will keep it with all vigilance. Amen

Can An Unbeliever Please God?

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8:7-8

I once witnessed a live panel discussion in Minneapolis where the theologian, John Piper, was asked, “Is it possible for an unbeliever to do anything that pleases God?”  John thought a minute and started enumerating wonderful things that people can often do; people even outside of Christ.  Charitable acts of compassion and kindness, sacrifices a parent makes for his children, and generous philanthropic outreaches.  Many are given with an open heart, are not  self-serving, and are even costly to the person who gave them.

So, does God see any of them as good?  Is He moved by them?  Does He acknowledge that we were created in His image  and, therefore, we are capable of genuinely demonstrating love for others?  And finally, isn’t there really such a thing as a good person and would God let someone like this really go to hell?

There are two inherent problems in this kind of thinking.  1.) The only thing that matters to God is what we do for His glory, with Him at the center of our motivation.  2.) And, a life comprised of many stellar gestures towards humankind does not fix the sinful nature that person inherited from Adam at his birth.  The curse must be reversed.  His sins must be  forgiven at the cross. He must acknowledge God as his personal Lamb, the One who takes His sins and promises to give back undeserved righteousness.  What ushers in this event?  Repentance and an admission of sinfulness, not goodness.

The best of people still sin and fall short of the glory of God. Consider the nicest unbeliever you know.  Put his wonderful deeds for others aside for a moment.  Try to picture how he might handle the rest of God’s precepts.  Would the ways of the kingdom even appeal to him?  Would living by the Spirit make sense to him?  Would he find joy in submitting to what is, to him, upside down?  To live, I must die to self.  To lead, I must first be a servant.  To get back at my enemy, I must love him and pray for him.  This is why Paul says that those who live by the flesh can not submit to God’s law.  That person is repelled by what his sinful nature cannot understand.  The nicest person will still live by his flesh and will perish eternally because of it.

The cause for such blindness is revealed by Paul.  2 Corinthians 4:4  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.   

 Give us all eyes to see what’s behind Satan’s clever arguments, the ones that make us see you as one not worthy of our trust.  Amen

The Living Dead

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6

I was so encouraged that yesterday’s devotional sparked so much conversation.  I am so impressed by the spiritual depth and maturity of this devotional family.  Some of your notes were challenging, asking me questions to provoke thought so that I can further clarify what I believe I’m learning.  Thank you!

I’ve got my feet set pretty firmly in this new direction.  Those who live according to the flesh are unbelievers.  Those who live according to the Spirit are God’s children.  Another reason for this conclusion is because of the phrase, ‘setting your mind’, in today’s scripture.

To set my mind on the flesh is to be habitually consumed with things that offend God.  How can I focus all my attention, as a consistent way of life, on the very things enemies of God think about?  Doesn’t that make me God’s enemy?  I believe Paul is saying ‘yes’. “She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.”  I Timothy 5:6  She is the ‘living dead!’

The unbeliever lives for himself.  He is consumed with getting his needs met his way.  He has no thought of God except for the occasional nagging at his soul that something is wrong.

The believer has been born again into a completely new reality.  God has become his father.  He is being re-parented by a perfect Parent.  Everything he used to love, and want, has been turned upside down.  His mind and heart were set in a new direction.  His heart – made new – is aware of a deep peace that he is finally right with God.  He is not perfect, but he is on the path of righteousness and his mind is habitually set on the new reality of the kingdom.

One of you sent a short email asking the question, “Where does the lukewarm church fit in?”  I don’t know yet for sure but I’m studying. One thought is this ~ If I offend my earthly Father, I’m still going to be thinking about him, perhaps even obsessed. A true child of God can not live grieving His Heavenly Father without it tearing at his soul.

Lead me into all truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen