Romans 8:12–17 (NIV)
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and the blessing of His Holy Spirit be with you as you hear the Word today. Amen.
There are Christians and there are "Christians". There are true Christians and there are people who think they're Christians because they don’t hurt anyone and usually to the “right thing.” True Christians are mates with Jesus, that is, they have a living relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Which are you? Do you share the true Christian faith?
It's easy for us to see those people Satan uses to attack the Church - those people outside the Church who promote lawlessness, adultery and greed. But it's not so easy to see what Satan does with people who appear to live a good life. The Devil works harder inside the church than he does outside the church.
By inside the church, I don’t mean the building, but amongst the baptised people of God. Those pieces of broken eggshell we often walk on are being put back on all the time. Thank God that with confession of sins and His forgiveness Christ removes them and frees us from having to worry about them.
There are people who call themselves Christians, both inside and outside the church. They say they believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. But the test isn't only what they say, but what they do. For, where true faith is at work the Holy Spirit isn't idle.
Where God's Holy Spirit lives a Christian will eagerly seek opportunities; to Worship God, to study His Word, to fellowship together with other Christians and pray together. The Holy Spirit proves His presence in a person's life by ruling and directing the Christian life.
The Holy Spirit proves His presence with those who are real mates with Jesus. Let’s face it, good mates don’t neglect each other. Jesus doesn’t neglect us either. He wants to hang out with us, and hopefully, we want to hang out with Him.
The person who has the Holy Spirit can take great comfort in knowing that they are members of God's family. God is number one in, and governs, the whole life of the Christian. With a mate and brother like Jesus, death for the Christian is nothing to fear.
The Christian is "led by the Spirit" says St Paul. The Christian has a heart to hear God's Word and believes that God forgives his or her sins. The heart which truly believes and understands God's free gifts confesses and proves faith in his or her life.
Christians share God's good things and bring glory to God. They always strive to live in community without giving deliberate offence. They respect God’s authority in their life.
Christians are obedient to and respectful of all God's Word, regular in worship and devotion. They're patient with those who don't meet their expectations.
Christians are respectful of other people, honest and protective of others property, character and faithful to their future marriage partner, wife, husband, children, neighbours school and work mates.
Though the Christian may stumble and not lead a perfect life, they're led by the Spirit to return to God in repentance and confess their sins and receive forgiveness.
The devil on the other hand, leads us away from God and betrays us with our mates. Satan doesn't want us to hear or receive God's Word. He tempts us with all sorts of excuses not to worship - to tired, to busy, to far to travel, to boring - it’s not if you’re involved and have fellowship with other Christians.
Satan leads us away from being fed the benefits of Jesus' suffering and death. We receive God's benefits in Christ's body and blood as we are reassured of God's power to forgive sins and free us from guilt. Satan wants us to feel guilty - to try and keep us on the run from the truth - Jesus Christ.
But where Satan leads us to give way to our sense of self - that is to be greedy - only thinking of ourselves - God's Holy Spirit leads us to honesty and truth in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a consequence of this close relationship with Jesus we can remain faithful to God and also to each other.
Through the gift of faith given to us first in our baptism and then confirmed in the rite of confirmation by the Holy Spirit we're no longer under the burden of our guilt at not being perfect, doing the wrong thing and making mistakes. This means we don't have to be scared of God.
When a child raids the biscuit tin the child knows he or she is doing wrong because they raid it quickly while the parent isn’t looking and then they try to hide any evidence that they’ve been anywhere near the tin when they’re challenged with crumbs and sticky fingers.
When we drive our cars, the natural tendency, when we see a police car, is to slow down - why? Because we’re conscious of the laws about speeding and the penalty of disobeying the law.
If we've committed a crime and see a policeman we should be scared. But if we've not committed a crime we need not be scared of the policeman.
Now, if we've received God's gift of forgiveness through Jesus then we have no need to be scared of God. We have the assurance of God's grace and we'll want to be close to and to please God.
We baptised people can confidently relate to God as a loving parent. This means we can talk to Him on intimate terms. We can call out "Abba" - the affectionate Hebrew word which means "Father" (like our "Daddy".) as we do when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Abba - Daddy - isn’t a name you use for a father you're scared of. But it’s the name we'd use to share with the Father who'd listen to you, feed you, provide for your needs and protect you in time of danger.
In the Lord's Prayer we pray, “Our Father...” “Our Daddy who is in heaven...” By the way, this is a good prayer to pray when we’re tested in any way. It summarises our every spiritual, emotional and physical need.
We can regard God in one of two ways. Either we are scared of Him and so try to run away as did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they'd disobeyed God.
Or, we believe His Word when He calls us to share in His blessings - this means we’re heirs. We have a rightful place with God and a right to receive forgiveness from Him and from each other.
Our place in heaven with God has been secured for us by Jesus - the will was written by Jesus with His blood on the cross. He brings us into His inheritance through Baptism. And in Baptism we were adopted into God's family.
As Christians we live together then as a church family - sharing in the good times and sharing in the hard times. As Christians we worship, we pray, we teach and are taught.
We can work together and play together in fellowship activities, morning teas, meals, fish & chip nights, worship services, working bees, ministry in Whitiora school, UFO and men’s breakfasts.
Working together we’ve provided soup to school children at Whitiora School in the last two years and we’ll be doing it again towards the end of this term. Working together maintains the church buildings and grounds, funds upgrades and replacements and builds fellowship and appreciation of each other.
Sure, not everyone will meet our expectations at working bees, in worship or in Bible Study or even in offering Christian support and encouragement.
But, neither will we meet all of other people’s expectations. Nor will we meet all of God's expectations.
But we know that we can rely on God's love and forgiveness - on God's Spirit to lead us back to call, "Abba (Father) forgive me."
To remind us of God's love and extent to which He shares with us let’s hear again the words from today’s Gospel lesson of John 3:16-17 ESV "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.