Galatians – A Call To Freedom –
13. Freedom is what Freedom does
Galatians 5:1-12New International Version (NIV)
Freedom in Christ
5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
For the Next two weeks, we are going to be dealing with essentially the same issue; because Paul deals with this in the passage we read tonight and the passage for next week; and it is a completely logical issue when we deal with the issue of Grace.
If Grace is so radically true, that it is not by works; that it is completely free, then does it actually matter what I do anymore?
How can lack of consequences (essentially) make us better, make us want to do more and be more for God?
If your boss or teacher said it doesn’t matter what you do for the rest of the year… your year is done, however, those that stay will find the joy of studying or the joy of work.
Let’s be real who would take a 6 month vacation?
Most levels of complete acceptance work against excellence at best and make us worse.
So how is the gospel different. How does it change people through full acceptance?
Well to understand this we have to look at our heart and realise that…
1.Man has no hope of actually changing
In verse 1 Paul makes a references to the church being enslaved again. To quickly explain this to you Paul is essentially stating that religious moralism and paganism are both enslavement.
Essentially; those who are proving their goodness to God and those who live how they want are both enslaved.
Now, Paul’s statement should shock us!
Most of us look at the world and think if people could just discover their moral core; or how can people do “so-and-so.”
We are shocked when people act immorally; however, what we miss is that evil is not something out there it is hidden in all of our hearts.
The only thing moralistic religion does is hides our own brokenness in a pretence of goodness. Where the fundamental problem has not been dealt with.
Can Lewis puts it this way.
A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance. - C.S. Lewis
Unfortunately, most religion through fear and guilt force us to be better without actually changing us at all.
In ourselves we will always be bound to fall into our own selfishness and self-destruction. We are hopelessly bound to this. Both the religious and the completely immoral in the sense that they are both completely self-obsessed.
The question is then now; how do we actually change?
Well Paul tells us in verse 6…
2.In Christ circumcision and uncircumcision are Of no value
We actually have to see what Paul says in verse 5 and 6…
Paul starts by saying; we eagerly await by faith our righteousness in hope and then says that the only thing that matters now is faith expressing itself in love.
Church, love and hope are the engine of change for the Christian.
But how does this work practically?
Well, again I have to say as Paul says we only get this when, as Paul says; circumcision or uncircumcision are of no value. Now you might think I have gone crazy; how does that relate to anything?
Let me explain; the Galatians; who had come to faith by grace alone; now had been taught that if you really want God to love you must show him your obedience; you must follow all of the Laws! You must become circumcised.
We must not miss the nuance of what Paul is saying; to put it another way; Paul is saying; in Christ obedience or disobedience has no value. In Christ it is of no value if you obey or don’t obey if you do it apart from hope (or trust) that expresses itself in love.
So, if you are obeying because you have to; because you are afraid of judgment; because you think if you don’t God wont love you; you are not really obeying you are actually pretending to obey for the reward of God; or to avoid punishment.
Let’s just look at this in a practical way; if someone obeys the law but in a malicious way they haven’t really obeyed the law.
We have tons of examples in our government right now but I’ll give you another example. There is a Spa and massage company that we know of that used to rent their building from a group of people; however, these people decided that they could make more money if they simply kicked the people who owned the Spa out and ran it themselves. So, they literally re-did all the locks and essentially stole all this poor Spa’s equipment; kept their brand name changing it slightly to stay in the law and kept the location and started taking this woman’s clients.
Now because they owned the property; they were perfectly legal in stealing this poor woman’s business; but it remains immoral and wrong! Now to share this lady had claimed many of her clients back and has after a year rebuilt her business. But do you get what I am saying. Obeying with ill intent is still disobeying.
And this is why it is so important for the soul of man to come to the realisation that their righteousness lies in Christ alone; and that He alone is their salvation; because without this we will always be obeying God for his rewards; or to avoid punishment.
It is only when to obey or not to obey becomes valueless and Christ Himself becomes our reward that we will only ever obey because of love and not reward.
Tim Keller puts it this way; You have done nothing for God until you know that you can do nothing for God at all!
Why because every act of obedience has been done to get stuff from God and not God himself.
Again Keller puts it this way;
When life goes bad it is really God saying did you get into Christianity to serve me or did you get into Christianity for me to serve you! – Keller
Without us coming to God with nothing we are bound to use God and not love Him.
We serve him because we are afraid or because we want His stuff (His blessings) not because we want and love Him!
That is why religion doesn’t work; it never changes the heart. We simply justify our selfish motives with religious overtones.
For example; kids in the States are saying “it’s not premarital sex unless it is vaginal penetrative sex.” So there is a big problem in Christian schools in the states of young Christian girls having sexual intercourse in every other way but vaginal penetration and saying it’s okay I’m a virgin; God still accepts me; but being wretched with inner guilt and other problems that I won’t go into.
Now, some might be shocked; but the justification of sin is in our hearts (and we all do it in one way or another) because we don’t want to obey God; we want to do our own things. And best of all is when we can do our own things and then religiously justify it; get God’s stamp of approval.
But we still feel alienate from Him; we still feel guilty because we are!
Religiously being obedience to God doesn’t fix us! It doesn’t change our heart.
Only love changes our heart.
The only way a heart is ever changed is to replace the object of your beauty with a more beautiful beauty. Or the only way you are ever going to truly obey God is when Christ (through the experience of His love for you) becomes lovely to you!
And that only happens in the gospel! It is only when our heart is truly free to love Him – when all fear of performance is gone and where all ideas of rewards for faithfulness are subdued – that we truly freely love God!
And let me remind you church; God made us to love Him! Not to use Him, not to manipulate Him; but to love Him.
And we cannot and will not until we realise that it is because of Christ and His death were enough. That because of Christ and His death we are completely loved. You bring nothing to that; and because you bring nothing to this you actually just bring yourself; and you love because He loved you; you obey because there is no other way; His love is in you and so you don’t love to get, or love to avoid punishment; you love God because He is beautiful.
This obedience is an obedience that is deeply rooted in our heart, and because of this it is the true obedience that God want of us.
I’ll illustrate this in terms of my relationship with my wife. Now I love my wife deeply; but every now and then; due to the business of life and the stresses of life we live past each other. Now I sense this, so I like a dumb husband will come to her and ask how can I show I love you. To which she replies; if I tell you exactly what to do its not love its duty. I don’t want your duty; I want you to love me!
Church; God doesn’t want your obedience if your motives are anything other than love. And you will never love Him for who He is until the Cross heals your heart and makes Him beautiful!
So, run to the cross! Look to Jesus’ love and place you trust in His finished work; this will work itself out in loving obedience to Him!
You will obey because you want to!
Church motives matter; so let your motives be exposed in the light of the cross.