Romans 8:15b “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”
Living a Christian life is more than doing the right things. The Lord is just as concerned with our motives as he is with our actual behavior. Sometimes my children sat at the table with us only because they feared the discipline they would get if they didn’t. Students do certain homework assignments only because they fear the trouble they would be in with parents or teachers if they didn’t. Fear of pregnancy, disease, or ruining a marriage is enough to convince some people to live sexually chaste lives (though fewer and fewer find even these consequences compelling reasons to control themselves). Driving the speed limit, being honest on your tax return–all of us do certain things only because we fear the consequences.
In each case, the behavior may be correct. But this is nothing like living a Christian life. Paul says, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear.” People who act out of fear haven’t changed. They are merely controlled. That’s a form of slavery.
Christian life is a life of freedom. It is the product of a new relationship. “But you received the Spirit of sonship.” The word sonship can also be translated adoption. Paul is leading us back to God’s grace. None of us were natural born members of God’s family. Because he loved us he adopted us. He bought us with Jesus blood. He claimed us and made us his own by faith. He brought us into his family as his children.
Now, we don’t serve him because we are afraid of him. We love the one who so loved us. When we believe the grace, forgiveness, and love he has shown us, when we comprehend how good he has been to us, we can’t help ourselves. We relate to God as his children and serve him in love.
On the outside, living life led by the Spirit may not look much different than a life driven by fear. But these two things are not at all the same. God sees the difference. Our hearts know it, too. Set the slave aside. Be the sons and daughters you are.