Saturday, December 30, 2017

We Are Heirs of God

Galatians 4:1-7 From Advent to Ascension, through the words of Holy Scripture, the Church tells the story of everything that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. 
From the promises of a Savior to come-- to the birth of a child-- to the beginning of his public ministry-- to his death on the cross and resurrection and ascension—the festival half of the church year tells the story of the great events in the life of Jesus Christ. 
But what must be told along with those events—the “what” and the “who” so to speak—is the “why”. 
Why did Jesus come into the world as a baby?  Why was he so careful to do everything commanded by the Law?  Why did he go to the cross and rise from the dead and ascend to heaven? 
That is the story that must be told if we are to understand why the birth and baptism and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is such Good News for us!
That story –the “why”-- is what we hear today in these verses from Galatians. 
God made these promises and fulfilled them in Jesus Christ so that each of us sitting here today could become God’s child and his heir.  This identity, this status, this inheritance is the purpose of God’s saving work in his Son Jesus Christ for us.
During his earthly ministry our Lord taught this again and again—that a life with God and the blessings of God came only through the Son. 
When Jesus concluded the Parable of the Prodigal Son there was a man who was restored to “sonship” by his father-- and there was a man who was alienated from the Father, angry that he hadn’t received what he thought were wages due him for all that he had done—the point being that our place in God’s family is only by his grace.
When many of the Jews began following Jesus, he reminded them that slaves had no permanent place in the family but the Son did-- and if they were to be free, it was the Son who would have to set them free.
It is impossible to overestimate how important this biblical teaching is regarding our identity, our status, our purpose as God’s children is!  It is ONLY when we understand that God has broken into our world in the person of his Son Jesus Christ to make us his children and heirs that we begin to understand why it was necessary for God to do what he has done.  Paul wrote that:
the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.  In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
            Our text catches Paul in the middle of an ongoing argument and he is using an example from the ancient world to make his point that our place in God’s family comes only through the Son—not through what we do.
If you were the son of a prominent father, he would entrust your care and training and education to a guardian who would watch over you and teach you how to be a gentleman and prepare you to take your rightful place one day as the heir of your father’s possessions and place in society. 
And so you learned how to behave and what to value and how to speak and how to relate to various kinds of people in various stations of life.  You did your lessons and you obeyed the master your father set over you. 
Until that day came when you took your rightful place in your father’s house, you were effectively no better than the guardian appointed to you and, in fact, you were under his authority even if he was a slave-- and so, essentially, were you-- even though you were a child of the lord.
But when the date came for you to take your rightful place in your father’s house, that guardianship came to an end. 
That’s the way it was for the Jews.  The law—and obedience to the law-- was never intended to be the way for them to be counted as God’s children—that status would only come through God’s Son.  Jesus told them, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”
So it is for us.  Our life with God; our status as God’s children; our right to lay hold of the riches of the living God and claim them as our own precious inheritance, comes only through Jesus Christ who God gave to the world for this purpose:  that we too could be counted as God’s children, adopted into his family by faith in his Son.  Paul wrote that:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
            The great miracle of the Christmas Season is that God’s only-begotten Son became Mary’s Son so that we could be adopted into God’s family as his children too.
            The One who is born on Christmas morning IS God’s Son.  He is from everlasting to everlasting; he is before all things and after all things; he is the Alpha and the Omega.  He was there in the beginning with his Father and all things were made through him-- and he will be there when all things come to an end and a new heaven and a new earth will come from him as well.
And at just the right time, when God had perfectly ordered all things on earth for his arrival and fulfilled all the promises of his coming, Jesus was born of Mary—one of us—the Creator of all-- become a creature so small.
To bring us to himself and make us member of his family and give us the riches of eternity, he did not hold himself aloof from his creatures and from his creation.  He did not shrink form even the smallest act of obedience his laws demands. 
He was circumcised under the demands of the law to identify himself as one under the covenant-- but also to show that he was the covenant itself, shedding the same blood that would be poured out on the cross as the payment price to set us free from sin and death.
He was born under the law like every one of us—with God’s holy expectation that he would keep every command.  He was born under this law because he was one of us-- but he was also born under this law to redeem us from its demands that we cannot keep, by filling it up with his holy obedience.
That word redeemed has to do with slaves.  It is the ransom that is paid, the purchase price that is given, so that slaves can go free, so that their masters’ just demands can be satisfied to the fullest degree.
That is what the Son of the Woman has done for us.  He was born under the law along with all the rest of us so that his holy obedience would fill up the righteous demands of the law that rest upon all of us; demands that proclaim us unfit, unworthy slaves again and again. 
His holy, precious blood was poured out for us upon the cross to pay the penalty for every failure to be the faithful servants we ought to be.  And he has done this so that we might receive adoption as sons.  For this purpose:  that we might receive adoptions as Son. 
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a purpose in the promises that were made to Adam and Eve and Abraham and Sarah. 
There is a purpose in God’s faithfulness in fulfilling those promises. 
There is a purpose in God’s wise, powerful providential ordering of all of human history and the rise and all of great nations. 
There is a purpose to the living, powerful, holy, righteous, just God of the universe taking on the flesh of a baby and living under the law and dying a terrible death and rising again. 
There is a purpose—and that purpose is you.
Can you imagine it!  Can you imagine it!  That God’s purposes and God’s plan and the person of God’s Son has always and will always have in view this purpose:  that you would be restored to God’s family; that you would be God’s child; that all the blessings and riches and dignity of the living God of the universe would be your own precious possession now and forever.  Paul wrote:
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
            You are God’s children!  You have been adopted into God’s family through faith in God’s only begotten Son.  The Holly Spirit has called you to faith.
Everything that God has purposed and planned for you from everlasting to everlasting, he has accomplished for you in his Son Jesus Christ.  You are God’s child and he is your Father and that relationship you have with God is of such deep intimacy that you may call him, “Abba”,
As God’s child, you are no longer a slave to your flesh.  You are no longer a slave to the demands of the law.  You have been set from your failures and you are an heir of all that Jesus has earned for you by his life, death, and resurrection:  forgiveness for all your sins, God’s abiding presence in your life, and your own special place in heaven when this life is over.

In this New Year there is simply nothing more important for you to know and believe than the Good News that you are God’s own dearly loved child and an heir of all that Jesus has done for you.  Amen.

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