Jason Free

Remember Who You Are

by Jason Free on May 26th, 2024
Romans 8:12-17

I heard this story once. A young man – age eighteen – was going off to college out of state, and his dad was driving him. The car was packed full of the son’s belongings, and this son – knowing his dad – was waiting, just waiting, for the speech. You know the stay out of trouble, don’t skip class, make sure to not stay up to late, make sure you’re eating right, don’t do this, do do that, and so on. But, as they drove on for the next few hours, the speech never happened. Finally, they got to that college campus. Dad helps his son unload his belongings, and after everything is unloaded, the son figures, “here it comes.” But it didn’t. Instead, the dad hugs his son, looks him in the eye, and simply says, “Remember who you are. I love you.” 

Friends, today, remember who you are. And who are you? Maybe we need to start there. If, right now, you had 10 minutes to tell the person next to you who you are, what defines you, what makes you tick, what makes you do the things you do, think the way you think, and say the words you say, could you do it and what would you then say? Now, here is where this gets interesting. I’m going to guess for many of you, the person sitting next to you is someone who knows you very well – a parent, a spouse, a friend. And, I wonder, would they agree with you? Would they accept your assessment of yourself? Or would they kind of laugh and think, “No, that’s not you at all. That’s not who you are – not even close!”

Go ahead and do this sometime. I’d be curious how it goes because, you see, explaining who you are takes a whole lot of honesty, and a whole lot of humility. And, sometimes we don’t want to necessarily admit to someone else, or even ourselves, why we are the way we are. So, it might actually be better if that person sitting next to you was the one who told you who you are. They might be more spot on with their assessment of you than you. 

Now, I bring this up because in Romans 8, the chapter in which our lesson is found today, it’s worth a read. Read it sometime in its entirety. Here in Romans 8 God takes us by the hand and leads us away from this world and everything that consumes us and drives us – everything we think is so important – and he bids us to look at it all – our lives and our world – from his perspective, not ours. And, though we don’t have time to go through this whole chapter today, in our verses we do get to focus in on who we are – the way God sees us, the way he sees you. “

And just take a look at our lesson. It is full of descriptions about you. How you’re a child of God…an heir…a co-heir with Christ…how you can cry out to God, “Abba, Father.” There is so much here about you and who you are. And Paul paints such a beautiful picture of what it means for us that we can only stand in awe as we watch him reveal what we were brought into by God’s grace. I mean look, look what Paul says, as a child of God “we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature.” Paul puts it negatively, but do you see the magnitude of his words here? No longer are we blinded by sin. No longer is our “mind hostile to God that it does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.” No longer are all our acts “like filthy rags” in God’s sight. No longer “will we die.” We are children of God! We now can flee from sin and “by the Spirit” who lives in us “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” 

You can now by God’s grace fight off sin. You can now say to the devil, “No, I have no obligation to you. I owe you nothing, I am a baptized child of God, you have no place in my life anymore!” You can now say to our own sinful nature, “Enough! I have a new master and I am obligated to serve him, and I want to serve him. I cherish it. It brings me joy and happiness. This is who I am!” And we can do all this – you can do this – because “we are led by the Spirit of God and are sons and daughters of God.  

And, yet, as wonderful as that sounds. I have to admit it’s also a bit intimidating. That word “obligation” particularly stands out. An obligation is a must. This is something I have to do. I have to fight against my sinful nature and say “no” to sin, to the devil, and to the temptations of this world, but I don’t always do that. That makes Paul’s next words kind of frightening.

He says if we don’t live up to this obligation, we “will die.” We will be unbelievers, spiritually dead and walking that path to hell. Well, alright, great, I know I don’t always meet this obligation. I don’t fulfill this “must.” And do you? I mean have you stopped sinning? Have you not had one sinful thought, said one sinful word, or done one sinful deed? So, here is this big flashing “must,” here is this “obligation,” that supposedly is a part of who we are, and we don’t do it. We fail. 

So, you see what this obligation can become: A burden. Right, it either guilts you, or frustrates you, or, perhaps, you use it to sort of compare yourselves to others and it gives you this dangerous false sense of security based on what you do. Now, here is my question though, why is that? Why do we so often open up the Bible and take the rules and the laws – the obligations – that God puts before us, and we almost immediately just start to beat ourselves up over them. Here, here is a great example of this. Some of you have done this exercise before – it’s a simple question. Do you see yourself as a saint or as a sinner? You can only pick one. Which more accurately defines you? Just think about it for a moment. Saint or sinner.

Many of you answered this question a few months ago during a presentation from our consulting group, Crossroads. If you remember, I think it was at least 80% if not more of the people in the room, viewed themselves as sinners more than as saints. Do you see what I’m getting at? God through Paul is telling us that we aren’t obligated to our sinful nature. That the rules and laws of God are not there to burden you. So, if our identity, if your identity, is tied to laws and to rules, if that’s where your focus is, if that’s all you see when you open up the Bible, we have an identity crisis on our hands. There is a problem here. 

Now, at the same time, maybe you do see yourself as a saint. That’s good, except we can abuse that view of ourselves too. We can start to rely on ourselves too much, our works too much, and suddenly we think we are someone we’re not. We think we’re above God’s law, his obligations don’t all apply to me. I can get away with a sin here or there if I want; it’s not a big deal. This is an identity crisis too.

But, check it out, God knows we think like, look what he says to us in verse 15, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him you cry, “Abba, Father.” Remember my initial story? That dad not laying into his son with a bunch of “dos and don’ts” but simply telling his son to “remember who you are; I love you?” If you’re always looking at yourself through the lens of God’s law, if that’s where you focus is, if that’s how you judge who you are and who others are, you’re not remembering who God says you are, and you’re definitely missing the love he has for you. 

I mean just think about how God made you his child. The Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – had from eternity lived in perfect unity and the only thing those three persons of the God-head thought could make their unity better was to add to it. So, God the Father so loved the world that he gave his Son, and that Son, Jesus, gave himself – he bled and died on a cross. He was forsaken for every one of my sins and yours. In that moment, that eternity of love, which the Triune God enjoyed, was broken, so it could be expanded; so, you and I could be a part of it. 

And through the Word of God, through the sacraments, through water, and bread, and wine, God the Holy Spirit claimed you and connected you to the Holy Trinity. Not to be a slave to the law, but to be set free from it. Not to be burdened by an obligation, but to see it as a natural part of who you are, and then to cry out, “Abba, Father,” in those moments when you do fail to live up to that obligation, when you fail to fight and win against your sinful flesh. 

It’s beautiful to see how we have been brought from death to life through Christ. It’s mind-boggling to think how God’s Spirit now lives in us fighting on our behalf against our sinful flesh all while assuring us of our place in God’s family. It’s overwhelming to believe that we can approach the throne of the creator, of God himself, and call him “Dad, Father!” But this is what being a child of God means, and this is who you are. 

And maybe one more thing, look at what you get as a child of God. Verse 17, You become an “heir – an heir of God and co-heir with Christ.” And, I bet if you’re looking at that verse, you see that conditional sentence there about suffering, and that too maybe makes you a bit nervous. And, I get it. No one wants to suffer. But, again, don’t become fixated on the wrong thing. Your inheritance as a child of God isn’t suffering, it’s glory. It’s heaven.

So, imagine that you started a work week or a week of school in just a foul mood. Nothing was going right for you, and everything was just blah. But then a buddy called you up and wanted to go fishing over the weekend. Or your spouse called to say he or she booked a weekend get-away for the two of you. Or your parents surprised you with a trip to an amusement park. Suddenly the current hardships aren’t a big deal. The picture of what lies ahead is all you’re focused on. And when that day of relaxation and fun comes, the bad days are forgotten, the suffering ends. Any hardship we endure on this earth is real and it hurts, and it may feel like it will never end. But remember who you are, you’re God’s child, and he won’t leave you to suffer. He promises in the verse just after our lesson, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” 

So today, tomorrow, and in the coming years remember who you are through Christ: you are a child of God, you are an heir of glory, an heir of an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. May the Spirit who lives in you testify to these things. Amen. 

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