“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” – Romans 8.14-17 NASB
Declaration of son-ship*.
God’s declaration of son-ship over us just is.
It can never be cancelled out; not by our own behavior, nor by circumstance, nor by the action of another. Yet, we are by our natural birth, slaves born into bondage – all of us. We are not sons and heirs of God, but rather sons of slaves born into toil and hopelessness. And, in a land full of slaves there is no hope lest a free man come and deliver them from their bondage.
This, we know, is the Gospel. We understand that our freedom results from our adoption to son-ship as part of our inheritance in the Kingdom. From there, we must continually learn to operate as sons and heirs, walking with a true heart of repentance – constantly realigning ourselves with our true nature which God is revealing to us in Christ. As we continually grow in the assurance of this son-ship, the enemies of freedom and Kingdom living melt away in a sea of grace.
Know your enemy.
Today, I’d like to spend some time expounding on what I mean by “enemies of freedom and Kingdom living”. I think its very important to understand as, in many ways, these characteristics can act as a barometer of sorts in our lives, a freedom meter if you will.
Read the headlines, and you’ll see much of the world around us is living in bondage and slavery. People fight over politics, philosophy, religion, race, and so much more. We marginalize one another and propagate polarization through our xenophobic unwillingness to have honest dialogue and transparent community. Really, hatred is just the “logical” conclusion of the characteristics below. It is the ultimate crescendo of selfish thinking.
Several weeks ago, Chad was teaching on a Sunday morning and he was talking about love. He asked the question…
“What is the opposite of love?”
Most of us immediately thought of hatred or fear or lust. But, I think his answer surprised many of us, if not all…
- Abolish selfishness and you’ll abolish hatred.
So, hatred is not our enemy, neither is racism or bigotry or the other forms of “evil” that we find in the land. Our enemy is selfishness which is why these characteristics below are important to discuss – they are all “manifestations” of selfishness. Whereas, freedom is a manifestation of love.
Performance is a mentality through which we believe (consciously or unconsciously) that our merits will earn us favor with God. Conversely, this performance mentality must also accept that our lack of merit and failure will earn us demerits – thereby losing favor with God. This is a terribly precarious way to live and there is no freedom in it. However, according to God’s Word, we enter His grace by faith not by works (lest any man should boast) and faith alone pleases God – our “works” are merely a manifestation and demonstration of our faith. Living with simple faith and trust in His declaration of grace allows us as his children to live free from bondage to legalism.
Compartmentalization is a mentality which creates ungodly separation and segregation in life. This lifestyle believes that certain portions of life are sacred or secular validating certain behaviors as acceptable in one environment that would not be in others. Though it masquerades itself as “wisdom”, “rationality”, and “logic”, unfortunately, a compartmentalized lifestyle gives us license to live without complete integrity between who God says we are inwardly and who we demonstrate ourselves to be outwardly. Jesus, on the other hand, taught and modeled an integrated kingdom lifestyle in which He lived with integrity and consistency everywhere He went.
The word hypocrisy comes from the ancient Greek word hupokrites which was a word used to describe the actors on a stage who would wear masks to disguise their true identities. It is a mentality which creates a lifestyle of duplicity – a lifestyle in which we are one person in one environment and another elsewhere. It is closely related to compartmentalization – maybe you could say, it’s the “next level” of a lifestyle of non-integrity. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 23), calling them hypocrites, as they had become masters at appearing outwardly righteous and godly, while inwardly they were full of ungodliness such as jealousy, deceit, judgment, and much more. Instead, Jesus is calling us to be authentic and transparent people of integrity modeling the glory of His grace everywhere we go.
Criticism is a mentality of marginalization and polarization. Because we do not agree with those around us, or because they are difficult to deal with and to understand, we criticize them. We use terms like “us” and “them” which wrongly create a position of superiority over our fellow man usually because we “get it” and they don’t or we “have the revelation” and they do not. However, we know that separation is not a characteristic of love – but rather unification. In fact, one of Jesus’ primary goals is unification. Toward the end of His earthly ministry, just before heading to the cross (John 17), He prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one from eternity. We must be careful to have an inclusive gospel which says things like “come to me and be illuminated and made new” rather than an exclusive gospel which says things like “stay away, you don’t get it and you’re unclean”.
Judgement is the ultimate selfish mentality. But please understand what I mean, this judgment is not discernment or the ability to “judge a tree by its fruit” – which Jesus encourages us to do. This is a judgment which passes sentence on the “offender” – which Jesus STRONGLY encourages us not to do. After all, how can anyone who came into the Kingdom by sheer grace become so deceived as to elevate themselves to a place from which they can sit in judgment toward others. This in no way intended to promote a permissiveness toward sin or a gospel of “sloppy grace.” Rather, when we realize that we all deserve judgment of the most excruciating kind for our crimes against the Throne but instead, Jesus took the punishment and bore our sin and shame on the cross, then and only then will we realize that we would be foolish to believe that there are any who are “disqualified” from His grace. Rather, none are qualified for it in the first place, we just need accept it as a gift.
Let love dominate you.
I want to encourage you today (as I’ve been encouraging myself) to ask the Father to show you the areas where selfishness is dominating your thinking and your patterns of behavior toward Him and toward those around you – your family, your colleagues, your church, and the world. Look for the five areas that I described above and…
“Let love be without hypocrisy…” – Romans 12.9a NASB
* I wanted to take a moment to point out that when I say, “sons” I am not delineating between genders. In fact, in Christ, women (just like men) are adopted sons according to God’s promise (Galatians 3.28,29) and fellow heirs of grace (1 Peter 3.7).