For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Just imagine it, for a moment:
“Jennifer,” I say abruptly to my wife as I walk into the kitchen. “I’m tired of doing housework, and I know you are too. All of this cooking and cleaning, to fix it, I think we should have another baby. We sure could use a servant around here.”
“You know, I was just thinking the same thing,” she replies intriguingly. “We definitely need a servant. We should bring in a new family member.”
Now this sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Anyone in their right mind would say we were nuts, and the Division of Family Services would be called if this conversation actually got out. If this really happened, such a story would be at the top of everyone’s newsfeed. Calling our kids servants, and then wanting more children just so we can be served? It’s lunacy.
But many Christians believe this about themselves at times; thinking that God created us for duty, just to be “the help.” The good news is, nothing could be further from the truth! God created us because He loves us, just like any caring parent would do! Yes, we must be forgiven and reborn through Christ, but once our sin issue has been dealt with once and for all time–by grace through faith in the Cross–we are His kids, and He is our Dad.
I don’t want to be misunderstood here, kids do serve their parents, but not from a fear-filled obligation. When young children or teenagers are serving properly–or adult children–it’s always out of love and respect. It’s done with reverence and honor. Children are not servants, we are people. We have feelings. We have lives. We have hopes and dreams. Good parents understand this, and these things matter to them.
Like any good parent, God did not cause us to become His children to serve Him. On the contrary, once we become His child, we have the heart of a servant because Jesus is one with us. He is the greatest Servant of all time and as He lives through us we will serve God and others naturally.
When we feel forced to serve–guilted or obligated, condemned or “less than” if we don’t–that’s not coming from Christ within. It’s coming from demonic forces, the power of sin, our old, unrenewed thoughts–or selfish people who are addicted to religion and don’t understand the easiness of the gospel. Hierarchies and submission replace Jesus in the minds of many devout churchgoers and church leaders. Don’t fall for their passive-aggressive manipulation. Stay focused on God’s love for you.
If we look even deeper into this topic of serving, although we serve in different ways according to the gifts we’ve been given (and this isn’t always at a church), God doesn’t need anything from us. He’s completely self-sufficient:
“And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25)
Do you see the order? It is God who serves us with life, breath, and everything else, because He is life, breath, and everything else. The evidence of this is Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is God Almighty–in the flesh! God became flesh to serve us through saving us from our sin! (See John 1:1, Colossians 1:15-20). There has never been a greater act of service than what Jesus did. Why? Because He was perfect. Matthew recorded this truth in Christ’s own words:
“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
A grace-confused person might yell at me, “Yeah right, Matt! The Bible says we are to serve others!”
Friend, I know that, and we will, instinctively, as we simply be ourselves. Organic service to God and people happens as we come to understand an amazing fact: We are God’s kids, and He is our Dad.
“Nope! That’s just disrespectful, Matt! We should be afraid of God and never call Him Dad! If anything, we are to call Him Father!”
What do you think a father is? A dad. And it’s actually biblical to call Him Dad. Paul tells the Romans:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)
First, why would he mention slavery? Why would he mention fear? Because that’s how the people lived before Christ caused them to be adopted into the family of God by faith (see Proverbs 9:10). On this side of the Cross we have nothing to fear because fear has to do with punishment and Jesus was punished in full (see 1 John 2:2, 4:18, Romans 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Slavery and fear is not a father/child relationship, it’s a master/servant relationship. It’s a relationship of, “Do this or else!”
That’s not the gospel.
Second, the word Abba means Daddy. A servant would never call their master Daddy. Daddy is a term of endearment. In the Middle East, Abba is what a child calls their father to this very day. When they say, “Daddy!” it’s comforting. They know they are protected.
So, Abba means Daddy, and Daddy means Dad. You, Christian, can call the Creator of the universe, Dad–and He wants you to. In your mind, He wants you to cuddle up next to Him, pour out your concerns, and then trust Him. Your one-time faith in Jesus Christ gives you this right (see Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 3:12). To be clear, your identity is already cuddled up to Him, you are inside of Him (see Colossians 3:3). But He wants your thought life to match up with this truth (see Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8, Hebrews 3:1).
In Romans 8:15, Paul is teaching the church they don’t need to be afraid of God, but to depend on God. He tells them they are no longer servants, but children.
If you think about it, why would we need to be afraid of God after we’ve placed our faith in the forgiveness of Jesus? It would only be because of our sins. However, Jesus has removed all of our sins from us at the Cross–past, present, and future–because He’s not bound by time. Every single sin of ours was in the future when Christ died, so when we believed, they were removed (see John 1:29, Hebrews 9:22, 2 Peter 3:8).
Unlike the blood of the Old Covenant, animal blood, which only covered sins for a year at a time, Jesus has a much better method of dealing with sins. He removes them permanently from all who will believe in Him one time in history! (See Hebrews 7:22, 10:1,4,10,14, John 19:30, 1 John 3:5).
As children of God, Dad is not punishing us for our sin, and He never will punish us for our sin. Not a single one. Why not? Because every sin requires a bloody death–from jealousy to murder–and Jesus died once. He’s not dying again and again in heaven for each sin we commit. He’s resting just fine, never to die again! Therefore, He purified us once and for all time from sin–that is, our spirit. God is not dealing with us on the basis of our sins any longer, but on the basis of a loving father/child relationship (see Romans 6:23, Hebrews 1:3, 7:25, 10:10, John 1:12, Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5).
“I like this, Matt. It’s making sense to me. Jesus’ blood was enough to make my spirit brand new. So what should I do when I sin?”
Stop it. Turn from it. When it comes to sin–legalistic or licentious–never stop stopping. Never stop turning. Sin will never pay off. It will never fulfill you. You’ve been recreated to not sin. You don’t even want to sin. This is why it always feels weird when you choose to sin. You are supernaturally holy, just the same as Jesus (see Romans 6:2, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 1:22, 1 John 4:17). But be sure to know, you don’t stop sinning to stay saved, nor do you turn from sin to continue being God’s child. Only Christ’s life keeps your place in the family of God secure. His life, and nothing else.
This is vital to understand as a saint because Jesus is never going to die again–so neither are you! Your incorrect actions and attitudes–sins–will never cause Christ to perish! His life is much more powerful than any wrong choice we make, or sinful thought we have. Here’s proof:
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
“Because I live, you also will live.” (See John 14:19)
Believer, your life–your salvation–is Christ’s life! Repenting and confessing isn’t–Jesus is! Yes, repenting and confessing of our immaturities is normal and healthy, but neither can keep us saved or make us more forgiven than we are right now. Only by death being defeated can we live and stay forgiven because every sin requires death! (See Romans 6:23). Jesus has won the battle over death, so you have too! Paul tells the people in Colossae:
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)
This is not later, but now! The only thing that will be different later–when He physically comes back–is we will get new physical bodies like He has. You know, the type of body He rose from the dead with? Poppin’ in and out of thin air, ascending into the sky and stuff? (See 1 Corinthians 15:52).
When I came to understand this truth, that Jesus’ eternal life is my eternal life, the most famous Bible verse of all time began to glow:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Who is it that has eternal life? A life with no beginning or end? JESUS! So, we receive His life as our life which causes us to always be in His family! Therefore, we can always call God, Dad, because we are coheirs with Christ! (See Romans 8:17).
Yet still, a behavior-focused person might say, “God is our King! We are to worship Him, bow down, and never dishonor Him by calling Him Dad!”
Friend, yes, He is King. But we are His royal children. We are on a different level than the rest of the world, than the unbelievers. We are children of the King. The King is our Dad, so we don’t bow down in fear. We walk right up to Him and sit on His lap on the throne–fearless, full of trust, admiration, comfort, security, and love. The Cross has made this relationship possible, because the Cross has removed our sins. That event, and our faith in it, birthed us into regal, celestial immortally.
And yes, we worship Him, but not out of obligation or anxiety. Instead, out of gratitude. Out of thankfulness. Out of the sense of stability in which He freely gives us as Abba. There’s no need to worship God “Because me must!” “Because He needs it!” or because of fear. Remember, fear has to do with punishment and Jesus was already punished plenty. Our Dad’s love for us is perfect (see Romans 5:1, 1 John 4:18).
We are not serving God out of fear, nor worshiping Him to butter Him up or appease His ego. We are family and friends. We are no longer called servants. Read what Jesus said:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
God has chosen to let all of us know His business. His business was formerly a mystery until Christ came. Now, through Jesus, the mystery of God is over. The mystery is the Spirit of Jesus Christ in us, permanently, by grace through faith, which has caused us to become children of God! (See Colossians 1:26-28, Hebrews 1:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12).
So today, my friends, know this: The apostle John wrote his letter 1 John as an old man. It is said that as he was carried into the church of young believers, addressed in this letter, he always smiled at the crowd while repeating, “Love one another. Love one another. Love one another.” This was John’s message. The self-proclaimed, “Apostle whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23) knew God loved us, and that God lives in us, causing us to love too. John also knew we had nothing to fear as His children. So excited about this truth, he penned, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (See 1 John 3:1).
A prayer for you: Dad, I love you. When I think about how big and strong you are, and that you’re MY Dad, I get a lump in my throat and misty-eyed. I feel so protected. I feel so secure. You are my King, my Dad, my God, my everything. Thank you for making me your son. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them are unnecessarily afraid of you, they don’t understand your perfect fatherly love. Today, I ask that you set them free from this fear. Your desire is to make them feel joyful, confident, and always full of hope! You never say, “Prove you are my child by worshiping me!” No. You say, “I love you just as you are. You are my masterpiece.” Help them to grow in this loving relationship in which they have with you through Jesus. Help them to understand you aren’t always serious, but sometimes funny, and sometimes playful. Help these dear readers to know that you enjoy life! And that you came to give us the most abundant life of all–life through Christ! Thank you for being our Dad. Amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!