Craig Smith - No Longer Slaves
Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, whether you’re on online or in-person in one of our campuses or joining us at a Watch Party somewhere in the world, just so glad to have you with us today. We’re in the midst of a series here at Mission Hills called Fresh Wind, and what we’re doing in this series is we’re exploring the fundamental difference between Christianity in every other religion.
See, every other religion that has ever existed, basically it says the same thing, which is that we have to fight for righteousness. We have to fight to be righteous. And if, and the promise, the motivation really to fight for righteousness is that if we put our backs into it enough, if we row hard enough against the current of our culture, then we become a little more righteous and then maybe just maybe God will accept us. And Christianity says something completely different.
Christianity says the fights already been won for us, that when Jesus died on the cross, he did that as a payment for all the wrong that we’ve done for all the ways that we’re not righteous and that by his death, our sin is forgiven, the debt of it is canceled and all the requirements of righteousness have been met in us. Not by us, but in us, by faith, in what he did. And so what happens is we’re set free at that point to begin, not a new religion, but a new relationship with God, a new way of interacting with God of relating to God that really changes almost everything about us.
Now, one of the things we saw is that one of the benefits of that relationship with God is that the Holy Spirit comes into us. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity actually comes into us and begins to do in us what we couldn’t ever do by our fighting for it, by our working really hard at it, by a rowing hard. And so the goal really is to put up the sails and to catch the wind of the spirit in our lives.
And one of things that we saw last week was that this power of the Holy Spirit is a resurrection power that is bringing new life, and that’s a long-term promise that one day we will be raised physically to new life with God forever. But that that resurrection power actually works in our lives even right here right now. And so what we saw last week is the more that we listen to the Holy Spirit, the more we experience his power, the more we experience the life that’s coming now. The more the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the dry bones of our relationships, and our finances, and our souls, and in every other area of life where we feel kind of dried out and lifeless, the more we listen to spirit, the more we experience the life that’s coming even right now.
What we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna talk about one of the greatest obstacles to doing that, one of the greatest obstacles to listening to the Spirit. And I’m just gonna tell you right now, it’s not what you might think. In fact, one of the greatest obstacles to listening to the Spirit is an inability to believe what the Spirit says to us. It’s one of the greatest obstacles, is an inability to believe what the Spirit says to us.
There is obstacle isn’t an inability to hear the Spirit, it’s not an inability to separate the voice of the Spirit from all the other voices clamoring for our attention. It’s not an inability to understand what the Spirit says. It’s not an inability to put into practice what the Spirit says. It’s literally an inability to believe that what the Spirit says is true. Because what Spirit is most interested in saying to us, communicating to us is in fact kind of an unbelievable truth, and I’m super excited to share it with you.
So let’s go ahead and dive in. Why don’t you grab a Bible, start making your way to Romans chapter 8. We’re gonna be starting in verse 12 today. And while you’re making your way to Romans 8:12, let me just say this. If you’re just joining us, maybe you’re new to the Bible, here’s what you need to know about the Book of Romans. It was written by a man named Paul, who was a follower of Jesus, but he became a follower of Jesus after a long life of working really hard to follow all the rules, rolling hard against the current of the culture, fighting for righteousness. And then he came to Jesus and realized that fight had been won, and that by trusting in Jesus, he began to experience a transformation in his life that all of his hard work has never made possible.
Second thing you wanna understand is the Book of Romans was written to a group of followers of Jesus, Christians in the city of Rome, who were surrounded by things that were kind of working against them to really follow Jesus. And so what Paul’s writing to them is to give them really the fresh wind that allows them to experience everything that God has for them and experience everything that comes from following Jesus consistently. And he’s gonna give them an incredible truth today, but it’s a truth. It’s a little bit unbelievable. It’s a truth that our natural inclinations to go, “Yeah, I don’t know that I buy that it’s truth. It’s hard to take to heart.”
This is what he says. Romans 8:12, ”Therefore,” meaning in the base of what we talked about last week because of this resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, bringing new life to dry bones, ”Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.” And I pause there for just a second, because in English, that kind of sounds like Paul saying, “Hey, just want you to know you guys have an obligation. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have an obligation. You’re obligated to something.”
And if that’s what he’s saying, the only real option for what he’s talking about, having an obligation to would be the Spirit because he’s been making this consistent contrast between the flesh or sin and the Spirit. And so if he’s saying we have an obligation, it’s probably gonna be to the Spirit because he says, but it’s not to the flesh. So the only option would be the Spirit. The problem with saying we have an obligation to the Spirit is basically three problems.
Number one, he never says that. At no point in this passage or anywhere else in the Book of Romans, does he ever say we have an obligation to the Spirit. Second reason that that’s kind of a problem is because that’s kind of strange language. There’s nowhere else in the entire Bible where we’re said to have an obligation to the Spirit. The Bible says we’re empowered by the Spirit. We’re led by the Spirit. We listened to the Spirit, but it never says that we are obligated to the Spirit, just strange language.
And then third, Paul’s whole point in the section is we’re gonna see is that we’re actually motivated by something very, very different than an obligation. Obligation is in the Bible is typically a word that it’s a little bit on the negative side, and it typically means that we have to do something because somebody has a hold on us. And that’s not really what Paul’s talking about. Paul’s talking about something very different kind of motivation. Okay, so if it’s not to the Spirit, then what would he be saying? Well, I actually don’t think he’s saying we have an obligation, but not to the flesh. I think could actually, what he’s saying is we have an obligation not to the flesh.
In fact, let me give you a very literal translation of all the original Greek words in their proper order. What he says literally is this, ”Therefore, brothers and sisters an obligation we have not.” It’s a weird place. It’s in a strange place for the Greek language. But when sometimes when you put a word in a strange place, the point is to give it a really strong emphasis. And so what he’s basically saying is, “Therefore, brothers, sisters, we have an obligation not to the flesh or to sin, to live according to it.”
His whole point is that way of living is done. That way of life is over. The resurrection power of the Spirit has brought us to a completely new kind of life, and with it, a totally new motivation. It’s not a based on obligation. What he’s really saying is this, for the followers of Jesus, for the followers of Jesus, sin is an option, not an obligation. Are you with me?
He is saying sin is an option. We can still choose it. We often do still choose it, but we don’t have to. See, apart from faith in Jesus sin is an obligation. We’re under the control of sin. We’re obligated to it. And that doesn’t mean that people who aren’t followers of Jesus, all they ever do is sin in the worst possible ways and there’s nothing ever good that they ever do at all. And that’s not that. It’s just that apart from faith in Jesus, we can never get escape velocity from sin.
There’s a gravity to, it is always gonna keep us circling it. We’re always gonna ultimately come back to sin because we’re obligated to we’re enslaved to it. But Paul says, as followers of Jesus with the resurrection power of the Spirit in our lives, sin isn’t an obligation anymore. It’s an option, but it’s not an obligation.
Now, unfortunately it is an option that we still choose as followers of Jesus. Let’s just be honest with each other, wherever you are. How many of us, let’s be really savory in the last year have chosen the sin option? Can we be honest with each other? Okay. We won’t ask about today. Okay. We’ll just go back a year. Okay. Yeah, we still choose the sin option outfits. If it’s an option, not an obligation, then why do we do it?
Well, I think there’s basically four reasons why Christians still choose the sin option. Number one is suddenly we choose it because we’re uninformed. Especially if you’re a new follower of Jesus, sometimes new followers of Jesus are doing something that they later find out is sin and they just didn’t know that it was sin. Up to that point, they didn’t know that that was something that God didn’t want to be part of our lives. And so sometimes we can be uninformed and choose the sin option.
Second reason is that we have bad habits. Sometimes we have sinful habits and those habits are so deep in our lives. It’s like they’ve cut ruts in the road, you know, and we can try really hard to get our car up out of the ruts, get the tires out of them. But if we’re not really careful, they’re gonna fall back into those ruts and just kind of take us in that direction because how deeply ingrained those habits are. So that’s another reason we sometimes choose the sin option.
A third reason we sometimes choose the sin options because we’re weak, because we’re simply not strong enough to consistently resist the temptation to sin. And sometimes that happens for very mundane reasons. I’m gonna be honest, for the last several years, going back seven or eight years, I’ve struggled with sleep. And so I sometimes have these periods where I’ll have three or four days without really good sleep. And you know what happens when I don’t sleepy? I get holy. It’s amazing. And when I get sleepy, I just get so much more like Jesus. It’s awesome. No, no, no. That’s not true. When I don’t get enough sleep, I get grumpy. When I get don’t get enough sleep, I get grouchy. I get un-Jesus like actually is what happened. I snap at my wife and my kids. I lose my temper really easily. And that’s because I’m weak. It’s a physical weakness, but it’s really, it’s a weakness. But the important thing is it’s still a choice I’m making. I’m not required to be grumpy. And when I realize I’m being grumpy, I don’t get to say to my wife, “Hey, sorry about that grumpiness, but I didn’t really have a choice. Well, no, I didn’t. I didn’t go off to sleep tonight. So, you know, right? I’m off the hook.”
Now, it’s still an option. It’s an option I chose because of weakness, a physical weakness, but sometimes we can also have spiritual weakness. We can just get worn down by temptation sometimes. We’re not strong enough to resist it, so we ended up giving into it. But the point is we still gave into it. We still made the choice. It’s an option, not an obligation.
Fourth reason I think sometimes as Christians, we still choose the sin option is because we’re listening to the wrong voices. As we saw last week, what we listened to who determines what we long for. And then we’re led by our longings. More than rational thought or careful reflection or weighing the options, we’re actually led by what we long for, which comes ultimately from what we listened to. And so if we’re listening to the wrong voices, we might find ourselves choosing the sin option far more often than we otherwise would have, okay?
So there are four different reasons why we might choose the sin option. But the important thing to realize is that we’re choosing it. We’re not obligated to it. It’s an option for us, but we’re choosing that option. Now, that’s good news and it’s bad news, okay? That’s good news. It’s bad news. The bad news of that, the fact that it’s an option is that we don’t have any real excuses for it.
Well, we’ve lost some excuses. When you said yes to Jesus, you lost a couple of excuses. See, apart from Jesus, you had an excuse. You could go, “Well, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have done that, but you know what to err is human, right?” Or, you know, “Well, yeah, I did that, but I’m only human, right?” And so that’s kinda what it means to be human. And apart from Jesus, it kind of is there’s an obligation to sin. The moment you say yes to Jesus, you’ve lost those excuses. You can’t say I had to do that. I didn’t really have a choice. That’s just who we are. It’s just who I am. No, no, no. No, that was an option. And you chose it. That’s the bad news. We got to own up to that.
The good news is, the good news is that because of the resurrection power of the Spirit in our lives, we can actually start to choose sin less option. We can say no to the sin option a lot more often. Look what Paul says next. He says, “For, if you live, according to the flesh, you will die.” If you live according to sin, you will die. Because that’s all that sin has to offer is a life apart from God. And there is no life in that. ”But if by the Spirit you put to death, the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” If by the Spirit of, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you put to death, the misdeeds of the body. And misdeeds of the body, of course, this would be a synonym for sin.
You see what he says? He says, if by the Spirit you put to death sin. Now I don’t believe that he’s saying, and I don’t believe that in any point in this life, before we get to heaven, we’re gonna completely stop choosing the sin option. I don’t think we’re gonna become completely sinless at any point, this side of heaven. But what Paul is saying is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we live by the Spirit, we choose the sin option less and less. Do you hear me? He’s saying this is a work of the Spirit in your life. He will enable you to choose the sin option less and less to actually put to death the power and the voice of sin in your life. And because of that, to begin to experience more of the life that’s coming right now. It’s one of the things the Holy Spirit is doing. That’s a powerful promise, right?
So then the question becomes well, okay. How does he do that? How does the Spirit enable me to put the needs of the body to put sin to death? How does the Spirit enable me to say no to sin more often, choose the sin option less? And it’s interesting. He could have said so many things. He could have talked about how the Spirit informs us, how the Spirit convicts us of those things that are sin, so where we’re ignorant or uninformed, he helps us know, okay, that’s not something God wants in your life. He didn’t talk about that.
He could have talked about how the Spirit breaks bad habits and builds new ones, gives us the power to get rid of the old ways of doing things and to build whole new habits for things. He could talk about that, but he doesn’t. He could talk about that the Spirit, you know, he makes us stronger where we’re weak, that he brings strength into those parts of us, where we’re weak and liable to give into temptation. But he didn’t talk about that.
He could talk about how the Spirit is a new voice to listen to that shapes our longings that were led by that lead us to much better places. All those are the things that the Spirit does, we find another place in Scripture, all four of those things, the Spirit does, but that’s not what Paul talks about. Paul doesn’t choose to talk about any of those things the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Instead this is what he says the Holy Spirit does, this is what he focuses on. He says, ”For those who are led by the Spirit of God, are the children of God.” The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again, rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship or daughtership.”
Listen to that again. Again, he doesn’t focus on any particular thing the Holy Spirit does that he could talk about, you know, informing us or strengthening us or giving us a new voice to listen, to breaking bad habits, building new ones. No. He says, no, what the Spirit does is he brings about a new identity. That’s what he chooses to focus on. He says, those were led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves under obligation so that you live in fear again. Rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. That’s what he focuses on. He says, this is what the Spirit does that allows you to begin to experience the new life that God has for you more than anything else. And that is the Holy Spirit affects a fundamental change in your identity. He takes you from being slaves to sin, to being children of God.
This is what he focuses on. This is what the Holy Spirit does in your life. He makes you children of God. He brings about your adoption as sons and daughters of the King. He says, so that you’re not slaves, right? He says he does not make you slaves. In other words, “Hey, listen, don’t make the mistake of thinking that before you were slaves to sin, but then you said yes to Jesus and now you’re slaves to God.” He says, “No, no, no. That’s not the right language.” He says he doesn’t make you slaves again. He says you went from being slaves to being what children.
You weren’t brought under the ownership of a new master, a nicer master. Let’s face it being a slave of God would be much better than being a slave of sin, right? Being a slave of God would be a way better slavery. I love in the Psalms. One of my favorite lines in the Psalms is better is one day in your courts, God than 1,000 elsewhere. I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God. That’s a kind of slave. I’d rather be a slave in the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
So, hey, being a slave of God would actually be a dramatic, a massive improvement over being a slave of sin. But he says, no, that’s not the way to think about it. You’re not a slave of God. You were a slave of sin, but you’re not a slave of God. Now, you’re a child of God. You’re a son or a daughter of God and that’s way better. That’s as much better than being a slave of God as being a slave of sin.
It’s infinitely, you’re a child and he says too, he says, so that you live in fear again. He has a made you slave so that you live in fear again. Because the reality is that that fear is the primary motivator for a slave. Fear is what motivates a slave to make sure that they don’t break the master’s rules or, you know, fall short of the master’s expectations or somehow get on the master’s bad side. Fear is what motivates a slave, but fear is not what motivates a child. At least it shouldn’t be. For a child, the motivation is something other than fear.
So he says, don’t bring your fear-based thinking from the old way of living to your new way of living. Don’t think about it. And what he’s really saying and this is so powerful is, “Hey, just so you know, fear isn’t in the Spirit’s toolbox.” Fear isn’t in the Spirit’s toolbox. Fear is not one of the things the Spirit uses in your life to make you into the man or the woman that God designed you to be. Fear is not one of his instruments. Fear is not one of his tools. It’s not one of his resources.
In fact, let me just say this. If what you’re feeling is fear, then what you’re listening to is not the Spirit. If you think in your life, where am I feeling fear, you just need to understand that is a red flag that in that area of your life, you are not listening to the Spirit. Because if you’re listening, if you’re feeling fear, you’re not listening to Spirit. It’s not one of his instruments. Why is that? Why isn’t the Spirit interested in using fear? Because the reality is, fear is a really powerful motivator, isn’t it?
And let’s be honest. How many of us have ever done something we didn’t really wanna do, but we were afraid of the consequences of not doing it so we did it anyway? How many of us have ever done that? Of course, fear is a very powerful motivator. So why wouldn’t the Spirit use fear? And the answer is because fear might be a good way to force compliance, but it’s a bad way to involve someone in the mission. Fear might be a good way to force compliance with the rules, to follow all the rules, but it’s a bad way to involve them in the mission. And then the reality is that God isn’t looking for a bunch of people who just follow the rules.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying he’s looking for a bunch of people who break the rules. That’s not my point, okay? But his ultimate goal isn’t, “Oh, you follow all the rules. Good. That’s all I was looking for.” No, that’s not the point at all. If God had wanted people who just follow the rules, he could have made it a whole lot easier. He could’ve made us all robots, right, who don’t have any choice, but to follow the rules. He could have easily done that. He chose not to do that, and that’s a clue that we weren’t made just because God was looking for a bunch of people who follow the rules.
God was looking for a bunch of people who were on mission with him. When we go back to the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, we’re told that we were made in the image of God or as the image of God, which means that we represent God and we extend his influence in creation. And that’s what that means to be human is to be on the same team, to be part of the family business, to be in not only a relationship with God, but on mission with him. It’s why at Mission Hills, we say that our whole purpose is to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission because that’s what God ultimately made us where. He made us for mission.
And while fear might be a good way to get people to comply with all the rules, it’s a terrible way to involve them in the mission. Like when my kids were little, we made a decision and we did the same thing that I think probably a lot of you who are parents did. And that is that, you know, when somebody gave something to our kids or did something for our kids and they didn’t say anything, we would lean down and go, ”Hey, what do you say?” And they would go, ”Oh, thank you.” Okay. We wanted them to say thank you. But here’s the interesting thing, what we didn’t do and probably a lot of you didn’t do is we didn’t make a rule, you must say thank you every time. And we didn’t back up that rule with a penalty that they were afraid of facing.
Like we could have easily said and if you don’t say thank you, whatever they gave you were taken away. And they probably would have complied with the rule because of they’re afraid of the consequence, but we didn’t do that. And you probably didn’t do that because at the end of the day, I didn’t want kids who said thank you just because that was the rule and they complied with it out of fear. What I wanted was kids who were actually grateful.
See, Coletta and I decided early on in a marriage, we wanted one of the things that defined us, as a family was that we would be a family of gratitude. We’d be known by gratitude. And then when our family doubled and we had two more people in the family, we wanted them to be part of that sort of that mission. And so we led them, we encouraged them, we modeled for them, but we didn’t make a rule and enforce it by fear because we wanted them to become grateful people. And by the grace of God, that resulted in two adult girls who are actually incredibly grateful people. Like that was a parenting win for us.
Just so you know, we do not have an unblemished track record as parents, okay? Like we tried to fix all the things we were like, okay, all the things that we, our parents screwed us up, we’re not gonna do that to our kids. And we didn’t, we invented new ways to screw them up, okay? So we’re not perfect parents at all, but maybe like many of you, in this one, I think we actually saw the win, but it was a win of mission. There they’re part of the mission of being a family of gratitude, not just a group of kids who are afraid of what happens if you don’t comply with the rules. And that’s really what Paul’s talking about here.
Yeah, fear might be a good way to enforce compliance, but it’s not a good way to involve people in the mission. And that’s really what God’s looking for. And that’s why the Spirit doesn’t use fear. It’s not part of his toolkit. And really we could say it this way. God didn’t give us the Spirit to keep us in line, but to bring us into the family. You’re with me, church? God didn’t give us the Spirit to keep us in line and keep us following the rules. He gave us the Spirit to bring us into the family, to involve us in the family business, the family mission.
That’s an incredible change in identity, but it’s also an incredible change in motivation, isn’t it? It’s a much better motivation. And he says this. He says, ”And by him,” and by the Spirit, ”We cry, Abba, Father.” He says, ”By the Holy Spirit, we cry out Abba, Father,” which is kind of an interesting, our little phrase there. Abba, Father in the original, you may know that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was originally in the New Testament written in Greek. But in this particular case, we actually have a Greek and an Aramaic word. Abba is an Aramaic word, and there’s a Greek word for father that gets translated into father.
So you’ve got an Aramaic and a Greek, and both of them were actually terms for father. He literally says, in some sense, we cry father, father, but it’s in two different languages. Why? Well, probably because the Greek word for father is a little bit formal. It’s a little bit technical. The Aramaic word for father is a warm word. It’s an affectionate word. I’ve actually heard people say that it probably should be translated as daddy. And then that might be true. I think that might lose some of the original sense of the word, because there is still a reverence there. It’s not overly familiar, but it is warm. It is affectionate.
And what Paul’s saying here is that the Holy Spirit actually calls us to see God, it enables us to see God with affection, not fear. Affection, really, that’s what it’s about. And notice, he also says this. He says, ”And by him, we cry.” ”We cry Abba, Father.” And that Greek word for cry there, it’s an emotional word. It’s actually always a word that’s used for an emotional outburst, something that’s welling up in us, then that it bursts out of us. It’s a deeply emotional word. So it’s not just that this is the language that we use. It’s actually something that we feel.
And so what he’s ultimately saying is that the Spirit brings us to see God with affection, not fear. The Spirit moves us. The Spirit fills the wind of our sails and transforms us from the inside out. Not primarily by what he says to us in terms of new information, not primarily by strength that he gives us to break old habits, not primarily by a new voice that we can listen to. No, the Spirit’s main work in our lives, its foundational fundamental work is to help us see our Father with affection rather than fear.
And then he says this, it says, ”And the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit, that we are God’s children.” Listen to that, the Spirit himself testifies. That’s a powerful word. It’s actually an emotional word. I love when I get to speak at churches where people shout things during messages. I love that. Yeah. Awesome. I remember years ago I was speaking at a church and I was kind of getting, going on something and people were kind of feeling it and somebody stood in the back and they went testify and I was like, yes. And that’s the word that Paul’s using. It’s like, bring it home, man. But like, man, get it in there because it’s not just, “Oh, here’s some information it’s now no this is a heart thing.” Like man, man speak this in a way that that moves people. It’s an emotional word.
And what he says here is that the Spirit himself testifies, brings it home to us what? That we are God’s children. The Spirit testifies in an emotional way that we are God’s should. What he’s essentially saying is this it’s a two-way street. This affection business, it’s two-way. The Spirit stirs our affection for God and testifies of God’s affection for us. Did you know that God is affectionate towards you? I heard an amen. I’m glad there was one.
I didn’t hear a broad swipe. And then probably the reason I didn’t get a lot of amens there is because, honestly, if you’re a little bit like me, that feels a little bit uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because like me, you grew up in a home where God was, he was powerful. He was Holy. And, yes, he was loving, but there was a sense of distance there. And that might’ve even been fueled by the fact that you grew up like I did in churches, where fear was a big part of the motivator. And it tends to keep God at a little bit of a distance. And so the idea that God is affectionate towards me, it’s a little bit of a struggle. My guess is that some of you feel that.
Several years ago, I was talking to a young man, he had kind of a troubled relationship with his parents. And as we talked, it became clear that he basically spent his whole life feeling like he was kind of under a performance standard and that if he didn’t perform to their standards, then there was a withholding of affection. In fact, he kind of felt like, you know, unless I get the right grades, unless I have the right kind of friends and unless I’m doing all the right things, then there’s a distance in our relationship.
And he said something to me and I’ll never forget it. He said something very powerful. He said, “Hey, I always knew my parents loved me. I’m just not sure they really liked me.” “I always knew they love me, but I never really felt like they liked me.” And he said that, and I had this light bulb moment because in one sense, you know, I’m really grateful, I never had that with my parents. I think my parents loved me and I also felt like they liked me. But he said that and I thought that’s exactly how I think God thinks of me. That’s exactly what I think is true of God. I think God loves me, but I’m not at all sure God likes me.
See, I have always believed God loves me. I mean, I know the verses, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I’ve always believed that, but on some level, I think I always felt like God kind of has to love me. It’s almost like he doesn’t have an option. I mean, I remember the Bible saying that God is love, so of course he loves me. He didn’t really have any choice. And that whole God so loved the world, that feels kind of big and generic, but it’s not personal. It’s not intimate. It’s not affectionate.
So yeah, I believe that God loved me, but the idea that God liked me, honestly, if I’m gonna be completely honest, I always felt like God probably loved me a little reluctantly. Like I was kind of hard to love because of all the ways that I fall short, of all the ways that I’m sure I disappointed him, all the ways that I still hadn’t overcome the power of sin in my life. I always felt like God probably loved me a little reluctantly. And if God loved me, reluctantly, then liking me was out of the question. And it was in that season of my life that I began to read the gospels again.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, those stories of the life of Jesus. And as I read those stories in that season in my life, I noticed something I’d never really noticed before. And that is that Jesus seemed to like people and not just the good ones. Not just the righteous. And in fact, honestly, if God, or if Jesus disliked anybody, he seemed to dislike religious people, which made me a little nervous. But he seemed to like sinners. He seemed to like people who are far from God and he seemed to genuinely have some affection for them.
It’s like when he called them to come follow him, it wasn’t just so they could get right by him. It was so that they could be right by him. So they could be with him because he really seemed to wanna be with them. He had an affection for them, a warmth for them. And honestly, that’s what won them over. They were won over, not by the rules. They’re won over, not by fear. They’re won over by affection. And I saw that consistently in the life of Jesus. And then I ran across this description of Jesus by one of those followers who was won over by his affection for them. He said, this, “The Son, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God.” He said, “We don’t see God, but we see his Son, Jesus. And in Jesus, we see everything that’s true of God that we can’t see.”
Then I came across this description of Jesus by one of those followers who had been won over by his affection for them. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Jesus is the exact representation of the very being of God, that what we see in Jesus is exactly what God is. That what we see Jesus do is exactly what God does. And what we see Jesus feel for people is exactly what God feels for people. And when I saw Jesus feel for people was an affection. And it occurred to me, this was transformational in my life. And it may be transformational in yours. You may have never heard of this, but you need to hear it today because this is what Paul’s getting us to understand. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is the fundamental concern of the Spirit as he speaks to you. This is the truth that he speaks to you. Please hear it. God likes you. He likes you.
And again, that might be hard for you to believe it may not be the environment you grew up in. You grew up in an environment dominated by fear and the idea that God loves you is hard enough. The idea that God likes you seems inconceivable, but that’s what Paul is saying. The Spirit stirs our affection for our Father, but he also testifies to our Father’s affection for us, that we are his sons and daughters, his beloved sons and daughters, his be-liked sons and daughters. God likes you. Listen to me, if you’re struggling, God likes you. If your marriage is a mess and you know that it’s at least a little bit your fault, and it’s always at least a little bit your fault, God likes you.
If you had a blow up with your kids on the way to church today, God still likes you. If one of your kids has left the family and there’s a brokenness in that relationship, and you’re wondering, you know, “What did I do to cause that?” You know what, regardless of anything you might have done to cause that God still likes you. If your finances are a mess because you’re drowning in debt because of unwise decisions, God still likes you.
If things at work are a mess because of decisions you’ve made that you shouldn’t have made, God still likes you. The sanctity of life weakens, so listen, if you’re reeling from the announcement of an unplanned pregnancy, outside of God’s intentions for you, God still likes you. If abortion is part of your story, God still likes you. Whatever it is that you’re struggling with, if you’re falling back into addiction, just this past week, God still likes you. If you have a sin that you just can’t seem to get over, God still likes you.
And please understand, I’m not saying that sin doesn’t matter. Of course, it matters. Jesus didn’t die for something that doesn’t matter. Of course, our sin matters, but he did die for it. He did pay it off. He did cancel the debt that we owe because of it. And why did he do that? Because he likes you. Listen, this is not a truth that you can afford to let slip away. This is transformational truth. It is simple, but it is slippery. There’s so many voices that will constantly speak condemnation and judgment and fear, but that’s not in the Spirit’s toolkit.
What the Spirit speaks to you is this truth, God likes you. So listen, here’s what I want you to do. Get your phones out. And I want you to put a reminder on your phones that it’s gonna start tomorrow. You start whatever time but set it every day for the foreseeable future and at 8:00 a.m. or whatever to set that reminder is gonna come up and is gonna, “Hey, just remember God likes you.” When you’re doubting it, God likes you. When you’re having a hard time, believing could be true, God likes you.
And I’m also gonna give you a prayer. Maybe you pray this prayer when you see that reminder, this is the prayer. Holy Spirit, help me feel my Father’s affection for me. And you might go, well, “Wait, can we pray to the Holy Spirit?” Yeah, Holy Spirit is God. Of course we can pray to Holy Spirit, especially when we’re doing things that God’s Word tells us. The Holy Spirit is all about. And what Paul tells us here is the Holy Spirit is all about stirring our affection for our Father, but also testifying to our Father’s affection for us speaking to us the truth, the transformational truth that God likes you. Would you pray with me?
God, it almost feels too simple to land on and that I recognize. And I, and I know there are people listening to this who feel this. It is a powerful truth that you would have affection for us that is incredible. And, Lord, I see in that a fresh wind from your Spirit to begin transforming, to begin living in a different way. Not because we’re afraid, but because we’re the recipients of affection. We love you. We like you. And we’re blown away that you love us back, that you like us back. And in fact, it is your affection for us that allowed us to come to this place that we can cry out, Abba, Father. Lord, help us to grab a hold of this truth, sink it deep into our lives, water it by your Spirit and bring fruit out that will not come from any other source.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you join me right now? Would you begin praying for the people that are listening to this message that don’t know God as a Father, that don’t have a relationship with their Father based on faith in what Jesus has done for them. And if that’s you, I just need to speak to you for a moment. It might be that this is the first time that you ever heard that God loves you. And even beyond that, that he likes you, that he has a deep and abiding a passionate affection for you, so passionate that he sent his own Son to pay the price of your sins so that you could be with him again. That’s how much he loves you. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of all the wrong that you’ve done. Three days later, the Spirit lifted him from the dead to prove that he had accomplished what he set out to accomplish. And that same Spirit can be yours. That same resurrection power can be yours, both for eternal life, but also even right here, right now, speaking this incredible truth that God not only loves you, he likes you.
And it all comes from faith, by putting our trust in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never done that, you can do it right now. I’m gonna encourage you to do that. If you’re ready, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God. Just close your eyes, bow your head, wherever you are. And just to have a conversation with God. You can do it in your heart. You can do it out loud. It doesn’t. He knows everything, but you’re gonna say something like this to him. Just say it after me.
God, I know I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying to set me free. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me salvation, forgiveness, a new life, a relationship with a Father who loves me and likes me. I’m ready to receive all that, Lord. So, Jesus, I’m making the choice. I’m choosing to put my trust in you and what you did for me. I’m choosing to follow you from here on out. Amen.