Dependence on God
Have You Put On Christ?
Galatians 3: 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
Today's sermon is based upon the Epistle of the Day, from Galatians chapter 3. St. Paul says here, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27).
INRODUCTION: We Americans do not like the thought of being held captive by anyone. In addition to being the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, this is Independence Day. 228 years ago, the Declaration of Independence was issued, dissolving the colonies' subjugation to King George III and proclaiming that all people are created equal with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Today, 228 years after the Declaration of Independence, we are free from the tyranny of King George the Third of England. However, we live in a world with other kinds of tyranny and other kinds of captivity. (Terrorism, war, broken families, crime, are all signs that there is tyranny at work!).
I’m sure that we all would agree that as Christians, we have been freed from the GREATEST form of captivity and tyranny, SIN! And this through the completed work of Christ upon the cross. We would also agree that it is by God’s grace, for Christ’s sake that we have been saved. That is, when Christ died for us, God provided salvation for everyone; not for anything we had done, but only because of what Christ had done. “He who knew no sin became sin for us”! In essence, He put on our sin, a wardrobe of filthy rags, and clothed us in His perfect nature, which is a beautiful robe of righteousness. There was nothing within us that would have deserved His passion, but for that moment in time, as our savior hung suspended between heaven and earth, He willing became clothed with our filthy rags of sin! And as He hung there, He cried out unto the Father and the whole creation, “IT IS FINISHED!” In other word’s Jesus death upon the cross was our “Declaration of Independence” from the power of sin, and the work of God’s Law that says “You are guilty of sin!
With all of this being true, why do we Christians constantly seem to be overcome by sin? Why does our sin, and other peoples sin seem to rob us of the joy of Christ’s gift of salvation, which is our Independence from Sin? We’re a peculiar bunch of people, we Christians! We hunger for God’s perfection in our lives, yet it seems we constantly fall short of the mark! We seem to constantly fall into sinful habits that non-Christians enjoy so much yet we find no satisfaction at all in these things; in fact we find just the opposite…WE BECOME MISERABLE! Why? Because we are acting outside of Christ’s nature that has been wrapped around us in baptism! What is this robe of righteousness that St. Paul says we are clothed in?
Illustration: Lambs Don’t Wallow!
The story is told of a lamb and its mother, who passed a pigpen each morning on the way to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun to the lamb. On an especially hot day the lamb asked its mother, "May I jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud with the pigs?" The Mother replied, "No." And the lamb asked, "Why not?" The mother simply stated, "Sheep do not wallow!" Well, this didn't satisfy the lamb. He felt his mother had no reason to refuse. As soon as she was out of sight, the lamb ran to the pigpen and jumped the fence. He felt the cool mud on his feet, his legs, and his stomach. After a while he decided he had better go back to his mother, but he couldn't do it. He was stuck! His thick wool was weighed down with heavy, sticky mud. His pleasure had become his prison. He was a hostage of the mud. He cried out and the kind farmer, his owner, rescued him. When he was cleansed and returned to the fold, his mother said firmly: "Remember, sheep do not wallow!"
Well sin is like the mud in that story. It looks so inviting, and appears easy to escape from whenever we wish. But, because of God’s Law at work in our heats, which is like the wool, we do not find pleasure, but only pain! What seemed like pleasure becomes our prison. Because we sin, because we are born in sin and because we cannot keep the Law perfectly, because we sin daily, we are held captive under the Law. So that is a good thing right? Well let’s see what St. Paul says.
I. ARE YOU CLOTHED IN A INDEPENDENCE OR FREEDOM FROM GOD’S LAW?
A. Some People believe that to “clothe them selves in Christ” means to be free and independent of God’s Law. In our text this morning, Paul call’s the law a guardian. In ancient civilizations, a guardian was a person who had custody of a child in order to teach them a trade of provide for a liberal education. Parents would pay a sum of money to a teacher to provide their child’s room, board and an education. Somewhat like our modern boarding schools or military academies. He uses this term to a Jewish congregation who had become Christians, but not quite! It seems they could not let go of their form of legalism that demanded that anyone who became a Christian must continue to follow all of God’s laws as outlined in the Old Testament. These Laws were given to God’s chosen people, the Jews, so that as they witnessed to the world about the true God and the coming Messiah, they would be set apart from all the other people of the world as special. It is for this purpose that the Law was given to the Jews, so that they would be set apart until the Messiah would come from within their tribes!
B. Paul then states: "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." Does that, then, mean that the Law serves no purpose? Not at all - although some have tried misusing this passage to assert such falsehood. Some have tried to say that once a person has been brought to faith in Christ, they are then free to do whatever they want. They can disregard what Scripture sets forth in other areas. That is how they justify or allow for the practice of homosexuality, the ordination of women to the divine office of Pastor, freely giving the Lord’s body and blood to any and all without examination, and even praying with heathens. Some want to use this as an excuse for doing away with all doctrinal standards within the church. They cry out "freedom in the Gospel" as their standard. Yes there is freedom in the Gospel, but not freedom to do what ever each thinks is right and in the process trampling the precious gifts that God has given the church, His very Body, Blood and Word! Remember, Jesus said that He did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it!
II. ARE YOU CLOTHED IN A LOVE FOR GOD’S PERFECT LAW AND ORDER?
A. So what of the Law? Some people believe that to “clothe them selves in Christ” means to serve and love the law of Him who first loved us! They believe that it is their love for Christ will increase their faith and that will lead them to a “more righteous” life. Through this they want to remove their sins and be justified. If we believe this, then we clearly intend to unwrap our garment of sin off of Christ, in order to make Him innocent, to burden and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins, and to behold them, not in Christ, but in ourselves. It is as if we are telling our Savior, “I love you so much Lord for what you have done for me. Thanks, but I can handle it from here!” If we do this, then we abolish Christ and make Him useless. For if it is true that we abolish sins by our own efforts, by being good, and demonstrating our love for Christ, then Christ does not take them away, but we do.
B. Then what about the Law. If it does not help me, is the law then useless? Absolutely not! Just because we can't earn our salvation through the Law, doesn't mean that the Law has no role or purpose to play in our lives. Although Christ has come, the Law still serves a purpose. He came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). The Law still serves as a guardian in a sense, but not as it did for the Jews who were God’s witnesses to the coming Messiah. Rather, in Luther's Small Catechism, we refer to the First Use of the Law, or the Law as a Curb. This is the Law as it is used by people throughout the world in all societies and cultures based on the Law written by God on human hearts. This use of the Law keeps order in a fallen world so that people don’t destroy each other.
Another role or purpose of the Law, which is not specifically mentioned by the Apostle Paul in our text, but which is brought out elsewhere in Scripture and is identified in our Lutheran Confessions (FC VI) is what we call the Third Use of the Law. This Third Use of the Law pertains only to Christians, only to those who find their salvation solely by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Out of gratitude for God's love and mercy, we want to do God's will. It is not done to earn salvation or God's favor; Jesus did that! But flowing from faith and out of a grateful heart, we want to do what God would have us do. We want to reflect God's will in our lives so that others can come to glorify God. In this way the Law serves as a guide or rule for what God's will is.
Yet, the chief, primary purpose of the Law is to serve as a mirror, or as Paul says in our text, to hold us captive and imprison us. This is the work of the law that first brought you to faith. It makes us see ourselves as we truly are, evil and sinful. It shows us our failures and our sin. It condemns us and holds us captive. It reveals to us that we have no power to set ourselves free. Only God can set us free, and the news of how He has freed us is called the Gospel. This is something that can only be apprehended by us through faith.
C. These are the three proper uses of the law, but we must be careful not to misuse the Law outside of these three examples. Let me give you two ways that people tend to misuse the Law.
1. People try to apply the Law to others. This is wrong because God’s Law is for the individual to apply on Himself. It is a personal interaction between God and the individual. We must not worry about the sin of our neighbor, our brother or sister or coworker, unless that sin is against us. Yes if I see my brother caught in sin, out of love I will point it out to him, but only so that he may take it directly to God. I do this out of love and it is not a judgment, for only God knows the true condition of a heart.
2. The Law is not to teach us another Law. What I mean by this is that our human nature knows that when the conscience is burdened with sin, the Law is likely to hit us full force. We may think or feel that we have broken all of the commandments by breaking one, and that would be true. We may then say to ourselves that we are guilty of eternal death. At this point, our human nature begins to make deals with God saying, “O Lord if you will forgive this great sin of mine and spare my life from Hell I will change and live right from now on. I will never be like that again.” Now as I said, this is natural but entirely wrong! This is the mindset that causes us to trust in our own works to EARN grace and forgiveness of sins through acts of contrition and love.
D. Remember this, the Law’s purpose is to zoom in on our sins and make them so noticeable that we can not ignore them. Its purpose is to make us so small that we must turn to Christ by faith so that He may save us. So how did Christ fulfill the Law? Not by making new laws, but by removing the power of the Law to condemn those of us, who by faith trust in His completed work.
III. LET US BE CLOTHED IN REPENTANCE AND CHRIST’S FORGIVENESS!
A. So what is this “Putting on of Christ”? It is a robe of righteousness and splendor that is sown with the water, the Word, and the faith of Baptism. It is simply FAITH ALONE in GOD”S WORD ALONE, BY CHRIST ALONE! Since we receive the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation on account of Christ by faith alone, then it follows that faith alone justifies. This beautiful robe of righteousness is tailored not by our own labor but through the mercy of Christ, as long as we take hold of His mercy by faith.
When an individual is brought into Christ by means of baptism (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:26-28) he is literally a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). But because this robe of faith goes through trials, temptations and testing in this world, it may begin to wear thin. This is why God calls us not to neglect the meeting of the saints in worship. This is why we are to receive His body and blood often, so that through these means of grace He may declare that we are forgiven and so we might find strength.
B. Why do you come to church? If your answer is to worship, love and serve Jesus, then may I ask you to rethink the question. Certainly loving, worshiping and serving Jesus are things we would expect from a Christian, but they are not the things WE come to church for. Why do we come to church?
1. Because we need Jesus!
2. He does not need us.
3. We need what He alone can give.
C. Only the One who offered his humble obedience to the Father as the representative of the whole human race has the authority to tell sinners that they are righteous. We need to hear Him tell us through His ministers that we are forgiven. We need to hear His Law and Gospel proclaimed for us so that we can know His will for us. We need to be drowned and reborn in the waters of Baptism. We need to receive forgiveness of our sin through the eating and drinking of Him who first loved us! This is the righteousness of Christ that we must put on, and this is how we must put it on.
Friends let us eagerly approach His table and receive anew His robe of righteousness which is the forgiveness of sins. Let our faith be strengthened by His body and blood and celebrate not just Independence Day, but also our DEPENDENCE on Christ. In closing, allow me to share with you the Christians Declaration of Dependence, which is found in Article Four of the Augsburg Confession:
“We cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.”
May this be our declaration of faith daily as we PUT ON CHRIST!
MAY GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU FOR CHRIST SAKE…. AMEN!