There are many in the church today who treat the Christian life like is a race they have to try and win on their own or better yet by their own effort or standard of goodness. Out the gate they are excited and full of energy. They study well and have a real (so they thought) joy to read and worship privately and corporately. They had a on the surface a joy and seriousness to pray and have fellowship with other Christians. But, something happens along the way, and they begin to slow down to the point of giving up and to retreat back to the starting line again where it was comfortable and familiar. From the grandstand! You think to yourself or scratch your head, they start out so well, but you can’t believe what you’re seeing as they retreat to go back to their old ways. See, the problem isn't what we see on the surface; because from the surface we see a person who looks like you and me. We see a person who is possibly a church goer, a co-worker, a neighbor in the community, a peer in school. We see someone who is very capable to finish the race better than me at times. BUT what we don’t see, is the lack of depth or the lack of deep roots in their life. Everything up to now has been by their ability and strength, and not by the Spirit of God. Everything up until now has been all them, in their own strength and flesh. And according to the scriptures apart from Christ we will fail at this a 10 out of 10 times.
When I think of man’s attempt to please God, I'm reminded of what Paul Tripp said in his illustration of the apple tree. Take an old apple tree that has no healthy apples in your backyard; it looks fine from a distant but has no strong deep roots (just roots that are barely covered by the soil). It’s a tree that is all tense purposes is dead and you’ve tried everything to keep it alive to bare good delicious apples. But nothing is happening! So you come up with this great idea! You go to the store and buy the biggest and juiciest apples they have by the bushels. Then you stop by the Hardware Store for some heavy duty staples. Then you come home and grab your stable gun, your ladder and you proceed up the tree start by pinning those beautiful apples to the tree that couldn’t reproduce apples of its own or the way you wanted them too. When you’re finished stapling all the apples you stand back from a distance and the tree looks amazing! It has all the features and characteristics of a healthy apple tree, full of delicious apples.But as you get closer you begin to see that it’s still a dead tree without growing fruit, only stapled apples to a dead tree.
See, apart from Christ we can do many things, but in the end it’s still a dead tree. And next year it will still produce uneatable apples. Much of what we do to produce growth and change is no more than “fruit stapling.” As Jeremiah penned “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jer 2:13 Jesus doesn’t want your stapled apples! The same truth applies to the Christian life! What does it mean to be firmly planted? Paul affirms that for us in this portion of his letter!
A. Freedom is grounded in Christ (Gal 5:1)
See our freedom is grounded in truth and Christ has set us free so live as free children. John records in his gospel the words of Jesus, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). If you know this but are not glorifying Christ deeply because of it, then it raises the question, Why not? The simplest answer has to be that you have forgotten how terrible slavery was. See, the gospel is not awesome unless you see the awfulness of your previous condition. Thomas Watson the Puritan said “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” We need to embrace and understand what Christ has done in order to adore Him and not return to slavery. What do we need to know that sets us free from this bondage? The simple unchanging truth is that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son. He came into the world to reveal the perfect love of God for humankind. He died for a broken world in atonement for its sin. And all who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Legalism on the other hand has a tendency to add more and more requirements to simple faith in Jesus Christ. Freedom is grounded in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone!!! To be firmly planted is to have deep roots that God Himself nurtures and waters through His word and the work of the Spirit in one’s life. James gives a portrait of the new life for the Christian “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:17-25
What does that mean to be free and firmly planted in Christ?
1. You are free from the fear of death “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb 2:14-15
2. You are free from the bondage of sin “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” Rom 6:6-7
3. You are free from the bondage of men to joyfully serve “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;” 1 Cor 9:19
4. You are free because of the finishing work of the cross “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet 1:18-19
So why do you want to put the yoke of bondage around your neck again? Why do want that heavy burden to carry that you couldn’t carry in the first place? Why do you want to go back where you once stored up God’s wrath upon your life? Why? You’re free and anyone in Christ is “free indeed” The Law on Mount Sinai reveals our hopelessness and bondage, but Calvary reveals His grace and liberating freedom for sinners like you and me. Standing firm safeguards us against submitting to legal bondage. Paul says in (v13) “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh.” In a nutshell “standing firm” keeps you and your Christian life between the guard rails. As you walk in His sustaining grace in your life. WHY? This leads to me to my next point!
B. Freedom is constantly under threat (Gal 5:2-12)
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from
obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” What Paul is saying, "You're listening to the wrong people? You're allowing yourself to be influenced by the wrong crowd." They were not running in the truth, they were listening to the message of bondage…we see this in (v2-v12)
LISTEN TO PAUL’S WARNING!
If you accept this false message, then your view of Christ is insufficient (v2)
If you accept this message you must obey all of the Law (v3)
If you accept this message, then you are turning away from the doctrine of grace. (v4)
If you accept this message, you lose the hope of future glory (v5)
See, God revealed Himself to you, through His gospel and He never called you to be fooled by the trickery of men, but called you by His divine saving grace. Remember what Paul said to the Corinthian church “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.’ 1 Cor 2:1-5. Legalisms (the false teachers) were all about external rituals; Paul says the Christian life is all about faith that is demonstrated through loving service.
Is the church being influenced by this crowd today through works righteousness?
Absolutely she is! Influences such as you want and need…..
It’s all about morals and doing good things.
It’s coming to church to look good and please others (family, spouse a parent).
It’s focusing on numbers and not true spiritual growth in one’s life.
It’s serving and doing things in the church with the idea of winning favor with God. While your spiritual lacks!
It’s concentrating on appearances instead of their spiritual state.
Its faking it and playing church (putting on your Sunday super suit).
The warning here is this! God will not be mocked if you think you can win favor by going ahead or adding to the gospel. Paul said this “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.’ Gal 6:7-8. Paul said if you’re willing to listen to something or someone like this, because this was never taught by Paul and he calls out this perversion of the gospel with strong action. He called for drastic measures to take place to see that this doesn’t continue on disrupting the church. Something so serious that would cause any man to say “ouch” Paul said, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”(v12) That word translated "emasculate" means literally "cut themselves off" and it refers to castration! Paul is obviously using a play on words. He’s literally calling for castration, and maybe he’s serious about that. He sounds serious to me. But he’s also saying he wants this party cut off from the church. It’s a picture or the idea of cutting the dead wood and throws it in the fire. Why? They are trouble. They are a cancer. This is not about a minor doctrinal difference. It's about the foundation of your spiritual life and the true gospel. Are trying to earn your salvation through obedience to the law? If so, then you are headed for a lifetime of misery and failure; or are you receiving salvation as a gift of God's grace?Understand you can experience a lifetime of freedom and victory. This was an important issue, and Paul didn't take kindly to the members of a legalistic faction coming in and destroying people’s freedom in Christ. This false message contaminates others and it’s not from God. (v7-v8) Why Paul goes on to say “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (v9) What does that look like to us; that little bit of leaven? Because a little leaven is something that is subtle, goes unnoticed or we turn a blind eye to at times….even worse we see no problem with it!
Just as a single cell of cancer can multiply rapidly throughout the physical body, a single false doctrine can multiply itself and spread throughout a body. A false doctrine and wrong view of salvation, grace can multiply itself and spread throughout the body of a believer. Just as a great forest fire can be started by one small spark…the same is true of the damage legalism can do to the bride of Christ. So, who are you going to listen to? The one who wants you back in bondage with a heavy yoke of sin or the one who offers you freedom through Christ alone? Trust in Christ’s atoning work alone for salvation. Find your righteousness in Him alone. And most of all resist anyone who points you somewhere other than Christ alone. Why? Christ as set us free, so live in the truth……Live free!