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!” (Romans 8:15)
Those who have known God not just as Creator, Savior, and King, but also as Father, know the unusual freedom, security, and joy of being loved by him. Too many try to keep him at arm’s length, at a safe distance — close enough to forgive, provide, and deliver, but far enough not to interfere with their lives, decisions, and sin. The wise and humble, however, have learned to lower their defenses, lay down their need for control, and run to the Father.
So what keeps you from running to him? What fears have made you hesitant and distant? What sins have you refused to leave behind? What burden have you been unwilling to lay on his shoulders? The Father knows what you need, he knows where you’ve been, he knows what you fear and what you’ve done, he knows what kind of father you’ve had, and he still invites you to come and be his — to be fathered by God himself.
The Father Within Us
If we learn to be fathered by God, to run to him in all we face and for all we need, then Romans 8:15–16 tells us that he not only loves us, but he actually lives within us:
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.
When God makes us a son or daughter, he not only puts his love on us, but he puts his Spirit in us. Think about that. God not only opens his arms and home to us, but goes even further, to come and make his home within us, and to cry out in our hearts that he is Father — and that we are his children. The Abba! Father! in our souls is its own gift from the Father, by the Spirit.
So, if we know God as Father, love him as Father, obey him as Father, cry out to him as Father, then we should thank him as Father — for putting that love, that faith, that cry into our hearts.
The Father Beside Us
One way we know we have a Father in heaven, Paul tells us, is that our fears begin to fade and dissipate. Again, “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!’” (Romans 8:15). To come to the Father is to be done with all unrighteous fear — fear over our guilt and shame, fear of never being loved, fear of having to prove or justify ourselves, fear of dying.
God did not put his Spirit in you so that you would fall back into fear, but so that you would finally rest in the security of his love, revel in the wonder of who he is, and run in the fields of his will for you. Being loved by a good Father does not feel like slavery; it feels like the fullest, most real freedom. If we are continually plagued by fear, then we may not have known, really known, the Father yet. But if we bring our fears to the Father, we will watch them cower and retreat under the brightness of his sovereign love.
The Father Before Us
But security and devotion are not all the Father promises to his children. The apostle Paul continues, “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 8:16–17). Heirs, with Christ, of God. If you are a child of God, “all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).
This inheritance, notice, does not come without pain and loss — “. . . provided we suffer with him.” To be united with the crucified Son is always to pick up a cross of our own (Matthew 16:24). The abundant life, the life of forgiveness, freedom, rest, and joy, is not easy or comfortable — but it is good, and it will get better and better, forever. If you experience hardship and adversity while following Jesus — if you suffer with him (and you will suffer with him) — know that your inheritance, your glory, your life will far outweigh and outlast whatever pain you bear (2 Corinthians 4:17).
So, do not just come to the Father; *run* to the Father. Do all that you can to find him, and then find him every day, every hour. Unlike anyone who has ever loved you, he will live within you, walk beside you, and go before you.