Free to be sons, not slaves.
Wesley noted there were three spiritual states a person can be in: the natural (no fear or love of God), the legal (under the law without love for God), those that loved God. Looking at Romans, we see these three spiritual conditions.
I. What spiritual conditions are there?
A. There are people who are “amiss.” (The word “sin” originally was an archery term that meant to “miss the mark.”) [Romans 3:10 – 18]
1. Paul runs many verses from the Old Testament together to paint a picture of how bad we actually are...
a. We are not righteous in our own efforts.
b. We do not understand or seek God on God’s terms. (Which is why we have so many versions of “god” in this world.)
c. We are on the broad path leading to destruction and not the narrow path.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13 – 14]
2. The natural state of humanity is “lost.”
a. No fear or love of God.
b. No desire for spiritual things, no concept of holiness.
c. It is at rest because there is no sense of danger and is not troubled by sin.
d. Life is measured externally: an illusion of happiness and liberty.
***** The fact is that every human is polluted by the natural state of sin. It is our “human nature.” *****
B. There are people who are “ambivalent.” (Having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone. – Oxford) [Romans 7:14 – 25]
1. The progression of Paul’s argument, and the use of the first person “I” indicates this can be the conflicted state believers.
a. Want to do good... but fail.
b. In fact, Paul recognizes “sin” as a spiritual law “living in me that does it.”
c. Sin, as a spiritual law wages war in his mind and makes him a “slave” and a “prisoner.”
d. He sees “sin” as a separate body, one that is dead and decaying, strapped to him.
2. Self-effort, trained by the law (list of “do this not that”) will only get us so far.
a. We can see God as “loving” and “merciful” but “angry” at our failures.
b. We can understand there is right and wrong, and struggle with it.
c. We can become frustrated because we never seem to be good enough...
Symptom: Thinking good things “reward” are from God and bad things are “punishment” from God.
(Ill.) Woman TV evangelist preaching on getting what you want from God... if you don’t get it then “it is because you are not ready for it yet.” She told the story of wanting a new fur coat, asking God. Friend came over and showed her a new fur coat that just happened to show up unexplained on her door step. She said, “I thought the angel had delivered it to the wrong house.”
[Context: This was aired the day before the earthquake in Haiti. I dare you to go to Haiti, with a cold bottle of water in your hand and tell someone who is suffering with thirst, the reason they do not have a cold bottle of water in their hand is “because you are not ready for it yet.”]
***** There are two problems here. First, we measure ourselves against someone else (the Bible says that person is a fool). Second, sin and repentance comes in cycles. *****
C. There are people who are “adopted.” [Romans 8:15 – 17]
1. Children KNOW beyond any doubt their relationship.
a. The key for the believer is the Spirit... Holy Spirit.
b. Children do not have to make an effort to maintain relationship of being the child.
2. Children LOVE.
a. It’s not a matter of effort, it is a matter love (relationship) that motivates.
b. Love generates obedience.
II. What are the honest problems we have?
A. We think religion is about our effort.
1. We create ritual that help us focus or attention. They are good unless they distract us from the reality.
2. We turn the Bible into a list of “do this not that.” The Bible makes many moral demands on us. There are many “do this not that” requirements... many things please God... many things displease God. They are good unless we replace the doing with genuine relationship.
3. Our effort will only take us so far. “Not enough.”
B. We think we can measure relationship in concrete terms.
1. Imagine if a parent starts a chart of bad things a child does with a line. When the child reaches that line, then we buy them a bus ticket and wish them luck. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
2. Yes, there are consequences to our actions... but grace is not an accountant that weighs things against one another.
C. We think that performance creates relationship.
1. Some people are givers, others are takers... but keeping track of points is deadly to a relationship.
2. Why? Because we *always* give ourselves massive bonus points and extra credit. We tend to give others massive negative points they can never make up.
3. This reasoning is backwards... and possibly abusive.
III. What is the reality?
A. Here is what we know from the Bible:
1. If you are outside God’s grace when you die you are eternally separated from God...
2. If you are convicted by God’s grace, and feel uncomfortable about your spiritual destiny; it means God is awakening you. You must chose because the window of opportunity is limited.
3. If you conflicted after you have chosen to accept God’s grace, it means you will struggle with self-effort and cycle between failure and repentance.
4. If you have, through the Spirit of God, accepted your adoption by God’s grace you will be in love with God.
IV. How do you make the transition?
A. To move from being “amiss” to becoming a child of God, you must believe.
“and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:24]
1. Believe means you accept that you can be redeemed (saved) ONLY through Jesus.
2. The issue is trust. Do you trust God’s grace or do you trust your own effort, a church, a ritual?
B. To move from being “ambivalent” to becoming a child of God, you must fail.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8:1 – 2]
1. The failure of your “self” must be so complete you have no choice but to be dependent on Christ Jesus.
2. While the “law of sin and death” may be active, God has intervened with the “law of the Spirit of life.”
C. To be “adopted,” you must trust the Spirit of God, who produces the condition of adoption.
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,  because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” [Romans 8:13 – 14]
1. What’s this going to look like?
a. We trust only on God’s mercy given to us through Jesus Christ.
b. The reign of sin is broken, we not only struggle against sin but we win.
c. We keep in step with the Spirit of God.
d. We live in joy.
e. We love.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” [Galatians 5:6b]