(SERMON BY LIZ HONEYFORD)
Growing up physically is a natural process. Maturing emotionally is also a natural process although it takes a lot more than just nature – it takes healthy experiences with healthy people who can teach us to name and manage our emotions instead of denying them. It takes people who whisper both softly and loudly to us that we are worth every effort, to behave towards us in loving ways, to give us a safe place to explore and discover who we are. We need loving responses from those around us in the steady days and the times of unrest and insecurity. That’s how we grow up and experience life to the full. Growing up emotionally takes falling and rising from the moment we are born to the moment we die.
Maturing emotionally is where most of us got stuck. That’s why we can stub our toe and want to throw a chair through the window. When someone cuts us off on the road, we want to ram into the back of their car. There’s an emotional discrepancy in development.
We can measure our physical growth with a ruler.
We can measure our emotional growth by our reactions.
But how do we measure our spiritual growth?
In Galatians 4, Paul was talking to people who knew the Roman system of the day. He’s talking about an heir – a child who will inherit the estate of his parents. Under the Roman system, an heir was put under a guardian until the age of fourteen and then put under the care of a trustee until the age of 25. The role of the guardian and trustee was to manage the life and affairs of the heir, who was never allowed to be on his own with his money. Paul is saying that until a certain age, an heir was not treated much differently than a slave. He couldn’t think or plan for himself. He was subject to the master. He had no freedom until the time when his parents allowed him to manage his own affairs.
Reminds me of the prodigal son story in Luke 15.
The older son was living like a slave, working on his father’s farm. The younger son was immature and asked for his inheritance early. He ended up squandering all his money. There’s a moment in the story when the younger son is sitting amongst the pigs and he’s so hungry, he wants to eat the cobs that the pigs eat. He comes to realize that his dad’s slaves were eating better than he was. Scripture says that he “remembered the kindness of his father” and he returned home.
He is not treated like a slave. His father welcomes, accepts and celebrates his return.
The father’s love is a mature love – patient, kind, tender, eternal, unchanging love without conditions.
This story isn’t so much about the sons, rather it’s about the constant, mature love of the father who knew exactly what to do when his humiliated son came crawling home. He loved him fully. He is his son forever.
Galatians 4.4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent His son to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
God sent His Son that we may becomes heirs – full fledged children of God. In Jesus, we all inherit the fullness of God. All that God is, we have, as if we were the first borns. God set a time for us for our freedom from the law that Paul calls the law of sin and death. Sin is a downward pull in us toward greed, control, self-centeredness and separation from God’s heart. Only God can trump the law of sin and death – Jesus’ death in our place set a new law in place – the law of love, freedom, forgiveness and life eternal. Now we are free to be beloved children of God. We are no longer a slave.
God wanted us to know Him so intimately and with such connection that He also sent His spirit to be in us so we can experience adoption as His children.
He’s our daddy.
Major Ian Thomas, the man who started Capernwray Bible Schools put it this way: “All that He is, you have. You’ll never need more and you need never have less.”
Once God, by His Spirit, comes to live inside us, we are His children and also His heir. We are first born in Christ, inheriting His birthright and all that goes with it.
Do we still need to mature? Yes.
Do we still need to submit to others? Yes.
Do we still need community to grow up? Yes.
Is life always fine? Nope.
But as we taste the goodness of Christ, all we will want to do is lay our life down at His feet and say, ” Jesus, have all of me. Do all You want to do with my life.” This is the first sign that we’re beginning to mature spiritually – when we want to submit to God in all ways.
How do we measure our spiritual growth? From deep within us will rise these child like words: “Abba, Father.”