Things have changed. Have you noticed? Do you notice the changes that are constantly happening around you and to you? I’m one example of change that has happened to you. I doubt many of you, 8 months ago, were expecting a new pastor at Christ the Lord. What else has changed for you in the last couple of years, months, weeks or even days? Have you moved? Do you have grandchildren, children? Are you in high school instead of grade school, or graduate school instead of college? A job change? A career change? Retirement? Maybe your life has changed because someone has left it? Things change and will continue to change. There is no stopping it. Good or bad things do not, and will not, remain the same.
For some of us the idea of change might be terrifying. Can I keep up? Will I make the right choices? How will this affect my future? And what is it that makes change so terrifying? It’s the uncertainty. It is the unknown. Yet, today, in our lesson, we are shown one change in our lives that isn’t terrifying, there are no big unknown warning signs plastered over this change, this change is simple, yet profound. It is a direct result of God’s overflowing grace.
This change came to us at our baptism as we were showered with water and God’s Word. And at the very moment this change happened, at the very moment God created faith in us, his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, was brought into our hearts. Now, with the Spirit living in us we see clearly how things have changed in our lives. Now, right now, we are God’s children bought by the blood of his Son Jesus. And now, right now, we are heirs of a glory that is incomparable to anything we have ever known.
But sometimes this idea of being a child of God and an heir of glory is something that we hear about so much that the importance of it is lost. Yet, Paul paints such a beautiful picture of what it means for us that we can only stand in awe as we watch him reveal to us 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 blind 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.”
We can now by God’s grace fight off sin. We 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!” We 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. Things have changed!” And we can do all this because “we are led by the Spirit of God and are sons and daughters of God.
Think of the comfort this gave to those Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing. Here they had been trapped in false religions that taught them to be afraid of their gods power and that they had to earn their gods favor or else face punishment. So then to hear that “they did not receive a spirit that makes them a slave again to fear, but they received the Spirit of sonship. And by him they cry,“Abba, Father.” Paul’s words must’ve brought them to tears. Why? Things changed; The fear was gone! No longer did they serve out of fear of punishment. No longer did they have to tiptoe around each day hoping they didn’t get on God’s bad side. Instead, they could approach God as adopted children, and cry out to him “Father.”
That is how we too can approach God. Not in fear, not in doubt, but with the confidence of a bought and redeemed child. And children don’t stop and wonder whether it’s a convenient time to interrupt mom or dad. You likely have heard it many times here at church, “dad, dad, dad, mom, mom, mom” or seen it as a parent is doing something else and all the sudden whoosh in swoops the kid grabbing a leg or crying out for attention. That is the confidence the Spirit instills in us to boldly approach God our Father. What a change this is from the relationship we once had with God when our “sins separated us from him and Hid his face from us.”
What a joy to also know that when we doubt this change. When we doubt that we have this new relationship with God Paul tells us that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” If you ever wonder or are unsure about your standing with God. Set aside your feelings and go back to the Word. Let the Spirit who lives in you convince you of your secure place in God’s family.
Do you see how things have changed for you? Do you see the masterpiece that Paul is painting for you? 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 “Abba, Father.” But this is what being a child of God means…yet that’s only half the painting!
The other half of the painting is somewhat unfinished. Some of the details aren’t fully painted in yet, but the overall picture is astounding. As we have been changed from an enemy of God to a child of God it is revealed that we are now heirs of glory “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.” And this is maybe where we’d like the most detail, because what did maybe some of us do as we head Paul’s words? To latch on to that word suffering, “if indeed we share in his sufferings”. What sufferings will I share in Lord? What will it look like? Why do I have to suffer? And often isn’t that what bogs us down?
Don’t we so often get caught up in the thorns and the thistles, the trials, and tribulations of suffering? Why? Because we don’t want to suffer; no one wants to suffer! And it doesn’t seem right. If I’m a child of God and an heir of glory than why the suffering? Why did my spouse have to leave me. Why does my loved, or why do I, have to suffer a debilitating disease. How come my friends say mean things behind my back or don’t include me in activities. What gives? And to make matters worse don’t we often think, and sadly we are even told by others that if you are a Christian and you are suffering, that means you are doing something wrong – God’s not happy with you!
But today, God’s Spirit testifies to us that things have changed. By sharing in the suffering of Christ you also are sharing in his glory. As Jesus, the Son of God, walked on this earth he suffered. He had friends betray him. He had enemies speak evil against him. He watched with sadness as his message was ignored and ridiculed. He was physically harmed and then crucified. But his suffering led to glory. Glory for himself as he was raised to life, ascended into heaven and now sits at God’s right hand, but also glory for us, because we are “co-heirs with Christ.” And just as heirs share in the sorrows of the rest of the family so too do they share in the joys. Jesus’ glory is our glory. Yes, we will suffer. Yes, we will die, but after that “we will take our inheritance, the kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world.” This is the masterpiece Paul paints for us in these verses. A picture that shows us how things have changed for us in Christ. A picture that reveals the glory that is ours right now as heirs of Christ.
And Paul tells us that glory will make our current suffering a forgotten memory. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” 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 Disney World. Suddenly things changed. You don’t remember why your week was so bad. 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. This is how things have changed for us as God’s children.
We are focused on that glory that awaits us in heaven. And already this glory has changed you. You see suffering as proof of your inheritance. You see those sitting to your right and left as brothers and sisters in Christ. You rejoice when a friend or loved one dies in the Lord and you yourself wait with eager expectation for the day God calls you home to the eternal glory that is yours through faith.
So today, tomorrow, and in the coming years as you wrestle with the uncertain changes that will happen in your life. May you find peace knowing of the one change that is a certainty, 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.