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No fear, just love | Romans 8:14-15

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are 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!” Romans 8:14-15

Besides helping us to desire and practice holiness, the Spirit is also here to convince believers in Jesus that we are sons of God. By definition, to believe in Jesus is to become God's child:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

Our sin doesn’t wreck his plan; our sin is factored in. Heck, our sin is the starting point for God's plan. When we sin the Spirit's ministry of sonship kicks in with "You are God's son. Don't quit."

The enemy's message, on the other hand is, "Look at you, slave. You're kidding yourself if you think you can be with God. You're a disaster."

When that message hits our ears, it rings true. Without the gospel of "no condemnation" it would be true. So we often believe it. And then, when we believe we are slaves, we start acting like slaves. We heap sin upon sin, and try to bury ourselves alive in the dirt of sin. And this breeds fear. Slavery leaves us feeling alone in the world, with only our own bootstraps as hope - maybe if we pull them up again we can be what God wants. But we can't. And then we get scared. We feel like God is looking straight through us. He knows how deep this goes. He knows how hopeless we are. It's only a matter of time, we think, before God is going to just give up on us. We feel hunted. We feel abandoned.

But all that is just the enemy talking. He wants you to feel like a slave.

If only we could see ourselves with God's eyes. If only we knew his Father's love for us - really knew it - and if only we could learn to identify ourselves unshakably as God's sons.

In fact, I propose that your victory over sin is only possible in direct proportion to the degree to which you identify yourself as God's beloved son.

Son? you say. Why not daughter? Well, of course, that too. But the Bible gives us all the title of Son - male and female alike - to make the point that the inheritance of God (eternal life) is for all of us. In the culture of the Bible, the inheritance went to the son. Not the daughter. Not the slave. So the Bible is making sure we know that in Christ we are ALL sons, and therefore all heirs. In Christ, there is only the highest status of love:

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28)

Just like he does when he's dragging you down, the devil tempted Jesus by trying to toy with his identity as God's son: "If you are the Son of God..." (Matt 4:3). And though Jesus wasn't getting tempted to commit crimes or break commandments, those temptations, to rely on his own power for life, would have destroyed his identity and status as God's son. A lot was at stake.

In the desert he "suffered when he was tempted" (Heb 2:18) not only because of his hunger but also - worse - because of the lurking, nagging voice that repeatedly implied that he was not God's son. That had to hurt.

And it must have rung true. In that moment, weak, hungry, dirty, and very much hearing the demands of his flesh, he had to be tempted to doubt his worthiness. How can someone so weak as I save so many? he may have thought. And surely the temptation itself - the strong, fleshly desires to break down and eat, to claim his crown, to sell out - surely even the desire to do these things must have challenged his sense of sonship. Disobedience looked appealing. I'm no different from the rest of them. That was what the devil's temptation challenged him to think.

You loser. If you were any “good,” you wouldn't be tempted right now.

You call yourself a child of God? You'd never be thinking about doing this if you were anything like Christ.

You're hopeless. You might as well give in, because someone like you who can't stop thinking about that is never going to change.

Just give in. It's not like you have anything to lose. You're already ruined.

But Jesus didn't believe it. He insisted, even in the face of temptation, that he was God's son. And he said, this is what a son does: a son trusts his father. And that trust led him out of temptation.

Trust is knowing that God loves you, and believing that even though you are weak, God wants you in his family. Trust is recognizing that these lies could never come from the God who created and redeemed you.

Victory over sin increases throughout our lives as the Spirit grows us in the knowledge of God's love, in believing in God's love, and in obeying in direct proportion to it.

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)

Claim it. Beware of the spirit of slavery that comes to you before you've even sinned. He doesn't have to wait for you to actually sin before he begins taunting you as if you already did. This is his oldest trick. If he can convince you that your temptation condemns you, you're very likely just to give up and give in. In that moment, when he tortures you with these accusations, believe that you are God's son. Listen to the Spirit reminding you. When that feels too good to be true - too good to be trusted - ask yourself this: am I better than Jesus, that I should never be tempted? Lean into his empathy for your weakness. Follow him out of temptation, with no guilt, towards his Abba's love. Just walk away.

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