For all 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 have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17
Faith is not something that Christians do in our own strength. Paul doesn’t give a list of ten tips for righteous living, but rather calls believers to continually let themselves be led by the Spirit. Our life of faith is an active awareness that by the Holy Spirit we have been brought into participating in life of the Triune God, where we are loved by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This gift is what enables us to reflect Christ in our life.
The Spirit gives us voice to cry out “Abba!” (daddy) “Father!” It brings us into a loving parent and child relationship with God. When we are tempted to chase after the false idols that the world offers, or when our brokenness and our failures in our relationship with God and others assail us, the Spirit gives testimony to the truth that we have been claimed by God in Christ as God’s children. And not only children, but heirs together with Christ, sharing in the blessing of intimate relationship with the Triune God and other believers. “Be who you already are in Christ” seems to be the heart of Paul’s message.
Paul also encourages us to name and reject the various ways we are confronted with the lie that our identity and self-worth depend on anything other than God’s self-giving love for us. Becoming more successful in our careers, acquiring more followers on social media, or working on our physical appearances will not ultimately fulfill us. Such pursuits, while not necessarily bad, can lead us back into a state of bondage if we let them define how we see ourselves and others. Life in the Spirit frees us from such judgments so that we can love each other with the same love we first receive from God.