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. (Romans 8:21-17)
Life’s pretty good as a child. If you get frightened there is always a parent to turn to say everything’s OK (even if the parent is petrified!). If you get hurt you can get a kiss, a cuddle and an elastoplast. If something goes wrong, there is usually a parent with a credit card to sort it out.
In my childhood I just took it for granted that these things happened. I just got clothes, food and a roof over my head. If you asked me how, I would have looked at you confused – it just happens. And even if you live in tough circumstances where money is tight, you still rely on your mum or dad to sort things out.
But there comes a time when life starts to crowd in around you as you worry about fitting in: right clothes, right hair, right teeth. You worry about getting all that schoolwork done, and then there’s the the stress of perpetual examinations. Once they’re finally done, there’s that awful question: what are you going to do for a job? All of a sudden this safe, enclosed life is blown open.
This gets worse as you continue to get older. When you finally leave the safety of education hit by reality of life. Jobs to secure, taxes to pay and the bank to keep happy. And then, with what is left, you have to pay the rent, feed yourself, buy something to wear, travel around. That 25p that’s left over? You’d better start a savings account. The adult world is full of words which trigger fear: mortgage; pension; insurance; tax; and bills.
These fears seep relentlessly into the church as well. Will I fit in? Worse: will I find myself on the PCC? Common Worship or Book of Prayer? What’s the best translation of hate Bible to use, and should I own up to finding faith difficult? If I tell anyone that I am not perfect will they look down on me? What happens if I look unspiritual? Or too spiritual?
These fears can strike at the very heart of our faith as you come to the conclusion that you simply aren’t good enough. The thoughts crowd in: I don’t deserve anything from God. He’s not pleased with me. I don’t pray enough. I don’t read my Bible enough. I just don’t make the grade.
It is at this point that the words of the Apostle Paul can be a balm: “you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship”.
What Paul is saying here is that the Christian is adopted, a theme he develops in many places. To receive the very Spirit of God is to be adopted.
Some treat Christianity as being fostered: you can only stay with God as long as you behave yourself; you might be moved on at any moment. That is to misunderstand things. Adoption is permanent. The papers have been signed. You are now a child of God. If have decided to follow Christ, you are a Child of God and the Holy Sprit within you acts as your adoption papers. He bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.
Think about this. Dwell on it. This adoption brings with it the benefits of childhood. With God as father, a child of God has no need to fear. Do you fear about your future? Well in God you have a sure and steadfast guide. A God who knows the future, past and present. A God to guide you. To sustain you. To provide for you.
Do you have a fear of hopelessness, those dark moments of despair? When you just don’t think you can cut it? You have a father to go to. A father who not only cares, but is able to do something about it.
Are you worried you won’t make the grade as a Christian? That you’re not good enough? Well God is your father. He knows your weaknesses but loves you regardless. He will continue to nurture and raise you.
Do you worry about those big decisions of life? Well, turn to God in prayer. Let him guide you. He knows.
I wish more Christians would treat God as their father. You have been adopted by God, the Almighty. Why ignore him? A child instinctively goes to his or her parent when things get tough. A child instinctively looks to the parent for affirmation and guidance. And yet we don’t. We have a father, but is he treated as one?
Oh become the children that you are. Trust God. He’s big enough. And he’s your father. He’s not about to let you down. He desires the best for you, and has shown his love for you by sending his son
Stop worrying about what other people think. Stop worrying about the “proper” way to worship. Stop worrying about whether you are good enough. Stop worrying! God is your father!
Stop praying “Our transcendental deity” and start praying “Our Father”. Stop seeing God as a sort of headmaster who is impossible to please, and start seeing God as a father. Stop seeing God as remote being, and start seeing him as your father.
You may have been let down by your earthly father. You may not have even known your earthly father well, but God is not about to leave you. Not about to let you down.
At school, you would often hear in the playground: “my dad’s bigger than your dad”. Well, now it is true! The next time you look your trouble in the eye: “my dad’s…”. The next time life crowds in: “my dad’s…”.
Read once more those words of Paul: “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…” (Romans 8:14–16)