You Will Sit Next to the KingErwin W. Lutzer | October 12, 2008
Selected highlights from this sermon
Salvation is much more than God forgiving our sins. It’s such a huge deal that the entire Trinity is involved. The Holy Spirit leads us, the Father adopts us, and the Son crowns us.
God wants us to grow in Christ-likeness so that we can bring many sons and daughters into glory. And part of our inheritance as children of God includes Jesus’ name, His throne, and His glory.
Let us pray.
Father, as this message will take us to the edges of our imagination, we do recognize how desperately we need Your Holy Spirit to show us the truth and to enliven us by it, and for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, may they be hungry and desirous to do so as they see the inheritance of those who believe in Him. We pray that encouragement will come powerfully and will not be interrupted either by our thoughts or events, and that Your Word would have recourse in our hearts without our hindrance by your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
The name of the woman is Bertie Adams. She died at the age of 71 in Palm Beach, Florida, on Christmas Day, 1976. According to the police and the coroner, the cause of death was malnutrition. She lived in a hovel. She was obviously living in squalor. She begged for food in the neighborhood, and when she died, indeed it was for lack of food. As they went through her house trying to find out how they could identify her and so forth, they came across two keys. The keys were actually for lock boxes in a bank. Bank number one had seven hundred shares of AT&T, which back in 1976 probably really meant something. Not only that, but in it was $200,000 in cash. In the other lock box there were no shares – just $600,000 in cash.
Bertie’s niece and nephew inherited her money. Can you imagine them getting that phone call? “We just want you to know that your Aunt Bertie died and she left you an inheritance.” “Bertie?” “Yeah, you know the woman who you didn’t want to attend any events because she never showered. Remember her? She has just left you over a million dollars to divide between yourselves.”
A friend of mine who tells this story likes to point out that misers are weird people but they sure make great ancestors, and they do, don’t they?
In the eighth chapter of the book of Romans it is as if God says, “I’m giving you the keys so that you can unlock the boxes and see what your inheritance is. When you begin to think that you are living in poverty, what you can do is to simply open up the text and you can see what I’ve done for you and what I still am going to do for you.”
Romans 8 begins with the famous words, “There is therefore now condemnation.” If you weren’t here last time, be sure to get the message so that you can understand that in sequence. The chapter begins with “no condemnation” which takes care of our past. The chapter ends with “no separation” which takes care of our future, and what an ocean of truth lies between those two concepts. What we will discover today is that salvation is much more than simply God taking away our sins. Ask the average person what a Christian is and he’ll tell you that he’s somebody who’s been forgiven. Yes, he’s been forgiven but much more than that, the forgiveness happens to bring something else about. You’re not merely forgiven and that’s the end of the story. As a matter of fact, the whole Trinity is involved in this business of salvation. It is huge to God to take you out of the pit, and to save you is huge.
Now, let’s look at the text and I’m going to pick it up there in Romans 8:12. “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to living according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the 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 the 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.” He’s talking about us sinners. Imagine that.
How is the Trinity involved? First of all, notice that the Holy Spirit leads us. In fact, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, the ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit. And how does the Spirit lead us, and lead us to do what? Well, first of all, He leads us in our struggle with sin. I read the text. “For if you living according to the flesh (verse 13) you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body (he’s talking about sinful deeds), you will live.” What an amazing statement - to put to death the sinful deeds of the body. You know, the older translations used to say mortify. We don’t use the word mortification anymore. We may talk about a mortician, but we don’t use the word mortification. It means to put to death sin in our lives. The ancients used to say, “Either you will kill sin or sin will kill you,” and the Christian fights against sin, trying, with the help of the Holy Spirit obviously, to kill it.
Most of us say, “I don’t want to kill it. I just want to manage it.” The Bible says that through the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body that we may live.” Of course, that’s a separate message, but let me just simply say that we put the deeds of the flesh to death by deep repentance, by trust, by faith, by gathering together with God’s people, by reading the Word, and sometimes by drastic action.
Jesus was talking about lust and he said, “If your eye offends you, pluck it out and cast it from you, for it is better for you to enter into heaven than to be in hell with two.” Jesus is saying, “Whatever you need to do to put to death the lust of the flesh, do it.”
So the Spirit helps us, but we have a part. We, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body. Now you say, “Well, is he talking about Christians or non-Christians?” The previous verses do talk about the contrast between the converted and the unconverted, the mind of the flesh, which is hostile to God in strong comparison to the mind that has been regenerated by the Spirit. But notice he is talking to Christians here as a warning. Verse 12 says, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh you will die.” In a sense this verse applies to both.
If you are here today and you’ve never trusted Christ and therefore you are living according to the flesh—your own dictates, your own desires, and your own agendas—as you must, then you will die. You will die in this life in many different ways in the sense of the emptiness of your own life, and eventually there will be eternal death. If you are here as a Christian and you live according to the flesh, you also will die in the sense that life not only will be empty but it will be filled with rot, and you will not enjoy the life that God intends for you, even though at the end of the day as a believer you will be saved. I’ve known Christians, and you have too, who have lived wasted, empty, self-filled lives, and the Bible says that if you live in pleasure, you are dead while you are doing it. If you live according to the flesh you will die.
So the Spirit helps us with our struggle with sin. The Spirit also helps us with our struggle with assurance. Do we belong to God or do we not? Look at the text. It says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear (slavery to fear of death, slavery to the law), 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 the children of God.”
What the Holy Spirit does is to give us not only the permission but also the desire to call God “Father” and to even call him Papa. Abba is Aramaic for daddy or dada. It’s what a baby would say as he’s growing up, and to us he might say, “Papa” or “Daddy.” In Aramaic he’d say, “Abba – daddy.” And we can call him that.
The Spirit enables us to speak that. If you’ve ever led a person to faith in Jesus Christ, you know that almost immediately after their conversion when they pray they call God “Father,” inspired and led and spoken in the Spirit.
I know a woman who struggles greatly with alcoholism, and she keeps falling into it again and again, though she is trying to put to death the deeds of the body. She’s having a hard time, but every time she confesses her sin she always begins with, “Father, you know how much I love you, and you know that I know that this is sinful and it grieves you.” Isn’t that interesting? What comes out of her mouth is “Father.”
Now if during the prayer this morning I had said, “Now Daddy, we’re here together as a congregation and we need your help,” I can imagine that I’d get some letters. People would say, “Pastor Lutzer is becoming far too familiar with God. He’s becoming too intimate, and this seems a little disrespectful to me,” but I could have done that, and in your private prayer you can look into His eyes by faith, so to speak, and say, “Papa – Daddy.”
Jews, when they copied the Old Testament were so concerned about reverence for the name of God that they would stop and clean out their pen. They’d put clean ink into it. They’d wash their hands and then they would continue. That has an upside. It’s wonderful to be reverent in the presence of God, but it has a downside. God was so distant, He was so impersonal that in the Old Testament they would have never thought of calling God Father. Indeed, in the Muslim community you cannot call God Father. Abba Father is the witness of the Holy Spirit that we belong to God and we can say, “I love you, Daddy.”
Now notice that the Spirit helps us not only in our battle with sin. He helps us not only with our struggle with assurance. He gives us permission to say, “Dada,” and also with the knowledge that we belong to God—our identity. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Now, very important, other religions think that they are right. They are just as convinced that they are right as we are. The difference is that they do not have individual assurance. If you ask any one of them, “Do you know that you belong to God and that you belong to him forever and that “God His children n’er forsaketh?” and God is your Father,” he’ll say, “No. No one can have that assurance.” Why? It is only given by the Spirit—the sense of certainty that with the purity of the Holy Spirit I’ve been cleansed and I belong to God. What a way to live.
As you know 45,000 runners passed Moody Church this morning. We didn’t count them all, but they were there. Believe me. It was a river of humanity. I was out there for three-quarters of an hour and it showed no sign of stopping. It must have been two and a half to three hours by the time they all got past. I noticed one t-shirt; the t-shirt worn by a man running said, “For my father.” That’s what was on his t-shirt. I thought to myself that probably his father has passed on, and very likely, what he’s saying is, “I’m doing this for you, Dad,” hoping that his dad was watching. I thought of all the training that this man went through, and all of the hardship that must be necessary in order to run the marathon. I still think it’d be much easier for me to drive it than to run it.
What is there in your life that is hard? What discipline do you have? What sin do you have to put away? Would you do it “for my Father”? I’m doing it for my Daddy. If He loves me that much and cares about me, I’ll do it for Him, and we know for sure that that Daddy is watching.
The Holy Spirit of God leads us, but you’ll notice that the Father adopts us. The whole Trinity is involved. Verse 15 says, “We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba Father!” It’s the Spirit of adoption. The Father says that you are mine.
Now, you’ll notice that there are two different expressions that are used here for us. One is that we are the children of God, and the other is that we are the sons and daughters of God, and you hear about adoption, so let me clarify all that for you very quickly. We get into the Christian life by being born into it. That makes us a child of God. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So we get into the Christian life by being born into it. But as soon as we are born into it, God adopts us, and the reason that He does that (and Paul argues this in Galatians) is that a baby can’t enter into its inheritance. If you have a child, he could inherit a hundred million dollars, and he can’t enjoy it. He just needs to get through his day, and not drive his parents crazy in the process. That’s his agenda.
You need to be an adult son or daughter to enjoy your inheritance. Now this is what the Bible teaches. It teaches that we are born again and we become God’s children, and immediately God adopts us so that we can begin to enter into our inheritance right away, and the new Christian who has never trusted Christ before but now trusts Him as Savior has the very same inheritance as the believer who has lived with God and known God for many years. Now that new believer is going to have to grow into that inheritance, but it will be his possession.
There’s no doubt in my mind that when the Apostle Paul talks about God adopting us he’s speaking about the Roman method of adoption which was very complicated, but it involved two very important things that I will mention briefly. One is that all ties to previous parents had to be severed. That meant that all debts were cancelled. It meant all obligations to the previous family were negated. They no longer existed. That’s why, by the way, the Apostle Paul says, “So we are obligated now as God’s children no longer to live according to the flesh.” When God adopts us into His family we have no obligation to obey the impact that Adam had in our lives. We’re in another sphere here.
So that’s one thing. It was to cut off, to sever yourself from parents who previously owned you or you were theirs, but the second had to do with the bonding that had to take place between the father and the new son, and this involved giving him a new name. He had to have a new name and a new status. He would now inherit all of the blessings of the father, a new sense of security, because all of the wealth now of the father would be shared, and that adopted son, because of this very solemn ceremony, would belong to that man forever till the father died, of course, and our heavenly father never dies, so we’re secure all the way to the pearly gates.
So what Paul is talking about here is the fact that God adopts us and He accepts us as sons and as daughters of His with all rights, joys, and happiness associated with those privileges and with that honor. We receive the Father’s name, we receive the Father’s friendship, and we receive the Father’s wealth. Remember that song that we used to sing when we were younger? “My Father is rich in houses and land, He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands, of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, He has wealth untold. I’m a child of the King.” We really do inherit everything that God has. I’m not making this up. I’ll give you some verses in a moment that will show you that this is true.
And we inherit, of course, also the Father’s sense of security. It says that when we get to the Holy City, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them and walk with them, and God himself shall be their God. They shall dwell with him forever and ever.” We know a little bit about that on earth, but our relationship with God is oftentimes clouded. It’s often unclear. Sin gets in, but just imagine the total clarity of our consciences and our hearts purified by God in His presence, enjoying Him.
So, what we really have is the Father who adopts us, who says to us, “You are mine.” We have a new identity and new obligations. Notice that the Holy Spirit is involved. The Spirit leads us. It is the Father who adopts us, and then, as if that isn’t enough, the Son crowns us. Beginning with verse 15 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, by whom we cry, ‘Abba Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the 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.” We’re heirs of God, joint heirs, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ, sitting on His throne, as we’ll see in just a moment.
When it says that we are heirs of God, what does that mean? Well, as I’ve already emphasized, that could mean that we get to own everything that God owns. Remember the story of the prodigal son? The boy who stayed home—the elder brother, who by the way is really the point of the whole story—was angry because he didn’t have an animal to make fun and merry with his friends. And his father said, “Son, why are you thinking I am so stingy? All that I have is yours. If you want to have a calf that you might have a party with your friends, don’t you understand? Look at all those calves. They are yours. Enjoy them.” And by the way, that’s a picture of us. We keep throwing up to God, “God, will you bless here and will you bless here?” and all the angels in heaven are sorting our prayers and they’ve got waste baskets filled with them. All kinds of blessings that God says, “I’ve given you.” Our prayers should be much more sprinkled with thanksgiving and praise and faith, than simply asking, asking, asking.
So one of the meanings of being an heir of God is to receive all that God has, but it’s even getting “gooder” than that. Are you ready for this? There’s another way that the Greek text could be interpreted. It is not just that we inherit all that God has, but that we inherit God himself. Heirs of God—we get God, and I don’t think that we have to choose between those two interpretations because I think obviously scripturally both of them are true. Psalm 16 says, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance.” He is the portion of my inheritance. I get God. What does it say in Psalm 73? “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
If you read the Psalms, you discover that God is our portion, and not just everything that He owns and everything that He created. And do you know what’s interesting? When you have to share an inheritance with somebody, you have to split it up. Let’s suppose you were Bertie’s relative that I spoke about when I began, and you got a million bucks and it needed to be divided among four children, or four nephews and nieces, well you know, each of them would get $250,000, you’d have to split it up. I believe that when it comes to our spiritual inheritance, we don’t have to split it up. You get all of heaven. You get all of God, and the other believer who has trusted Christ, he or she also gets all of God. You don’t have to get one hundred millionth of heaven. You get the whole thing. Isn’t that wonderful?
So the Bible says that the Son crowns us because of our inheritance. Notice we become heirs of God and joint heirs (or fellow heirs) with Jesus. Now I want you to visualize this. Jesus is opening up the last will and testament of the universe, and there it is. In fact the book of Revelation says that He is the only one who can open the book, which is really the whole history and testament of the universe, and He opens it and your name appears. You know the Bible says that there is a book of life and your name, if you are a believer, was in it from before the foundation of the world. So anyway your name is there next to Jesus, and then Jesus says, “Not only that, but you get to sit on My throne also.” You say, “Well now you are making it up.” No, I’m not. (Thank you for that vote of confidence.) Revelation 3:21 says, “He who overcomes, to him shall I grant to sit with me on my throne even as I overcame and sat on my Father’s throne.” If you are following it, we get to sit on the throne of God, and if you aren’t blessed by that you are walking in disobedience, or you’ve never known the Father. You can’t say, ”Abba Father.” That ought to cause us such pause that we ought to just stop here and say, “Let me think about that for a while.”
“He who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne.” Now you’ve heard me say before that I’ve never yet met a Christian who didn’t want to be an overcomer, but I’ve met tons of Christians who want absolutely nothing to overcome. The minute God gives them something to overcome they complain and they keep saying, “God, get it out of the way, get it out of the way,” and God says, “Don’t you want to be an overcomer? I’m going to give you a thorn in the flesh, I’m going to give you a problem, I’m going to give you something that’s going to be difficult to overcome because I want you to be an overcomer.” You say, “Oh, God, please let me sit on the throne, but isn’t there an easier way that I can get there?”
So Jesus gives us His name, He gives us His throne, and are you ready for this? His name, His throne, and His glory are hinted at here. It says, “provided that we suffer with Him,” because the assumption is that if you really walk with God you are going to suffer. I’m in verse 17, “in order that we may be glorified with him,” and what did Jesus say in John 17? Unbelievable. “And the glory which Thou has given me I have given them.” You say, “Well, the new agers then must be right. We are really God.” No. Nothing could be more heretical, more untrue, more unrealistic and more silly.
I’ll tell you, you have to get a different concept of God. God has this absolute delight in taking people who give him evil, and He found a way to do it. He found a way to take people who give him evil and do them good. It’s called grace, and God loves to take people from the pit and say, “Come with me to the palace.” He loves to take people out of the mud and say, “Walk with me on marble.” He loves to do that. That’s grace. Sometimes He can’t find people to do it for, because they are so self-absorbed, thinking that they have to earn it, or thinking that they are fine the way they are. It is all absolutely undeserved grace, grace, grace—a free gift, and that I think is going to motivate our fuel for worship for all of eternity, and if you’re doing the math, that is a long time.
So Jesus then makes us heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Let me give a couple of observations here. First of all, God forgives us to honor us. Don’t ever think you come to Jesus and have your sins forgiven and then you get a little bit of help along the way and basically it’s over with. You know, you’ve made your commitment or your decision for Jesus. No, no, no. You come to Jesus to have your sins forgiven so that the debts can be legally cleared so that God can begin to do a work in your life and to honor you but it isn’t because He wants to honor you as having an identity of your own. It’s because He’s honoring Himself by showing his undisputed grace to people who don’t deserve it, and that honors God. So God says, “I’m choosing some really wicked sinners,” and if the truth were known, if your history were written up, we’d find out things about you that might surprise us. God says, “I’ll take somebody like that and I will exalt that person and display my grace. It says in the book of Ephesians that for all of eternity we might see the surpassing grace of God toward sinners.
But God’s intention is not to leave you after your sins are forgiven. God’s intention is for you to grow into Christ-likeness, to bring many sons into glory (to use the scripture that is used in the book of Hebrews), and in the process, the discipline that is needed and the resources that are needed to bring you and me along to where God wants us to be as His children, as His adopted sons and daughters. That’s what it’s really all about. Don’t ever think, “Oh, he’s a Christian. You know the “but”? I’m not perfect. I’m just forgiven.” Well thank God that you are forgiven, but if that’s all, you are pretty hopeless.
So number one: God forgives us to honor Himself. Secondly, our certain future (not uncertain) gives hope to our uncertain present, and the present is uncertain isn’t it? No matter how much money the government pumps into our economy, things continue to come apart—just that and a hundred other uncertainties in life. The contingencies are overwhelming, but notice what it says. This is why Paul put it here in verse 18. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us.” Take heart. You’re going through a trial. Did you listen to this message? The glory that is going to be revealed in us is going to be so much greater; it’s beyond all possibility of comparison.
John Newton who lived in a different era (in a different century) gave this illustration. He said, “Let us suppose that somebody is going to New York City to receive an inheritance, and that inheritance involves gardens and food and people to serve him, and it involves health and strength and everything that the human mind could imagine, and he’s on his way, and on the way his carriage breaks down one mile from New York City. Does he walk the last mile complaining? Does he say, “You know that’s the problem with carriages? The wheels come off, and look at that horse. Everybody seems to forsake me. The horse doesn’t want me anymore. The carriage is in the ditch. Life is so hard.” Is that what he says? Of course not. He says, “Of course, I am walking. In fact, I’m walking with a limp. I’m in pain, but I only have a mile to go, and at the end of the mile that’s where my inheritance is,” and that’s why he’s encouraged, and he keeps on going.
The suffering of this present world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Glory is just around the corner. It’s a heartbeat away, and if the glory is still a few years away, that’s all right. Time is going to pass. What God has done for us is beyond all the imagination that we can have, and so what we do is we keep going when times are tough because glory is just ahead.
Poor Bertie. She died of malnutrition with over a million dollars in the bank. Open your lock box and say, “God, in light of what you’ve given me, Father, I’m running the race for you, Daddy.”
Let’s pray. Our Father—Daddy—we do acknowledge that you are an awesome God, and to think that we belong to you forever is more than we’ve been able to comprehend. We’ve only said the words, but the Holy Spirit needs to show us the truth. I pray that all who are discouraged today may take heart, and for those who are here who have never trusted Christ as Savior, we pray that right now they will say, “I will believe in Him.” Father, create faith in their hearts because they came here today without any. Some people listening on the Internet or by radio don’t have faith in their hearts right now. Would you create that, Lord, because it has to come from You, and do in us that which is well pleasing in Your sight?
Now, if you have to pray right now, you pray. I’m going to give you a few moments to pray. If you’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, tell Him right now that you are going to believe on Him and receive His death on the cross for yourself. If you know Him, why don’t you give that carriage to God and keep walking toward your inheritance.
Father, receive our prayers, and receive our devotion, and may we run the race for our Father.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.