Grace makes us mature
(Galatians 4:8-11) “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Every religion in the world is exterior. It is a makeup to pretend and hide the reality of the broken inside. “Do that sacrifice. Go to that holy place. Practice five points. Bring that offering. Wash in that river. Bow seven times. Repeat that prayers or “mantras”. Dress that amulet. Hold to that symbol. Touch that idol.”
But we are called to a stronger identity. We were once a slave. But God redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb. We were free slaves, but God gave us adoption through His Son. We were insecure
children, but now our hearts should spontaneously cry “Abba” Father, by His Spirit within us.
Paul will use this symbol of spiritual sons to appeal to the Galatians to remain growing up, maturing as children of God.
(Galatians 4:19) my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
It is very important that we do not isolate the text because the whole idea is that only mature sons can actually enjoy the benefits of the sonship.
(Galatians 4:1) I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
Here many think that the way to grow spiritually is to turn back to the use of the law. The Galatians thought, “Mature Christians are more religious, legalistic, and fearful.”
But Paul will insist that “Mature Christians are more gracious. Mature Christians are more like Christ. Mature Christians enjoy more freedom.”
. Mature people are free
Religion is slavery, grace is freedom
We should relate to God as children, not as devouts of an affiliated religion or social club. Like members of a cult or ritualistic group that worries about every single detail of manners and ceremonies. We are called to spontaneity.
Christianity is not a religion. I know we are used to calling it like that. That is ok for the outsider to classify us as part of a religion, but that should never be the standard of our relationship with God.
(Galatians 4:9) “9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles [of religions and philosophies] of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
One of the experiences that every college or postgraduate student has is the difference in language and communication one has to use in the academic environment. You can’t simply speak your mind as you usually use with your friends and family. There are rules and standards. This is actually expected. With that, you have a set of norms that allows one to go after the proper source that inspired that research and develop the study to the next stage. That’s how academic researches advance. Nothing wrong with that.
However, when a person thinks that the way to grow in God is a matter of philosophical expressions or little meticulous rituals, that person is missing the point. Grace makes us grow up. It is a matter of know (Ginosko) and to be known (Ginosko) by God.
“Ginosko” is relational. It is to know something and someone because of an experience that allows you to intimately and personally know it.
(Galatians 4:8) Formerly, when you did not know (Oida) God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
“Oida” has nothing to do with a relationship but knowledge about something through observation.
(Galatians 4:9) “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles [of religions and philosophies] of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
When a servant or slave would refer to his master, he would never come with boldness and intimacy. There were manners to respect. But now we are children. We are part of the family. Am I encouraging a lack of reverence? Absolute not! When I call my 65 years old father, I definitely have some deference. But that is the fruit of honor, not fear. When I call my 92 years old grandfather, I have greater respect, the fruit of love, not dread. How do your think I should approach my eternal heavenly Father? But my respect and honor never turn my relationship into a slave-servant- master relationship ever again.
Everyone who returns to the law, trying to please God and gain His favor, will inevitably fall under the accusation and condemnation standard of the
relationship. This is because no man is capable of keeping the law completely. All religion is a form of slavery.
How does religion enslave?
(Galatians 4:10) You observe days and months and seasons and years!
Every religious person always seeks to appease the wrath of his deity and to gain his favor through good works, rituals, special days or sacrifices. This is the way of religion. Always trying to please God, but never succeeding. Believers who live by the law still follow this same path. They don’t sacrifice animals or even kids in the pagan altars, but they are always looking for a way to please God and convince Him to bless them.
The attempt to receive a financial blessing, for example. You tithe, but if it doesn’t solve your problem, you decide to give beyond the tithe. Still, the blessing didn’t come, and suddenly you hear someone saying that you need to hand over “your Isaac.” You do everything to be blessed in the same way as those primitive religious people.
The sacrifices have changed, but the principle remains, it is a relationship based on an exchange of favors.
C. S. Lewis’s classic answer of what was Christianity’s unique doctrine explains it all. “What is unique about your religion compared to all the others?” All the debaters answered, but none could speak of a big difference between them because all religions basically follow the principle of the law, the principle of exchange to be blessed and achieve salvation. If the follower behaves well, he is blessed, but if he acts badly, he is punished. When it was C. S. Lewis’ turn to respond, he said, “If I say that the teachings of Jesus and his high moral standard is what makes Christianity unique, it could be that other religious leaders would claim that their teachers have high teachings too. Suppose I say that the resurrection makes Christianity unique. In that case, it could be that some other religion would also claim something similar miracle. But there is something that makes Christianity unique and different from all other religions: the grace of God. In every religion, the good are blessed, and the bad are punished, but in Christianity, the grace of God reverses this logic. God decided to bless the one who does not deserve it but believes in His grace. Thus, the more a man is
unworthy and knows that, the more grace from God he experiences.”
(Galatians 4:11) I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Instead of growing in the freedom of Christ, they have returned to the old bondage of the law. Paul was perplexed that they preferred the bondage of the law rather than to live under the freedom of grace in Christ.
. Mature people are gracious
(Galatians 4:12-20) 12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if
possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
Paul reminds the Galatians that while they were walking in the grace, they were very gracious. But now, they decided to “grow up” in their own way, the way of the law, the way of religion, the way of appearances. The result was not a more compassionate, caring community. But people with prejudice and a lack of blessedness.
Why? What happened? Because when you start to rely on your own works for your relationship with God, instead of trusting His unmerited mercy and unexplainable love, the consequence is always pride and self-righteousness.
So Paul reminds them, “Since I became like a Gentile to bring the gospel to you, I never asked you to become Jews. I loved you as you were. Now I ask you to become like me. And, I am not concerned with days and months, and years, or rituals. I am only concern with Christ. So be like me.”
How was Paul?
(1 Corinthians 9:20-23) To the Jews I
became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
We should be able to say, like the apostle Paul,
(Galatians 4:12)[…] Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.
The Galatians were a gracious people. They had received Paul so warmly that, if it were possible, they would have plucked out their own eyes to give them to him. Something happened that changed that? Paul explains what it was:
(Galatians 4:16) Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Paul was telling the truth. He rebuked them for having abandoned the gospel of grace and returned to the bondage of the law.
In writing chapter 3, Paul argued like a lawyer. In writing chapter 4, he wrote like a loving father. Instead of using logical arguments as a lawyer, he appealed to their affection. I am learning the same. If we want Christ to be formed in our family, in our LifeGroups, in the brothers and sisters, there are moments that we need to present the truth logically and doctrinally, but we also need to speak to their hearts.
.Mature people walk with mature people
(Galatians 4:17 -AMP) These men [the Judaizers] eagerly seek you [to entrap you with honeyed words and attention, to win you over to their philosophy], not honorably [for their purpose is not
honorable or worthy of consideration]. They want to isolate you [from us who oppose them] so that you will seek them.
The false teachers were flattering the Galatians in order to win them to their perverted gospel. They appeared to be zealous, but they were not sincere in their devotion. They really did not care for the Galatians. Paul discerns their motivation. It was to lead them away from Paul.
Was Paul jealous or selfish here? No. His only concern was the teachings the Galatians were receiving. So, separating them from Paul meant to lead them away from Christ and the freedom that is in Christ.
He proves he was not selfish explaining,
(Galatians 4:18) It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,
Paul did not have any problems when other preachers would visit and minister to the Galatians. On the contrary, he rejoiced.
(Philippians 1:18) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
The concern is what that preaching is.
Can I speak of my heart as well? What have you listened to recently? Look, we are not exclusivists or dogmatics here. But I have to say that if you listen to gospel-filled, grace-soaked messages on Sunday morning, and at the same time you feed your soul with all kinds of messages of wrath, law and religion, you can’t expect a growing faith. You can’t expect to mature. Mature people know whom they should walk and listen to. They have the discernment to guard their hearts against those messages that try to steal their freedom in Christ Jesus.
. Mature people look like Christ
(Galatians 4:19) my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of
childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
A introduction of mother’s day, next week:
What is the “anguish” of childbirth? A brief research and you will come to the same result. It is all about the safety, health, and life of the baby. Healthy, loving pregnant women worries all about the baby. The pain is excruciating, but she only worries about the baby. It is agonizing, but if the baby lives, and somebody will take care of the baby, she can rest.
I remember when I left Pensacola in 2012. It was really hard for me. We were not a big group, but I felt that I was responsible for those brothers.
Paul was worry that the Galatians, his children, could spiritually die.
Good pastors, good leaders, good parents want to see Christ formed in their children. They pay the price. They drive extra hours. They invest financially. They put time and energy. They make it a priority to form Christ in their lives. It is more than raise educated children. It is more than teaching morality. It is more than reasoned traditions that we inherited. It is to form Christ in their lives.
A frustrated and disappointed Lifegroup leader asked me recently what to do when people are not responding to your investment in your group. The leader said, “I spent money, time, hours of conversation, but it seems that the person does not change.”
Let’s see how Paul did that.
(Galatians 4:20) I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Paul preached the message in person and wrote the letter we have in hand, but his genuine edification happened through prayer. Let’s bring prayer back. Undoubtedly, most of that “anguish of childbirth” has to do with prayer for the brothers. Prayer for the lost. Prayer for the disciples. Prayer for his spiritual children. But for, you pray for your family. You pray for the members of your group. You pray. There is nothing more powerful than prayer to move the heart of a person.
Pastor Tulio shared with me about a young man who used to come to the Lifegroup to bring trouble. The
leader prayed. The boy had a dream with God. That moved his heart in a way that not preaching could ever move. He is on his way to be a leader in training. Prayer can really form Christ in the lives of those we love.
Ministering Christ will always involve some pain and suffering. Ministering Christ is much more difficult than doing a physical or administration job in the church. If there is in you the charge and passion for being a minister of Christ, for being a leader, you will discover how much it requires. It is more than set up the chairs in your living room. It is more than pay for the delivery of pizza. It is to form Christ in the lives of others. But I am telling you, there is no greater joy, pleasure than that.
Yes, it will require patience, prayer and love. It is a spiritual battle. But once you have that spiritual child mature in Christ around you, it is an incredible joy.
I see that in my two sons. We share the gospel. We invest in their spiritual life. We measure no costs to promote their walk with Jesus. But ultimately, we pray for them. We bless them every single night. And I mean it. Every single night I bless my sons with the blessing of Jesus.
What I want is to generate Christ in each one of you. If you believed in Christ, now is the time to let Christ be formed in you.
We love you. We care for you and your family. We want to see you prospering and succeeding. We pray for your marriage and health. But above all, we are a Christ-centered church. We want to see Christ formed in you. We understand that nothing is more valuable than that.
Christ was born in the hearts of the Galatians when they believed the gospel, but now Paul needs to agonize for Christ to be formed in them. We can see a sequence of this thought in the letter of Galatians. First, Christ is born in us by regeneration, then Christ lives in us in our Christian life, and finally, He will be formed in us in our maturity.
To enter the use of the inheritance, blessings, multiplied favor, we need to grow up to be mature children in Christ. From the beginning, during the process, and until the end, it is all by faith through grace.