Many years ago, American Express ran an ad campaign that appealed to people’s desire to be thought of in the best way. The slogan that drove that campaign was “Membership has its privileges.” The plan was to sell the privileges so that people would “need” that card. You weren’t just a cardholder, you were a member. After all, in order to be a member, you had to pass the tests of membership. If you held one of that card, you must be part of an elite group. At least that was the impression they wanted you to get. So, people sought the American Excess card to gain the “privileges” of membership.
Membership had its price, too. You had to pay an annual fee that was higher than other cards. You were expected to pay each bill in full the next month, which many people didn’t really understand. Some retailers wouldn’t accept American Express cards because they had higher costs when accepting it. Visa reminded people that they wouldn’t take American Express at the Olympic Games. Membership has its costs as well as privileges. Paul dealt with the idea of membership in God’s family. How do you know if you are a member in God’s family? “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:7-9)
The greatest privilege of membership in God’s family is that the Spirit of God lives in you. In fact, that is the one irrefutable proof that you truly are in God’s family. If the Spirit doesn’t live in you, according to Paul, you don’t belong to Christ. There are a lot of people who “say the right words” to follow Christ, but they aren’t willing to submit to God’s leadership. Maybe the idea of belonging to Christ is scary. Maybe it’s the idea that when we submit to His Spirit in our lives, we are committing to follow Him, and that thought scares us – especially when we realize that He sends people to Africa* sometimes. Words of alleged faith make people think that they’re followers of Christ, when, in truth, they are avoiding Him. We must let the Holy Spirit come into our lives and take control. He may do a lot of “house cleaning” as He looks at our thoughts, deeds, and attitudes. Often that house cleaning will be the kinds of things that we knew were wrong, but just couldn’t change ourselves. It is only as the Spirit comes into your life that you belong to Jesus, though, and the privileges are worth it.
“What privileges?” you may ask. Romans 8 is full of those privileges: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (1); we are free from the law of sin and death (2); our minds are set on what the Spirit desires (5); we have life and peace (6); we are seen by God as righteous (10); eternal life (11); adoption into God’s family (15); we are more than conquerors (37). There were many more that I could have put into that list. Does this give you a good start at some of the privileges you have as God’s children who have submitted to and live by the Spirit of Christ? When I talk to people about coming to know Jesus, a lot of times I’ll have people tell me that there are some things that they won’t give up. They talk about actions, or attitudes that are so important to them, but they know don’t fit in with Christian beliefs. Now that I’ve thought about this more, perhaps I can point them to the privileges of membership for Christians. And passing the membership test is simply surrendering your will to God and putting Him in charge of your life. It doesn’t seem easy sometimes, but it will always be the best decision of your life.
Oh Lord, how easy it is to want to cling to my old habits and attitudes. I’ve grown comfortable with them, even when they’re against Your desires for me. Help me to surrender to Your Spirit in all I do.
*Note: Just in case being sent to Africa is REALLY a worry for you, I made that joke because my wife and I have the privilege of being able to serve in Africa again soon. We love the people there and we love the land. Please pray for us as we prepare to go and serve in Rwanda.