If you’re a parent you know that you can raise two children exactly the same, brothers or sisters and yet they could be so very different. And even if you’re not a parent, if you were raised with siblings, you know that you and your brother or sister can be raised the same and yet turn out so different. My oldest, Neil, you’re going to have a hard time believing this because he’s so outgoing now, but when he was young he was so painfully shy. And the first time that my wife took him to a kindergarten class, of course the teacher had to come over because it took two people to peel his death grip off from around his mom, and as he was led away, arms and legs going and crying and everything, of course my wife is going the other way, abandoning her child and so she’s in tears and they got him into the classroom. Now, my middle boy, who’s actually visiting us from Tennessee this week, he was completely different. His favorite thing when he was young was to go and pick up his brother at kindergarten so he could go in the classroom and get his brother. And on the way home he’d always ask, “When do I get to go to kindergarten? When do I get to go to kindergarten?” Finally, the big day came and my wife is driving in the parking lot to drop him off and she’s looking for a parking space and before the car stops while it’s still moving he throws open the door, he jumps out and he runs. He doesn’t say goodbye, doesn’t say see you later. He’s just gone. Now I raised them the same and you all know that’s just the way it goes. Now, Jesus told a couple of stories about brothers who were different. He had two stories or two parables that started off with these words, “A man had two sons”. The most famous of those of course, is the prodigal son, but we’re going to look at the other parable today. We’re going to find it in Matthew chapter 21 beginning with verse 28, so if you would turn there…
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and he said, ‘Son, go to work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing and he answered, ‘I will sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
Now there are two questions that come to mind when you read this. The first one is, why did the first one say yes if he didn’t intend to follow through? And the next question is why did the other son change his mind after having said no? Well, the son that said yes, we know this: he just conformed himself. He just gave the right answer. He just said what his father wanted to hear and what other people wanted to hear. He lived from the outside in. He lived for approval. Now, what about the other son? Why did he say no in the first place? Well, we don’t know the answer exactly. It could have been that he had plans and he was reluctant to give them up. It could have been he was just having a bad day. It could have been he just had an argument with his father. But whatever it was, once he got away and had time to reflect, then he did what was right. He did what he really believed was right. And so he lived from the inside out. He lived according to his own spiritual core, his own principles. Now only one of them was able to obey their father and gain his approval and it was the one that lived from the inside out.
Now these two brothers represent two types of believers. Everyone in this room is like one brother or the other, or maybe you’re in transition. And so you’re either living out of fear of circumstances and conforming yourself to the pressures and the need for approval or you’re living out of the joy and the freedom of someone that’s really experienced the transformation that takes place inside when you’re fulfilled in God’s love. It matters which son you are like. It determines how your life goes. Are you driven by outward pressure and the need to conform, or are you free to live right in your own heart? Romans 12:2 really points out the difference between these two different types of believers, we read this:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Now, conformity means that you’re pressed into shape by outward pressures or the need to conform, the need for approval. And so you’re driven and you’re pressed by the fear of being rejected and by the fear of circumstances. Conformity is always a result of fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of being passed over, fear of being left out when the good things are being passed out. On the other hand, transformation always comes because of love. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love drives out fear and it says that anyone who fears has not been completed in God’s love, hasn’t really experienced God’s love in the way that God wants us to. God says, “Be transformed inwardly by My love.” That’s freedom. When you’re conformed outwardly to pressures and fears and the need for approval, that’s bondage. To live in fear because of circumstances or the need of acceptance of others is to be a slave. And people live in fear today because there is so much we can’t control. It’s the things we can’t control that we worry about. And there’s so much of that. Only one thing can stop you from feeling like a slave and living like a slave by fear and that is when you begin to live like a son or daughter of God. And instead of being afraid of the things you can’t control, you’re now living out of the confidence and the love of knowing that you are a son of the one who is in control and controls all things. Galatians 4:4-5, we’re going to be looking at Galatians for a few verses, and let’s start in the fourth verse.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
So God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, why? So that we could be adopted. You know when you get adopted it makes all the difference in the world, it changes everything. If you think about most orphans growing up in the world today, especially third world nations, they live on the streets, they live by begging, they live by stealing, they have no home, they have no future, they have no prospects. When we go down to Kenya, we always encounter a lot of orphans on the street. A lot of them don’t have a last name, they just have a first name. They don’t have an identity. They don’t have anybody looking out for them or training them or teaching them for the future. And so they spend a lot of their time sniffing glue because they have no hope. But when you get adopted, then you have a name, then you have a family, then you have a home, then you have an inheritance, then someone is training you and you have a future and you have a hope.
I know a man named Abe and he was the illegitimate son of a foreign businessman who went to Mexico and the man simply abandoned him and left and went back to his country. And the mother’s family, she was Mexican, he was kind of an outcast because of that, because he didn’t have a father. And so by the age of 16, he was living in a chicken coop on their property and he was poor and he had no prospects. And then a family in the United States took him in. He lived with them all the way through high school. They helped him learn English. They helped him get through all his studies. When he graduated, the father who was a builder, taught him to build. Employed him until this man was old enough. He started his own business. He was successful. He ended up being married. He ended up having children. He ended up having a nice home and financial success. And all that because he was adopted. He got a new nation. He got a new language. He got a new future. He got a new hope. How many of you know it makes all the difference in the world when you get adopted? Everything changes.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
And so our adoption is more than just a legal adoption. It is a legal adoption in that we get all the rights and all the promises that come from being a legally adopted son. But it’s more than that. It’s not just an outward adoption. It’s an inward adoption. It’s a spiritual adoption because it says the Spirit of Jesus comes into our heart and it lifts our head up to see God and from our heart comes the cry “Daddy… Abba”. And when that happens, fear is driven out of your heart by that experience of love. And because you are no longer driven by fear, you are no longer a slave. And that’s what the very next verse says, here’s the bottom line:
Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Now I want you to get this life-changing idea into the very depths of your heart and your mind and your consciousness. And so I’m going to ask you just to repeat it after me. I know we don’t like to do that sometimes but I want your whole being to hear you say in a loud voice, repeat this after me: I am no longer a slave but a son (or daughter). Yeah, you say the one that’s appropriate to you. Let’s say it again and really get it deep into us: I am no longer a slave but I am a son. Now, let’s say it loud enough so that the devil hears it and it rocks his world: I am no longer a slave but a son. And listen to this, it says, “and if a son then an heir.” That means there is an inheritance set aside for you. Now, there are two basic motivations in life, two basic motivators in life and they are fear and they are love. And so you are either being driven because of the fear that you can’t control and that’s why you make the decisions and the actions that you do, or you are living out a profoundly deep experience of God’s love that makes you unafraid. Until you learn to live in God’s love, you will be forever laboring for love and acceptance and thus a slave. Until you learn to live in God’s love, you will be forever laboring, trying to find acceptance or love or security and therefore you will be a slave because if you’re laboring, trying to get something, you’ll always be enslaved. You see, people either act in order to get love or because they’re loved. And I want to tell you when you make decisions because you feel fulfilled in God’s love and secure you make one kind of decision but if you’re desperate to get acceptance and] love, then you make entirely different decisions.
All people are born with a slave mentality. It’s how we’re born. It’s what comes natural to us. It’s why people do what they do. It’s why people worry about the things they worry about. It’s why they lie. It’s why they steal. It’s why they cheat. It’s why they abuse substances. It’s because they’re driven by fear. And it’s the human condition. And unfortunately, it’s all some people will ever know. Some people will be born, they will live and they will die and they’ll never know anything other than living under fear as a slave. Slaves serve and work out of fear. Fear they won’t have enough, fear they’ll be abandoned, fear they’ll be punished. But a son or daughter serves out of love. They love because first they were loved. They serve because they want to serve the person who loves them. And whenever a slave is called to sacrifice or do something extra, they always resent it because you see, a slave wants to do the minimum and then be left alone. They want to do as little as they have to to get by and then they want to be left alone. But when a son or daughter serves, they serve joyfully and wholeheartedly because they know that when they serve they’re investing in that which belongs to them because they are an heir. And Jesus said, “Give and it will be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing. You’ll get more than you gave.” Why? Because the kingdom of God belongs to us and when we serve the kingdom, we are serving ourselves. I want to ask you a question: which of those two Christians, or sons, are you most like? When you’re going through life and there’s presented with you an opportunity to serve or to sacrifice or maybe you’re in church and there’s an opportunity to give or there’s a call to serve, what arises in your heart? Is it resentment or is it joy? Are you living like a servant, a slave, or like a son? Now, everyone in this room is living and experiencing life either as a slave or a son. And I want to share a great truth with you and that is if you follow Jesus Christ, you are a son or daughter.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God; and such we are.
What a reality change. The Bible says that we are God’s children. It’s the only religion in the world that says that God adopts us out of His love and His mercy and that we look up and we call him Papa or Daddy or Father. All other religions of the world are religions of slaves. Now, I’m going to tell you something. I’m going to be biblically correct which means I’m not going to be politically correct. Is that okay if I’m biblically correct? You won’t get mad at me for not being politically correct? All the other religions are religions of slaves. The Hindus, for instance, are trapped in a caste system that determines where they can live, what jobs they can do, what they can wear and who they’re allowed to marry. And all their life, they can never escape that caste, nor can their children, nor their grandchildren, nor their great-grandchildren on down the line. And like all other Eastern religions, like Buddhism and all that, it’s based also upon being caught up in a system of reincarnation in which you’ve got to live down and pay for the Karma of past life. And there’s no forgiveness, there’s no simple way out or grace. You think about Islam, Islam lives under strictly five pillars. One of them means that for a whole month there’s a difficult fast in which they can neither eat food nor drink any water or any liquid during the daylight hours. And then of course, five times a day they need to drop down to their knees, put their face on the ground and repeat the same prayers over and over again. They need to recite them. And then there’s strict rules on how they can dress and all their customs. And there’s no assurance that they’ll have salvation unless they die fighting one of Allah’s wars. And so I want to say this. Allah is not a father. They don’t refer to him as their daddy. He is a master. And yet all across the planet, people live out of these religions and even when they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, a lot of them still cling to these religions, and why is that? It’s because if you’re born a slave, (and I said we’re all born as slaves with a slave mentality), if you’re born a slave and you think like a slave and you’ve lived your whole life like a slave then a religion of slavery seems like the normal thing and you accept it. And you know you can even claim to be a follower of the Christian religion, you can be a churchgoer and yet you can still live it out with the slave mentality, driven by fear, living under resentment about what’s being asked of you to do or not do, because that’s what comes normal to us. But God said, “Don’t be like that.” God says, “I adopted you and so live out of My love and live as My children.”
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
You want to have an ethical code to live by? Imitate your Father since He loves you. You’re beloved children. So God’s children do right not out of fear of punishment but out of a deep sense of belonging and being loved. Now fear on the other hand is the predominant emotion of a slave. And fear always leads to bondage. And so at the heart of drug addiction, at the heart of alcoholism, at the heart of eating disorders, at the heart of phobias, at the heart of compulsions, at the heart of jealousy, at the heart of every destructive behavior you will find fear. Fear is what’s at the core of it. And so many things that we do, we do to try to distract ourselves from the fear that’s in life and from the fact that we’re living as slaves. But slavery is not what we are created for. And everybody in their heart wants to escape it. And when Jesus Christ came to earth, He lived as a son and not a slave. And that’s why all people went out to Him, because people don’t want to be slaves, they want to be free. So here’s the big question, do you want to live like a slave or do you want to live like a child of God, like a son or like a daughter? Because anyone can be a son or daughter. It’s a gift that’s given to each one of us. That’s what the Bible says. It’s a free gift. The Bible says that there is no one that is so good that they deserve to be adopted by God, nobody deserves it. And the other side of that is the Bible teaches us that there is no one that’s been so bad that they’re disqualified, because it’s a gift.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
So, it says if you receive Jesus and you believe in His name then you are a son or you are a daughter by right. It is your right. It’s your right. You’re a son or a daughter. And yet, Jesus came to teach us how to live as sons or daughters, how to live free and not live as slaves.
If (if, if, if!) you continue in My word, (what’s the key? You have to continue in His Word) then you are truly disciples of Mine; and (only then) you will know the truth, and (only then) the truth will make you free.
Having the right of being in the position of a son or daughter doesn’t mean that you’ll experience that freedom. Jesus came to teach us how to be free. His Word teaches us how to experience the freedom of not living under fear but of living under the truth. Now let’s go back to Galatians and we’re going to back up a few verses from where we started. We started in verse 4, we’re going to go to verse 1 where it all starts.
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything.
As long as the heir is a child, his life is more like a slave than it is like the heir. Because when you’re a child, when you’re not mature, then you’ve got lots of people to obey, you’ve got rules, you’ve got bedtimes, you’ve got curfews, you’ve got people telling you what to do and correcting you and you have just a little bit of allowance. And so in order to really live like an heir, you have to mature, you have to grow, you have to think like a son and live like a son. And Jesus said that if we live by His truth, if we follow His teaching, then we’ll be His disciples and then we’ll be free. And here’s the truth. The truth is you are a disciple of whoever you obey. So, “If you obey My teaching then you’re My disciples.” You are a disciple of whoever you obey. You can’t expect the freedom and the blessing of being a son or daughter of God if you’re living in obedience to the ways and the teachings of the world. If you’re influenced by the thinking of the world and the sexual practices of the world and what the world thinks about money and what the world thinks about marriage and on and on and on, then you’ll not experience the freedom of being a son or daughter. Instead you’ll experience the confusion and the conflict and the anxiety that the world has to offer. Now this (the Bible) is a charter for sons and daughters to know how to be a son. This (the Bible) is the truth that sets us free and if we do not read it and if we do not know it and if we do not practice it and meditate on it and do it, we won’t be free.
Let me ask you a question: do you spend more time in the Bible or do you spend more time on social media? In fact, is it a ten-to-one ratio or a five-to-one ratio? You see, here’s the truth. If you spend twenty minutes in the world’s thinking and the world’s value system, getting it from school, from newspapers, from television, from social media, if you spend 20 minutes for every one minute you spend thinking about the Word of God or reading it or hearing a sermon, then guess what? God’s Word and God’s ways are just going to get washed out of your mind. My wife has a class, a wonderful class going on right now and she has about a hundred gals in it. And she ran them a test just to see how they knew. She asked them a bunch of kind of like worldly philosophy or kind of, you know, humanistic ideas… she said, “Complete this sentence.” And then she had Bible verses. And about 90% of the ladies were able to complete the kind of humanistic ideas like, “Follow your _____ and your ____ will come true”. Follow your heart and your dreams will come true. But when it came to the Bible, the verse that says “The heart is _______”. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it? Only 25% of them knew that. 90% knew what the world says about our heart, 25% knew what the Bible says about our heart. And so if you think that happiness is going to come out of just following your heart, your heart is good and wise and you need to follow it and all your wonderful dreams will come true, that’s not the way a Christian lives because the truth is it doesn’t work that way. All you have to do is do some marriage counseling and you’ve got two people that are a 100% right pointing their finger at somebody that’s a 100% wrong. How many of you know that math doesn’t add up? But that’s what happens when you get a bunch of people who believe that they can just trust in their heart and their own feelings. Here’s another one, “Believe in your dreams and never give up.” 90% got that. How about this… you have to fill in a couple blanks here… “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts and My ways higher than your ways.” So what is it? Is it just that your dreams are right and your heart is always right? Or is it in fact that we have to defer and look to someone smarter than us, better than us who wants to guide us. See, you can’t live as a son or daughter, garbage in garbage out, unless you’re committed to knowing the Word of God.
Now let’s move on to Romans 8:14 and 15. How many of you know I’m putting in a strong word, you need to do devotions, you need to be about this Word or just quit. If you’re not going to put the Word of God at the center of your life then just quit trying to be a Christian. Because you can’t do it. You can’t filter out all the noise of the world and all the pressures to conform and live as an overcoming Christian if you ignore God’s Word as God’s Spirit speaks it to you. That must be for somebody in here because I went way over on that one. There must be somebody in here where God wanted you to hear that.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
So it says we’ve been given a spirit by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” And so I made a decision and that is I will not be afraid in my Father’s world. This is my Father’s world and my Father loves me. And though I may come up and get really bad news or I may have threats rise up against me or there may be difficulties but can you say, “I will not be afraid in my Father’s world because He loves me. I’m adopted.” When you live as a son or a daughter, you make the whole world thirsty for what you have because everyone wants to escape being a slave. And so our calling in life is to live as sons or daughters so the whole world can see it and be let out of slavery and led towards God in adoption.
Now let’s finish up by going back to where we started, Matthew 21 and let’s see the application that Jesus gives to this parable of the father with two sons. We’ll pick it up right where we dropped it off.
“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did believe him.
Now the sinners, the drunks, the prostitutes, all those people, they saw the Pharisees’ religion and it didn’t answer the deepest needs of their heart. It couldn’t heal the brokenness and so they weren’t attracted to it and so they didn’t respond to it. But then one day, John the Baptist, a prophet from God came and he spoke the word and that word resonated, that was the answer, that was the Word of God. And so they turned and they repented and they followed him when they heard something that authentic. But the Pharisees, the ones who said they loved God, the ones who said they were going to follow God, they rejected John and then they rejected Jesus because they were ones that live for the approval of men. That’s what Jesus said about them. Now I want you to think about what that means for us today. That means that part of the church of tomorrow is sitting in bars and casinos. It’s living under bridges. It’s taking drugs. It’s in rehab houses. It’s living profligate and sinful lifestyles because they have not yet come to realize their own need for a savior or they have not yet heard the gospel message in a way that’s compelling. But when they do, many of them are going to come into the church.
But the other side of that’s true because there’s two sons, the other side of that’s true as well. Part of the bar scene and the prison scene and the rehab scene of tomorrow is sitting in churches and youth groups today. This is especially true with young people but it’s true of adults, too. There are those who conform outwardly, they live for the approval, they go along and they’re able to do it and the reason that they’re still in church today is because they have not yet been tested or tempted sufficiently. But when that day comes, they will crumble because they haven’t been set free, they haven’t been transformed in their heart, they haven’t yet completely surrendered to Christ so that they could say, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” And so when the day comes, they crumble. So part of the church of tomorrow is out in the world and part of the world of tomorrow is in the church. One son said he would go into the vineyard but when the time came to obey he couldn’t do it, it wasn’t in him. The other son first said no but when the time came, he was free in his heart to obey. Whenever a Christian cannot fully obey God, whenever they resist God and resist the teachings of Jesus in any area of their life, whether it’s financial, whether it’s giving, whether it’s sex, whatever it is, I always know one thing about them… they are a slave and they’re living by fear because they’re afraid to obey and do the thing they know is right. It all comes down to being free. If you aren’t free inside then you have a poverty in your heart that even winning the lottery can’t take care of. You’ve got problems in your life that falling in love are not going to take care of, not for long. We all think if we just had money and we just fell in love with somebody, everything would be all right. Listen, lots of people fall in love and lots of people have money and they still have a lot of problems because the question and the problem is always inside, in your own heart. And if you’re driven by fear like a slave then no matter what you get, it will not be enough. And listen to me, whatever you get you’ll misuse it to your own detriment because that’s what slaves do. That’s what people do when they’re living by fear. And as you’re going through the choices in your life, I want you to ask yourself, “Do I want to be a slave? Do I want to be a son or daughter?” Do I want to live by fear or do I want to take a chance in living in love, in trusting that God is faithful, He’ll never let me down… of cultivating a relationship as a son or daughter in which the love of God becomes the determining factor in my life and it sets me free from pressure, the need for acceptance, the fear of not having enough, because my God controls everything and He loves me and He loves you.
Let me pray: Heavenly Father, we want to just thank You and Lord we want to praise You for Your goodness. We want to thank You that you sent Your Own Son. While we were yet enemies, You sent the most precious thing to us and paid the highest price, the blood of the only begotten Son of God, for each one of us. That’s how much You love us and You adopted us as sons. Lord, I pray all across this room, I pray in hearts everywhere in this room, You break the fear, You break the slavery mentality, You set us free in the confidence that our God is a loving God. He’s a Father. Before He’s a judge, He’s a Father. Rather than being a judge, He’d rather be a Father. Help us Lord to come out from under the fear of punishment and live in the love of Your acceptance. Touch hearts all across this room, set people free, change lives, change destinies, change marriages, change families with Your love. In Jesus name, Amen.