If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:11-17)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)
If you had your choice to either be adopted by a king as his son or to live as his slave, what would you choose? I know this is a stupid question, but these are the choices we face every day. Adoption or slavery—what a contrast! Those images are used by St. Paul in both Romans and Galatians because he wanted to emphasize, in the strongest terms possible, the difference between living in “the flesh” and living in the Spirit.
When Paul talks about the flesh (Romans 8:12), he isn’t referring to our physical bodies—which were created by God and are “very good” (Genesis 1:31). No, he means the inclinations to sin that we inherited from Adam—those daily temptations to act in unloving, selfish ways toward ourselves and others. This is the “flesh” that we were set free from when we became children of God at baptism and through faith in Jesus Christ.
We may not remember being baptized, but something important and powerful really did happen then: The Holy Spirit came to live in us and made us members of God’s family. The stain of original sin—the mark of our alienation and slavery—was washed away, and now the Spirit is free to shine God’s love into the deepest corners of our hearts. He actually prays in us, teaching us to call out to our Heavenly Father in the most intimate way: “Abba! Father!”
Abba is an Aramaic word, very similar to our word, “daddy.” A friend of mine once told me of a day in a grocery store, when he noticed an Arab father and his little boy shopping. The boy got separated from his father and began running up and down the aisles yelling, “Abba, Abba,” until eventually his father heard him, ran to him, and took him up into his arms.
What was true for that little boy is also true for us and our Heavenly Father. So when we are feeling lost or feeling tempted or bound by sin, we can recall who we really are: beloved sons of God the Father. We can cry out, “Abba, Father.” When we do, we can experience his great love for us. We can experience the power of the Holy Spirit to put sin to death in our lives. And the more we internalize this truth in our everyday lives, the more we will find ourselves living in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
So today in prayer, ask your Heavenly Father to reveal to you in a personal way, deep within your being, that you are a beloved son. Ask him to give you the grace to live each day as his son, not as a slave to sin, so that you may do what pleases him. Ask the Lord Jesus to fill you afresh with his Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize those things that may be binding you. Perhaps it’s an addiction, or a sinful pattern, or anxiety, or fear. Perhaps it’s your relationship with your own father. Then step out in faith and claim Jesus’ victory as your own by acting out your freedom as you go through your day. You’ll be amazed that you are able to live in the Spirit as a beloved son. You’ll be amazed at the freedom!
“Heavenly Father, thank you for adopting me into your family. Today, and everyday, I want to walk in the freedom your Son won for me. Fill me afresh with your Spirit. Through the power of the Cross, I will put to death the power of my flesh and I will live in the power of your Spirit.”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/ ), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism , (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us . Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Take a few minutes to meditate on the Scriptures from Romans and Galatians at the beginning of this article. What do they tell you about who you are in Christ, and your relationship with your Heavenly Father?
2. Slavery or Adoption? Living in the Spirit or in the flesh? These are the choices we must make every day and throughout the day. How are you doing? What steps can you take to do better?
3. In the article, we hear these words, “So when we are feeling lost or feeling tempted or bound by sin, we can recall who we really are: beloved sons of God the Father. We can cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ When we do, we can experience his great love for us. We can experience the power of the Holy Spirit to put sin to death in our lives. And the more we internalize this truth in our everyday lives, the more we will find ourselves living in the Spirit and not in the flesh.” What has been your experience of God the Father’s love for you as a beloved? What difference has it made in your life?
4. If Abba is similar to our word, “daddy,” then “Abba, Father” is similar to saying “Daddy, Father.” What would keep you from crying out to your Heavenly Father, “Abba, Father”?
5. The article suggests we ask for the following in prayer:
· That our Heavenly Father would reveal to us in a personal way, deep within our being, that we are beloved sons.
· For the grace to live each day as his son, not as a slave to sin, so that we may do what pleases him.
· That the Lord Jesus would fill us afresh with his Spirit.
· That the Holy Spirit help us recognize those things that may be binding us.
What would hold you back from asking for these things in prayer?
6. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of you would be transformed by a deeper knowledge and experience of the great love of your Father in Heaven. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.