ONE CHURCH – One God and Father
Romans 8:14-17 (p. 787) July 31, 2016
Life isn’t fair is it? Think about that. I was born in 1960. A stay at home mom (kinda because she was the most active woman I’ve ever met). A father with a successful job that allowed us to go on vacations together and never worry about food or a roof over our heads. If you haven’t notice I’m white.
One of my best friends in High School was black. He grew up in the projects here in Lexington…a single mom worked three different jobs…to just barely survive. He lived with his grandmother a lot of the time. He had no relationship with his dad. he was born in 1960 as well.
Neither of us chose these circumstances. And neither of us had the power to change them. It wasn’t fair.
People would say…Well, that’s the hand you’ve been dealt…and you’d be right…but why was I given such a life…and why was he given such a life?
Is the child I held in Haiti on the trash heap outside of Port Au Prince worth less? Is John Baptist’s life of less value because he has so little? He had no choice in his circumstances of being one of thousands of street children in the poorest country in our hemisphere…I wonder what John Baptist’s life is like today.
I saw my black friend at Wayne’s funeral a few weeks ago…He’s still the gentle, loving, and kind soul he was in High School only a little grayer.
I’ve got a lot of relationships that make me think: “Life is not fair.” A girl Kari and I “claim” as our adopted daughter…her mom was in prison for shooting her dad…raised by her grandparents because drugs had broken this family apart…How come I got Ozzie and Harriet and she got an episode of “Cops?”
I don’t know the answers to those whys or a thousand others…I do not have the ability to understand why you had to grow up alone or abused while I grew up with security, support and an earthly example of a heavenly father…It’s not fair…life isn’t.
This statement from Jesus echoes through my head and my heart…“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded and the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
The Message version sums it up clearly…“Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities.”
Who determines what gifts are given…and how they are given? Who decides what responsibilities are required?
I. THE ONE WITH A POWERFUL PURPOSE AND PLAN
Our text started out today with these words…“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”
Bertrand Russell, an avowed atheist said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”
And there are many who assume there is no God…life is chance…John Baptist’s birth and life…and yours and mine…Just the luck of the draw…chance…and if this life is all we have then it’s about enjoyment…self fulfillment…comfort…even among many who claim belief in God…life and it’s pursuits isn’t a great deal different than the atheists. Belief doesn’t translate into any responsibilities.
Now listen to the parable, the story of Jesus told right before that – “to whom much is given much is required statement.”
LUKE 12:42-48 (p. 727)
Knowing God’s will and God’s plan is only possible if we are led by His Spirit but that Spirit not only leads us to know God’s will…that Spirit enables us to do God’s will.
There is a huge expectation that those who have been given many gifts…are to use them to help others before the master returns.
Ironically many times the opposite happens…we begin to believe that the possessions are ours…we begin to get comfortable with the “much given to us.” And after all Jesus is taking a long time to return…so I’ll eat, drink and get drunk (I’ll take care of me). Jesus says the one who does this is assigned a place with unbelievers.
If you are a believer in God…or someone who is open to that option let me firmly say, God is a purposeful God. He created us for a reason. Scripture teaches that its so we can become adopted as His children…This is true whether you are born in Haiti or Ohio…Rich or poor…Black, white, brown or purple. Long before you were conceived by your parents you were conceived in the mind of God. Isaiah 44:2 says “I am your creator. You were in my care even before you were born.”
You see if there is no God then we are all accidents…the results of some cosmic petri dish with the odds of it happening being so astronomical they are incalculable. And your life and mine would have no purpose or meaning. There would be no right or wrong and no hope beyond your time here on earth. (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, p. 26)
Or you can believe a loving Father created us for a purpose…To be loved by Him and become His children…Both take faith…the difference? One has responsibilities…one doesn’t. So which do you suppose our sinful, rebellious, independent nature is predisposed to choose?
II. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “DADDY” AND DICTATOR
Slaves live in fear…Children who love their father live in obedience…and there is a huge difference.
ROMANS 8:15-16 (p. 787)
The Apostle Paul knew about the Law of Moses…and he also knew about fear…causing it..and feeling it.
He tells Timothy He was a violent enforcer of it. (1 Tim. 1:13). Acts 9 says as a persecutor he breathed out murderous threats against the followers of Jesus…and then he got warrants for their arrest. So he could drag both men and women to prison in Jerusalem.
I’ve met religious people like that, haven’t you? Their lives are governed by a list of rules…and they believe its their job to persecute those who don’t live by them. The rules are what they worship…not the God who made them. Fear, hatred, threats prison…They knew God as a dictator who wants to pour out His wrath.
Know about God, but not knowing God…Then Paul met Jesus…the One He was persecuting…and everything changes.
Louie Cline wrote this poem: I MET THE MASTER FACE TO FACE:
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where comforts and pleasures led,
Until one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
With station and rank and wealth for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race,
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and built them high,
With their domes had pierced the blue of the sky,
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace,
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see,
That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me;
And I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished, and in their place,
Naught else did I see but the Master’s face.
And I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meek,
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”
My thought is now for the souls of men,
I have lost my life to find it again,
E’er since one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
John the Apostle tells us Jesus left His Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness, and the judgment (John 16:8)…but the purpose of that conviction is not to put us in prison. It’s to show us a Savior…a Savior given so that we could be restored as children…to reveal to us that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) “We are justified (declared not guilty) by His blood and we escape God’s wrath because its been poured out on Him.”
None of us will understand how much “The One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” loves us until we see the cross God’s Spirit reveals my sin…but He points to the Father’s love dying on a cross for me…And like those on the day of Pentecost our hearts are cut…broken…and we cry out “What do I do?” The answer is the same today as it was then, “Repent.” (turn from your sin to Christ.) Be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
That gift changes your relationship with God, and how you knew Him. He no longer is a dictator wanting to keep you in slavery…He is Daddy, “Abba.” And the inheritance He will give His only Son Jesus will be shared with His adopted children…me and you…Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
This is the message our God and Father has for His creation:
One of the great preachers of our time is Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock tells a story about vacationing with his wife one summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant, where they looked forward to a private meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. Craddock leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” He didn’t want anyone intruding on their privacy. But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. “Where you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.
“Oklahoma,” Craddock answered.
“Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?”
“I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University,” Craddock replied.
“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly and thought to himself, “Oh, no! Here comes another preacher story! It seems like everybody has at least one.”
The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper,” he said. “I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunch time because the things they said to me cut me so deep. What was worse was going to town on Saturday afternoons and feeling like every eye was burning a hole through me, wondering just who my father was.
“When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said. ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.’ With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’
The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, “Those were the most important words anybody ever said to me, and I’ve never forgotten them.” With that, he smiled shook hands with Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.
And as he walked away, Craddock – a native Tennesseean himself – remembered from his studies of Tennessee history that on two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected to the office of governor men who had been born out of wedlock. One of them was a man named Ben Hooper.
Maybe today is the day you claim it!