Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for July 23, 2023 – Proper 11

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5035 | He is Already Here
Heber Ticas

In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his followers to go into the world and make disciples. Few believers could argue against the idea that Christians are commissioned by Christ to engage in mission. However, our missional mindset matters. Do we believe we are taking Jesus somewhere? Or are we joining him where he already is? Many Christians have been taught that we need to take Jesus out of the four walls of the church – where he has made his home – and into our communities. Do we really believe we can “take” Jesus somewhere?

Scripture reveals that we don’t take Jesus, we join him. He is already at work in our neighborhoods. In Genesis 28, Jacob is given a vision of God’s activity on earth.

He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a stairway set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring, and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
Genesis 28:11-16 (NRSVUE)

The angels ascending and descending on the stairway symbolize God’s continual work on the earth. The promises God made to Jacob would come about by God’s effort not Jacob’s. Jacob thought he was sleeping in an ordinary place. However, he came to realize that God was already there and at work and he was unaware. Even before the creation of the Promised Land, God’s presence was already there.

The same is true for our neighborhoods. As we go and engage our neighbors, we should have the mindset of participating in the work of Jesus Christ. Instead of doing what we think is right, we should be looking to see what Jesus is already doing.

The truth is we cannot bring Jesus anywhere. He already fills all things and holds everything together. As Jacob learned, there are no ordinary places because God is everywhere. This should give us the confidence to love our neighbors and bear witness to the greatness of our Lord. As we go, not only is Jesus with us, he is already at work all around us. 

Mi nombre es Heber Ticas, Hablando de Vida.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 • Genesis 28:10-19a • Romans 8:12-25 • Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In Ordinary Time, Christ-followers are invited to explore how we internalize, live out, and share our newness in Christ. This cannot be done unless Christians can be confident in the presence and power of God. The theme for this week is God has all things in hand. The call to worship Psalm speaks about God’s omnipresence — there is no place we can go to escape his loving presence. In Genesis 28, Jacob saw a vision that, in part, bore witness to God’s continual activity on the earth. The passage in Romans speaks to Christians as children of God who can have hope in our Father to fulfill his desire to redeem all creation. The Matthew scripture presents a parable that illustrates that God will not fail to dispense judgment and justice, bringing all things to their proper end.

Secure in Christ

Romans 8:12-25

Few things can inspire schadenfreude like a tabloid. If you are unfamiliar with the term, schadenfreude is a word that describes pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune, and tabloids export it in mass quantities. Right now, if you walk into any supermarket and stand in the checkout aisle, you will see at least one headline promising details on the immanent divorce of some famous couple. You would likely see tantalizing articles on a feud within Britain’s royal family. Infidelity would probably have a strong showing with words like “scandal” and “exposed” in bold print. If you are lucky, you might even read headlines that promise hard evidence of alien abductions that were covered up by the government.

You may want to read some recent headlines to make your point.

Most adults understand that tabloids do not hold themselves to high standards of journalism, and a lot of what we read in them is untrue. Yet, many people still find them irresistible. Why? Certainly, it has something to do with the outrageous nature of tabloids. The stories seem expertly crafted to stimulate the guilty pleasure centers in our brains. While there are many reasons why people read tabloids and some of them may be perfectly innocent, one thing to consider is that tabloids consistently broadcast the breakdown of our institutions and the things we hold dear. They dish out stories about divorce, conspiracies, indiscretions by role models, and the worst of human behavior, and we eat it up. The stories make us happy we do not share the circumstances of those written about in the articles, but at what cost? Could tabloids and similar media be contributing to the erosion of our sense of security and belief in truly good things? Might we be becoming more cynical as a people, doubting that anything good can last?

Tabloids and “the media” cannot be solely blamed for the decline in belief in institutions and people’s trustworthiness. In all areas of our society, we can find betrayals of trust by those who should do better. Myriad church scandals have made many people distrustful of religious leaders. To some, it seems that once a church leader achieves a certain amount of notoriety, a fall from grace is almost inevitable. It should come as no surprise that religious affiliation continues to decline in America and a majority of the Western World.

In this season of Ordinary Time, we are exploring how the church bears witness to the King and his kingdom in the world. As we go and share the Good News with our neighbors, we will encounter many people who neither trust our message nor our motives. There is a credibility gap Christians must bridge with our neighbors as we demonstrate in word and in action that Jesus is Lord. This cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit. However, we do have a part to play. As we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and go into our communities, we should do so believing in a God who is completely good. It is problematic to ask people to give their lives to Jesus if we ourselves feel unsafe putting our lives in his hands.

If we are not careful, the sense of cynicism and distrust of people in our society can manifest itself in the Christian church. We can look at our relationship with God as something that is unstable and subject to falling apart like so many celebrity marriages. If nothing in our world is solid, how can we be sure that God is solid? What is to keep him from changing his mind about us and casting us aside? Many believers are guarded in their relationship with God because they have learned to distrust male father figures, people in power, or anything that seems too good to be true. They do not commit fully to God because they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. While no Christian can have perfect faith in this life, we should be continually growing in our conviction of God’s love and faithfulness. Yet, in our brokenness, our ability to trust him can be stunted for a season.

In his letter to the church in Rome, one of Paul’s goals was to help his audience to feel secure in their relationship with God. The recipients of his letter were experiencing uncertainty in their identity in Christ due to divisions between Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) Christians, and the persecution they faced from the Roman authorities. The believers seemed to be disagreeing on whether the keeping of Jewish dietary laws and sacred days was necessary in order to follow Christ. Being wrong meant making significant life changes to be acceptable to God — changes that may have been too difficult to make.

We may not be able to relate to this particular disagreement. However, we can certainly see Christians today feeling insecure in their faith over disagreements in their congregations about politics, LGBTQ+ questions, COVID safeguards, and culture. How can God be good if his people are divided? We should certainly be able to understand how a loss of trust with people, especially those who identify as Christian, can lead to one feeling insecure in their relationship with God. Paul wrote to reassure the church in Rome of God’s faithfulness, and his words can bring comfort to us as well. The apostle said:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:12-17 NIV)

Paul used the metaphor of adoption to help his audience understand God’s deep, binding love for them. Interestingly, the Jews and Gentiles in the church in Rome had to share knowledge in order to understand what the apostle was trying to communicate. Based on what we know, there did not seem to be state-sanctioned adoption in Jewish culture. Yet, it existed in Greek and Roman culture. In Roman culture, for example, it was not uncommon for a biological child to be given up for adoption in order to maintain family legacy for a couple that had no male heir. Otherwise, the family title and estate could be forfeited. While there were other mechanisms in place to compassionately care for orphans and other children in need, but there were no real mentions of adoption in the Mosaic Law or Jewish writing. For the Gentile Christians, the concept of God as a Father was foreign to them. From what we can tell, Jewish people were the first to see God as a loving Father to humanity. Therefore, both Jewish and Gentile worldviews were needed in order for believers at that time to see God as their adopted Father.

In the institution of adoption, a child moves from one family system — with its religious, social, and cultural traditions — to another, likely different, family system. This shift impacts the building blocks of a child’s self-concept to the extent that one could argue that adoption causes a fundamental change in a child’s identity. Adoption is initiated by the adopter who opts to be legally bound to the adopted child. Under Roman law, adopted children had the same rights and privileges as natural born children.

Therefore, adoption is a metaphor for the redemption and inseparable connection to the Father of those who follow Christ. We were part of a dysfunctional family system that was destroying us, and God made us his own. Now, we are part of a family system that gives us eternal, abundant life. He sought and adopted us on his own initiative. Out of his unfailing love, God willingly bound us to himself with ties that cannot be severed. The Father exceeded the requirements of the law and made us joint heirs with the immaculate Son of God. We can even call on the Father using the same name for God that Jesus himself used — Abba (translated “daddy” or “poppa”). So, we can be secure in our relationship with God. The Father — through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus — not only connected us to himself but changed our very identity. We can no longer be anything but his children, and our insecurities do not alter that fundamental truth.

In a world where it seems like no good thing lasts and people always let us down, we can be sure of God’s immutable love for us. He is ever faithful, and we need not worry about him changing his mind about us. Consequently, as Christ followers, we should do all we can not to change our minds about God. We need to be careful to avoid alienating our affections from God because of the things we suffer in this life. In Romans 8, Paul continues:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18 -25 NIV)

The Holy Spirit prompted Paul to acknowledge the suffering of the church in Rome. He did not minimize their pain, and he even recognized their inward groaning. Can you relate? Do you sometimes look at the condition of the world and groan inwardly? Do things sometimes look so bad that you feel like losing hope? Can you sometimes feel yourself growing cynical and apathetic? We all have at some point. In this world we will suffer. Yet, we cannot allow our suffering to overshadow the reality of our adoption. No matter how dark the world looks, it cannot stop God’s glory from being revealed in us. We do not yet see that glory fully manifested in us, but we have been given blessed assurance by Christ. He has ensured our salvation and eternal adoption. He has triumphed over the world for us, and we belong to him. Nothing can snatch us out of his hand.

The suffering we experience in this life will be forgotten when Christ returns, and we can fully experience our adoption. So many of the things that seem so important to us today will be beyond insignificant in eternity. We have to remember that one day there will be no tabloids or schadenfreude. These things, along with every other manifestation of pain and suffering, will pass away so we need not let cynicism and apathy take root in us. Jesus has, is, and will redeem all things. This is good news for us and the world. This is part of the Good News Christ calls on us to share.

In a world where everything seems made to be broken, we can be secure in our relationship with God because of Christ. If we ever feel like the world is tumbling down around us, we need only to look to him and find stability in God’s unchanging love. We can find shelter in our relationship with our adopted Father, and in Jesus we can find hope. As the song says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W4

Video unavailable (video not checked).

July 23 — Proper 11 of Ordinary Time
Romans 8:12-25, “Adoption”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on SpotifyGoogle Podcast, and Apple Podcast.


Program Transcript

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W4

Anthony: Let’s transition to the next passage, which is Romans 8:12-25. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 11 in Ordinary Time, which is July the 23rd.

Gavin, do us the honors, please.


12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are obligated, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 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. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our Spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we in fact suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God, 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its enslavement to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Anthony: The doctrine of justification gets quite a bit of attention in the commentaries on Romans and quite justifiably—pun intended. Hallelujah. Praise God that we are justified. But it seems to me little appears to be said about the doctrine of adoption. Why is our adoption as God’s children instrumental to our understanding of the gospel and our relationship with the triune God?

Gavin: Thanks, Anthony. I think that’s a good point, and the way I like to view this is the doctrine of justification helps us understand what we are being saved from. But the doctrine of adoption helps us to understand what we are being saved for. Different sides of the same coin, so to speak.

But I think it is really important for us to understand that we have been saved for a purpose. And when we understand what that purpose is, it’s really exciting. And this is what the doctrine of adoption is about. And this is what Paul is talking about in this passage is that we are able to cry Abba Father because of what Jesus Christ has done.

It’s helpful to understand a little bit about the Roman system of adoption that was in place at the time of Paul’s writing because it can help us understand a little bit about the significance of adoption. Because in Roman culture, adoption was something that did take place and often it would be adults who would be adopted. It wasn’t normally children who were adopted, but rather adults.

So, you would have a wealthy person, or a person of power and they would adopt somebody to become their heirs. And often there would be some reason why that adoption was taking place. But this was a legal process that was recognized in the Roman world. Adults did become adopted and then become rightful heirs, in some cases, even above the blood family of the person involved.

And there were many famous examples of that. And while it was primarily men and adults, it wasn’t universally. So, there are cases of women being adopted and children being adopted as well. But it wasn’t adoption in the way that we often think of adoption in the modern sense, which is what we see in the world around us.

But I think one of the reasons it’s so significant here is, again, if we think of how this changes our relationship, but what is actually being said. When we understand the doctrine of adoption, when we understand what Paul is saying in this verse, is that we are children of God in Christ. We are heirs of God. We are joint heirs with Christ.

And when we understand who Jesus Christ is, that he is the Son of the Father, that he is the second person in the Trinity. It really is beyond our wildest imagination that we have been included in that relationship. We have been included in what Jesus Christ has in his relationship with the Father.

That we are his children to the point that we can cry out Abba Father. We can cry out to our Father in the most intimate terms. And when we do Paul describes that as the Holy Spirit in us bearing witness to the fact that we are children of God. And this is the purpose for which we were saved.

We weren’t just saved and then left to our own devices. No, we were saved so that we could be God’s children. We were saved so that we could be adopted and be coheirs with Christ. And that’s such a beautiful concept, but it also gives us this hope for the future when we understand that we haven’t just been saved from our sins.

As incredible as that fact is, in fact, God goes even further, and he includes us into his family. He makes us his children and that we are coheirs with Jesus Christ.

Anthony: There’s a lot of groaning going on in this passage, Gavin. Help us to apprehend what Paul is writing for us in the latter half of the pericope.

Gavin: There is quite a lot of groaning, and when you read through this, it is one of those words that stands out. I think verse 22 is a really helpful one for us to understand what Paul was talking about when he is talking about the groaning, because he says, we know that the whole of creation has been groaning together as it suffers together, the pains of labor.

And as we think about that, you think of a pregnant woman who is in incredible pain through much of the periods of labor, and they will be groaning and yelling out. But it’s a kind of preparation for what is to come and the joy of the child that is about to be born.

And I think it helps us to understand that what Paul is talking about in the groaning is there is a part of ourselves, there’s a part of creation all around us, that is longing for this time when sin will be no more, is longing for this time when everything will come to that fullness that has been promised to us in Jesus Christ.

I really think it’s talking about the longing that we have in us for a time when there will be no more sin, a time when we will have the new earth and the new heaven that Paul talks about elsewhere in Scripture. So, when he’s talking about the groaning in this passage it’s groaning in the sense of anticipation, but it’s also a recognition at this moment that the world that we live in is not the way that it should be. It is a world that is marred by pain, is marred by sin, but that the pain and the sin of this world is not the final word. Instead, it is something we are going through, the pain of labor we have as we look forward to that time when we will have the redemption of our bodies, as Paul puts it, while we wait for adoption.

So, it focuses us. Yes, we recognize the problems in the world around us, but it also clearly paints the picture of the hope that we have in the future. And that is the hope that we look for, that we wait for with patience.

Anthony: Yeah, that’s a good word—that pain doesn’t get the final word. We know that Jesus Christ is the inerrant and infallible living Word of God, and he has the final word.

But it also gets me thinking, Gavin, how it would reframe pain that we experience on this side of the veil of heaven, to understand it as labor pain. That there is something more to come, new life that we will experience in its fullness.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Why do you think it is dangerous to think that Christians need to “take Jesus” to our neighbors?
  • Can you think of any ways God is working in your community?

From the sermon

  • Why do you think that a loss of trust with Christians can sometimes lead one to feel insecure in their relationship with God?
  • What is beautiful about the adoption metaphor used by Paul? Is there any part of the adoption metaphor that makes you uncomfortable?
  • What are some ways Christians can help each other stay faithful to God?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy