You Have Not Received A Spirit Of Slavish Fear

Text: Romans 8:12-17

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Much of our lives are spent living in fear of future evil. In other words, much of our time, energy, and thoughts are aimed at reducing, avoiding, or eliminating potential evil in the future. In fact, let me share a little secret with you. Many politicians, leaders, and false teachers understand this about human nature and will often exploit this fear of the future to obtain what they want in the present. It works like this:  a politician or leader will paint a picture of a hypothetical evil in the future and then assign a value to it. Let’s just say that the potential evil has a threat value of negative 10. And so, a leader gets everyone to consider the potential evil in the future by telling them that it will impact them at a negative 10:  

“Beware, something bad will happen to you in the future. It will cost you the unit of 10!”

And so, for the most part, people will become alarmed. Most people will agree that the potential evil in the future is bad and will impact them negatively. But here is the catch: the politician or leader will convince their followers that to avoid a future evil of negative 10, they should allow the politician or leader to make uncomfortable present changes. Yes, the leader will convince the general public to allow a ‘real’ negative in the ‘present’ to avoid an even bigger ‘potential’ negative in the ‘future.’  And so, the general public will give up 2 points in the present to avoid 10 points being taken away from them in the future. Please keep in mind that I am not talking about emergency preparedness, where leaders get the general public to be ready for a disaster. No, I am talking about how leaders will use fear of a hypothetical evil in the future to negatively manipulate the public in the present. Tragically, we are so afraid of a future big evil that we will gladly allow a present small evil to come upon us. Again, politicians, leaders, and false teachers know this, and they will use this to get what they want. 

Dear friends, what I have just described the spirit of slavery and bondage. When a person is in slavery and bondage, they live in fear of potential and future punishment. Living under a spirit of slavery, people are willing to get along to go along if it means that everyone can avoid future evil or future suffering. Living under a spirit of slavery, everyone walks on eggshells to make sure that the unspoken slavemaster doesn’t unleash hell. Living under a spirit of slavery, a person lives under constant dread, doubt, and fear - believing that if they endure present suffering, they can avoid future punishment and future troubles. Indeed, the spirit of slavery functions with a fearful mindset of future evil, wrath, death, and punishment. Just as a slave fears the anger and punishment of his master, those under a spirit of slavery live in constant fear and constant alarm with zero confidence and zero assurance.  

To make things worse, those under the fear of slavery will often attack freedom. You see, once a person is so entrenched in fear, any idea, person, or thing that could potentially bring about future punishment or trouble will heighten their sense of fear resulting in those enslaved often attacking those in freedom. And so, for those enslaved to fear, freedom is not a blessing but a curse; for them, freedom is dangerous. Fear has them so tied up in knots that they will attack anyone or anything that will potentially cause future evil to come upon them.   

Dear friends, in the reading from the Epistle of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells you and me, though, that we have not received a spirit of fear to fall back into slavery. Hear this loud and clear; as a Christian, you are not a cringing fearful slave. But instead, you are God’s very own free child. You see, there is a difference between a slave and a child. When you are a slave, your future is not certain. In fact, more often than not, when you are a slave, all of your time and energy are aimed at avoiding future evil and suffering. However, because you are not a slave but a child of God through Christ Jesus, you have been adopted into the family of God. And since you are a child of God, your future is not one of evil and dread but instead a future of sharing in God’s treasures.  

Baptized Saints, being a Christian means that you know who you are – you are a forgiven saint. Being a Christian also means that you know where you are going and what is coming next – an unbelievable inheritance. And so, that means that you and I are free right now. (See also Gal. 5:1, Jn 8:36, Jn 8:32, Rm 8:1-ff, 1 Pt. 2:16)  You are free from the fear of evil, wrath, death, and eternal punishment. And so, whatever may come upon you and me in the future or whatever may come upon you and me right now,  you and I will go through the good and the bad with Christ and without slavish fear.    

Beware, though; freedom is a dangerous thing. For starters, when you abide as a son or daughter of God, you will no longer be so quickly fooled by the games of fear that so many are playing these days. And when you are not quickly fooled, well… you will then be marked as a rebel or a noncomplying divergent thinker. Indeed, those in tyranny love themselves a compliant and fearful lemming but despise those abiding in assurance and freedom.   

Secondly, be ready to be attacked. You see, many in this world view the lack of fear as being equivalent to being reckless. They see freedom as an irresponsible, reckless, and unhinged license. But that is where they get it wrong. Freedom in Christ never means that you are free to sin. If it did, then Christ would be the author of sin and darkness. No! Freedom in Christ means that you are not a slave to darkness – you are not a slave to sin’s trickery and bondage. You see, true Christian freedom is being continually freed from your self-serving-apathetic-whinny old Adam. Being continually freed in Christ is to be continually freed from the busy-fear-driven-egocentric-games of the world. Being continually free in Christ means that you are not so easily enticed by the sly trickery of the devil. Baptized Saints,  as a child of God, you are given the Holy Spirit and God’s Holy Word, which means that you no longer are captive to those who want to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. Being a child of God means that you are not so easily drug off into endless arguments that will never amount to anything. Being captive to the Word of God – as God’s own child – means that you are not so easily given to the empty traditions of humankind and the empty superstitions of the world. But instead, being a child of God, with present and real forgiveness and a future inheritance of eternal life with a resurrected body, means that you are now awake, sober-minded, and living in the day. Freedom in Christ means that your thoughts, emotions, and actions are not tied up in numbing and petrifying fear but instead bound together in Christ. 

Thirdly, and briefly, hear this: slaves will often undergo suffering in the present with the hope of potentially obtaining future relief. However, there is no certainty for them, which is why there is so much fear. But you - you have a future certainty and assurance in Christ that on the last day, Christ will make all things new. In other words, those enslaved by fear are doing everything possible to avoid not only present and future suffering but are doing so with no hope and no assurance. But not you; you have the assurance of future glory in Christ, which then grants you hope in the midst of whatever may come your way. As a child of God, you know that your body and mind may fail, but the Lord is your strength; you belong to Him forever. (Psalm 72:26)

Baptized Saints, yes, you indeed belong to Christ as His adopted children forever. You are not slaves to fear. You are heirs of the Kingdom of God, not heirs to eternal death. You do not belong to a spirit of slavery and fear but to a a spirit of assurance and freedom. Yes, indeed, you have been crucified with Christ; you no longer live. Instead, the life you live is not yours but is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you. And so, you no longer need to worry about impressing others; you do not have to play the fearful games of slavery, but instead, your thoughts, actions, and emotions are lived by faith in Christ and in love for your neighbor. You are freed to live outside yourselves in assurance and in freedom from slavery’s fear as you journey through the ups and downs of this vale of tears.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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