The Family of God
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, 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.
“14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
On Facebook this week, one of my dear friends reminded me that if it’s not done by, for and through the Holy Spirit living in us, then all that we are doing is no good. It certainly looks good but, in truth, it is not. Of course, we can take a look at John’s letter in Revelation to the church at Laodicea. This church was busy, rich and did many things that looked religious. But, in truth, they did them in their own power and for their own glory. Jesus, we are told, was actually on the outside of this local church begging to get into the door, yet they went on without Him day in and day out. They were doing acts of religion, but not the acts of one in a deep and loving relationship with the Saviour.
Let me paint another picture. I am married to this amazing woman; she is of British descent; both of her parents and her were born in England. I, on the other hand, was born in Barbados, a little island on the Caribbean. Our upbringing could not have been more different. Her father is a millwright, a man who can fix anything. My father, though handy, was an accountant, really, and spent most of his adult life building a large furniture company in Barbados. My in-laws attend church, my mother-in-law is saved, and we are not sure about Dad. Both of my parents are open confessors of Jesus; they served in various capacities and ministries in our local church in Barbados. Marny and I met when we were older, I in my mid-40s, and was younger. She had to learn about a man who was more intellectual than one to fix things.
But, over the years, I have learned to fix things and now try to enjoy working with my hands. I love hot foods, Marny not so much, so I don’t cook with a lot of hot spices. As a husband, and like many husbands, I can religiously bring home flowers for my wife; but as one in an intimate relationship, I know she likes a certain type of flower, so I get those. I know she likes tea, but I know how to make her tea the way she likes it. Trust me, each person drinks tea differently. Maybe your wife loves coffee, but because of the relationship, you know how she likes her coffee. These are simple things, but I hope that they illustrate some of the intimacy that one has with a wife. The Bible tells us that the local church is the Bride of Jesus. There is to be an intimacy there that is bigger than religion.
- The Holy Spirit Lives in Us, verses 9-11
This may sound like we are going over some old stuff. But it is important to be reminded of things that are important. If you are a child of God, if you are saved and have placed your faith in Jesus as Saviour, the Holy Spirit lives in you. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20,
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”
In the OT, the Lord entered the Tabernacle and then the Temple once they were built and cleansed. Once a year, the High Priest would go into the Holiest Place in the Temple to carry the blood offering before the Lord for the sins of the whole nation of Israel. If one were to take a cursive read through the OT, you would see that the people, even men like Abraham and others, did not see God for years; they lived on promises that were made to them from God, but they did not interact with Him often. But in the NT, we have this wonderful blessing that Jesus did for us on the cross. He opened the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to live in us and for us to have a moment-by-moment relationship with God our Father. Between the written Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have a level of intimacy that OT saints did not know.
The Holy Spirit in us wants to and tries to help us to live more like Jesus. He constantly reminds of truth and of the way that Jesus wants us to take. He shows us and reveals to us the importance of the intimacy that we have as a child of God. One of the most important things to learn is that each relationship is unique. Yes, there is a ‘baseline’ of things that are expected; we are to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, body and soul. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we are to live so that we can glorify God. But how that works is as individuals, as we each are. In John 21:20-22, Jesus and Peter have an interaction following Jesus calling Peter back to the ministry. Peter returns, and at the end of the talk, he asks Jesus about John, and Jesus replies this way,
“Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'”
Who cares what I do with John? YOU follow me. I will do with John what I please; he is mine. I have heard countless testimonies over the almost 40 years that I have been saved, and none are the same. From how they got saved, to when God called them to the ministry or to the mission field or put a person in their life, each is unique, because we are not in a religion; we are in a relationship with Jesus.
If you had told me that I would marry Marny, I would laugh at you. But I can tell you that God had this amazing woman for me that makes and continues to help me be a better man than I could ever have been without her. By the leadership and the help of the Holy Spirit, we have become one; and by His grace, He has helped me to be a dad, a father, a husband, a better brother, a better pastor and preacher. Our meeting was not a fairytale; it was a moving of the Holy Spirit. We continue to depend on the Holy Spirit to help, heal and hold us. Stop trying to be someone else; God already has them. If He did not want you, He would not have created you.
- The Religion of Relationships, verse 12-14
Hey Sean, did you get hit over the head? You just spent an entire section telling us that we are not in a religion but in a relationship with Jesus. Yes, we are. But every relationship has religious actions attached to it. The idea of religion means doing some things repeatedly, religiously. Most people eat breakfast religiously, most people take showers religiously, brush their teeth religiously, and on we can go; you get the picture.
Christianity has its religious activities as well. In Hebrews 10:25, we are told that we should assemble together often; this is a religious activity. We are commanded to give regularly to the work of the ministry; we are to observe the Lord’s Supper religiously; we are to love each other religiously, forgive each other religiously, and on and on. Any relationship will have its religiosity. A good pastor must be a religious student of the scriptures and a religious servant of those entrusted to his care as an under-shepherd. A good husband must religiously put his needs second to those of his wife and be prepared to serve her and his children, religiously. Good friends will talk often, talk religiously. We attend work religiously, grocery shop religiously, and on and on. Life is a series of religious activities. The Christian walk is no different. We pray religiously, worship (not just in church) religiously, confess our sins religiously, and on we can go.
If your relationship does not have a series of religious activities, then you may need to check if you actually have a relationship. For instance, if your girlfriend stops talking to you and no longer takes your calls religiously, you may not have a girlfriend. The same can be said for Christianity; if your Christianity does not have a series of religious actions involved with it, then maybe you should check your Christianity.
- The Intimacy of Relationships, verse 15-17
The term ‘Abba Father’ is an intimate term. As I was working on this lesson, I was watching a movie with my little daughter Saturn. She had been asking me to watch it with her, and we came to a compromise; I would watch and work at the same time. She sat next to me, and we enjoyed the time.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve became one flesh. They were naked and not ashamed. There was and is a level of intimacy between a man and wife, not the sexual part, but the idea of knowing someone so well that we know the idiosyncrasies of their lives. We, in the same way, have to allow others in and allow our flaws to be seen. God, of course, has no flaws that He would ever have to be ashamed. But in the intimacy that comes as we enter and then grow into the family of God, we allow God into every aspect of our lives, every crevice of our brains. He retools our dreams, refocuses our desires and redirects our lives.
You and I will never be perfect on this side of eternity. But our relationship with the Lord can be perfect in Jesus. Our relationship can be covered in the mercy, grace and love of Jesus, and we can have a level of intimacy with Jesus that lets Him see us as we are. Now, He sees us as we are anyway, but we often pretend he does not. God knows you as you are, and He loves you. He loves me as I am, and he knows me. He knows there are some things that I will struggle with until I get a new body; He knows that I want to serve Him in spite of my failures. I get up every day and give Him the day; I begin every day thankful for Him. I want today to be lived for His glory so that others can get to know my Abba, my Father, my God.
Oh, that all had an Abba like mine, they would have an awesome life! More importantly, they will have a fabulous death. Then they too can be joint heirs with Jesus. What does that mean? We are joint heirs with Jesus. Some may think of riches and power, and truthfully that may happen. But what I hold onto is the promise of John 14: 1-3,
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Jesus wants to be with me, with us, and we should want to be with Him. This is the promise of being a joint heir; soon I will get to see Him in His glory face to face. I will get to live with Him and serve and please Him forever. Where will you spend your forever, and with whom will you spend your forever?
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church