Back in Chains
We often live like we are in slavery rather than the freedom of God's grace.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to tell you about something awesome we’re doing 4 weeks from today.
I have a really important message I want to bring you about the vision and heart of our church…
So…we’re going to do something unique, and for one Sunday only, we’re going to do one service…at 10am… on August 18th
(Put up VISION SUNDAY slide)
With the growth of our church, this isn’t something we can normally do, but for one service, we’ll get some extra chairs in here…and pack people in.
It’s going to be fun to just see each other and all be together as “renovation church”
So I hope you’re as excited about this as I am. Lots of fun stuff going on in August.
So that’s Sunday August 18th…at 10am
I want you to imagine with me this morning that it’s the year 1825.
You live in South Carolina…and for most of your life…you’ve been a slave.
It was both a brutal and miserable experience.
But…because you are smart, crafty, and cunning, 3 years ago…you were able to escape.
But let’s say after being free in the North for 3 years, your other friends that escape with you say, “You know what…freedom is hard. I can’t even find work. What would you think about going back?”
Do you think you’d ever in your right mind go back?
I know what you’re thinking…”Um…is this a real question?!? Is there anyone on earth that would willingly choose to go back to being a slave?
Yep…a lot of people. And a lot of us are even in this room.
I’ll explain in a moment. J
But for now…let’s turn to today’s Bible text.
As a church, we’ve been studying the book of Galatians this summer
We actually only have one week of it left this summer until we finish it up later this Fall.
But the book of Galatians was written by this guy named Paul who started a bunch of churches in Galatia…told them about God’s love through Jesus Christ…but then…as the years went by..
These people started to fall for some false teaching. And they turned God’s forgiveness into a reward they had to earn by being good enough.
Rather than a gift that comes through faith in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for us.
So that’s what the book is about.
If you weren’t here last week, or you are just visiting for the first time, last week Paul has reminded the Galatians that they used to be like orphaned slave children, but God adopted them into his family and gave them an inheritance
And that happened through their faith in Jesus.
And today Paul’s going to play out that slavery theme a little bit more.
MORE COMFORTABLE BACK IN CHAINS
Let’s take a look at our passage for today.
I’d love for you to follow along.
Page 945 or YouVersion.
We’re going to read the 13 verses today, and then talk about them
(Galatians 4:8-20) – NIV
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 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? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. 12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
So Paul starts by saying…back in the day Galatians…when they didn’t know God…they were slaves to things that weren’t gods.
For the Galatians…that’s because before Christianity reached them…they were pagans…worshipping idols of wood and stone…that were certainly not God.
Paul likens it to slavery. Following the “fake decrees” of a wood god somebody made in a workshop.
But now that they know God…and God knows them…he’s wondering…why are you going back to that??
You know the REAL God of the universe now! Why would you go back?!?
You’ve experienced the real God. He’s changed you…moved in and through you…why would you go back?
Why…would you go back to the chains of slavery?
Why would anyone…after experiencing freedom…go back to slavery??
And yet…we do. In fact, most of US do…throughout different times of our lives.
I think for a lot of us…it’s more comfortable. It’s what we know.
There’s a famous scene in the Shawshank Redemption…which I can’t recommend to you because I saw it before I was a Christian…so it’s probably actually a terrible movie for all I know.
But there’s a scene in it where one of the elderly guys who’s basically been in prison his whole life gets released.
He actually ends up committing suicide because he doesn’t’ even know how to live free.
He just knows the prison life.
Life in chains.
And I think a lot of us don’t actually feel all that comfortable with the grace of God. With his freedom He gives.
I mean it sounds good…we talk a good game with grace…but it kind of makes us a little nervous inside.
We think, “So….if I’m in a relationship with Christ…I’ve trusted that He died for me…and I’m trying to follow Him…then he’s forgiven EVERYTHING I’ve ever done?
“And odder yet, He’ll CONTINUE to forgive every sin I commit…even though now I know better??
You mean, I can have this crazy relationship where I can just talk to Him whenever…and enjoy Him…and bask in his love???
It sounds really good…but honestly…it makes a lot of us uncomfortable.
I mean at first….when he freed us from the slavery of our sins and old life, when He forgave us, and starting moving in us…we were so excited!
“I’m free! I’m free! God is real!! God is alive!!! This is AWESOME!!!”
But then the months go by…the years go by…
And we continue to sin…
Try as we might…we can’t get rid ourselves of this plague called sin.
We mess up. We scream at our spouse. We look at things we shouldn’t and say things we thought Christians would never say
And it all just starts to feel uncomfortable for a lot us.
And we think…”I’m not sure God would really fully forgive and radically love someone who’s claiming his name like me…but doesn’t act like it. I’m not sure if this is what he had in mind when He forgave me.”
We feel just sort of “exposed” in his grace….Something about it…doesn’t feel right.
(step backwards) So we just start….stepping back….and back…and back.
And you know what feels comfortable???
The whole rewards system…not this incredible gift of grace.
“You know what?! It actually feels significantly more comfortable to just come up with a nice system where if we:
Go to church, read our Bible, and pray before meals: God is happy
If we drink too much, start swearing again, or forget to pray: God is angry.
And before we know it…we’ve just personally put the chains back on ourselves.
We’re right back in slavery…trying to just please the master. Hoping to earn his favor.
It’s as if the scandalous freedom of God’s grace was just too much for us.
We didn’t know what to do with it.
So we just went back to being slaves…where God was happy when we did nice things…mad when we did bad things…
It sounds crazy. But we do it all the time.
Even the Israelites in the Old Testament…when life was hard following God in the desert…in the grace and freedom He gave them, they said to Moses, “I think it would be better if we just went back to Egypt as slaves.”
“At least then we knew what to expect.
LEGALISM, PAGANISM, OR SIN = ALL THE SAME
And Paul says that this kind of “back in slavery thinking” can be applied to multiple things.
Look at verses 9-10 again
(Galatians 4:9-10) – NIV
9 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? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!
It’s really that maybe some of these Galatians are turning back to their old ways…their old life before Christ…
But the main point Paul is making is that by following these new teachers in town…and trying to earn their way to God by obeying all of these Jewish customs (circumcision, the Sabbath, special days like the Day of Atonement or new moon festivals, etc.)…
That there is just as much bondage trying to “earn your way to God” that way as there is when they were bowing down to wood idols!
It’s the same thing!
That’s a pretty strong statement!
To say that trying to earn your way to God with your good deeds is the same thing as carving a wood idol and worshipping it as your God…that’s a STRONG statement!
But Paul makes it!
And it’s true.
See because for us to fall back in to trying to earn God’s love in our lives…to fall back into this life of trying to beckon Him to love you with offerings of your good deeds…is to fall back into slavery…where you’re just hoping to please this master…that’s probably never going to love you.
But YOU’RE ALREADY FREE!! HE ALREADY LOVES YOU!
And that’s why Paul makes this strong point that you’re basically worshipping a different God if you’re trying to earn his love with good deeds and avoid his anger with bad deeds
You might as well just worship a wood idol.
I think most of us are quite aware when we fall away from God because of our outward sin.
We, as the old folks used to say…we backslide.
We go back to our alcoholic ways…back to our drugs…back to our affairs…back to our old life…
And we know we’re off track with God.
But we are just as off track when we start doing all of these good things for God…but, inside, you’re only really doing it because now “you’re being a good Christian…and now God must be happy with you”
Like when we start thinking, “I’m probably actually one of the better Christians here…like if God’s proud of anyone…it’s you…because you…unlike these other people…you DO read your Bible every day…you’re taking a summer class…you know how to study the Bible…you come here every week…during the summer..NO ONE does that…let’s be honest…God really loves you”
If anything…that sort of thinking…that sort of slavery thinking where you somehow went backwards to begging God to let you go free again when he already did…
If anything…it’s MORE dangerous than falling back into your old outward sinful ways.
Because at least the person who fell back into their major sin is usually aware that they need help.
But most of the time…when we fall into this trap of trying to earn God’s love…our pride gets the best of us…
We’ve locked ourselves right back in the chains…so far from the fields of God’s grace…
And yet…even though we personally were responsible for walking ourselves right back into slavery…
In the delusional video that plays in our mind…we still think we’re free.
We’re like the slave who’s invented the fantasy that slavery is actually the place where free people go and the “outside world” is the REAL PRISON!
“They feed you here…and you know what to expect each day! And…”
And this is why legalism…thinking YOU’VE earned your way to God’s love…is so dangerous..
Because it’s sneaky. Very, very sneaky.
In fact, it’s so sneaky…the devil wants to assist you with it.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Huh…what did you just say?”
Doesn’t the devil just specialize in getting me to worship pentagrams, read Harry Potter, and listen to rap music?
Actually, one of his main purposes is to get you to believe that YOU earned God’s love. That you did it all yourself”
(2 Corinthians 11:13-14) – NIV
13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
The prince of darkness masquerades as an angel of light because if he can convince you that you have to do enough good to earn God’s love, then he’ll gladly inspire you to do a lot of good.
He’ll motivate you to do so much good, that before you know it…he’s tricked you into believing a false God.
A false God who’s barometer of love goes up when you come to church…and drops with each cuss word you mutter under your breath.
And before you know it…in the name of holiness…he tricked you into a false God.
It is SO sneaky!
He doesn’t care if you try and keep the ten commandments as long as he can trick you into either taking credit for your own righteousness or thinking if you do enough of them you’ll earn a reward.
People always say, “How come you don’t see more demonic activity here in the Western World compared to say in Africa or in the East?”
It’s simply because the devil doesn’t need to show himself here. He already has the whole West obsessed with materialism and their own self-righteousness.
The worst chess move he could ever make here would be to start revealing himself.
Then people would be afraid…and know they need Jesus.
Better to keep them walking in one robotic line chasing their American dreams and their self-righteousness.
So I want to ask you…where do you think you are right now?
Are you back in slavery? Or are you enjoying the fruits of God’s grace?
Let me just ask you some questions. Let’s take a quiz…like you’re back reading seventeen magazine:
When you screw up…you sin…and you know it…how quickly do you accept God’s grace and forgiveness? Do you stay in shame? Or can you say…Thank you for your forgiveness, God! Your mercies are new each morning!
When you do the things that help you grow spiritually (read the Bible, come to church, pray, go to house groups), do you do them because it’s so great to be with your God who loves you…or because that’s how good Christians please God??
When you see other Christians around you struggling with sin are you more likely to:
A) Think about how wrong they are
B) Gossip about how they’ve fallen away from being a good Christian
C) Pray for them or reach out to them.
I think the harsh reality is a lot of us have backed ourselves right back into the chains of slavery… …and even though our faith experience uses words like Bible, Jesus, and love…it has more in common with a false religion than it does the radical grace and love of Jesus Christ.
This is a bold statement: But I think a lot of Christians live more like Muslims than they do Christians.
See Muslims believe that at judgment day God will weigh all of their good deeds and bad deeds on a scale, and hopefully they will have prayed enough, served enough, read the Holy Books enough, and attended enough religious services, …to please God.
“And I see a lot of Christians live lives that look a whole lot more like that…then they do of someone who’s been radically forgiven by Jesus.
Someone who had so much sin piled against them that the only verdict they were every going to get was guilty.
Yet, God loved them so much that he sent his only son to die in their place and take their punishment for them
And NOW…And NOW….no matter what they do…they’re forgiven!!
They’re new creations in Him! He sent them His Holy Spirit. They can have this amazing relationship with Him. He gave them a new heart. A new life!
And this incredible love relationship they have with Him doesn’t’ cause them to take his grace in vain, but it INSPIRES them to want to live even more for this amazing God.
And when they screw up…sometimes even royally…they run immediately back into the arms of God…because they know so clearly…that he’s their daddy.
Their daddy that adopted them and of course forgives them…because he’s crazy in love w/ them.
They don’t just walk through the religious motions making sure everyone knows how “Godly” they are…
They seem to really enjoy God.
AND THEY DO SO BECAUSE THEY’RE ACTUALLY LIVING IN FREEDOM!
TO GET STARTED AGAIN
My guess is…if you’re sitting in this room…even if you’re closer to the slavery description right now…you probably have at one time experienced this great joy with God.
You probably have experienced what it feels like to just run free in his fields of grace.
Paul even points this particular point out to the Galatians:
(Galatians 4:13-15) – NIV
As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you,14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
Some translations even translate verse 15: Where then is your JOY? The Joy you once blessed me with.
In fact, he even says…the Galatians were SO moved by hearing the Gospel (that’s the Good news about Jesus: That He died in our place and forgave EVERYTHING we’ve ever done…and if we believe in that…NOTHING…NOTHING…NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God)
You don’t have to earn it….it doesn’t bob up and down with your sins and good deeds.
It’s just there. At maximum.
I’m sorry, he’s just crazy about you and it’s not changing.
And the Galatians were SO moved by this…that he says…they would have even torn their eyes out and given them to Paul!
But now…this legalism…this walk back into chains…has sucked the life out of them like a vacuum cleaner to their soul.
In fact, I would say this: If your walk with Jesus feels pretty joyless right now…there’s a good chance that you’re not truly walking in grace.
That you’re living more in the rewards system than in grace.
And at the core…I think we all DO want to please God.
And that’s not a bad thing.
We want to honor Him and be more like Him.
“But you will always be more like Him and better be able to honor Him to the degree that you can love and enjoy His grace.
It’s like this:
Let’s say that somewhere there are 10-year-old twin boys.
And these twin boys, have an older brother. He’s 16…and to them…he’s perfect. They want to be just like him.
He’s that odd teenager who’s responsible…he’s kind…he’s fun to be around…loves God…and is always willing to spend time with his brothers.
Both twins really want to be like their brother and have him love them…but they go about it in entirely different ways.
The first twin: He decides that hanging out isn’t as important. He’s set a regiment and a schedule for how he can model himself after his brother and he’s out to please him at all times.
He sets his alarm for 6:45am each day to make sure he’s up for his brother to get him breakfast…hopefully he’ll like that and be proud of him.
He makes sure that he never is on the computer when his brother might want to be on it…because he knows how much he likes twitter…and he wouldn’t want to upset him.
He faithfully attends all of his brother’s soccer games. He takes stats for him. Hopefully he’ll notice him there, appreciate the stats,…and think he’s an amazing brother.
But the other twin: He decides that he’s just going to attempt to be like their brother by just by just hanging out with him as much as possible.
They play catch together. They watch movies together. They laugh together. He just tags along with his brother on errands. He rides his bike with him when his brother trains for the track team. They just enjoy each other.
Now let me ask you a question: Which brother do you think is going to have a better relationship with their older brother? Which brother do you think is going to have more joy? Which brother is going to probably end up being more like his brother?
It’s an easy answer. The second one.
And yet it’s rarely how we approach our relationship w/ God.
So I plead with you this morning…let yourself fall in love with God again.
Yes…You mess up. You’re not perfect. You never will be.
And guess what: He loves you anyway.
(Hebrews 4:16) – NIV
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Jesus is not unfamiliar with your shortcomings. In fact, he knows them better than you do.
So…trying to avoid Him in shame…gets us nowhere.
Jesus is not interested in your religious good deeds to get his approval.
Because you already have his approval.
He already loves you, or He never would have died for you.
He just wants to spend time with you.
Would you be willing to take the cautious first steps back out of slavery again?
And come back to this love relationship with Him?!
Fall in love all over again.
Take time to pray this week…and just enjoy Him. Just thank Him for his love. For his forgiveness.
Don’t spend all your time avoiding him and prayer but doing your religious checklist.
Don’t spend all you time in prayer just going over the things you’ve gotta improve..
If you’re stuck, the only way out is love and grace.
It’s the only way out…because it’s the only way.
It is the way of Christ.
And everything else is just a false god masquerading as light.
Everything else…is just a return to slavery.
Back in chains.
I pray that God reawakens your soul with his incredible love for you.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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