Wake Up And Believe
**To kick off our Daniel series, and in preparation for moving into our new home on October 18th, the elders have invited our church family to a 28-day season of prayer and fasting. These daily devotionals correspond with the 28-day Bible reading countdown to the day we celebrate our soft opening.**
"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4:4-6
I remember signing up for a class on Galatians with Dr. Tom Schreiner, one of the leading NT scholars alive today. It just so happened that leading up to our class he had recently completed his commentary on the book of Galatians and all of us got a reader's version of it before it was published.
Nothing intimidating at all about taking a class from the guy who wrote the textbook.
We filed into the conference room where the graduate class would be held, about 10 of us around a long conference table. Great. Nowhere to hide.
Dr. Schreiner sat at one end with nothing more than his Greek New Testament lying before him. No notes, no slides, just he and his Bible. The class would be 5 solid days, 8 hours a day. I thought to myself, "Good heavens, what have I gotten myself into?"
Little did I know.
Dr. Schreiner opened his Greek New Testament, turned to Galatians, and said in a somewhat dry, nasally voice, "Shall we begin?" With these simple words he launched a week of discovery that changed my life.
To be honest, before that class, the book of Galatians was just so-so. "Not one of Paul's strongest works," I thought. There was a ton of irrelevant stuff in there about the law, circumcision, Jewish customs, blah blah blah. I found it all a little confusing. Some bursts of sunlight around chapter 5 when Paul gets into the fruit of the Spirit, but other than that, pretty dry.
Until I met Dr. Schreiner.
For 5 solid days, the hours flew by almost unnoticed. With only his Greek New Testament, he walked through one word, one verse at a time, blowing our minds with insights, connections, personal applications and pastoral jewels. The week flew by.
And slowly, I came to see that Paul wasn't writing this scathing letter of rebuke to the religious hypocritical snobs in Galatia, he was writing Galatians to me.
This wasn't boring insight into the weird quirks of an ancient religion, this was penetrating insight into the universal condition of the human heart. Of my heart.
Paul was challenging the religious constructs that I made for myself and then forced on other people. Paul was challenging the self-righteous list of good things I was keeping track of in my head that I thought was putting me ahead of the curve. Paul was undressing my unconscious confidence in self and simultaneously revealing my insecurities.
In short, Paul was cutting away a "Jesus-and" Christianity. He was challenging me to stop adding my performance to Christ's work. He was inviting me to enjoy the free grace of God in Christ.
"So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir."
Think about that. Every one of us was a slave. A slave to other's opinions, a slave to the approval of man, a slave to a substance, a slave to a feeling, a slave to our own internal standards. Everywhere outside of Christ is always and only slavery.
What is a slave? Put simply, a slave is someone under the control of another. They own no property, no assets. They have no future, no hope.
That was you and I before God rescued us through Jesus. But God set us free, made us his child, and gave us his inheritance. We have a future, because we are no longer a slave.
Which is why Paul is fighting so hard in this letter to wake them up to their self-inflicted slavery:
"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves...But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!"
Paul's big idea is a radical one...that the biggest slaves in the deepest holes can sometimes look like the most faithful members of a church. Working hard. Serving everywhere. Honoring traditions. Doing all the "stuff."
And dang proud of it. "If only everyone else was as faithful as me, imagine what the world could look like..."
Paul's rebuke to the religiously proud is to stop trusting in their own works-righteousness (I gave at the office twice last month!) and turn again to trusting Jesus. "Oh foolish Christian...you were saved by grace, why would you think you are sanctified by works?" (Gal. 3:3)
And Paul's invitation to the religiously tired is to stop trying to earn God's favor (you know, like trying to win the best parent of the century award) and rest in the fact that, if we've trusted in Jesus, we have the full and unfettered love of the Heavenly Father. We are His dearly beloved child. Period. Full stop. In other words, the invitation is to rest in the gospel.
Repentance. Faith. Reconciliation. These rocks form the bedrock of the Christian's life. Grace. Mercy. Peace. These gifts are the oxygen of the Christian's life.
Finished. Complete. Done. These truths describe our salvation's status in Christ.
Relieved. Grateful. Sane. These realities describe those who take the above words as truth, and keep believing them, more and more, every day.
Love for God. Love for others. Worship. This is what overflows from our life when we're pressing into the goodness of God in the gospel.
So I get it. Galatians can be confusing. But then again, so is your life and the tangled mess you and I can make of it because of sin. Thanks be to God there is grace. And thanks be to God there is Paul in Galatians saying "Wake up you foolish Wenatchians...believe the gospel!"