From time to time there’s the temptation to fall back. To do what you’ve stopped doing. To respond the way you used to respond. To go where you no longer want to go.
Any number of things might trigger it, but the temptation’s lure is unmistakable. Its voice sounds something like this, “Sure you’ve known what it is to pursue holiness, but doesn’t this want to make you enjoy again the pleasure of sin for a season?” Or, “Ok, so washing other’s feet has been the right thing to do, but enough is enough. You’re in danger of becoming a doormat. Time to put yourself back on the throne for awhile.” Or maybe, “Rejoice in the Lord always? Really? Not in this. This is too much. Too hard. Let the grief numb you like others who have no hope. Stay in bed, no need to get back in the game. Let the sadness envelope you and wrap you in its listless cocoon.”
But though the temptation to fall back may rear its head periodically, we are told that God is faithful and that He will “provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13). And something I read in Romans this morning reminds me that at least part of “the way of escape” is the difference adoption makes.
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!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
(Romans 8:14-17 ESV)
The opposite of a spirit of slavery which causes us to fall back is the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The remedy for retreat is the reminder that we children of God. The power to say, “Nope, not going there!” is the inner witness that we are kids with a future.
We are heirs . . . “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet. 1:3-4). An inheritance awaiting us which is intricately intertwined with the inheritance awaiting the Son of God at the culmination of the age.
And so, because of our adoption, not only does our past not define us, neither does our present need to confine us. We have the power to resist temptation’s feeble attempts to enslave us again with fear and dread and despondency.
Because we are children with a sure future–the same Spirit of adoption being “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph. 1:14)–we need not fall back. Because we are led by the very power of Him who raised Christ from the dead, we can stand fast as we continue pursuing holiness, serving others, and not grieving like those who have no hope.
We can rejoice always.
Joyful in the hope . . . patient in tribulation . . . constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).
That’s the difference adoption makes. Amen?
By His grace. For His glory.