Called to Freedom
Galatians IX: Outgrowing Grace?
April 14, 2013
* Midweek Service
* Marriage RX: Conflict Resolution
CROSSING THE NIAGARA
Once upon a time, there was a guy named Charley who had a rather unusual occupation – he walked over the Niagara Falls on a tight rope, a distance of about 1000 feet. That’s like walking to the transit center on a rope, as 150,000 gallons rush past every second, the roar of the falls in the background. But for him, it was no more challenging than walking to the transit center.
He would draw great crowds, and to keep them coming, he kept upping his game: walking backwards, doing summersaults, carrying various large objects across. Once he even brought over little table and chair and ate his lunch at the half way point.
But the greatest challenge was carrying onlookers over with him. The first challenge was persuading them then was the fact that he could never be complete sure what they would do.
On one Sunday afternoon he done all of the regular tricks, and it was time for the finale. By this point, Charlie had a knack picking out a willing “guest.” So he chose his target, a man named John, and started persuading him.
Normally, it took a fair amount of teasing and cajoling, but John was eager for the trip. Too eager in fact. Something told Charlie that this was a really bad idea, but didn’t see any way out and loaded John up on his back.
As the trip began, John was loud and confident, bragging to his friends. Normally, the even the confident passengers were unnerved as soon as Charlie stepped over the river, but then calmed down the further they went, as they learned from experience how solid Charlie was.
But this time, the exact opposite happened. The further they went the more nervous John became. He tried to sound calm, but began asking questions about the strength of the rope and Charlie’s past record.
Charlie’s calm answers didn’t calm John. Over the next 100 yards, John went from maintaining a façade of calm to obvious fear.
By the time they got a third of the way, John was starting to panic and Charlie was starting to get worried. Shortly after the pass the half way mark, John said he couldn’t take it anymore and wanted down.
Obviously, that was a very bad idea, so Charlie said, “We are more than half way there, just hang on. It will all be over soon.”
“Let me down! I want to go back!” yelled John in a strangly high pitched voice.
“You can’t! You can’t do this on your own. The only way across is on my back. Stay calm, I will get you across. Trust me.”
But by this point, John was completely hysterical. Charlie pleaded, begged, joked, yelled. He tried everything he could think of to calm John down.
Nothing worked. If the circumstance hadn’t been so deadly serious, John’s foolishness would have been funny.
John was starting to hit Charlie, demanding to be let down. He was flailing around, and for the first time ever, Charlie began to lose his balance.
“Okay, okay, I will let you down,” Charlie finally said. Just give me ten second. I need ten seconds to get stable enough to set you down. Count with me: Ten, nine...”
And so John, practically screamed “eight, seven, six” and all the way down to zero. True to his word, Charlie slowly started to let John down.
At first, relief flooded John’s face, then as soon as feet hit the rope and he let go of Charlie, he started to lose his balance and grabbed whatever he could hand on to.
It is said that a drowning man will, in his panic, pull his rescuers under water. So John grabbed Charlie and pulled both of them off of the rope and into the cold water.
On the distance shore, the deadly silence of the crowds gave way to screaming and panic.
John was also screaming as he splashed about, but then he felt the bed of the river under his feet. In those ten second, Charlie had only just managed to get them to the shallow part of the river.
I am glad to say that the whole event had a positive effect on John. He had a reputation of being a loud braggart, but sufficiently humbled by the event, he became a much nicer person.
Charlie on the other hand decided he had had enough of this business and decided to become an accountant. The end.
We end that story and enter back into Galatians right as PAUL is finishing up HIS own STORY about why grace is so important to him. But his utter FRUSTRATION and amazement BROKE THROUGH:
Galatians 3:1-4 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?
Like CHARLIE, he is desperate to get there stupidity through their thick skulls.
* You FOOLISH Galatians! Who has BEWITCHED you? I feel like I am taking CRAZY pills!
It’s like he is saying, “I have been THINKING really hard about this, trying to figure out WHY you would abandon grace and try to be justified by good works.”
* “I have come to the CONCLUSION that it must be one of two things: Either you are STUPID or you are INSANE. Which is it?”
But here is the thing, they are not STUPID, and he knows it. They are actually very INTELLIGENT; Paul’s writing here is very complex. He doesn’t use small words.
* INTELLIGENCE and WISDOM are not the same thing.
BEGINNING WELL IS NOT GUARANTEE
Every week, I approach preaching with prayer, begging God to show me how he wants to speak to us through his word, asking him to show how this APPLIES to us.
* I don’t want NICE sounding SERMONS, I want God’s truth to set you free and bring you life, “and that in more abundance.”
The thing you have to understand is that starting well is NO GUARANTEE of finishing well:
Galatians 3:3 After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
You can BEGIN with GRACE, fully understanding that you desperately need Jesus and that if you let go of him, you are dead. At the beginning you are dependent on the Spirit.
* Next week we will talk about the depending on the HOLY SPIRIT.
In the Greek, the expression “HUMAN EFFORT” is the FLESH. It does not mean “doing what our body wants.” Flesh means “me without the Spirit of God,” me operating UNDER my OWN POWER.
* IRRELIGIOUS FLESH is immoral, promiscuous, etc; RELIGIOUS FLESH is very moral, under its own power.
The problem here is not being BAD PEOPLE, it is trying to do it on YOUR OWN.
STRANGER THEN FICTION
LISTEN to me very carefully: The longer you are a Christian, SOME TEMPTATIONS (such as immorality) decrease, but some INCREASE. The danger of self-reliance increase dramatically.
* One of the special dangers of GROWING UP in the FAITH is never REMEMBERING this “BEGINNING with the Spirit.”
When I wrote the OPENING STORY I had to choose between a version that was a BETTER ANALOGY (John thought he could do it himself) or that was a BETTER STORY.
* I choose that version because it was MORE BELIEVABLE; who would actually think they could do it themselves?
But real life is STRANGER than FICTION, because that is exactly what we do. The long the trip goes, the more we begin to believe that we deserve some of the credit.
* We are like JOHN, DEMANDING to do it ourselves, and PAUL is screaming from the SHORE, “Are you stupid or crazy?”
THE SLIDE TO SELF-RELIANCE
Q Do you think I am doing a DRAMATIC PASTOR THING? Do we actually do that?
* It is HUMAN NATURE, we naturally slide towards SELF-RELIANCE.
In MOST THINGS, the LONGER we go, the better we get. You get a new job, think that you are a failure, that you can’t do it. Then you learn your way, get better, and start teaching others.
* But in some areas, EXPERIENCE should make us MORE WARY.
Like an ELECTRICIAN, the constant danger of becoming COMPLACENT along with GREATER UNDERSTANDING of electricity’s danger should make us ever VIGILANT.
Listen very carefully to these questions; they should help you see the WAYS that you are trying to SLIDE OFF of Jesus’ back:
1. How often do you desperately pray for God’s help?
PRAYERLESSNESS is one of the greatest indicators of SELF-RELIANCE
2. How often do you compare yourself to other Christians?
Every time you look around and say, “I’m doing PRETTY GOOD,” you are wriggling off Jesus back.
3. How do you respond to Christians living in sin?
If you respond in GRACE, pain, a desire for REDEMPTION, that is a sign of GRACE. If you respond with APATHY, it is sign of a HARD HEART.
* If you respond with JUDGMENT, is it a sign of SELF-RELIANCE.
4. Are you at peace with God’s process of sanctification?
Yes, it is a PROCESS and we have to continue to obey, and it is work. But if you are anxious about it, thinking God is impatient with you, you are trying to slip off Jesus’ back.
Philippians 1:6 ...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
5. Are you adding things to Jesus? Is your identity more in what you do than “being crucified with Christ”?
* Better DOCTRINE
* Being ORGANIC
* Social JUSTICE
THE PRACTICE OF DEPENDENCY ON GOD
The lesson here is UTTER DEPENDENCY on God’s grace, of needing Jesus to carry you EVERY STEP of the way. This is a daily lesson, because of our NATURAL SLIDE to self-dependency.
“Relying on God has to start over every day, as if nothing has yet been done.” -C.S. Lewis
One of the best ways to combat a natural slide is a new routine, so I offer this ROUTINE:
1. PRAY: “I need you, help me see my need.” It begins with acknowledgement of truth, then help understand it.
2. ACT: As God brings up situations, make you first response one of trusting God, not striving to do it on your own.
3. THANK God for his help. Thanksgiving and grace go hand in hand; SELF-RELIANCE and INGRATITUDE.
* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over
SUFFERING FOR NOTHING
I want to end on this verse:
Galatians 3:4 Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?
Scholars will disagree on exactly what this means, but I know what it has meant in my life:
My life have been filled with LESSONS of DEPENDENCY, times that have been so HARD that I NEED God to get through. Times I’ve been so MISERABLE, that only his COMFORT that got me through.
* I am not saying God DID THOSE things to you, but we may be sure that he INTENDS for us to LEARN.
2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Q What are the LESSONS of DEPENDENCY you’ve learned?
Paul is saying, “Think of all the pain that God has brought you through. Do you really want to THROW it AWAY?”
* Story of taking away GRACE’S PACIFIER.
Don’t let it be for NOTHING. Jesus has CARRIED you so far, and he will carry you to the end. Don’t try to get off of HIS BACK.