New Identity (Romans 8:14-17)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “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 joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:14-17)

The scripture we read today is from the Book of Romans, and it is teaching us about our identity. Before we came to church, we didn’t know God. But after we came to church and met God, we got to have a new identity. It is not that we got a new religion; it is a new identity. Of course, while we are on earth, it doesn’t seem like our identity has changed much. But in God’s eyes, our identity has changed.

In the past, we had nothing to do with God. Instead, we were in the position of opposing and attacking God. However, once we received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and began to receive God’s love, we realized how our identity had changed.

What is this changed identity? It is that of being God’s children. God’s child. A child is either a son or daughter, but that’s actually from a human’s perspective when we use that term. However, the Bible tells us we have received the “spirit of the Son” rather than merely being called “children”. The scripture we read says “the spirit of adoption.” But that doesn’t mean God adopted us as sons. The meaning of adoption there originally means “to become sons”. Therefore, having received the spirit that makes us sons, we have become sons of God. Since we became sons, we call God, “Father”. It says, “Abba Father” which can be translated as “Dad, Father.”

We now call God as our Father. Many of you likely have fathers in your homes. Some of you may have a close relationship with your fathers, while others may feel a distance. Yet we must not stereotype our fathers by their limitations; we ought to think differently.

God is our Father, and why is that? Firstly, He gave birth to us. Through the pain of childbirth, God brought us into being. Our existence is because of God; He created us. He made us come into existence. Just as with everything in nature, we too were created by God.

Additionally, God grants us breath. The breath you’re taking at this moment isn’t due to your own power. If it were, you wouldn’t be able to breathe while sleeping and unconscious. However, you don’t need to worry even when you sleep. We don’t breathe through our own effort. The same goes for the beating of our hearts. It’s not through our force that our hearts beat. The One who animates our hearts and bestows our breath is our Father God.

Another reason we call Him our Father is because we are His sons. The meaning of son in the Bible is not in the sense of gender, where we differentiate between sons and daughters. Instead, it means the heir. The heir is given everything the Father has. That is a son. Even when we say, “Jesus is God’s Son!” that’s what we mean. Jesus is God’s Son because He is the One who will inherit all things of God. Therefore, to say Jesus is God’s Son doesn’t mean that Jesus is lesser than God, falls short, or inferior to God. It means that everything God has belongs to Jesus. Everything that God has was given to Jesus.

Does God have two sons? Or three? It says the “Only begotten”. Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. He is the only Son. Therefore, God gave all things to His Son. For example, if God had a million dollars, He inherited all of that to His only begotten Son. Thus, how much would the Son have? Since the Father had ten billion, the Son would also possess ten billion, right? However, if the Father had two sons, an older and a younger, and He had ten billion dollars, then God would give five billion to the older son and five billion to the younger son. Now, imagine we observed one of these sons. What percentage of the Father would we have seen? Only half, merely 50%. That means we cannot fully know the Father.

However, Jesus is God’s Only Begotten Son, He is the only Son. Therefore, everything of God was inherited to His Son. So, when we see Jesus, the Son of God, we can fully understand God. All the glory we observe in Jesus belongs to God. In other words, “Jesus is the One who reveals God!” To phrase it differently, “Jesus is the image of God.” Since He is God’s Son, He is able to reveal God just as He is.

But we all can become such sons of God. God has chosen us to be His sons. How is this possible? Given that we were initially opposed to God, how can we inherit everything of God? The answer lies in our union with Jesus Christ, the heir of God. That is why we believe in Jesus. By believing in Jesus, we become heirs to all that God possesses through Him. Do you desire to inherit what God has? If not, there’s no need for you to believe in Jesus or attend church. The reason we attend church is because we want to inherit everything that God owns.

So, what exactly does God possess? His riches are boundless. Among all His possessions, what interests us the most is the life that God has – it is God’s own life, eternal life. It means to live eternally. Whereas humans may live for just 70 or 80 years, God has existed from eternity past, will never cease to exist, and remains forever. Furthermore, God is a being of happiness.  And what kind of happiness does He possess? It is eternal happiness. Eternal happiness.

Humans are quite amusing. The funny thing about man is that when we were living in the flesh and didn’t know God, we thought everything would end once we die. We thought 70, 80 years of life were everything. Even so, when we seek happiness, we don’t just seek happiness that lasts only 70, 80 years. What kind of happiness do we want? Everlasting happiness. We seek love, yet none of us are going to seek love that is only 70, 80 years long. What kind of love do we ask for? We ask to be loved eternally. A man and a woman in love seek everlasting love even though they know that their lives will only last 70, 80 years. This is because inside of us is something that seeks eternal love. That something is the spirit. The spirit is our true self. That is the real me. It is because we are spiritual beings, everlasting beings, that we know about everlasting love and happiness. Our spirit yearns for that. We were in search of that when we finally came to meet God.

Inside of us, we are seeking eternal things, but when we step out into the world seeking the love and happiness that others can offer, we face the harsh reality that these are not everlasting, leading to disappointment. We already know that ourselves. Thus, even though people might find temporary joy in worldly pleasures, they recognize it is short-lived and disappears and they feel empty. Although they are loved, there’s an underlying anxiety. They themselves know that one day this love will depart from them. “Love me forever!” we may plead, yet deep down, we understand no person can fulfill this eternal love. And even if someone sincerely intends to love us forever, and their feelings never waver, death inevitably brings separation. That is why we feel anxious.

Yet, there exists One capable of fulfilling the deep longing of our spirit for everlasting love – God. God’s love is eternal, and God’s happiness is everlasting. What is it that this God has done? Jesus was hung on the cross, shed all of His blood, He was pierced to shed all of the water. People killed Him so brutally. They accused Him as a sinner and mocked Him, slandered Him, framed Him with lies, and killed Him. Then they put Him in the grave.

At that time, graves were not like the graves in Korea where they buried the body underground. They placed the body in a cave. The man was left lying inside the cave all day, the first day and the second. But in the early morning of the third day, He was raised to life. The One who raised Him to life is God. Although Jesus came and revealed God, nobody believed Him. And even if they did believe in God, nobody believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

Yet Jesus had said, “God is living. That God is at work. He cannot be seen but He gives me all the glory and everything He has. Therefore, He will raise me up. Even my death is not on Your account. Rather, it was God who commanded me to come and die. Therefore, I obey Him. And because God is pleased with me, He will raise me to life”. And truly He did come to life.

How could He have been raised to life without God? There was someone who raised Him. The man whose blood was lost was raised to life. He didn’t even rise on His own. If He did, it means He had merely fainted and woke up. But He had no blood left in Him nor was there any water left. How can He possibly rise by Himself? He is unable to. But the One who raised Him, though He cannot be seen, raised Jesus through His power. He is God. Therefore, we know for certain that God exists.

Furthermore, we came to know another thing. As much as God raised Him to life, God also acknowledges Him. People killed Him as a sinner but God raised Him to life saying, “No! He is without sin! He is righteous!” People didn’t just kill Him. They accused Him, “You’re a sinner!” and pierced and crucified Him. But God countered this and raised Him back to life, for He is righteous.

So why was the righteous One punished in that way? We found out that the ones deserving of punishment were actually each one of us. You and I were subject to eternal punishment, deserving of God’s punishment and perish eternally. But instead of destroying us, God sent His Son to bear the punishment in our place. So, He is saying, “Believe in this truth! You must realize that you are sinners. Yet God did not destroy because you are sinners. Instead, He loved you that He wants to inherit all things to you. Believe this! Jesus is the One who fulfilled this. Therefore, acknowledge Jesus, accept Him and be united with Him! Kneel down before Jesus and receive in God!”

“How do we accept Him? Do we have to cultivate ourselves all our lives? Or do I need to make certain effort in my lifetime?” “No, there is nothing you need to do all your life. Just believe! Believe this truth. If you do, just do one thing!” “What’s that?” “Be baptized in the name of Jesus and repent saying ‘I’m a sinner. I am the one deserving of punishment!’ Repent and confess, ‘Jesus is without sin. He is God’s Son. Thus, God raised Him to life!’ Acknowledge this and be baptized. As you go in and come out of the water, you will be united with the Son of God!”

Whoever acknowledges so will no longer be regarded a sinner by God. Since he has united with God’s Son, God regards him as His son. From then on God answers his prayers and grants the happiness He has. Moreover, He sends many angels in heaven to help him so that his spirit knows, ‘Oh I am receiving God’s love!’ In this way he will have a life of experiences on earth. But more importantly, the flesh will die. But death is not the end; just as Jesus resurrected, He promised saying, “I will not leave you buried among the dead but raise you up!” Therefore, our hope is to resurrect and receive the glory which God gives, just as Jesus went up to heaven and was glorified.

Everything that God gives is so plentiful that it cannot be described in one word. But we just express everything as ‘glory’. However, when we get there and see for ourselves, we will be stunned. “Wow! Was it all of this?” And on that day, the people who had previously despised this while on earth will greatly regret it. However, those who united with Jesus on earth and received God’s love would be so blown away that they wouldn’t know how to react. ‘I haven’t really done much. All I did was believe, and I am given this great glory…’ They would be touched by what God has done, praising God and living in happiness eternally.

What you all need to receive by coming to church is this happiness of God. In Jesus’ name I bless you to receive God’s happiness and have hope in heaven.

Acknowledging the Son of God is really hard to do with man’s own strength. When I first came to church, the one who evangelized me told me so many times, “You will be a child of God!” but I still couldn’t believe that. I couldn’t understand that God had manifested in the form of man. I was heavily influenced by Confucianism, which is close to Eastern philosophy. So, I thought of God abstractedly as the reason or logic behind how the whole natural world evolves. I thought that the principle of how the world evolved and of nature was what people usually called ‘God’.

But then, being told that a man named Jesus is God, and He is the Son of God? It was beyond belief and seemed utterly absurd. Although I had come to church to start a faith life, I had not repented at all but tried to believe with my own will. During that period, I felt quite at loss when I prayed at church. Everything else I was able to follow. I could worship if I had to, listen to the word if I was told to – of course my mind was elsewhere when listening. And during offering time I didn’t give offering. Since I didn’t have faith, I thought, ‘Why should I pay this valuable money to the church?’ Sometimes because the pastor was at the front, I even thought, ‘Why should I give my money to that pastor?’ I had absolutely no faith.

But since I decided to attend church even if I pretended as though I had faith, I had to engage in prayer. However, when they said, “Let’s close our eyes and pray!” I just couldn’t do it. So, when they all prayed together saying “In Jesus’ name we pray!” I simply couldn’t say “In Jesus’ name we pray!” I thought, ‘I came because I wanted know about the truth. What does the man Jesus have to do with me?’ So, when others said, “In Jesus’ name”, I would say, “In the name of the truth I pray”. Because doing that didn’t go against my conscience.

Later on, I went to the church camp. I earnestly asked God to meet me. I prayed, “God, I want to meet You! If You are living, please meet me!” Of course, at first, I couldn’t pray loudly. Even though others told me to pray out loud, it was very hard. Actually, I wasn’t even sure if God existed, so how can I open my mouth and say out loud, “God, help me!”? But after some time, I watched others encountering God but I myself didn’t, and my heart became more longing.

Afterwards, I received a draft notice. At that time, I was struck by the thought, “If I continue this way, without encountering God or anything divine, and then go to military, it’s all over.” Hence, I began praying very earnestly and because I was earnest, I started to speak out lout as I prayed. “God, if You are living, please help me! God, if You are living, please help me!” Yet I just couldn’t get myself to say, “Father, help me!” I kept thinking about my father at home. I had one father, so how could I possibly call someone I can’t even see as my father while my father was sitting at home? I simply couldn’t say it. Thus, all I could say was, “Truth, help me!” or simply, “God, help me!”

But I became more and more earnest and prayed, “God, I admit that I am a sinner. I was in despair. I had no hope. If You are living, let me meet You!” Then, just as promised in the Bible – if you look at today’s scripture – it says that the Holy Spirit testifies that you are God’s child. At that moment, I finally received the Holy Spirit that God promised and that Jesus promised. I earnestly prayed, saying, “I confess I’m a sinner. I admit this! And I want to believe that Jesus is God’s Son! Why? Only He has taught me that I am a sinner. And no one else but Him has paid the price of sin for me. If You are living, I want to know You!” And in that moment, the Holy Spirit came into me.

From this point onwards, I cannot explain. The Holy Spirit cannot be seen, nor is He matter. Therefore, I cannot physically explain how the Holy Spirit came into me. But the promise clearly came true to me. I received the Holy Spirit, and in that very moment, if I was to describe it somehow, it was as though a lightning struck and hit me in my stomach. And from there, from within me, a deep lamentation erupted. A lamentation of repentance.

It’s like when a little child wakes up to find his mom is not next to him. What does the child do? He cries. He cries and cries for an hour, but his mom still doesn’t come. Then he doesn’t cry anymore, because it is useless to cry. He would tremble in fear. But after an hour, his mom comes back. Then, what does the child do? He cries again. He cries. That’s exactly how I felt at that moment.

Because I had finally met God and discovered that the One that I had been longing to meet for years was truly living, a cry and weeping burst out of me in that moment. A word popped out of my mouth. Very naturally, I cried out, “Father!!” It was the first time ever that I said “Father.” And it felt so natural. This was something I had tried so hard on my own but couldn’t say. But the moment the Holy Spirit came, I cried out, “Father!” I started weeping, and on that day, I cried and wept for an hour. I was overwhelmed by the fact that God is truly living, and how He forgave me of all of my sins and accepted me. They were tears of thankfulness.

From that time on, my life was completely changed. From then on, I became God’s son, and thus I was able to pray; my fear disappeared, I received eternal happiness, eternal love, and hope of the resurrection.

Since then, I have been able to live boldly because of my identity as God’s child. Prior to that, I was worried about finances, felt lonely, and so on. But ever since then, I haven’t had such worries because God is with me. In the past, if there was anything I had to do, the first thing I thought about was money – if I could afford to do it. ‘I don’t have enough money for it! My circumstances don’t allow me to!’ Yet when you have something to do that you are sure of, and you have the certainty that God is for it too, you can do it even if you don’t have money. Because money will follow. You can pray about it.

To give one example, I got married two months after graduating from university. I had nothing. I didn’t have any money. At that time, I didn’t even have a job. We got married at the end of April, but I started working on the 1st of April. Even so, when we were determining our wedding date, I was out of work. Who can possibly do that? How can a person without a job and without a home decide on marriage? But because I had faith that God was for it, despite not having money and the circumstances not allowing it, I made the decision. And when I decided, everything else followed. That’s a Christian’s life. Of course, this example is only the tip of the iceberg.

Sungrak Church started from zero, literally nothing to building this great work after fifty years. Now, Sungrak Church has many disciples across the globe. When he had nothing, he set his will and everything followed. It is God who is with him. Because he is a child of God.

You also can live this kind of powerful life. Why? Because you have a new identity. In Jesus’ name I bless you all to become God’s children in Jesus Christ and abundantly receive God’s happiness and joy as God’s children. I’ll pray.

Father God, thank You for sending us Jesus Christ so that by uniting with the Son of God we also became God’s sons who share in God’s eternal happiness and joy. Grant every soul here Your grace and lead them step by step so that they meet God, and help them to receive God’s love abundantly. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center