“Fall From Grace?”

falling_from_grace_cd_cover_by_mediadesignGalatians 5:1-12
No matter who you are, whether you are a Christian or not, it is very likely that you do not want your picture on the internet with the caption below reading, “YOUR NAME has fallen from grace!”  Do you?  Of course not!  Who would?

You can do a simple Google search of “Fall From Grace” and immediately your browser is filled with 17.3 million hits in less than .41 seconds!  That’s a lot of falling from grace!  The Google hits are about politicians, religious leaders, and others who have sinned, been caught, and suffering the fallout of their poor choices.  In general, the term “fall from grace” seems to be when someone commits a sin that society has labeled to be unacceptable.

But what is “Falling from Grace?”  What does it look like?  How do we know if we’ve done it?  Is there any coming back from it if we do it?  These questions and many more will be our focus today.  “Falling from Grace” is not a made up term.  It’s right from the Bible! In fact, it’s in our passage this week in Galatians 5:4 “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  There it is!  Unlike some other religious mumbo jumbo, this isn’t a made up phrase.  It’s actually in the Bible and apparently the Christians in Galatia have done it–they have fallen from grace.

Before we dive into what “Falling from Grace” is, let us first make sure we know what “Grace” is.  Grace is much more than a theological doctrine.  It’s much more than a point on a sermon outline.  It’s much more than a teaching.  Grace is really a Person!  Jesus Christ is the very personification of grace.  In fact, when introducing Jesus to his readers, the Apostle John says that Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and that from Jesus comes “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  So, it seems, to receive Jesus is to receive grace.  Grace, by definition, is free.

A good definition of grace is “getting something that you did not earn.”  If a guilty prisoner, who is facing execution, is suddenly freed by his governor, this is an act of grace.  While many may disagree with the action of the governor, he gave that prisoner something he didn’t deserve.  He had earned his punishment, but he was given freedom.  By the way, mercy is the idea of “not getting something that you did earn.”  The prisoner deserved his execution, but the governor showed mercy by not giving him what he deserved.  But the governor went beyond mercy and extended grace!  He not only withheld something that he did deserve, he gave him something that he also did not deserve.

It’s not fair!

Grace is simply not fair.  It is not fair for us to receive what we did not earn.  None of us deserves forgiveness, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves freedom from law, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves God, but God has graciously granted us with Himself.  We all were that guilty prisoner–guilty before we were even born because of our ancestor, Adam, but God, being rich in both grace and mercy, has given us things we will never be able to deserve.

Grace is always greater.

One of the amazing realities of God’s grace is that it is greater than all our sinning.  Look at Romans 5:20 real quickly, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”  Apparently God gave the Law to Moses so that sinning would increase (ever read that before?).  Now why in the world would God want sin to increase?  Because God wanted to show off the full extent of His radical grace towards sinners!  Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!  Sin is no match for the grace of God.  In fact the phrase “all the more” is the Greek prefix “hyper!”  God’s grace is “HYPER!”  Just like the hyperactive kid in school who is always more active than the other kids in class, God’s hyper-grace is always more than sin.  This means that if you were to take all the sins of your life, from childhood to death, and add them up, you’d get a cardinal number.  Something like 78,301 (for example!).  The Bible is saying that God’s grace is always greater than your measly 78,301 sins.  God’s grace isn’t just 78,302.  How much grace does God have?  Does he just have one more grace than you have sins?  That would be enough, but is that all the grace God has?  Well, think about how big Jesus is.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.  God is not even measurable.  Our best attempt at measuring God is to say that God is infinite.  He has no beginning and no end.  God has no limitations whatsoever.  So if God is infinitely large (immeasurable) and if Jesus is this God, and if Jesus is full of grace (John 1:14), then how much grace does God have?  Did you follow that? If not, here’s the answer: God’s grace is unlimited.  It is as immeasurable as He himself is immeasurable!  So God doesn’t have just one more grace than you have sins.  God has an immeasurable supply of this grace, and you will always have a finite number of sins!

Now watch this!  Take your 78,301 sins and multiply them by the eight billion people that are alive right now, plus the billions upon billions from previous generations, plus the countless sins of future generations!  Think of that number!  It may even be larger than the National Debt!  But guess what?  If Romans 5:20 is true, God’s hyper-grace still wins!  God’s grace will always outweigh all the sinning we could ever do as humanity.  Aren’t you glad about God’s hyper-grace?  I am!  What if His grace wasn’t “hyper?”  What if it was “typical” or “average?”  If God’s grace was not hyper and was limited, then there would be a very real possibility that we could out sin God’s grace.  However, God has rigged it so that would never be possible.  God’s grace hyper abounds above any sinning we could ever do!  It seems God even increased sinning by giving the Law to show just how hyper his grace really is!

God’s promise of Grace!

One more quick thought on what God’s grace even is before we jump into the idea of “falling from grace.”  God’s grace is all based on a promise.  If you haven’t read through the previous blog/devotionals in Galatians, let me encourage you to do so.  This free gift of forgiveness of all our sins, freedom from the Law, freedom from the flesh, our new life in Christ, intimacy with God himself, and so much more, is all based on a promise that God made to Jesus.  The question really is, “Can God lie?”  Because if He can lie, then why in the world am I even typing this and why are you even wasting your time reading anything that is based on what God has said?  However, if God cannot lie, as Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 both say, then we can take what He says to the bank.  One of the most unbelievable things that God has said is found in Jeremiah 31.  We have talked already, and will talk more, about verses 31-34 where God promises the New Covenant of Grace that will be nothing like the Old Covenant of Law, where God will be intimate with people, where God’s desires will be etched in our new hearts, and where He will forgive all our iniquities and remember our sins NO MORE!  This new covenant started when the one who made the covenant died.  This was when Jesus, God in the flesh, hung on a tree plunging the entire human race into death so that He could begin a whole new race–a holy nation a royal priesthood, no longer from the First Adam, but now from the Last Adam–Jesus Christ Himself.  But I want to look at the next couple of verses–verse 35-37.

In verses 35 and 36, God promises that the very order of the universe would have to end before He would end His relationship with us.  The very earth would have to stop rotating.  The moon would have to stop revolving.  The seasons would have to end, on and on and on, in order for God to renege on His promise, and you would stop being His special treasure.  Now let me ask you, “If the order to the universe stopped, would we have some major problems on our hands already?”  Even more dramatic, verse 37 says that the universe would have to be measured and the core of the earth would have to be traversed before God would cast you off because of something you have done.  The problem with measuring the universe is that every time we get a bigger telescope to see further, we see even further!  There’s no end to the universe.  How do you measure something that has no end?  The problem with traversing the core of the earth is this substance called liquid hot magma!  You can’t walk through it and live.  So here is what God is saying, “In the new covenant of grace, I will kick you out from my presence because of something you have done if you are able to measure the immeasurable universe and if you are able to traverse the untraversable core of the earth.”  To which we say, “But, God, wait a minute, we can’t measure the immeasurable universe, and we can’t traverse the untraversable core of the earth!”  To which God says, “Bingo kid!  That is a taste of what My grace is really all about!  You will never fall from me because of something you have done because I took everything you’d ever do and destroyed it when I destroyed Jesus on the cross.  You sins are now impotent!”

This means that God’s New Covenant of Grace is not based on my behavior but based on His unfathomable, unimaginable, immeasurable grace!

So what does “Fall From Grace” mean then?

We have to see that our sinning is not the catalyst for this fall from grace that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:4.  If we can sin our way out of God’s family, then what was the cross for?  Why would Jesus have done what He did, if our sinning can undo it?  No, our sinning isn’t what causes this “fall from grace.”

Look at Galatians 5:4 again.  Earlier I quoted it as, “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  I intentionally left out a part and put in the “…” things.  The part that is represented by the “…” is very, very important!  Here’s the whole verse, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Whoa, does that change things!  God’s system of relating to humanity has changed.  It changed from a system of rules and laws (the Old Covenant of Law) to a new system of grace (The New Covenant).  There is now only one way to relate to God–to connect with Him.  It is by hearing what Jesus did for us and then believing the news!  This is how God continuously supplies His Spirit to us–by hearing and believing.  Grace is channeled to you by your hearing and your believing.  This is God’s new, perhaps controversial, way.  But so many people were, and still are, interested in relating to God based on the old way of living by rules, laws, and regulations.  The thinking is that if we can perform certain ways, then we can better relate and better connect with God.  That sounds fine and dandy, but the problem is that isn’t the way God set up this new system to work.  It isn’t performing a list of rules.  It’s hearing and believing.

These Galatians had been distracted from the new way of grace to the old way of behavior.  They had been invited to fall into God’s grace, but they were opting to do the opposite and fall away from God’s grace.  If someone seeking to be made right with God by law, falls out of grace, what is he falling towards?  He is falling toward laws, rules, and regulations.  Being perfectly right with God by simply hearing and believing seemed too simple.  There had to be more.  There had to be something they brought to the table.  By falling towards law-based rightness with God, they were falling away from grace.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t fall both into grace and into law at the same time!  To fall into one you fall away from the other.  God’s invitation is for you to fall out of law-based living and into His grace!

So how does someone “Fall Out of Grace?”

We can fall out of grace by becoming distracted that our behavior, whether good or bad, is able to affect our intimacy with God.  We sit before God’s throne of Grace with confidence not in our ability to do or not do, but rather with confidence that this whole thing was His idea and not ours.

It was His idea that all our sins be placed on His Son and taken away from us.  It was His idea that we die with Jesus so that we could be raised with Jesus.  It was His idea that we be free from a system of rules, laws, and obedience to lists.  It was all His idea.  Now what if we think we know better than God?  What if we look at God’s idea of grace and say that it isn’t good enough, that it is too simple, or that it is just too good to be true.  Would we not be calling God’s intellect, wisdom, and character into question?  Would we not be saying that we know a better way than God?  Humanity has been saying it knows of a better way than God ever since the Garden of Eden, and God has graciously shown us time and time again that Daddy truly knows best!

So, do you find yourself leaning back on your flesh, your performance, and your track record to ensure you are right with God?  If so, I think Paul is saying you are falling away from grace.  If your performance were a factor in this new and better way, then, let’s face it, you’d be toast.

Your sins deserve death.  Jesus died your death!  You now have His life!  That, my friends, is grace.  Let us not fall away from this!

So what do I need to do now?

Are you worried that if you take your performance off the table that sin will creep in?  You’re not alone!  So many that Paul tried to share this better way of Grace thought the same thing.  But here’s the deal.  If improved performance is a desire of yours–you want to stop that same old sinning you have been doing forever–then there’s really only one option.  You must hear the invitation God has given and believe Him.  He’s inviting you to trade your fixation.  Instead of being fixated with your behavior, with your performance, and with your track record, God wants you to become fixated on Jesus’ behavior, Jesus’ performance, and Jesus’ track record.  You see, that is what God is fixated on!  God is fixated on His Son and all those who are in His Son!  If you are in Christ, then you are in the behavior, the performance, and the track record of Jesus Christ himself.  His whole identity is yours now.  You’ll never improve your behavior by being fixated on your behavior.  But as you become fixated on Christ, guess what actually starts coming forth from your body?  Christ!  You become an actual vessel through which Christ Himself now manifests Himself into this world (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

I Cor. 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Are you concerned about your thought life because it would be the most embarrassing thing in the world for someone to know what you think at times? Consider Jesus’ wisdom and thoughts, because you now have His very mind.

Are you concerned about your behavior because it’s all over the map?  Consider Jesus’ righteousness, because you have become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)  That means you equal Jesus’ righteousness!

Are you concerned about your sanctification because you think it’s some sort of process that you’re not good at?  Consider Jesus’ sanctification, because He has become your sanctification.  That means you are actually as sanctified as Jesus is sanctified.

Are you concerned about your abundance of sinning, thinking it will jeopardize your gift of salvation?  Do you have a list of “but what if I’s….?”  But what if I sin the same sin over and over? But what if I get divorced?  But what if I ….  Consider Jesus’ redemption, because He himself has redeemed you.  How saved are you? Are you saved somewhat?  Are you saved unless you sin?  Are you saved unless you sin the same sin over and over?  Consider Jesus’ redemption of you and the truth of Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives…”  He has saved you completely and forever!  In fact, the duration of your very salvation is not tied to your life in this flesh at all.  According to Hebrews 7:25, what is your the duration of your salvation tied to?  It’s tied to Jesus’ life.  Since He lives forever, you will be saved forever!

But don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 5:1-13 for yourself>

Question to Consider:

  1. What would it say about God’s grace if “falling from grace” means that you can lose your salvation because of your sinning?
  2. Upon reading Galatians 5, and the rest of the New Covenant promises, why do you think there is such a fixation on the ability to lose one’s salvation?
  3. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  Ultimately what must break in order for that seal to break?
  4. If we can lose our salvation by something we have done, then what does that say about the work of Christ on the cross?
  5. In what tangible ways is your life bettered by knowing God will never remove you from Himself because of something you do?
  6. The devil even used scripture to question Jesus, don’t you think he can do the same today with you?  There are a few passages that always seem to be used to promote loss of salvation.  Hebrews 6 is usually one of them.  Take some time and read Hebrews 1 through 6 to see if Hebrews 6 is promoting the “insecurity” of a believer or perhaps the exact opposite!  Remember, any scripture can be taken out of its context to try to communicate something it actually doesn’t.
Advertisements
“Fall From Grace?”

Throw away what??

cdd6c20d2259d8c157ca8cdf999e3704Galatians 4:21-31

This is one of my most favorite church memes!  I can’t tell you how many times I have invited someone to come with me to church and quickly the conversation goes to how there are so many hypocrites in church, and so they don’t want to go!  If we used that same logic in other areas of life, we’d never go to the dentist because there are people there with messed up teeth.  We’d never go to the doctor because there are so many sick people.  We’d never go to school because there are so many people there who don’t already know the answer.  And, as the graphic here says, we’d never go to the gym because there are “out of shape people” there!

Of course, there are people at church who don’t have everything together!  Thank goodness!  I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a church where everyone is “picture perfect.”  Church life is messy.  In my short ministry, I’ve tried to help people through teenage pregnancies, ugly divorces, husbands leaving their wives after twenty plus years, parents watching their children really struggle with gender identity, and so much more.  Church life is messy!  Yes, we have died to sin and are alive to God!  Yes, we are born from above and no longer from below. Yes, we are the very righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  Absolutely.  But sin hasn’t died!  Sin is still alive and well in our mortal bodies–in our flesh.  To suggest that any Christian will always walk in the reality of his or her new life is unfair and unrealistic.  We certainly desire to walk in the reality of who we are.  It’s our ambition and one of our greatest desires.  But as long as we live in these bodies where sin still lives, we’re going to have good days and bad days!  We’ll walk in the victory that the Lord provides, but many days we won’t.  When we don’t, Peter says that we have become blind and shortsighted having forgotten our purification from our old sins (2 Peter 1:9).  This is why we are so passionate at Life Journey about reminding us all of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and now who we are in Him!  If we sin by forgetting, let us be reminded all the more!

In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul addresses this very issue of hypocrisy.  You see, many of the gentiles in Galatia had been duped and distracted by thinking their rightness with God was being managed by their ability to keep the Law of Moses.  The Law of Moses is a combination of some 613 laws that God gave and Moses recorded them in the first five books of the Bible.  The most famous of these 613 laws are, of course, the Ten Commandments.  These commandments were very special in that they were given to Moses on Mount Sinai just after the Israelites were successfully delivered from their slavery in Egypt.  Of all the 613 laws, these ten were engraved on stones.  Sometimes they are even referred to as the “stone tablets.”   In fact, of all the 613 laws of the Old Testament, just a portion of these laws were delivered while Moses and God were on Mount Sinai together.  However, because of the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai has come to represent the entire law.

So far in Galatians, Paul has been puzzled by what the Galatians were doing.  They had embraced their freedom in Christ, but they had tossed their freedom aside for rules–specifically the 613 laws of Israel.  They had been distracted from the truth of Jesus to embrace Jesus plus Judaeo rules, laws, and customs.  

So, get this picture, Galatian gentiles, who were never ever even invited to the Old Covenant Law-based system, are putting themselves under that old system in hopes of getting more than what they have freely been given already in Christ.  As we saw last week, the Old Covenant was only offered to a specific people group, the Jews, for a limited specific period of time, from Mount Sinai until the promised seed–Jesus–would come to die.  That’s it!  The Mosaic Law was only for that specific group for that specific time! None of the Jews before Sinai were bound to the Mosaic Law!  If you were to ask Joseph or any of his brothers, or any of the subsequent generations enslaved in Egypt about the Ten Commandments, they would have looked at you with all sorts of confusion!  They were Jews, but they were before the Law was added.  In the same exact way, you should be able to ask any Jew after Jesus about how they are doing with the Ten Commandments or any of the Laws of Moses, and they should respond with the same confused look because the Law was added before Jesus.

Jesus brings freedom!  But instead of the Jews embracing their freedom in Christ, as Paul did, the Jews were demanding that gentiles be bound to the same Jewish Law that they themselves could never accomplish!  What irony!  So here you have these distracted and confused Judaizers (Jews who are demanding that gentiles become Jews in order to truly be saved) distracting and confusing gentiles!

But the Lord had given such great clarity on this very subject matter to the Apostle Paul that Paul even used the very words in the Old Covenant to show that the Old Covenant itself was to be set aside.  You see, the gentiles (and the Judaizers for that matter) were throwing away something.  They were throwing away their freedom that Christ had given them. As we saw in last week’s message, “To reject our freedom is to reject our Jesus, for Jesus set us free.”  Inspired by the very Spirit of God, Paul calls these gentiles who have tossed aside their freedom for performance based intimacy with God what they actually are–HYPOCRITES.

Paul says, “You who wish to be under the Law, have you not heard the Law?”  It’s like one of the worst “gotcha” moments ever!  Most of these gentile believers in Galatia were illiterate Phrygian slaves.  Usually, we’d expect Paul to say “have you not read the Law,” but the fact is they couldn’t read!  Just as people were reading the very letter Paul sent them, they had to depend upon someone else to read the Law to them.  Here’s the problem: do you think the ones who were trying to put the gentiles under the Law were eager to read the entire Law to them?  I don’t think so!  Not only was the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) very long to read, but, and here’s Paul’s whole point, if you were to read or listen to the Law you’d know that it is not compatible with the New Covenant of Grace that was promised long before the Law and that Jesus had come to establish.

For example, both Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 28 outline the terms of the Old Covenant.  The terms were God would do His part, IF the Jews did their part.  Now I know that many people and denominations think that is the way the New Covenant works, but we know better.  The terms of the New Covenant are God knows we are unable to do our part and so He didn’t give us a part.  God did both His part, AND our part in the man Jesus Christ.  The two covenants couldn’t be any different.  In fact, God promised they would be totally opposite in Jeremiah 31:31-34.  He promised that the New Covenant would be nothing like the Old Covenant.  The Old Covenant had Ten Commandments etched on stone revealing the desires of God. In the New Covenant, the very desires of God are etched on our new hearts in the very person of Jesus Christ–God Himself–now with us!

Paul’s point is that if the Judaizers were honest with the Galatians, they would have read the Law to them, and it would have revealed that the Covenant of Law and the Covenant of Grace are not compatible whatsoever.  Jesus said they were not compatible when talking about new wine and old wineskins.  To mix the two is to destroy them both.

The absolute crescendo to Chapter 4 is that there is something we are to throw away, and it isn’t our freedom in Christ!  Paul reveals the true hidden meaning between the lives of some historical figures in the Old Testament.  Abraham had two sons.  One was with the slave, Hagar.  She bore Ishmael.  The other son, the promised son, was with the free woman, Sarah. She bore Isaac.  Paul says that Hagar, the slave, represents Mount Sinai.  Mount Sinai is where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  Sarah represents Jerusalem above which is free.  Ishmael is a picture of the works of our flesh.  Abraham produced Ishmael by his own effort with Hagar.  Isaac is a picture of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  You see, Sarah was barren.  She couldn’t have children, and God promise was that she would.  Abraham tried to help God out by cutting corners to bring about God’s promise. However, God didn’t, and still doesn’t, need any help to bring about His promise.  In Genesis 21:10 Sarah told Abraham to “cast out the bondwoman (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael)” because Ishmael was bullying Isaac.

Paul sees this as a picture.  The slavery of Hagar corresponds to the Mosaic Law and the slavery those under it are in.  The works of Abraham’s flesh, Ishmael, corresponds to the works produced by this bondage to the Law.  Paul quotes Sarah and says that we are to throw away the Law and the works of our flesh because we are not a part of the Law, nor the flesh, any longer.  We are from a whole other origin now. We are actually from Jerusalem above.

Just as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, that flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to spirit, we have been born anew from the very Spirit of God.  Our bondage to Law and the works of our flesh have been severed from our new life in Christ.  We are to throw them away.  

As controversial as it sounds, God is telling us in Galatians 4 that we no longer look to the Ten  Commandments for life.  We look to Jesus!  Jesus, not the stone tablets, is our life. Jesus, not the Law, is our righteousness.  Jesus, not the Torah, lives in us.  Jesus, not mere knowledge of good and evil, is our guide.  Jesus, not rules and regulations, is our holiness.  Jesus, not our track record, is our glory.  Jesus, not our ability, is our guarantee of perfect intimacy with God.  Jesus…always Jesus.  Jesus plus nothing!

What does this do to you?  When you read the Holy Spirit penning these words through Paul that there is something to throw away, but it isn’t our liberty, but rather it’s Mount Sinai and the works of the flesh, what goes through your mind?

Let me ask you a question, which would you rather have, 613 (not just 10) Laws on paper for you to try your best to live up to, or the very One who perfectly fulfilled all of them living in you?  You see, whether your list of “rules and regulations” have 613 items, 10 items, or even 2 items, the great error is that we think they are in our lives for us to live by them.  Remember Galatians 3:12, “the law is not of faith.”  If we choose to live by a code of conduct, a set of expectations, a list of what’s good and what’s bad, we are not living by faith.  We are living by sight.  There’s but one way to please God–without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Here’s the invitation to you, throw away your lists.  Cast off your codes.  Trash your expectations.  Get your eyes off of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and set your eyes on the tree of Life–Jesus Christ Himself!  Faith is messy at times.  We will all stumble in many ways.  But one thing is certain, if you throw off your liberty in Jesus, you have thrown off the wrong thing!

But don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 4:21-31 for yourself>

Questions to Consider:

  1. If you have ever read through Galatians before, what other conclusion have you drawn other than Paul’s command to throw the law and the works of our flesh away?
  2. Do you see the hypocrisy of embracing the very thing that instructs you to throw it away?
  3. In Community Group one night I asked, “Why are we so scared to live by the life of Christ in us?”  A fantastic answer was, “We underestimate the new life we now have.” What about you?  Do you fear that if you throw away the things you do that make you think you are good with God, that will lead you into anarchy?  If you start living by your new life–the very life of Christ–do you think you will end up in anarchy?
  4. When you hear Paul’s command to throw away law-based living, do you wonder what you are to replace it with?  What if there isn’t something to replace it with but rather Someone, Jesus, has already taken up residence in you since you started trusting Him and He’s primed and ready to start living through you as you walk by faith in Him?
  5. God demanded your faith in order for you to be saved. He demands nothing further now.  Why do you think it is so hard to live by faith that Jesus can actually live the Christian life through us better than we could ever do it on our own?
Throw away what??

Son or Slave…which are you?

quote-i-freed-a-thousand-slaves-i-could-have-freed-a-thousand-more-if-only-they-knew-they-harriet-tubman-29-76-64

Galatians 4:1-20

Slavery…what a terrible reality.

Slavery still exists in a variety of ways in our broken world.  Years ago, I was introduced to “Run For Their Lives.”  It’s a movement to raise money to set women and children free from sex slavery around the world.  Just because we can’t see it from our front porch here in Crozet, VA, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in large volume.  In fact, even here in North America, the abolition of slavery is relatively young.  There were 371 years of slavery from Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  However, there have only been 153 from the Emancipation Proclamation until today–not even half the time of official slavery on our continent.

Galatians 4 introduces us to two extremes that could not be further apart–slavery and sonship. Upon our physical birth we were born as slaves.  Not necessarily as slaves to someone else, but slaves nonetheless.  We were born as slaves to both sin and the law.  This internal law (aka “morality code”) is the remnants of our mother and father’s decision to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Before they ate, they drew their value and life from God Himself.  After they ate–after they sinned–they now had a knowledge that they didn’t have before.  As Paul speaks of in Romans 2, all of the sudden their conscience was either defending them or accusing them based on what they did.  They saw each other naked and this new found slavery demanded them to cover up and hide.  They had been naked the entire time, but all of the sudden they had become slaves–slaves to the knowledge of right and wrong.

It’s hard to see the knowledge of right and wrong as a slave master.  It is.  We must reread Genesis 2 and 3.  God said when their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, they would die.  We tend to think that the knowledge of good and evil is the goal of the christian life.  We try our best in our churches to simply instill principles for godly living, to help define what is good and what is evil, etc, so that our people would do what is good and not what is evil.  That sounds like a good thing to do doesn’t it?  Again, if it’s such a good thing, then why was the consequence of obtaining this knowledge of good and evil death?

If you fast forward numerous generations to the life of Moses, we read about how God put to tablet and parchment this knowledge of good and evil that had been in humanities’ hearts since Adam and Eve, into what we know of as the Mosaic Law.  No Jew was surprised at any of the Ten Commandments.  This law had been written in their hearts their entire lives, but was now manifested in a written code.  For example, murder was already wrong before God said, “Thou shall not murder.” We know this because when Moses murdered the Egyptian (Exodus 2), he hid the body and then ran for his own life.  How did he know it was wrong?  The knowledge of good and evil was written on his heart.  Every one of us experiences this same thing.  Our conscience alternatively accuses us (when we do wrong) and defends us (when we do right)– Romans 2:15.

Is this so bad?  Why is this a big deal?  Why is this “slavery?”

Well, here’s the deal.  Our slavery to this knowledge of good and evil results in us viewing everything by what this slave master says of us.  If we do good, we feel good.  If we do evil, we feel evil.  This is a dangerous slavery.

If, before you were born again, you did some really excellent things, maybe you volunteered, maybe you took in foster kids, etc, the result tends to be one where we determine our intrinsic goodness based on the actions we’ve done.  Our internal slavemaster–the conscience–is defending us in these times.  It’s telling us, “Look at you!  Way to go!  You’re not bad at all.  You’re a really good person.  You are good!”  There’s no denying that the activity is great!  But the slavery is to then determine the reality of our compatibility with God based on our good behavior.  This is dangerous.  We will lose each time.  As God told Adam and Eve, this slavery brings death.

Let’s look at the other side.  Conversely, if you are now a born again believer with a new human spirit birthed from God Himself and you royally mess up, the result tends to be one where we determine our intrinsic goodness based on the actions we’ve just done.  Our internal slavemaster–the conscience–is now accusing us.  It’s telling us, “Look at you! Look at what you’ve just done.  Look at how huge that sin was.  Look at how ugly, wicked, and debased that was.  How can you be right with God now?  How can you ever even think of being right with God in the future?”  Look, there’s no denying the behavior was wicked and horrible, but the slavery is to then determine the reality of our compatibility with God based on the wicked behavior.  This is dangerous.  We will lose each time when we listen to the slavemaster of the conscience (aka the law) that is written in our minds and thoughts.

The slavery is the slavery of determining who you are based on your actions.  The truth is we are who we are based on our birth.  If we are in Adam, it doesn’t matter the “good or the evil,” we are incompatible with God.  Conversely, if we are in Christ, the “good or the evil” we do does not determine if we are compatible with God.  We aren’t less compatible or more based on our behavior through that old slavemaster, the law, says so.

Why is this so hard to see?

One of the reasons this slavery to the knowledge of good and evil is so hard to see is because most of us don’t even know we are enslaved.  Most of us have become so accustomed to determining our fellowship with God by what our old slavemaster says that we can’t imagine what it would be like any other way.

Harriet Tubman is quoted as having said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  You see, by the time of the Civil War, many slaves had not only been slaves their entire lives, but their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and even beyond that had been slaves their entire lives.  Slavery was the only thing they knew.  Tubman’s frustration is that these “thousand more” didn’t realize the condition they were truly in because they had never experienced what freedom could be.

As Paul writes this letter to the Galatians, it’s important to remember that the majority of the christians in Galatia were also multi-generational slaves.  And here is where we find the majority of Christians today–living as slaves though they have actually been set free.  I have no scientific data, but I would easily guess that eight out of ten christians believe that their conscience in them is a good measuring tool to help them determine their fellowship with God.  If their conscience is accusing them, they must have slid from God some.  If their conscience is defending them, they must have slid a little closer.

This behavior based fellowship with God is the very thing Paul is so livid about.  The Galatians had started off so well, but then the Judaizers had come to town and resurrected their slavery to the knowledge of good and evil.  Paul’s whole point of Galatians 4:1-20 is to remind them, and us today too, of:  1. what Jesus actually accomplished,  2. which Spirit we now have (one of slavery or one of sonship), and ultimately  3. how that so drastically affects our lives today here and now.

  1. What did Jesus actually accomplish?

As we’ve already said, we were born under this law of slavery to the knowledge of good and evil.  This was put to tablet and parchment with Moses and the Israelites to show them and us, our true condition and to lead us to Jesus (see 3:15-29).  Now that we are clear on our inability to be compatible with God because of the 613 boney fingers of the Law condemning our every wrong action, we need Someone to rescue us from it.

Enter Jesus!  Jesus was born under this same curse of law so that He might actually redeem us who were under its curse.  Galatians 4:4-5 says that he did this so that we could go from slaves to this law to actual sons of God!  Think of what that means.  Are we slaves of God or sons of God?

  1. Which Spirit we now have (one of slavery or one of sonship)?

A slave is simply always doing whatever the master says to do.  There’s no fellowship, just commands to live by.  Any fellowship that is developed between the slave and the master is dependent up on the slave’s ability to perform what the master wants, when he wants it, how he wants it.

Now think of a son!  A father creates his son.  When a father is staring into the face of his son, he is seeing himself as his very genes now make up his son.  Before the son could ever do good or bad, obey or disobey, the father loves his son, defends his son, and puts his own life on the line for his son.  Sure a father leads, guides, and instructs his son, but in a completely different way from a slave.   A slave obeys in order to be right with the master.  A son obeys because he is loved by his father.

Paul says we have been given the very Spirit of Jesus into our new hearts by which we cry out “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6).  God has given us the very Spirit of His own Son so that we could be sons of God just as Jesus is the Son of God.  “Abba” is the Aramaic way to say “dadda” or “poppa.”  It is oozing with intimacy.  One of the most monumental parenting moments for most parents is when their toddler starts saying, “Momma” or “Dadda.”   We love to hear our babies call out our names.  That same Spirit is given to us from God.

Far too often we see God merely as our Master instead of our “Dadda.”  I know I used to think it was irreverent to consider God my “Dadda” to the point where I even corrected a teenager who once started off a prayer by saying, “Hi Daddy…” If this is so irreverent, then why would God Himself give us the very Spirit of His Son through which we now cry out, “Daddy!”  It seems to me that He’s done this so that we can actually walk each and every day in actual fellowship and intimacy with God–on our “best” days and on our “worst” days!

  1. How does this so drastically affect our lives today here and now?

How do you pray?  Do you pray in such a way that you think you’re speaking to a slavemaster or to daddy?  Do you worry with what you say, how you say it, and whether or not He’s even listening?  Do you feel like you have to pray in such a way that you say good things about Him before you would ever think to ask something from Him (this is how I was taught to pray)?  Do you feel like you have to clear the air with all your wrong-doings before He’ll listen to you?

You may be able to ascertain how you view God (slavemaster vs daddy) by how you pray to Him.  If we feel like we have to keep an appointment, follow certain formulas, and never ever ever fall asleep while praying, you may be seeing God as a slavemaster.  However, if you’re honest, if you talk to Him like you talk to a friend or like your own dad, if you share the deepest secrets of your heart because you know how much your heart matters to Him, if you know that expressing your fears, hopes, dreams, concerns, troubles, temptations, and even sins with Him will never change your intimacy with Him, you may be seeing God as your true “Dadda!”

Seeing God as your “Dadda” doesn’t just affect your conversations with Him.  It affects your walk with other brothers and sisters here in life today.  Think about it, if you are growing more and more in love with God because of the revelation of His love for you, then what happens in your love towards other believers when you realize God loves them just as much as He loves you?  You will naturally love the ones that your “Dadda” loves.  His love is in you!

Look at Galatians 4:12-20!  When the Galatians were clearly seeing God as their “Dadda” back when Paul first presented Jesus to them, what did they do?  They served the needs of Paul as if Paul were an angel.  Paul showed up beaten, bloodied, and bruised from both robbers and being beaten by the Jews.  The response from the young Galatian believers was pure love. No one instructed them to love Paul.  They just did it naturally as they realized how much God loved them and how much He loved Paul.  They were even willing to pluck their eyes out and give them to him. I’m not sure about you, but that’s love!  This love doesn’t come from a relationship to a slavemaster. It comes from intimacy with Daddy!

Don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 4:12-20 on your own!

Questions to Consider:

  1. Is it possible that you are living still enslaved to the conscience’s approval and accusations?  If so, why?
  2. What would specifically happen in your conversations with God if you were to operate from the Spirit of sonship you have been given?
  3. Have you seen your love towards other believers as a command to obey or as the overflow of God’s love towards both you and them?
  4. Why do you think God wants you to live free from the approval and accusation of the conscience?
  5. If God wanted you to live as if you were a slave to either Him or to the knowledge of good and evil, why would He have given you the Spirit of sonship?
  6. Look at Galatians 4:19, in the context of Galatians, what does it look like for Christ to be formed in your life? Is this simply salvation or is this living by the righteousness of Christ Himself?
  7. Do you live in a slavery to the knowledge of good and evil and are unwilling to live in the freedom we now have in Christ because you simply don’t realize you are living as a slave?  Would you be willing to ask God to reveal any slavery in which you may be living?  If He wants you to live as a son, don’t you think He’ll show you?
  8. Do you see freedom from the knowledge of good and evil (aka. the law) as an invitation to anarchy?  To what is God truly inviting you?
Son or Slave…which are you?