Children of God or Slaves to Principles
Sunday, June 19, 2016
God Loves me. He is my Lord.
4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness, that if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out, in order that you may seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you — 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. NASB
Heirs of God or Slaves to the Elemental things of the world.
Have you ever heard it said of someone, “He or She has principles?” I am not sure I have heard that statement very often lately. I have heard it said of someone, “He is a good man.” or “She is a good person.” Sometimes I heard such statements when we were speaking about whether or not someone was saved, that is, if they were a Christian or not. The implication being that this is a good person, but they are not saved, they are not really Christians. I have said it myself. And I believe it to be true in some cases.
There are a lot of people who live by principles. They are good people. They live by the rules they have set for themselves. Usually they leave other people alone, they typically do not lie or cheat other people and would never knowingly hurt someone else.
Many people think that is what Christianity is all about. They think it is about keeping the rules, living by principles. Unfortunately, there are many in the church who think that is true, or even if they do not think it, they live and act as if that is what church is all about. Because of that, this lie is perpetuated further within society and within the church. I believe this is one reason people are no longer drawn to the church.
Paul was very concerned about the people he had led to become followers of Jesus Christ. Twice in these few verses he expressed this concern. He said that he feared for them, that he was perplexed about them. He was confused about why they would go back to being slaves to the elemental things of the world. As disciples of Jesus we have so much more than principles to live by.
Paul was afraid that these believers were giving in to the very human temptation of following the rules that people imposed on them, instead of nurturing their relationship with God, Our Savior, Our Creator.
Paul uses a term here that has an interesting meaning. In the New International Readers Version it is translated as 'the basic things the people of the world believe' Gal 4:3 NirV
The version I read from, the New American Standard Version, uses the term 'elemental things'. It has the idea of basic principles. The Greek word carries the idea of marching, like in a band or in an army. Everybody is in step and follows straight behind the person in from of them.
Whether or not we realize it or not, we all live by principles of some sort. When I lived in Montana, the people there were very independent minded. The pioneers who settled those high plains on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, had learned to live by taking care of themselves. There were few near neighbors to depend on. Going to get groceries was a dawn to dark affair, or possibly took more than one day. One of the men in the church advised me, not to tell anyone how great Montana is because, as he put it, we do not want those outsiders coming in and spoiling what we have here.
Wherever people live, whatever their circumstances, they live by basic principles of some sort. Even gangs have rules to live by. You may not appreciate their rules, but every society has them.
Paul says, we were slaves to those basic principles. We marched in step with other people in some way. He believed when we come to Christ, we are set free from bondage to the rules of society.
You may well ask, but do we not just accept God's rules instead of the rules we used to live by? God does have rules for us to live by, to learn from, but we have more than just rules to follow. When we come to Christ we are adopted into the family of God. God is our loving heavenly Father. Jesus is our Friend. The Holy Spirit is the very Presence of God within us, to remind us of God's love and of the goodness of His rules.
Christianity is not about following God's rules, or anyone else's rules. True Christianity is about living in a relationship with God.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to forget this truth. That is what Paul was concerned about. This is what we, in the church, need to be concerned about today as well.
We love to live by a routine and routine is okay, as long as the routine is leading us closer to the Father, and not away from Him.
Sometimes our attitude seems to be, “God, I am following Your rules, now leave me alone to do it my own way.” Kind of sounds like a teenager doesn't it?
Paul said, “when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God”.
At the right time, God sent forth His Son to redeem, that is to buy back, to purchase those who were under the Law. HE sent Jesus Christ into the world to pay the price to buy us out of slavery to the basic principles of the world in order to adopt us into His family. God wants us to be part of His family. Paul says we have an inheritance waiting for us to claim.
Not only did He send His Son, He has given us His Spirit to live within us to to encourage us to cry out to God with the attitude that we are His beloved children. Abba, was how small children used to address their fathers when they were first learning to speak in Paul's day. We say Daddy. The holy Spirit calls us to address God as Our Dear Heavenly Father. He does not just want to be our LORD. He wants to be our Daddy. The one we run to when we have a problem. The one we look to for guidance as we learn the rules of life.
We do not throw out the rules, but we must not allow our sinful nature, the flesh, to lead us to just live by the rules. God wants us to live in a vital, loving relationship with Him.
Someone asked me recently why they should go to church? When I was a child, everyone knew you should, that is, you ought to go to church. But if all we are doing in church is teaching the rules, and living by the rules, then perhaps people do not need to go to church.
But if we are teaching people that God loves them and that He wants them to have a personal relationship with Him... if we are demonstrating to people that they can live life as a child of God... if we are going to church because we desire to be closer to Our Father and to our family members, then people will want to go to church with us to develop in their own relationship with God.
Church is not about singing 3 or four hymns, taking up an offering, listening to some boring speech condemning how we live. Church is about developing in our relationship to God Almighty. We learn the rules in order to understand God better. We do not learn the rules so that, if we obey them we won't go to hell. What keeps us out of hell is our relationship to the Father, to Almighty God.
Are you nurturing your relationship with God? As a church, is our main focus on developing our relationship with God and helping other people to develop theirs as well? Or do we just want to have this place we call our own, a place of peace where we give lip service to God and hope that HE will accept our feeble attempts at serving in His name?
Are you nurturing your relationship with God? Paul talked about laboring with the believers in the churches in Galatia until Christ is formed in them. This is what church is about, or should be about.
He said that they would have given their own eyes if it would have helped Paul. That kind of love for one another does not develop when people are just coming to church because it is the right thing to do, hoping that God will accept their tithes and offerings and their few hours a week of service as a substitute for an actual relationship with Him. Paul said they had received him as if he were an angel, or as if he were Jesus Christ Himself. He asked if he had become their enemy by telling them the truth. Church is where we come to hear the truth so that we can repent and turn back to God, not back to keeping the rules, but back to a relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters who are also working at developing their relationship with God.
This is what our mission in the world is all about. This is what the Great Commission means. Calling people to love God, to have a love relationship with God.
We are not called to keep the rules, but to be children of God. We are not just going through the motions of doing church, we are growing in our relationship with Him.
I promise you that I will work to keep these principles, these relationships, at the center of what I do as the Pastor of this congregation. Will you commit to joining me in the endeavor to promote living in a love relationship with Our Creator, with Our Lord?
God loves me. He is my Lord. We need to believe these truths. We also need to live these truths.