“Be a Christian: what’s a difference?” Rom 8:14-23

Romans 8 14-2314 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 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!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

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Grace and peace to all of you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

Today we’ll talk about differences between Christians and non-Christians in context of this week’s events. That’s why for our meditations we have a passage from Paul’s letter to Romans.

It has been quite a week. And it seems it’s not over yet. We have become famous. Adelaide was nominated as the city with the highest temperature in the entire world. Not that this kind of fame is something pleasant. But… the heat definitely brought with it much more than just a quickly fading fame on the news.

This week we have had fires everywhere. I don’t know about Moculta, but I was told that during the last more than 50 years there hasn’t been fire in Barossa hills next to Tanunda. Now we have had it.

Quite a few families had to evacuate, leaving everything behind. The same has been going on here in Moculta, Keynetown, Truro. Not exactly the experience you are longing for.

You live your life in peace and quiet, or in celebrations and joy, or just doing your daily chores, and everything seems to be good and under your control. We really have achieved marvelous control over surrounding environment. Our civilization has given us a great security and protection against different kind of calamities. There are so many reasons to be grateful.

So we live in this peace and security and daily we grow more and more into belief that we have got it under control. It just happens. That we really are in charge. Everything goes as we have planned it. Isn’t it wonderful?!

Then suddenly you need to rush, to pack few things into your cars, and leave. Leave not knowing whether there will be a place to return or not. For almost everyone our home is what it is – our home.

The place which is very much in the center of our lives. Where we build our future, future of our family. Where we invest fruits of our labor, where we feel the most protected and comfortable.

One day you suddenly need to leave it: everything that you have, for there is a risk that everything could be destroyed. That your life is in danger. How do we look at events like these? How do we evaluate them? What are our reactions?

Probably they vary from person to person. But at the same time there are similarities. Some people can be devastated, for this is where they have built their lives. Suddenly everything that had any value for them could be gone.

If what belongs to you, was the foundation, the fulfillment, the meaning of your lives, then in one day, you can lose it all. What are you left with… with a huge hole in the middle of your live.

Others may be looking for the guilty. Why did this happen? Who is responsible? They may begin to ask questions to God. Why is this happening? Why did God permit it? What was He thinking about? Is He in control over what happens, or not? If yes, then what is this all about?

Others may be fervently praying for themselves and their neighbors, as we also experienced it during these last days. But ultimately – no one knows the answer to “why”, and ultimately no one is protected from this kind of misfortunes. No one. You can be an atheist, you can be a Christian, you can be believer that there is something higher. We all can fall prey to different calamities.

There are few things common in our reactions – we all know, we feel that this is not how things are supposed to be. That this is wrong. To lose, to be robbed of something we have been investing into so much. It doesn’t seem fair. Not at all. Again, it doesn’t matter who you are, you still tend to feel and think this way.

When disaster like this happens, we are reminded, we realize what we tend to forget on daily basis – that, in fact, we are not in control over our lives. We may seem to be in control while everything goes according to our plans. But that’s all.

One more thing, that almost all people tend to do, when suddenly something bad happens, is look at themselves. What wrong have I done that this happened to me? Our consciences tend to accuse us when bad things happen.

They show that deep inside we all know that we have fallen short in our lives, and that calamities can be interpreted as punishment for our sins. Was this a punishment of God? Should I have lived different life? Is God angry with me? Has He abandoned me, and so on.

At this moment it’s a good time to ask the question – what are the difference between being Christian and being someone else in the midst of this kind of misfortunes? There are differences, significant differences.

First of them. Whatever happens we can have a good conscience. This we need to remember. Yes, as Christians we can be sure that even if some unexpected misfortunes come upon us, this is not a punishment for our sins. This is not because God is angry with me. This is not a day of judgment.

NO! For all your sins already have been punished. Jesus took them all upon Himself and received what we justly deserve. You can be sure that now the Father looks at you with a favor. Just think about what Paul wrote.

That you, who have received the Holy Spirit, are children of God. That you don’t need to fear, for you have received the Spirit of adoption as children, and by this Spirit you cry, “Abba! Father!” Or – “Our Father is Heaven!” The Spirit himself bears witness […] that you are children of God. That’s written about you.

Next difference. As Christians we also know that we don’t have to deduce the Father’s attitude towards us from events in our lives, but instead, to look where He has clearly expressed it – in words and deeds of Jesus Christ.

This is so important. We know that God is in control of everything. Therefore when unpleasant things happen, we wonder whether He is sending some kind of signals to us. Meaning of so many events remain hidden to us. God’s intentions permitting these events remain hidden to us. God’s will and He Himself remains hidden to us in these events.

People may try to interpret what has happen trying to figure out what God is doing, what is His attitude, and so on. But as Christians, we have this wonderful privilege – we don’t need to look for hidden God, we can go to revealed God, to Jesus Christ. He has revealed us the Father’s will. Here it is.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) For He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Ti 2:4) That’s the Father’s attitude towards you. Nothing is going to change it.

One more difference between non-Christians and Christians. Whatever happens, for us as Christians there always is a hope. Not a hope is a sense that ‘hopefully it will get better’. No, hope in the sense that the Father’s testament is already prepared. That your share in the Kingdom of His Son in already allotted to you. It’s done deal. Nothing can change it. That’s yours.

As Paul explains, we already have been joined with Christ in the Holy Spirit, Who dwells with us, we are made children of God, and also – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. That’s reality. This is His promise.

We may wonder, what is this our inheritance? Something much more that we can imagine. Our words and imagination will fall short trying to picture it. New heaven and new earth. Renewed creation, restored in its intended goodness.

We often think about sin as something not that important. But the Bible reveals, that entire creation is suffering because of our sins. Entire creation is corrupted and can be hostile to us, as we experience it his week.

We may think that we are somehow separate from creation, that we are distinct category. No, we are not. We are creation. We are part of it. Our actions, actions of human race have direct impact to entire creation. The Bible speaks about the land spitting out its inhabitants because of their sins. This week we perhaps could speak not about spitting, but about burning us out.

As apostle Paul put it. “Entire creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God in our glory… in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom …”

Freedom of new heaven and new earth, with everything restored in perfect goodness. Everything functioning properly according God’s design. This is your inheritance. It is already yours, you just need to get there, to hold firm to God’s promise.

The last thing I want to mention today is about the uniqueness of Christian worldview when it comes to difficult times and sufferings. You may know it, but it is worth repeating. All other worldviews haven’t much to say in situations like these.

For Hindu all the misfortunes are your karma, a reward for your actions. For Buddhists they are inevitable part of life. Just take it as it is. For Muslims they are will of Allah,  so you deserve it. For traditional folk religions all the evil is part of spiritual world and you need to try to befriend all spirits. Just in case…

Only Christian worldview sees and calls bad things as bad things. As something that is against the will of benevolent God. As something that we need to resist and help to prevent. Therefore Christian worldview is the only one who motivates and enables people to help those, who are in difficulties.

Every time when something bad happens this is our opportunity and responsibility to be hands of our God for our neighbors. As Jesus came to restore entire creation, we are also called to pray for all and if possible to help as much we can to all who are in need. Not just to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but everyone whom Christ can touch through us. This is how we as Christians are blessed to live. Being little Christ for others.

As we can see, these are few differences between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to difficult times. These obviously are not the only ones. But we can try summarize these in the following words.

If you are not a Christian, you have nothing permanent, even if you have everything. If you are a Christian, even if you have nothing, you still have everything.

For our Father has promised us daily bread. He is in control. He has all the resources of the world. He keeps His promises. He has brought you into His family already here, and you have countless number of brothers and sisters to pray for you, and if necessary to extend you a hand of help. These things alone make the whole difference in the world, and they are granted to you. Let’s appreciate them with whole our heart.

Amen.

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