Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. I wanted to take a moment to address some things before we dig into this week’s message. If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that this ministry has been a collaborative effort on the part of several people, and that there have been several writers over the course of the year or so that we have been doing this. As the primary teacher/writer, it has been both a blessing and a challenge to bring you these messages each week, and I hope that you all have learned as much as I have. The challenge of doing these messages the way we have done them is that people have busy lives, and things often come up that take away from the ability to get things finished by a certain time, including myself. Since the beginning of the year, my time to work on these messages has been more and more limited, and in all honesty, it’s partly my own fault. That being said, I am recommitting myself to this ministry, and will be handing over assignments less and less to other people. As I have tried to have these messages posted every Friday in the past, I will return to doing that, and we will continue to dig into scripture together each week with a renewed focus.
Charles Spurgeon told a story about two men in a boat caught in severe rapids. As they were being carried downstream toward rocks and falls, men on the shore tried to save them by throwing out a rope. One of the men in the boat caught the rope and was saved, but the other grabbed onto a log that was floating beside them and was killed. The man who grabbed the rope was saved because of his connection to the people on the shore, while the man who grabbed the log died because he grabbed onto something that was traveling towards the same doom that he was. Faith is like grabbing onto the rope; it’s our connection to Jesus that saves us. Good works, like grabbing onto the log, only carry you to your doom.
This week, we are continuing our series Set Free. The last few weeks, we’ve been going through the book of Galatians, and talking about how we are set free by Christ, and by grace. This week, we will be talking about how we are set free by faith. We will look at three ways in which faith is better than the law, and how we should rely on grace and faith instead of our deeds to help us grow closer to Christ.
Galatians 3:1 – 5 (NLT) says “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. My first point is this:
If you remember our last message, Paul originally called the believers in Galatia “friends”. Here, he takes a different tone with them, calling them foolish. The Greek word here is the word anoetos, which translated means not understanding, or thoughtless. Paul is not calling the believers foolish to mean that they are stupid, but rather suggests that they are intelligent, but are not using their intelligence to perceive the truth. The Galatians had gone from believing in the death and resurrection of Christ for their salvation to believing that they had to obey the law to be fully saved. Such illogical thinking implies that Christ died for nothing. Because of this, Paul sarcastically says that he believes that the Galatians are under some sort of magic, evil spell. It was almost as though they had been hypnotized by the false teachers, because there was no other way to explain such illogical thought. There is a song by the band MercyMe called Best News Ever, and it does a really good job of discussing this. In the second verse of the song, Bart says
“Some say He’s keeping score
So try hard then try a little more.
But hold up, if this were true,
Explain to me what the cross is for!!”
To counter this, Paul returns to the basics. He asks them four questions. The first question he asks is “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law?” Romans 3:28 (NCV) answers this when it says “A person is made right with God through faith, not through obeying the law.” The Galatians had accepted the gospel and received the Holy Spirit upon doing so, but it was because of their faith, and not because of the law. Paul reminded them that they did not gain the Holy Spirit until they believed the gospel that he had preached to them. He’s trying here to explain to them how foolish it is to try to earn a gift that you have already been given, which is exactly what they were doing. They had traded freedom in Christ for slavery to tradition. Paul then asks the Galatians to apply their past experience to their new situation. He asks them if it was worth it to suffer so much at the hands of the Jews only to go back to the Jewish tradition they had been set free from. The last thing he asks the Galatians is if God has given them the Holy Spirit and work miracles among them only because they obey the law of Moses? All three times, the answer is painfully obvious. Salvation does not come by obeying the law, but by faith alone.
Galatians 3:6 – 9 (NLT) says “In the same way, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.” My second point is this:
Paul talks quite a bit about the faith of Abraham here, and it is not without purpose. You see, Abraham lived before the law came into existence, and he received his blessings and his salvation because of faith. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation, and there was almost no one who was thought more highly of in Jewish tradition. The Judaizers pointed to the Law of Moses as their path to salvation, but Paul points out that Abraham, who preceded Moses by 430 years, was saved by faith and not self-effort. The Judaizers argued that, to be a Christ, a person had to first become a Jew, and also had to obey Jewish law. They believed themselves to be automatically the people of God because of their heritage. Paul explains to them that the real children of Abraham are the ones who put their faith in God, those who believe in Christ and the salvation he offers. Just like Abraham, we are all saved by faith. Belief is the first and only step necessary.
One of the best examples of this comes from the thief on the cross. Here was a man who had not followed the Law of Moses. He had not, in fact, followed any of the laws, but he recognized who Jesus was, and he believed in Him. Luke 23:42 – 43 (NIV) says “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” This man was a criminal. We don’t know exactly what all his crimes were. The Bible tells us that he was a thief, but it’s very likely that he was guilty of other crimes as well. All we know is that he was a man convicted to die, and placed on a cross right next to the one that Jesus himself hung on. The Bible doesn’t tell us if he was a man of faith prior to his crucifixion. All it says is that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and in his final moments, put his faith in Christ.
Galatians 3:10 – 14 (NLT) says “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’ So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’ This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, ‘It is through obey the law that a person has life.’ But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.” My last point is this:
Paul uses Deuteronomy 27:26 to prove that, contrary to what the Judaizers claim, the law cannot justify and save. It can only condemn. Breaking any part of the law brought a curse on the person who broke it. Since none of us can keep the law perfectly, we are all cursed. Paul argues the notion that a person is saved by the law. He then quotes Habakkuk 2:4, reminding them that, even during the time of the law, people were still justified by faith. The Judaizers, even if they had lived in the time of Moses, would have misunderstood the purpose and the power of the law, and therefore would have been wrong in their message. The works of the law and faith in the gospel have radically different consequences. The solution is Christ. Jesus took the curse of the law on Himself when He died on the cross for us. The word redeem means “to buy out of slavery by paying a price.” This was a word that was used for someone who would buy a slave with the intention of freeing them, which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. His death set us free from our slavery to the law.
John Calvin said “The role of the law is to show us the disease in such a way that it shows us no hope of cure; whereas the role of the gospel is to bring a remedy to those who are past hope.” The thief on the cross had no hope. The Gentiles had no hope. Maybe you’re in a place where you have no hope. You’ve tried so hard for so long, and it feels like nothing is good enough. Maybe you’re in a place where your faith has been tested. Your wife or husband came home and told you that they don’t love you anymore. You’ve lost your job, and you don’t know how you’re going to feed your family. Your doctor called and told you that the spot you were concerned about is a tumor, and there’s nothing they can do. Maybe you’ve just made so many mistakes in your life that you aren’t really sure that you deserve to be forgiven. Let me tell you that you are never too far away to be saved by Christ, and ALL it takes is faith. If that’s you today, will you read this prayer out loud:
I’ve messed up. I’ve tried to earn my way to You, and I’ve fallen short, but I want to put my faith in You today. I want You to be the Lord and Savior of my life. Please forgive me for my sins, and give me a clean slate. It’s in Your Name I pray,
Friends, if you said that prayer today, reach out to us. Faith is a beautiful and freeing thing, and we would love to walk beside you in your journey. Maybe you didn’t say that prayer today, but you’re feeling a tug, and you would like to learn more about what it means to be set free. If that’s you, reach out to us as well. For those of you who are already on a journey of faith, I challenge you this week to find someone you know, and share that faith with them. Talk to them about the difference that Jesus makes, and the difference that grace has made in your life. We only have two messages left in this series, and my prayer is that people will yearn to know what it means to be set free to live by grace, by faith, to live, and to love. Have a blessed week, everyone!!!!!