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Heirs of the Father June 20, 2010

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Galatians 3:23-4:7

Proper 7

June 20, 2010


Goal: That the hearers more faithfully believe that they are God’s children and heirs.


Happy Father’s Day!  Alright all you kids out there, you can’t say no one reminded you.  Did you get him a card?  Or maybe you made some special plans for today?  Whatever it may be, today is a day that we take to go over the top in letting our dads know just how much we care for them.  We all have fathers.  We also have another Father, our Father who art in heaven.  God went out of His way to make sure that we know He is our Father and we are His children.

The Bible gives us a variety of ways to see what this relationship looks like.  We’ll examine some of those facets, like the faces of a beautiful diamond.  The first one we’ll look at is how God is our Father despite our messing up.  Jesus once told a story about the relationship between a father and his son.  There was a man who had two sons.  Now, his youngest son thought he was ready to live life on his own.  He didn’t want to live at home and work for his father anymore.  So, he asked his father for his share of the family inheritance.  The father complied and gave his son what he wanted.  He cared for his son despite what that might mean for the family business and household.

The son ventured out, going on a spectacular journey to far away lands.  He lived in splendor enjoying whatever he pleased.  But, it didn’t take long before he realized that he had spent all of his inheritance.  He took whatever job he could find and wound up a pig-feeder, even though it went against the laws of his Jewish culture.  He was now so poor that even the food he gave to the pigs looked appetizing.

One day it dawned on him that even his old father treated servants better than this.  He thought to himself, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”  Certainly, to be a servant in that household would be better than his current lifestyle.  So the young man returned to the place where he had grown up, seeking to become the master’s servant.

Before we get to the end of the story, imagine for a moment what that son was feeling.  He had grown tired of living at home.  He wanted to be on his own; he wanted to do things his own way.  So he did.  It may have taken awhile, but he eventually realized how badly he messed up.  He knew that he had severed his family ties.  He knew that his dad had surely disowned him by now.

Often times, we can share in what that son went through.  Those days of being a cute and cuddly baby didn’t last forever.  We grew up, and we did some bad things, things which surely upset our fathers, our parents.  The little boy who breaks a window or a vase because he was playing ball in the house.  The little girl who turned some important papers into snowflakes.  Oh, did the parents get upset.  In moments like those, there is a feeling of shame.  And shame sometimes creates the feeling in us that there’s no way our parents will forgive us for that one.  They’ll disown me for sure this time.

And as Christians, we’re not immune to this feeling either.  We still wrong our heavenly Father.  He has told us how we are to live, and yet still struggle.  We don’t always value the Ten Commandments.  We don’t always trust God.  We worry about the little things in life.  We hardly notice people who are in need.  We, too, can feel as though we’ve shamed our Father into disowning us.

Talk about depressing…it’s a good thing Jesus’ story doesn’t end there!  So the young man returned to the place where he had grown up, seeking to become the master’s servant.  But as he approached the house, his father ran out to greet him.  Despite the ramblings of the son asking for forgiveness and to be taken into the house as a servant, the father wanted none of it.  He commanded his servants to bring out the best robe for his son, a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet.  He reclaimed his son who had left him.  He clothed him.  And then they feasted a great feast.  They killed the fatted calf and they enjoyed it with music and dancing.

The father took his son back into the family.  He didn’t disown him.  Parents forgive.  Sure, they probably grounded us when we were kids and scolded us now as adults, but rather than throwing us out on the streets or disowning us like we may have deserved, they forgave us.  They took us back because they loved us.

That’s how our relationship with God our Father works also.  He forgives us.  He has every right to disown us, but instead He takes us back because He loves us.

Scripture looks at this sparkling diamond in another way.  God blessed a man named Abraham.  He told Abraham that He would give him a son, and through that son Abraham would become the father of countless offspring.  He also promised him a vast amount of land.  He promised that He would be their God and they would be His children.  Now if only they would have been obedient little children.  But they were far from it.

The Old Testament is filled with examples of Abraham’s descendants, the nation ofIsrael, messing up.  Their sins, their longing for false gods and their seemingly endless breaking of God’s Ten Commandments, led to slavery inEgypt.  It led to oppression by foreign armies.  It led to being taken out of the promised land and to being enslaved by the Babylonians and Assyrians.

They were God’s children, but they messed it up.  They sinned against their Father.  They did things that were shameful before Him.  Certainly He would have disowned them.  And, He could’ve disowned them forever and our story could’ve ended there.  But it doesn’t.  God the Father still viewed them as His children.

For His children’s sake, God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ into this world.  Jesus kept the commands that God had given and fulfilled all the regulations of the covenant that His Father had made with Abraham.  God knew thatIsrael’s sins, our sins, had to be forgiven.  For that very purpose, Jesus lived His perfect life and yet still encountered death.  Christ offered Himself up on the cross as a sacrifice.  He didn’t have to die; He had done nothing wrong.  But, Jesus knew otherwise.  For whenever a covenant was broken, blood had to be shed.  Christ gave that blood; Christ restored that covenant.  In Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins.  Jesus’ sacrifice and death restore us and our relationship with God the Father.  We are still His children and He is still our Father.

Paul gives us another way to look at this spiritual diamond.  He likes to use the language of adoption when describing our relationship with God.  Adoption is something that we’re familiar with.  It’s a part of the American legal system.  When the parents go to adopt a little girl, they tell her: “You are our daughter, and we are your parents.”  Most of the time, the child doesn’t make this happen.  An infant or toddler isn’t able to pick a new set of parents.  Instead, they are given a chance to get out of the bad situation they’re in and become part of a family, a family that wants them.  The new parents declare the child to be theirs.

God does that for us.  At our baptism, He declares Himself to be our Father; He declares us His children.  Paul tells us that through baptism and faith we are buried together with Christ and we will also be raised up with Him.  Jesus fulfilled the promise and together with Him we lay claim to that promise through faith.  We are adopted into the family.

Paul doesn’t limit himself to adoption.  He examines yet another facet of our relationship with God through the example of guardians and heirs.  This is a little tricky to understand for us today, because we just don’t do this in our society.  In Biblical times, when a child was growing up, the parents would often entrust the primary raising of the child to a guardian.  They had their own affairs to take of and needed someone to watch after their children and bring them up well.  The guardian was charged with this task.  They made sure the child made it to school, learned the laws of the land, and grew up with the knowledge of how to manage the family business.  At a certain age, the child would have a coming-of-age ceremony.  He would no longer be considered a child, but an adult.  And he would no longer be under his guardian.  Some cultures today have similar rites.  The Jewish tradition of a bar-mitzvah is a remainder of that old practice.

Paul tells us that God’s law was our guardian.  Under it, we learned how to behave, how to act, and how to love.  We learned what it means to be God’s children.  However, he also proclaims to us that we are no longer under a guardian.  For “he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.”  When was that date?  It was fulfilled in Jesus.

When John baptized Jesus in theJordan River, the heavens opened and God declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  God sent the Holy Spirit upon His Son.  And Jesus began His ministry on earth.  That ministry led Jesus to the cross; and upon that cross, we come of age.  We are God’s children; we are His heirs.

Paul reminds us that we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

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.”  When God says it, it sticks.  We are God’s children because He has declared us so, and thus we are also His heirs.  We share in the inheritance of the Father with Jesus.

When we think of inheritance today, what do we see?  Typically, we start talking about wills and who will inherit what.  That inheritance is presided over by a lawyer, who makes sure that each person gets what the deceased desired them to have.  The person has to die in order for their things to be passed on to the heirs.  There is a slight difference between that picture of inheritance and that which we receive from God.  Paul mentions that the heir is already master of all things, just waiting for the time set by the father.  And, that time came in Christ.  Jesus died on the cross to bring about our inheritance.  We share with Him in His resurrection in all of God’s glory.  We don’t have to wait for God to die before we get our inheritance.  We already have the inheritance, the promise of everlasting life, and we will live with Him forever.

There are many facets on a diamond, and God uses Scripture to show us so many different ways in which we are related to Him.  Thanks to what Jesus did for us, we are no longer under the law as our guardian.  We are now children of God.  He loves us and chose to make us His own.  He made us His children and heirs through Him.  We don’t have to worry that God will disown us.  He is forever our Father.  So, on this Father’s Day weekend, we have the pleasure of celebrating both with our fathers on earth, and with our Father in heaven.  But that isn’t just limited to today; we have this joy forever.  Happy Father’s Day!