I can’t really believe that Ken and Sam would let me up here for a whole Sunday! We’ve been in our money series, but today we are going to take a tiny break. You know the last 2 times I had a little section to talk about I was going off of their lesson, but for today I was told that I can talk about anything that I want to! I could come up here and talk about how the Redwings are so much better than the Flyers for a half hour! But only because I want to keep leading your kids, I guess I’ll just get started.
So last year at Liberty I had a great roommate who is this die hard army nut. Now this guy had to wake up early in the mornings for ROTC and stuff, so he went to bed early and stuff. And at night he would wake up suddenly and pace the room like a bomb just hit outside our dorm. He basically had PTSD before he ever went to war. So anyway, my roommate went to Christian school all through grade school. Then he graduated high school and came to Liberty. So this guy has been in religion all his life. He knew all about what the Bible said. He could tell me immediately if I didn’t have a story right in the Bible. Here’s the thing about my roommate. He was born into religion. He grew up in religion. This guy knew all of the the rules in the Bible, tried desperately to follow them, and got burnt out trying to do so.
So today I’d like to introduce a new idea to you all. Well actually, it’s not really new at all. In fact, it’s written throughout all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John! So I suppose it’s not really new at all. But then again, why do so many people struggle to grasp this? Why do so many people not understand what is written in within their Bible pages? Why doesn’t it click?
You all probably want me to just tell you this idea. Well… I’m not going to quite yet. First I want to give you some background information.
We are really going to dig into the book of Galatians today. I’m basically going to summarize what Paul was trying to get across to the Galatians. If any of you know what Galatians focuses on, then maybe you already can figure out what I want to share with you today.
Let’s start with the background of the city of Galatia. There was, at the time, a Northern and Southern Galatia. If Paul was writing to the Southern churches, Galatians may have been written around AD 48 or 49. If it was to the Northern churches, it may be have been around AD 56 or 57. I tell you that, not because it’s real important to today, but only because I’m a Bible major and I think it’s cool. In reality, I don’t think it makes any difference on what Paul was saying in his letter.
Now the Galatians were primarily Gentile. Not gentle. Gentile. Gentile means that they weren’t Jews. Basically, there were sinners. So what was going on in Galatia?
After Paul left Galatia, some Jews who lived in the city of Jerusalem heard that Paul had been preaching his message in the Gentile cities. It was bad enough to the Jews that Paul had stirred up such controversy among the Jewish over Jesus, but now he was taking it a step further. He was going and telling these disgusting, idol-kissing Gentiles that they could get in God’s program… That they could be saved!
So these Jews went up to Galatia and probably said something like this to them: “Look, Paul only told you part of the story. Believe in Jesus if you want to, but God is pleased by the Law of Moses. We have a few rules for you to keep.”
These Jews were trying to persuade the Galatians that to be a good Christian, they first had to be a good Jew! They were basically saying this: “God only loves you when you follow the rules.”
So Paul writes the Galatians after he hears about this going on and pretty much gave them two choices. They could follow religion or they could follow Jesus.
Why is this relevant today? Well because so many people STILL are listening the Jews! My roommate sure was. They believe and teach that you need to follow all of the rules in order to know God!
So Paul’s message to the Galatians relates directly with so many of us today. This is what it comes down to and I’m going to go into a lot of detail clarifying this statement:
RELIGION says CHANGE and then FOLLOW,
JESUS says FOLLOW and then CHANGE.
Religion says follow all the rules, religion says be perfect, religion won’t say it but makes it seem like salvation is up to US. Follow all the rules laid out in the Bible, and THEN you can follow Jesus. THEN you will be loved by God.
Jesus, on the other hand says follow me, spend time with me, abide in me, love me, and then you’ll change.
Did you get that as you were reading your Bible? Or were you convinced by the Jews?
Religion says change and then follow. Jesus says follow and then change.
…So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16 ESV
Ergon (Air(tongue) gon) is the Greek word for works here, and it means ANYTHING done or to be done. Not something done, not a few things to be done. It means ANYTHING that we do or will do. The last part there then could be read “because anything that we do or will do according to the rules will not make us right with God.”
I like the Message version of this entire verse:
We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. Galatians 2:15,16 MSG
He then went ahead to say in Galatians 2:21
“I do not set aside (which also means reject, or nullify). So “I do not reject, I do not nullify, I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness (fair and equitable dealing or justice), for if righteousness could be gained through the law (through the rules), Christ died for nothing!” ESV
You see the more we simply as believers rely on Christ for everything, the more devotedly we walk before Him in all his commandments! The closer we follow Jesus, the more we will naturally follow the rules. We will naturally follow his commandments! When we follow Jesus, it causes obedience. When we first follow, we then are changed into His holy image.
Ok so it makes sense kind of right? Why do we try to add up all of our rule following as a means of salvation? Do you think you get yourself to heaven? Do you think there is life found in the rules?
When, then, was the law set up? Why were all of these rules set up? Paul writes in Galatians 3:19
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. ESV
I know when I don’t understand something when I read, I’m supposed to look up words I don’t know, look at the surrounding context, and try and figure it out before I move on. How many people can honestly say they do that as they read books? I sure don’t! If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem important to me!
For fictional stories or cookbooks, I’m still probably never going to pull out my dictionary to figure out what a sentence means. But every verse in the Bible was put in for a reason. So I challenge you, along with myself, to dig into what each verse says. There are so many resources, like commentaries, available for free online now. So that’s what I really had to do with this verse.
I found that the Greek word for transgressions is parabasis (par-ob-a-sis). It means a stepping by the side, deviation, or disregarding.
So this verse shows us the 2 different reasons why the rules were added:
- It was created to show them the sinfulness of the their sin.
- And let’s be honest, it continues and will always show us how sinful we are.
- The Law was created in order for sinners to know how sinful they really are, and how far they deviate from God’s standards.
i. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
- There was always sin since Adam and Eve, but the Law made it so that sin could be clearly specified and measured.
- Did you know there are 613 commandments in the Bible to follow? 613!
- Are you seeing how it was created to show their sinfulness?
- It was made to show our desperate need of Christ.
- The law was never intended to discover a way of justification, but was to lead men to see their need of the promise, their need of JESUS.
- It is through Christ ALONE that we can be justified and forgiven.
Did you get that? This is HUGE!
The rules were not created to follow in order to get to Christ. They were created to show how much we truly NEED Christ!
There’s something I didn’t tell you about my roommate.
My roommate had a big secret sin that he wrestled with everyday of his life.
You see, my roommate knew all the rules, he was born into religion remember, but all he was seeing was how he didn’t add up. He only understood the first part of this verse! His sin was tearing him apart because he could only see the sinfulness of his sin. He was trying to follow the rules instead of following Jesus.
Religion says change and then follow.
Jesus says follow and then change.
Paul goes on to answer a question some of you may be thinking then:
Are the rules conflicting to how we are to live?
If such is the case, is the law, then, an anti-promise, a negation of God’s will for us? Not at all. Its purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time. Galatians 3:21 MSG
It is not possible that the good law of God would oppose the Gospel of Christ. It actually tends to promote it in every way! It goes back to what we said earlier. The closer we follow Jesus, the more we will naturally follow the rules. I like what the last part of that verse said: “For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.”
A little less than 2000 years ago, Paul made this comment. Now don’t you think 2000 years later we would get this by now? They thought they could have gotten it 2000 years ago! Why are we still feeling like the rules can bring us life? 2000 years have brought us a lot of technology and intelligence, but yet we are still trying to find life in rule keeping.
That leads me to 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent (capable) to be ministers of a new covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ESV
Another verse where we really have to dig in and figure out what it means instead of skimming by it. What is the new covenant? It can basically be answered by saying the New Testament. So there is a major difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was focused on rules. The New Testament is focused on Jesus.
So the new covenant was put into place when Jesus came and died for our sins, which split the curtain in the temple in two and gave us direct access to God.
So what is the letter? Well, it’s the Law that God set up in the first covenant BEFORE Jesus came. You know… all the rules in books like Leviticus.
So now that we know all of these pieces… how should this verse be read?
I pulled this from a commentary.
“not of the Law, but of the gospel; not of that which is dead, but of that which is living; not of that which is deathful, but of that which is life-giving; not of bondage, but of freedom; not of mutilation, but of self-control; not of the outward, but of the inward; not of works, but of grace; not of menace, but of promise; not of curse, but of blessing; not of wrath, but of love; not of Moses, but of Christ.”
You see no one could ever follow the law down to the tee. No one could ever be perfectly obedient to it. And you know what… We still can’t be!
We all mess up. I’m not saying we won’t. But we now know that the Law was put into place to show us how much we sin and how desperately we need Jesus.
There is only one perfect person… and that’s me.
Just kidding. It was Jesus.
Galatians 3:24 says:
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ESV
I looked up what exactly Paul mean when we translated the word ‘guardian.’ It’s the word paidagogos (pah dag go gos) Among the Greeks and the Romans this name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class.
Well ok that’s doesn’t quite make sense. But the next part I read about it is awesome.
The boys (that they were watching) were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.
Now that’s awesome! That’s a GREAT picture of how the Law guarded them. It allowed them to see their sin and know what God expected. The law guarded the Old Testament people. But when Jesus came that all changed! Galatians 3:25-26 says:
Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. NIV
The law, aka these rules, by teaching of the Holy Spirit become our loved ‘rule of duty.’ We can use these rules for our standard in our own self-evaluation. And when we evaluate ourselves, we learn through this that we need to depend more and more on the Jesus.
Religion tells us change our lives and to follow all of the rules, and then we can follow Jesus. Jesus tells us differently.
You see, Jesus didn’t go up to any of his disciples and say change your life. He didn’t tell Peter that he was sinning too much and therefore couldn’t follow him. Matthew was a tax collector, the worst of the worst in those days. He was despised by the people and living in sin. But Jesus went right up to Matthew, and He didn’t tell Matthew to go compare himself to all the rules and make a change. He didn’t tell Matthew to be perfect. He didn’t even tell Matthew he was a sinner. Jesus looked at Matthew and said…
If you believe that you need to follow all the rules to get close to Jesus, then you aren’t understanding why Jesus came. If you think that you can’t follow Jesus because you have sinned too much, you don’t understand His grace.
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. ESV Galatians 5:4
Severed means to render useless or unproductive. The Message version says:
When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace.
So as my roommate and I got closer and closer, I really tried to get him to understand that it isn’t about rule following, it’s about Jesus. So he decided he was going to break his sin. He went for months without it! During this time he asked more and more questions, he was praying more, he felt different! His life was changing.
But then something happened. Someone close to him who struggled with the same secret broke. She messed up.
This sent my roommate out of control. He was furious that he had worked so hard at not giving in to his secret sin, and there was someone close to him who messed up but was forgiven. He couldn’t wrap his head around it! How could she break the rules and then have the audacity to say that she was forgiven and then it just… goes away?
My roommate, although his life was changing, still had the mindset that to get close to God, he had to follow all of the rules.
He was trying to change and then follow.
He was trying to be perfect in order to get close to God, and when someone else messed up with the same thing, he broke.
Religion says change and then follow. Jesus says follow and then change.
All you followers of Jesus out there, we are no longer under the law. We are no longer held to rules.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:18 ESV
When we walk with the Spirit, and when we are producing His fruits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control), we are not held to the law. Why? Because when we are producing the Holy Spirit’s fruits, we won’t break the law. Not at the same time at least.
We are still going to mess up. We of course are still going to sin. But not when we are walking with the Spirit. It’s like Ken said 2 months ago. We feed one dog or the other. We walk WITH the Spirit or AWAY from the Spirit in every decision we make. Never both at the same time.
You don’t have to follow all the rules first. You don’t have to get over the big sin that you are trying to hide from everybody first. You don’t have to be perfect first. You just need to follow first.
I encourage you, if you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus, just to try following Him. I don’t care if you think you can’t change. I know you feel like you are so far from grace. Just follow Him. Read His word. Talk to Him. You don’t have to totally know and believe everything in the Bible to follow Jesus! You don’t even have to believe He rose again to follow Jesus!
When Matthew left what he was doing and followed Jesus, do you think he believed 100% that Jesus was the Son of God? Andrew, after following Christ for 3 years still didn’t believe that Christ rose from the dead!
You don’t know need to believe everything to first follow Jesus.
I want to take a break just to say that if this offends you, reread the part in the Bible when Jesus told Matthew to follow him.
I ask that if you are not yet following Jesus, don’t wait to try until you stop sinning. Just follow Him.
Because Jesus asks us to follow and then change. And let me make it clear… if you truly follow Jesus, you will change. He will dramatically, dramatically change your life. But it starts with reading His Word, it starts in following.
So, let me ask you.
Are you still trying to get to heaven by yourself, are you still looking for life, are you still trying to add up by following all the rules?
Or, are you seeing your sin in the rules and following Jesus?
My roommate tried so hard to follow all of the rules. But his faith was shaken because he didn’t understand why the rules were created. They were created to show us the sinfulness of our sin, and to show us how desperately we need Christ. He couldn’t see that, and I hope someday he can. He doesn’t need to follow all of the rules before he follows Jesus. And neither do you.
Where do you stand?
Are you following rules or are you following Jesus?
Religion will tell you time and time again that you must change before you follow Jesus.
But Jesus tells us differently.
Follow, and then change.