"Go Talk to Your Father"
Passage: Romans 8:14–8:17
"Go Talk to Your Father"
April 13th, 2008
Way of Grace Church
I. Praying in His Name
This morning, we are returning to a study on prayer that I've called, "In Jesus' Name. Amen." In John 14, Jesus told his disciples:
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
This verse and others like it in John's Gospel are the basis for the phrase that so many of us use to conclude our prayers: "in Jesus' name. Amen."
As I pointed out last week, this study is not about affirming that this phrase is the right way to pray, or that if you don't use this language God will not hear you prayers. No, the point here is not to focus on our words. The point is to focus on Christ's work.
The reality of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection changed prayer forever.
And so praying in Jesus' name is about how our identification with Jesus in faith, our identification with him in his death and resurrection, brings about new realities in regard to our prayers.
If you were with us last week, you may remember that we talked about how the High Priestly work of Jesus, that is, how the sacrifice of himself for our sins, allows us to now come to God without the stain of sin, but instead, with confidence to receive grace because of our heavenly Advocate.
This morning, let's continue to explore our new relationship with God because of Jesus by looking together at Romans 8:14-17. (pg. 944)
II. The Passage: "Adoption as Sons" (8:14-17)
Now before we jump into the middle of this passage, let's talk a little bit about what Paul is explaining here in Romans 8.
Beginning in chapter 6 of this letter, the Apostle is trying to confront certain ideas about how our lives right now are changed by the reality of Jesus Christ; the reality of His death and resurrection.
In that chapter, Paul introduces the idea of slavery to sin. Listen to what he writes to those who have placed their hope in Jesus alone. He writes:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6, 7)
Instead of continuing in a disobedient, God-neglecting lifestyle, Paul argues that if we have trusted in Christ, we have been set free from the power of sin.
2. Spirit vs. Flesh
And for three chapters, 6-8, Paul talks in a variety ways about our experience of new life and our perspective in regard to sin. When we get to chapter 8, Paul begins to explain, even more fully, the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our new life of faith in Jesus.
He does this by contrasting the work of the Spirit with the effects of the flesh.
The term "flesh" has a wide range of meaning, even within the first thirteen verses of Romans 8. It can simply means existing as a human being, as we see in verse 3 where Jesus came as a human being and "condemned sin in the flesh". Or, as it does in most cases here when it is contrasted with the Spirit, the term "flesh" is a way of describing the God-dishonoring inclinations of fallen humanity.
Paul writes that...those who live according to the flesh [according to these God-dishonoring inclinations] set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (8:5, 6)
So Paul is trying to show them that living in obedience to God is not an optional part of the Christian life. While some were trying to live in the same way they once lived apart from Christ, Paul is warning them about such thinking. If you belong to Christ, you will have His Spirit within you. And, as he goes on to say...
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (8:11)
Giving life to your mortal bodies is not simply a way of talking about some future resurrection. I believe it is another way of talking about the newness of life that God gives us right now, so that we can honor God in our bodies.
B. Main Text
So consider this context as we look together at our main passage this morning, verses 14-17. Listen as I read:
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "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 fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
1. You Have Received the Spirit of Adoption
Notice where Paul took his argument here. If you have been rescued by Christ through faith, you have been set free for a new life. And that freedom to live in new life is made possible by the power of God's Spirit within you. And if you are living in obedience to God, living in newness of life, through the power of his Spirit (that's what it means here to be "led by the Spirit of God" (v. 14)), then you are, in fact, a "son" of God, or we could say, as Paul describes it in verse 16, a "child" of God.
Now the label "sons of God" is not totally unique in either the Jewish or Greek cultures of that time. No, the difference was in how Christians could be called "children of God". The radical difference here is that it is God's own Spirit that makes us children of God. Given the unique work of the Holy Spirit in the OT, this idea that every individual can receive the Holy Spirit through faith and become a child of God would have been radical.
This change in our status, from enemies of God (Romans 5:10) to sons of God, has taken place because the Spirit of God that dwells in us, is, as Paul tells us here in verse 15, it is a Spirit of adoption.
Adoption. Recently, we have in our own church family a picture of how far a family will go to give a child a name and the gift of belonging. But do you know that God has gone much, much farther to adopt his children. Do you remember the lengths to which He went?
The cross of Jesus Christ brought us much more than just forgiveness of sins. In fact, the goal of that forgiveness was and is enabling us to be reconciled to God. And when we are reconciled to Him, we are reconciled as his sons and daughters.
The cross of Jesus gives orphans like us a name; it gives us the gift of belonging.
Is that amazing! If you belong to Christ by faith, are you living in the wonder of that reality, that you are a child of God?
2. By Whom We Cry
But wait a minute! While all of this is encouraging, how does it relate to our topic for this month? How does it relate to prayer, and specifically, how does it relate to praying in the name of Jesus?
Well, look again at verse 15:
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
The word "cry" here is just another way of talking about prayer. Throughout the Psalms, for example, we read about the psalmist crying out to God:
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. (Psalm 27:7)
I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. (57:2)
But the most important thing I want you to see here is not that the Spirit causes us to pray or cry out to God; it's how he causes us to cry out. Because of the Spirit of Jesus in us, we can pray just as he prayed. Mark 14 tells us:
35 Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Did you know that When Jesus prayed, He only addressed God as Father. There is only one recorded instance in which this is not the case, and that is Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"; and this was a quote from Psalm 22:1.
In every other instance, in fact, 125 times in our four gospels, Jesus addressed or referred to God as ‘Father', or "the Father", or "my Father".
And in Mark 14, we find that even more is preserved for us about how Jesus addressed God as father. Even though Mark is written in Greek, we see that an Aramaic word is preserved in Jesus' prayer. Aramaic is the language Jesus spoke. The word we see in Mark 14 and here in Romans 8:15 is the word "abba".
Abba is the term that, in Jesus' day, a child would use to refer to his father. It is a warm and intimate term.
In Jesus' day, even grown, adult children still referred to their fathers as abba. It's similar to the Old World term "papa", which retains the deep respectfulness of abba, while not losing the intimacy and warmth of this word.
Now, I cannot stress enough how revolutionary the use of this term was. Jews of Jesus' day would have thought it irreverent to refer to God with such a familiar term. We can sense from here in Romans 8, and also in Galatians 4, that Paul, a former Pharisee, is absolutely astounded by the use and the implications of this term.
But, I don't want to forget what we're looking at here in Romans 8 in regard to prayer. What we're seeing is this: one aspect of what it means to pray in Jesus' name is that we can, because of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, we can address God as Father, just like Jesus.
We can cry out to God, we can pray to God as "Abba, Father!"
Remember, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, in what we refer to as the "Lord's Prayer", he taught them to address God as "father". And the word he most likely used, given his own practice and the testimony of Paul here, is the word "abba".
III. Praying Like a Child and Not a Slave
But why...why is this so important? It's certainly interesting, but does one more title for God really matter? Well, it all depends on the title, doesn't it?
I think you would agree that what we believe about the one to whom we pray directly affects how we pray...and how we live.
And what Paul is telling us here is that if we have believed on Jesus as both Savior and Lord, then we have moved from slavery, not simply to freedom. No, it's more than that. We have moved from slavery to sonship.
Listen to what the English church leader John Wesley said about this change:
Exhort him to press on, by all possible means, till he passes "from faith to faith;" from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son; from the spirit of bondage unto fear, to the spirit of childlike love: He will then have "Christ revealed in his heart," enabling him to testify, "The life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," -- the proper voice of a child of God. He will then be "born of God," inwardly changed by the mighty power of God...
The way in which a slave addresses the Master of the house is very different from the words of a son or daughter. And Paul is warning them in verse 15 not to fall back into that mindset of slavery, the mindset of fear. That is not the kind of spirit we have received if we belong to Christ.
Do you ever find yourself praying from a place of slavery and fear? You might say, "But I'm a Christian. I'm a new creature in Christ." Yes, but that's who Paul is writing to here. He's warning Christians about that very thing.
He's not saying that they can actually become slaves to sin again, but he is saying that they can act like, and I would say, pray like, they are back under bondage.
As Paul tells us here, when we act or pray like slaves, we act or pray out of fear. Fear of not getting what we want. Fear of being lonely. Fear of missing out. Fear of suffering. Fear of consequences. Fear of losing control. Fear of death.
How many of your prayer requests are, deep down, motivated by fear?
If Jesus had been motivated by this kind of prayer, his plea in Mark 14 would have simply been, "Father, take this cup from me...please...take it...take it from me. Protect me, Father...keep me from it...help me."
It wasn't wrong for Jesus to ask if the cross could be avoided.
But if that had been his only prayer, then He would have been praying, not from a natural sense of self-preservation, but from a heart of fear, and ultimately fear that God's plan might somehow be in error.
But it wasn't His only prayer. He prayed: Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
When, through the Holy Spirit, you cry out to God as "Abba, Father", you are crying out from a place of love and trust in God's fatherly care, even in the midst of suffering, as Romans 8:17 confirms. We will suffer in this life if we follow Jesus. Will we pray like Jesus when we do?
What do you believe about your father? What is he like? I know that earthly fathers can be distant and disinterest. I know they can be difficult. I know they can be demanding. I know they can be deceitful.
But your Father in heaven is not like that. He cares about every aspect of your life. He knows your every need. His love is not conditioned on your performance. He is not a reluctant provider. No, the cross of Jesus Christ is proof that God wants to lavish his love upon. As Paul will ask later in this chapter:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (8:32)
It reminds me of what the writer C.S. Lewis said:
"Indeed if we consider the unblushing promise of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures like an ignorant child wants to go making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the beach. We are far too easily pleased."
Shouldn't the reality of God's fatherhood, shouldn't the reality that we have been adopted as his children, shouldn't the reality of what he wants for us, shouldn't that change how we pray? If we really believed this, I think our desires would be both increased and informed.
What do I mean? Well, when we understand that we can cry out to as our "Abba, Father" our desire to do so should be increased by the reality of His perfect love and goodness. In light of who He is, we should more prone to run to Him and share with Him and plead with Him.
And when we understand what our Father has for us, what he wants to do in our lives, our desires should be informed by such things.
When a slave asks his Master for another ration of food, he does with the realization that he may be asking too much. But when a son or daughter asks their father for nothing more than food, they do so without the realization that they are asking for too little. A good father wants to give his children so much more. Isn't that true parents?
When I was a kid, if I heard the phrase "Go talk with your father", I knew I was in trouble. I would go away in fear. But if we, as followers of Jesus, hear that phrase in the context of prayer, we should go, not in fear, but in full assurance of faith.
Do you have assurance that you are truly a child of God? Is the Spirit causing you to cry out, "Abba, Father"?
Listen to what the 18th century American pastor Jonathan Edwards tells us about this kind of assurance:
The strong and lively exercises of a spirit of childlike, evangelical, humble love to God, give clear evidence of the soul's relation to God as his child; which does very greatly and directly satisfy the soul. And though it be far from true, that the soul in this case, judges only by an immediate witness without any sign or evidence; yet in this case the saint stands in no need of multiplied signs, or any long reasoning upon them...love, the bond of union, is seen intuitively: the saint sees and feels plainly the union between his soul and God; it is so strong and lively, that he cannot doubt of it. And hence he is assured that he is a child. How can he doubt whether he stands in a childlike relation to God, when he plainly sees a childlike union between God and his soul, and hence does boldly, and as it were naturally and necessarily cries, "Abba, Father"?"
This assurance can be our when we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our only hope. And when we do that, and when we pray in His name, in identification with who Jesus is (the Son of God) and what he's done (made us sons of God), then we should cry out according to that privilege, "Abba, Father".
Brothers and sisters, in all things, in every way, no matter the circumstances, "Go talk to your Father."
Let's do that now.