On December 27, 2012, the body of 60-year-old Timothy Henry Gray was found underneath a Wyoming overpass. There was no sign of foul play. No indication of a crime or mischief. He was a homeless person who died of hypothermia. Gray was a victim of bad breaks and bad luck. Except for one detail: he stood to inherit millions of dollars.
Gray’s great-grandfather was a wealthy copper-miner, a railroad builder, and the founder of a Nevada town that you may have heard of before. It’s called Las Vegas. His fortune was passed down to his daughter, Huguette, who died in 2011 at the age of 104.
Huguette left a $300 million fortune. At the time of Gray’s death, the execution of the will was tied up in court. As things turned out, the man found dead under the railroad overpass wasn’t poor at all. He may have been worth $19 million.
You may be wondering: How does an heir to a fortune die like a pauper underneath a bridge? I am sure that Timothy Gray knew his family history, but I wonder if he was in touch with his great-aunt. Didn’t it occur to him to investigate any kind of potential inheritance? I am sure that we would leave no stone unturned and no document would be left unread as we made it our aim to access our inheritance.
But do we?
As we begin to think about that, I would like to pose a simple question- Do you know who you are? Not who your neighbors, co-workers, your spouse and family say that you are- but who God says that you are.
A good, direct answer to that question comes from the book of Galatians. Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to the churches in Galatia, about 50 years after the birth of Christ. It was written to a Roman/Greek (Gentile) audience and the purpose of the book was to refute the Judaizers, who were teaching that Gentile believers must obey Jewish law in order to be saved.
But tucked in the middle of this book is our focal passage for today-Galatians 4:4-7- which the West family read so beautifully a few minutes ago. This passage offers a panoramic view of the central verse of our faith- John 3:16. It captures the significance and purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry on this earth. It describes God’s love and His desire for a relationship with us, as well as our spiritual inheritance.
In verses 4-5, Paul describes Jesus as the perfectly timed gift of God’s grace. Jesus shared in our human nature and because of this, He voluntarily subjected Himself to the divine laws and structured universe that He Himself had created.
Yet, He did not sin and became the perfect sacrifice for us. God sent Him to buy freedom for us. Why? So that he could adopt us as His very own children.
Paul’s use of the word “adoption” is important, and would have held special significance for his Roman audience. Unlike what we normally think about adoption, cute, adorable babies were not adopted in Roman culture because no one knew how a baby might turn out. Instead, the wealthy Romans adopted adults- men who were known and who could one day handle a large inheritance with wisdom and integrity.
Sometimes, these adults were actually slaves in the household. A former slave who had been adopted was not considered a “second-class” heir; instead, they were equal to all other heirs, whether biological or adopted.
In addition, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out and they now had a new father and a new family.
When we place our trust and faith in Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family, and when God looks at us, He sees his Son-Jesus Christ. And because we have been adopted into God’s family, we are now heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
That’s who we are. And because of that we have a great inheritance.
But what is that inheritance?
The first thing that often comes to mind is going to heaven one day when we die. Because we have been redeemed by Christ and adopted into God’s family, we have the promise of a place one day in the future. As those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life. We will be free from the burdens of this world and will be with Christ for all eternity. This is amazing news and I could stop right there and that would be enough.
But in God’s eyes, eternity doesn’t begin one day in the future. Eternity begins here-right here, right now. Because we are His children, God wants us to begin to experience this promise today.
And so, as His children we receive another inheritance- the Spirit of His Son. Galatians 4:6 says: “And because we are His children, God sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out “Abba, Father”. It is this spirit that connects us to God.
The word Abba is an Aramaic word that is difficult to translate into the English language. But in our language, it would translate more closely to “dad” or “daddy.”
It seems almost disrespectful to refer to our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, as “daddy”. But the term “Abba” is a word framed by the lips of infants and indicates an unreasoning trust and confidence. In other words, it expresses a child-like faith. As His children, we can now relate to God in an intimate, personal, and trusting way.
One of the things that I feel blessed to be able to do as a minister is that I get to officiate a lot of weddings. Not too long ago I was able to officiate the wedding of my niece, Sarah.
Prior to most weddings, as I did on this day, I spend time somewhere in the church with the groom, his best man, and the rest of the groomsmen. I always enjoy listening to the conversations between all the guys, and I have found that it helps the guys feel more comfortable with me before the ceremony. Or so, I thought.
On this day the groomsmen were sharing some stories about each other and, in particular, stories about the groom. I was standing there all decked-out in my minister’s robe and stole, trying to be involved in the conversation, and I asked a furthering question- something like “How did that happen?” The groomsman telling the story began his response “Well, Father Tommy, it started like this…”
I stopped the young man in mid-sentence and asked him “What did you just call me?” Confidently, he responded, “Father Tommy.”
Some of you are chuckling right now because you don’t relate to me in that way. Others of you are in side-splitting laughter- you know me pretty well and you certainly don’t relate to me that way. Some of you are laughing so hard right now that you need oxygen- you know me way too well, and you wouldn’t dream of relating to me as “Father Tommy!”
But the point is this: As His children, God wants us to be in awe of Him, but He does not want us to relate to Him by position or title. He does not want us to relate to Him as a slave to a master, or the accused standing before a judge. We have a new Father, and he wants to be Abba-Father. He wants our relationship with Him to be one of trust and intimacy.
And because He is Abba-Father, our inheritance includes everything we need, to be everything God desires.
As I thought about this, I recalled a familiar passage from Matthew 7: 7-11, which says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Our inheritance includes everything we need, to be everything God desires. His storehouses are always full and are never depleted. He doesn’t tell us to come back tomorrow when He has more. And because the Spirit of the Son resides in our hearts, then divine resources have been deposited in us as well.
If we need more patience, it’s ours. If we need more joy, we ask for it. Running low on wisdom? God has plenty.
The storehouse is full of mercy for shame-filled days and faith for days filled with fear. There is a stockpile of gratitude for ungrateful days, forgiveness for bitter days, and peace for anxious days. There is more than enough hope for catastrophic days and a never-ending supply of fuel in even our most depleted days.
Even in our most difficult days, there is everything we need, to be everything God desires. All we have to do is ask.
I began today’s message with a question: “Do you know who you are?”. Maybe a better question is “Do you know whose you are?”
Because you have been redeemed by Christ and adopted into God’s family, you are now an heir of God, and a co-heir of Christ.
As His children we can now reside in our Father’s house, under the same roof as Christ, in constant freedom of heart.
Who are we? We are heirs of God, and we don’t have to live underneath bridges anymore.
• Is there an area in your life where, spiritually speaking, you are living underneath a bridge and not claiming your inheritance from God?
• What steps do you need to take to move out from under that bridge and begin to claim that inheritance?