Uncommon Love, pt 1

https://ebcstanton.org

Romans 8:14-17

BIG IDEA: Christians have a distinguishing mark.

INTRODUCTION

What is the distinguishing mark of a Christian? How do you know if someone is a Christian?

  • Is it moniker? In other words, is it a name you call yourself? There are increasing numbers of people who will call themselves “Christian” to distinguish themselves from other religions, such as “Jew,” or “Muslim,” or “Buddhist.” But Christianity is more than just a name.
  • Is it a code of ethics? Is Christianity an ethical code that you follow? For example, if you follow the “Golden Rule,” (“do unto others as you’d have them do unto you…”) does that make you a Christian. There are many people with solid ethical standards who are not Christians. Christianity is more than a code of ethics.
  • Is it morality? Is Christianity a set of rules that you follow? The reality is there are many moral people who pay their taxes, take care of their families, are kind to others, don’t murder/steal/lie, and don’t drink and drive who do not know Christ. 

The distinguishing mark of the true believer in Jesus Christ is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the one who calls themself a Christian. The Holy Spirit is the sign that you have been adopted, by love, into God’s family. If the Spirit isn’t present, there is no salvation. If the Spirit is present, there is an assurance that you have become an adopted son or daughter of God.

Today we begin a series called “Uncommon Love: God’s Love for Us.” We will be spending the next few weeks especially focused on Romans 8 which gives a wonderful explanation of the nature, extent, and security that is found in God’s Uncommon Love for you. We are calling this series “Uncommon Love,” because the love of God is not like the love of the world. We have all been hurt by someone we love. We have all been let down by someone we love. We have all been abandoned, forsaken, forgotten, lied to, and let go by people that say that they love us. But through this study, we will find that there is another, higher, purer, and in fact a perfect expression of love in the God Who is love.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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 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 be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

EXPLANATION

The Uncommon love of God…

  1. Leads to adoption
    • The distinguishing mark of the true believer is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul says in verse 14, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” 
    • Each of us is born into a family. Some of us grow up in that family. Some of us never know that family. Others are adopted into other families. But all of us are born through the natural process of birth. As the Scriptures say, “born of flesh and water.”
    • This natural birth is also accompanied by a different kind of birth. We are “born into sin.” We are born “children of wrath.” We are “born into slavery to sin.” The far-reaching effect of Adam and Eve’s first sin impacts every human born into this world. We are born with a sinful nature that results in our rebellion against God.
    • The cost of this rebellion is death. “For the wages of sin is death.” We are born alive physically, but dead spiritually.
    • But some of us experience a second birth. Through the wooing and drawing of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Word of God, some come to realize that their rebellion has separated them from being spiritually alive. They call out to God for mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and by surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and resting solely on His gift. 
    • By this repentance, they come alive spiritually. The Scriptures call this being “born of the Spirit.” They are “born again.” This is the only way to become part of God’s family. The Scriptures again declare, “Unless a man be born again, he shall no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
    • The moment this decision is made, there are transactions that take place.
      1. Redemption: With the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the Cross, God the Father purchases you from the slave market of sin, and transfers you to the Kingdom of Light.
      2. Justification: This is the process whereby the guilty is declared innocent. God, the Judge, declares you to be innocent of all charges.
      3. Adoption: God not only gives you freedom, He grants you a spiritual family. You have a new father. You have new brothers and sisters. You become part of the family of God. “But to all that received Him, and believed in His name, He gave the right to be called sons of God.”
    • All this flows out of the Uncommon Love of God, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
    • At the moment of adoption, the new believer is granted the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the sign of your adoption into the family of God.
    • That’s while Paul says, “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…”
    • Though adopted, we are not inferior, but rather are of infinite worth. This is demonstrated by the Father giving His own most precious possessions to us! First the Son, and then the Spirit.
  2. Leads to Access…
    • As sons and daughters, we have been granted incredible privileges. It is easy to focus on the fact that though God’s Uncommon Love, the true believer is spared hell and granted heaven, there are other benefits too.
    • You have access to the Father. Romans 8:15 says, “by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” 
    • The word “Abba” here can be translated as “pappa,” or “daddy.” Because of our adoption, we have full rights and privileges as children and can approach Father God as “pappa.”
    • Martin Luther said of this word “Abba,” “It is but a little word, and yet notwithstanding it comprehends all things the mouth speaks not, but the affection of the heart speaks after this manner. Although I am oppressed with anger and terror on every side, and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from Thy presence, yet I am Thy child, and thou art my Father for Christ’s sake: I am beloved because of the Beloved.”
    • What Martin Luther is saying is that no matter what happens to you, you will not be pressed out of the Presence of God. In fact, you can come to Him as a child because He loves you as a son or daughter in the same manner that He loves His Son, Jesus Christ.
    • This access gives us several privileges…
      1. We have an identity: we are His child and He is our Father.
      2. We have an ability to intercede: we can talk to God through prayer and He can talk to us. We call to Him and like a loving Father, he answers.
      3. We have an intimate relationship: “Abba. Daddy.”
      4. We have an inheritance: Look at verse 17. “And if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Everything that Christ has in God, we have. Every possession of Christ is our. Every privilege of Christ is ours. Every promise of Christ is ours.
      5. Oh, the amazing, uncommon love of God.
  3. Leads to Assurance
    • The fact that the believer has been adopted by God, and has access to God leads to assurance.
    • The presence of the Holy Spirit is the key. Verse 15 says, “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…” When you have been adopted, you don’t need to be afraid.
      1. You are safe
        • You will not be forgotten
        • You will not be forsaken
        • Ephesians 2:13 says, “In Him (Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his name.”
        • When you have been adopted, you cannot be unadopted.
        • Many people today are worried, “can I lose my salvation.” Let me answer it this way: No. No. No. You are not saved by your works, it was solely the work of Christ. Therefore, none of your works can forfeit your salvation.
        • If you are saved, you are safe. The question should never be, “can I lose my salvation?” The question must be, “Am I saved at all?”
      2. You can be certain
        • The certainty of salvation should remove every question.
        • What will I eat? Your Father provides your daily bread.
        • What will I wear? Your Father clothes the flowers of the field and will close you too.
        • Where will I live? Your Father will provide you a pace.
        • What will I do? Your Father will take care of you so be anxious for nothing.
        • What will tomorrow hold? Your Father will take care of your tomorrow.

Application

I saw a meme the other day that essentially said, every pastor who preached a vision sermon in 2020 should resign now because none of us saw 2020 coming. That is true, but God did. But at the risk of being asked to resign at the end of 2021, let me share my vision for 2021: that the Uncommon Love of God for us would compel us to be a family defined by love. In 2021, I see a church that learns to love more.

  1. Because of God’s Uncommon Love for us, let us learn to love Him more. My vision for 2021 is that we engage in white-hot passionate worship of Jesus Christ. Because He has shown us such a manner of love, let us freely express our love for Him.
  2. Because of God’s Uncommon Love for us, let us learn to love the lost more. In 2021, I am proposing that we increase our missions budget to:
    • Support fully the work of Jenn Paris as she travels around the world
    • Support the efforts of our volunteers that have been selflessly serving the Powell County Homeless Coalition with our finances.
    • Support the volunteers feeding our teams at Powell County High School
    • Support a yet to be determined missions trip from this church to wherever God leads.
    • God loves the lost, and so must we.
  3. Because of God’s Uncommon Love for us, let us learn to love our families more. Current events have created a cataclysmic culture for our children. They need the love of God. 
    • Because of changes in staff and volunteers that are susceptible to the pandemic, we must first have a new series of volunteers. Right now, we are unable to staff our children’s ministry because of at-risk volunteers. 
    • I understand that there have been some frustrations expressed recently about lack of youth group, lack of Wednesday nights, and even that we were in the process of moving youth group to Sunday nights. Let me say this as plainly as possible: we don’t have enough volunteers right now to do what we want to do. There is no secret plan. There is no hidden agenda. There is nothing but love for our kids. I want what’s best for them, but I need your trust, support, and help.
    • Our children need our help. In the budget that I will be presenting tonight, we will also be opening a search for a new staff member to care for, guide, and nurture our children. We are proposing a team of volunteers to help me in the search. I know you are frustrated. I am frustrated. But we have worked hard to put plans in place to share the love of God with our families.
    • I covet your prayers and your financial support to make this happen. God loves our families, and so must we.
  4. Because of God’s Uncommon love for us, let us love each other more.
    • Let’s just give this year to loving each other more. Love is a risky business. It means giving your heart, knowing your heart may be broken.
    • I want to love you more than I already do. I am giving this year the special focus of expanding my love for you. I am asking you to do the same for me, and for the others in this family.
    • Some of you may have heard that Catherine and I are selling our house. And already, some of you have expressed through channels the fear that we are detaching, that we are moving on, that we are leaving the church.
    • Let me clear that up…my heart is in this church, and God has not released me from the ministry that He called me to. I do not believe the work is finished. I am optimistic that the future is as bright as the promises of God. All I can ask is that you love my family through this process.
    • We have some needs as a family. With aging parents and growing children, our needs are changing.
    • We will be changing addresses to care for the family, but we will not be changing our focus. It’s you. We love you. We love serving God with you. We want to grow closer to you and to God.
    • I do not have my resume prepared. I am not looking for a change. I do not have anyone seeking me. I have no plans, short- or long-term that do not include EBC.
    • You may never fully understand. I get it. But just know that I love you. I really do. And I am asking you to love me as I love my family.

CONCLUSION

What makes you a Christian? Love God. “If thou wilt confess with thy mouth, ‘Jesus is LORD,’ and believe in thy heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shalt be saved.”

What marks you as a Christian? It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. THe Spirit’s presence leads you to love others.

What does it mean to be a Christian? It means that you have experienced the Uncommon Love of God, and that you have chosen to love Him with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you love your neighbor as yourself!

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