Smile: You Are Now A Son

The apostle Paul had been shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, beaten nearly to death. He is one tough guy. And yet in his letter to the Galatians he wrote about being “astonished” (Gal. 1:6), “perplexed…” (Gal. 4:20), and “fearing for them” (Gal. 1:7). Paul worried about the Galatians who were being confused by men trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. Wouldn’t you be astonished yourself if you find in your backyard a beautiful butterfly – with great, big, colorful wings for flying freely – crawling on its belly as if it were still a caterpillar? Paul earnestly reminds the Galatians in Chapter 4, “The Lord Jesus has set you free! You are now sons and no longer slaves. Don’t go back to living like a slave. Slavery and sonship do not mix!”

You are now sons and no longer slaves

Verses 1-3 talk about an heir who could not lay a hold of his inheritance because of his young age. Until the time set by his father, he is placed under the watchful eye of a guardian. We were like the child once. Before coming to know Jesus Christ we were slaves – to the law. Whatever we think could draw us closer to God, we do sincerely, hoping that if we try hard enough maybe we could win God’s favor and even deserve entry to heaven. Jesus even said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” (Jn. 5:39-40) But He declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6) Salvation and sonship are only possible through redemption, a giving in exchange of something. Thus, when the time had fully come, God sent His Son to redeem us who were under the law. Referring to Jesus, Isaiah 53:2-6 say, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Redemption has always been God’s plan. It was not an afterthought God had made up as things went along in the history of mankind.

God has sent Jesus Christ not just to redeem us as His sons. Galatians 4:7 says, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” God has also given us a new heart and put on us a new spirit when Jesus Christ redeemed us into sonship. Ezekiel 36:26-27 say, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” Through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross, God has given us true freedom – freedom from our old selves and from obedience to God just out of obligation. Just as he reminded the Galatians, Paul is reminding us today: when we accepted Christ, we have become sons of God, no longer slaves. No need to crawl on our bellies like a caterpillar – we can fly freely like a butterfly. Remember, the evidence of true sonship is a changed life.

Don’t go back to living like a slave

In verses 9-10 of Chapter 4, Paul scolds the Galatians, saying, “…how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? [10] You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” The Galatians were becoming obsessed all over again with obeying Section A, Article 1, Item 278… The principles, the items may be right things to do, but if they’re doing them for all the wrong reasons, they’re back in slavery all over again. Paul warned the Colossians, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col. 2:23)

We are not exempt from falling into a similar pit. It is entirely possible that we do the right things – attend worship, go to D-Group, serve in a ministry, attend Bible study, have quiet time, go to dawn watch – all for the wrong reasons. We might be doing these things: out of routine & tradition; to help make up for sins; to belong, conform & comply; to overcome my guilt, out of people’s expectations; because God will be angry & punish us if we don’t; to impress and look good; because God will love me more if I do, etc. We need to be sure that we’re doing these things as an outflow of our gratitude to God. We need to be sure we’re doing these things under the power of God’s Spirit. If we’re not careful, we might just end up being sons living like slaves.

Slavery and Sonship do not mix

Galatians 4:22-26 says: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.”

Slavery and Sonship cannot mix. The formula cannot be faith in Christ plus good works, equals salvation. Good works is on the other side of the equation because it is the response to the gift of salvation. The Christian life is designed to be a life of joy. There are many, many reasons to be joyful in the Christian life: we have been redeemed as sons of God; we are no longer slaves to the law nor to sin nor to our old selves; we have become heirs with an eternal inheritance; we have been given a new heart and a new spirit; we can love and worship the Lord, freely. So stop frowning. Go on and smile.

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