When I was asked to preach I was so excited and I had absolutely no idea what to preach and I started trying to think of something right then and there… when it struck me that what I had been asked was to give my farewell sermon… and it finally occurred to me that I would be leaving my home church, that I was no longer a member of a church but a servant of the The Church. In that moment I realized a tiny bit of what it will mean to pick up my cross and that there is indeed a cost that must be paid to follow Jesus, and while I don’t think this will be the greatest one that will be asked of me it’s still a painful one. I also realized that while I will miss so many things, I rejoice at the opportunity that the Lord has provided for me and I give thanks for the wisdom and patience that so many have imparted to me over the years… but simply put… it’s not about me…It’s about Jesus.
Today is the seventh day of Christmas. Today is a day to give thanks that our savoir has been born. Today is a day to reflect on what it means for us that God sent his only begotten son to the world. It’s a new year a time to look forward to His second coming, to new possibilities, to our eventual inheritance, and our inheritance is assured, but what does it mean for us, that we are the children of God. What do we have to do to get it?… What will we inherit? … The kingdom of God right. It’s OK… in the first century people didn’t get it, the disciples didn’t get it either, which gives me hope for the twenty first century because we get it right? Right…then as now there were many different factions in the church. The people would follow wherever the authority led, whomever spoke with authority even if they had no authority. It sounds a lot like the twenty first century rather than the first century, it sounds very much like what the church faces today. Imagine that, 2000 years and we’re still arguing doctrine. But listen to Acts 20:29-30 I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. That’s exactly what happened in Galatia. Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia is an intervention and we need a little back story to put it into context.
Paul writes I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 Now the Galatians were not rejecting the Gospel of Christ rather they were embracing the Mosaic laws as a part of the Gospel, This was being preached by Judaizing missionaries, most specifically the question being discussed is, Was Jewish law binding on Christians. Must a gentile follow the laws of Moses to be saved by the Jewish Messiah. Paul’s authority as an Apostle is also being called into question. Paul’s a little ticked off to say the least and he tells them that Jew or Gentile doesn’t matter because, we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. Galatians 2:16 Jesus came to redeem them and us from the law and by rejecting the Gospel they are rejecting Christ and ultimately God. To place their trust in the law rather than faith in Christ is to reject their inheritance…to reject the sacrifice that Jesus made for them. This applies to equally to us.
We are heirs to the kingdom of God, Jesus wasn’t just sent here on a whim. Listen to, Galatians 4:4, but when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. This was not an accident, this was the fulfillment of God’s design, Jesus’ purpose was ordained by the Most High. Jesus came to redeem us from the law to set us free. The Galatians are not the first to be misled and they are not the last. The current denominational issues and problems facing the church are not new, this has been happening since the very beginning in one form or another. So why was it necessary that Jesus be fully human and born under the law. God could have descended from heaven and went straight to the cross, died, been raised, ascended, and redeemed us, end of story.
NO…Jesus had to come and live among us to be tempted with the same sins and suffering that we are subjected to. Again, we turn to Paul and his epistle to the Romans which clearly states that There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 8:1-5
He had to provide the perfect example and the perfect sacrifice in order that his sacrifice not only free us from the bondage of the law but make us God’s children by adoption. Hear, Gal. 4:5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. It was necessary that he suffer as we have suffered, that he take the sins of the world that through faith in him we can be redeemed from sin. By being subject to the law and taking it upon himself, when Jesus died on the cross, so too did the law. It was no longer needed having been fulfilled by Jesus. Through Jesus’s redemption of us on the cross we have become as children of God and Gal. 4:6 tells us that because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” As Jesus promised as he ascended into heaven. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
Paul is letting us know that we are empowered through Jesus, not through the law, not because we snip our foreskins or wear special clothing, it’s not about us…it’s about Jesus. Heirs we are, but our inheritance is redeemed through faith and grace, through Jesus, not because of what we do too ourselves or at the command of another. For if we obey the will of another rather than God, are we not then under that others authority, are we not enslaved by that other will, that includes the law, and we are no longer under the law, neither Jew nor Gentile, no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God, Gal. 4:7.
Heirs of God, how awesome is that, how extraordinary. We are not inheriting some meaningless bauble or a tangible possession that can be held in the hand and then discarded, but rather the majesty and power of the creator of the Universe. Through God the Father, but wait Jesus also tells us “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6 None can know or be adopted or receive that inheritance except through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. AMEN…it’s not about us… It’s about Jesus… it’s about the good news and what it means to us. The good news is that Jesus came for us, the good news is that Jesus died for us as we were yet sinners, the good news is that Jesus is risen…He is risen indeed, the good news is that he will come again, AMEN.
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.