“Coming Back to Grace” – Galatians 1:1-11
Coming Back to Grace” * Galatians 1:1-11
Galatians is like the balance pole that trapeze artists carried. Its purpose was to keep them from falling off one side or the other and plunging to an injury or even death. Paul was seeing the Galatian Christians lose their spiritual equilibrium…a balancing act we all have to master.
A lot of things come at us as believers that can knock us off balance if we’re not careful. On one side, we can fall off into a legalistic mindset and belief system, believing that our own work is what pleases God or is truly what He requires.
On the other side is a life of license, a disregard for the truth and standards set forth in God’s Word leaving us to determine for ourselves what good and evil are. It cheapens grace. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, it is “forgiveness without repentance, forgiveness without a cross.” These are people who consider themselves “spiritual,” but have no use for the Bible. They apply Jesus to themselves like an app on a phone that offers some inspiration on living your best life now.
So, what does the tightrope look like? How do we know we are keeping our balance? How do we know we are standing on the real Gospel, and not a distorted one? (BTW, the word “gospel” was not a spiritual or religious term…it was a word that simply meant “good news.”)
Accept the truth of reality.
We are, by nature, born into a world that will one day be ground zero of God’s judgment and wrath against sin. We are by nature children of wrath. The world we live in is broken by our sin. We can’t put it back together, and ultimately God will judge it.
Whether we are aware or not, we desperately need to be rescued, and we cannot rescue ourselves. God has done everything necessary to accomplish our rescue, by sending His Son to save and deliver us. But we’re like people who are asleep in a burning house and unaware of the smoke and flames threatening us.
(NEO/Matrix) Like the lead character in this movie, the human race lives in a kind of deluded, dreamlike existence, blinded by our sin, until by grace God opens our eyes and we see what is really happening.to us, and to the world. Every person is impacted by this, and lives with a death sentence. “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” (Tightrope walkers find a fixed point to focus on)
Trusting that there is no other means of rescue than Jesus is what saves us. We cannot save ourselves, or anyone else. Having confidence that what the Bible says about why Jesus came and what Jesus did is true, and He really died “for our sins” a death for us on Calvary…He was buried…and He physically rose from the dead on the third day to deliver us, literally, to “rescue” us from this present evil age.
We will keep our balance if we stay focused on the simple Gospel: We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. That is the balance we must cling to without letting go. Accepting reality helps us keep our balance.
Address the Danger of a Distorted Gospel
You know, Paul was really intolerant about this. “Let those who preach another Gospel be accursed.” Those are hard words, especially in a culture that now tolerates ANYTHING…except intolerance. Tolerance is the highest virtue and intolerance the greatest evil in our culture today. He called those who came promoting legalism “troublemakers.” He said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning….” This means they were changing allegiance. If your team is losing, you go out to the kiosk, but the jersey for the other team.
But think about it. Add something to the vaccine formula or take something out of it. now what? People will die. Or they will think they’re vaccinated but they’re not. Paul knew there was only one “vaccine” for sin…the sacrifice of Jesus.
The Jewish proselytizers had come to “fully convert” these new believers to full acceptance by God, they taught, by teaching them Jewish religious system; a system filled with rituals and rules and self-effort. They came and loaded the new Christians down with burdens of law and man-made rules and rituals that they themselves couldn’t keep. It disrupted the delicate balance of the Galatian Christians.
Paul’s campaign against the Jewish proselytizers was successful. But while the Jewish form of legalism doesn’t threaten the church today, other forms do. The flesh is incurably religious, and we are continually looking for ways to justify ourselves by our own works. So, we add our own “man-made” rules and treat them like they are from God, and judge others when they don’t do it our way.
“Contend” (agonize, struggle) for the Gospel…(Jude 3)
The problem of a distorted Gospel, whether we add to it or take from it. “It is not a gospel.” “No Gospel at all.”
Adhere to the Gospel You Received
THE Gospel of Jesus Christ, the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, is that He has come to rescue us and bring us salvation by grace…and we receive it through faith. If we lose that simple perspective, we will lose our balance.
1). The Gospel-centered Proposition
There is a truth to the Gospel…a rational, propositional process… that’s the only way people could “distort/pervert/reverse” it. “My truth….Oprah and Prince Harry and Meagan’s interview….telling ‘their truth.’ New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo apparently has a version of “his truth” that stands in conflict with statistics. Which is “truth?” Truth is an objective, verifiable reality…not a picture of reality we create.
Jesus did not say “I am a way, a truth, and a life…or I am my truth…” but “the truth” without which no one can come to the Father.
2). A Gospel-centered illumination
(Seeing the truth…hearing the truth….first time…It’s why when you try to tell someone what you know to be so wonderful and true about Jesus, they look at you like you’re crazy, or more…they’ll stare at you with the eyes of a corpse. We are dead in trespasses and sins.
This is how people who are not Christians can sit through a church service unmoved even though they have heard truth, heard the Gospel that can set them free. That’s how many of you did that for years and years until your eyes opened.
The first thing we begin to see is ourselves in honest light. We see our sin, and even our desperation. But then, like for the very first time, we see God for Who He is, that He loves us and stands ready to forgive us and that is what changes us….forever.
3). A Gospel-centered adoration
We love God for Who He is…want to spend time alone with Him…”Who, having not seen, yet we love…”. God pursues us…it is not because we have done good things that He pursues us, but because of His own nature and love for us.
If we are working for our acceptance and salvation, we will only love God for what He does for us…feel like that is what we deserve….forsake and be disappointed with God when He doesn’t pay up.
So maybe today you are feeling a stirring inside of yourself that you can’t explain or understand. Maybe you have begun to have your eyes opened to truths you thought you knew, but now they’ve come alive.
What do you do? You trust it. You trust it.
Blondin was one of the most famous high wire artists of all time. He had walked across Niagara Falls on a thin wire hundreds of times. Occasionally, he would up the ante and would juggle some balls or push a wheelbarrow across the wire as he walked. And then he would come back to the crowd, and ask them “Do you believe I can do that again?” They would roar back, YES! Then he would single out a man or woman, and say “Do you believe I can do it?” Again, YES! “Do you believe I could do it with a person in the wheelbarrow?”. YES! And then he’d ask, “Would you get in the wheelbarrow with me?”
Some say, “OF course I believe what Jesus did on the cross, and I believe he was resurrected.” But have you ever “gotten in the wheelbarrow?” Are you willing to stake your life on it…your eternity?