Today’s passage: Romans 8:14-25
In our Sunday service this weekend, we’ll be looking at some more at the incredible 8th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. A fortnight ago, looking at the first half of the chapter, we discovered the incredibly good news that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus died and took our punishment, our condemnation, for us. If we belong to Jesus, we don’t have to fear God’s wrath any longer. What’s more, God has given us His own Spirit, who lives in us.
At present, as all Christians know, we have two natures at war within us. There’s our old sinful nature, which is hostile to God and wants nothing to do with Him. And then there’s the Spirit of God, whispering to us and giving us new desires and transforming us as he remakes us to be like Jesus. As those who have been set free from condemnation, we have no obligation, says Paul, to listen to our old sinful nature. To obey our old self leads us away from God and back into death and condemnation. But if, by the Spirit’s power, we put to death the sin that still lives in our bodies – our habits of thinking and action, our selfish and prideful perception of the world and our place in it – then, says Paul, we will live.
This side of eternity, these two forces are constantly at war within us (see Galatians 5:16ff). But, say verses 12-14, those who are led by the Spirit – who follow after Him – are the children of God.
It’s so important for us to understand who we really are. Satan loves to niggle away at us on this. He loves to tempt us to despair. He loves to leave us wondering if we really do belong to Jesus or not. Paul says that if you have the Spirit of God – the Spirit of Christ – then you belong to Jesus. Jesus also makes clear that all that God requires of us is to put our trust in Him. The Spirit is God’s gift to all those who put their trust in Jesus. He is God with us; the means by which Jesus lives in and through His people. He is the One who leads us. He is the One who enacts our adoption as children of God. He is the One who, in living within us, gives us glimpses – a foretaste – of the glory that we will one day share when Jesus returns and God’s adoptive children are finally and fully revealed to the universe.
The Spirit of God, given to and leading those who rely on Jesus to save them from sin and death, is the living proof that we are God’s children. The Spirit of God is the answer to Paul’s agony in Romans 7, where he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do what he does want to do. And yet something of that quandary still exists. We still have to choose to let the Spirit guide us. Although we have been adopted by God, we are still waiting for God to give us our full rights as His children. We are still waiting for the Day when we will share in the glory of God. For now, until that day, we share in the sufferings of Christ.
When we think of the sufferings of Christ, we might tend to think of the terrible things that were done to Jesus: His being betrayed, mocked, tortured and executed. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t expect any better treatment than that which our Lord received. But, given the context in which Paul speaks of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings, is it possible that he has something more in mind? He has been speaking about living in the freedom of the Spirit – with a sinful nature that keeps trying to lay claim to our obedience. And he goes on to speak about the groaning of creation, frustrated by God’s curse and subject to death and decay. God’s children, as we know for ourselves, also groan; longing for our full adoption rights, including our new resurrection bodies. God’s own Spirit groans for us as well. There is a kind of suffering that stems from knowing that things aren’t what they are going to be; from knowing that things are not yet right.
This world is not yet what it is meant to be. We are not yet what we will be. There is a tension now between the victory won by Jesus and the presence of sin in our lives and this world. And so we groan. But not without hope. We groan because we have hope for the future. Sin doesn’t have the final word. Death doesn’t have the final word. Decay doesn’t have the final word. Our Father has the last word. Jesus said it: It is finished.
One day, very soon, Jesus will return. Creation will be set right. Our hope in Jesus will be vindicated. We will receive our full rights as sons of God. Sin and it’s curse will be no more. We will be made anew to be like Jesus. We will see the incredible glory of God… and share in it!
Groaning is never fun. Suffering is never fun. But we groan because we hope for that day. May God give us hearts that groan for Him! May he help us wait patiently and with endurance. That’s not always easy to do… but God – our Father – really is so worth it.