Just as we can learn great lessons from the lives and examples of those many people in the Bible, we can also learn from the churches in the various countries and cities. Like so many churches in the world today, the churches of the New Testament faced all kinds of challenges. The fact is, the churches then faced many of the same challenges that we face today. We can learn much from studying these churches and how they were encouraged to address their difficulties, and how they responded. We can also gain great comfort, knowing that the challenges that we sometimes face are not unique, nor are they insurmountable.
Today, we are going to take a look at the churches of Galatia. This book was written around A.D. 49, probably from Antioch. The churches of this region on the northern side of the Mediterranean, included the churches of Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and Antioch. Paul established and strengthened these churches during his first, second and third missionary journeys, as written in Acts 13-18. In fact in Acts 16:1 while in Lystra, Paul first meets young Timothy, who grew to be a pillar in the Lord’s church.
This morning, we are going to look just a few lessons we can learn from these churches, and perhaps along the way, learn something about ourselves.
2. Understanding the root of the problem
The most significant difficulty that the churches of Galatia were facing was the influence of some of the Jewish Christians there. Some of them were trying to hold on to their religious teachings and traditions. Not only that, they were trying to bind these beliefs on the Gentile Christians who had no such heritage. These Jewish Christians didn’t understand the freedom that we have in Christ. And, it seems as though so many of their struggles stemmed from this one misconception they had about the old law and its traditions.
You can see the beginnings of this problem when these churches were established. In Acts 14:2 we see that some of the unbelieving Jews in Iconium stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against their brothers. In verse 19, we see Jews in Lystra interfering with the teaching of Paul and Barnabas, and even stoning Paul. Clearly, many Jews were set on causing trouble for the early Christians of that area.
With that as a background, it is not difficult to imagine what must have been happening at the churches in Galatia. New Christians, of both Jewish and Gentile heritage, were worshipping together. But apparently the Jewish Christians resented the fact that the Gentiles were not observing their special Jewish holidays, nor were they adhering to other points of the law of Moses. After all, they had been raised with a whole list of do’s and don’ts that they felt were important. And here these Gentiles were not even considering these teachings and traditions. How could they be “real” Christians?
It’s also possible that friends and family members were making it difficult for those first-generation Jewish Christians to leave their Jewish heritage behind. “Aren’t you coming to Passover next week?”, they might have asked. “Why do you associate with those uncircumcised people? They don’t really understand what it is to be a child of God!”
Again, add to all of this the vocal dissentions of the unbelieving Jews of the area, trying to cause any trouble they could, and you can easily see how this issue of Jewish teachings became such a huge issue for these churches.
Paul addressed this, and his deep concern is obvious, starting in Galatians 1:6-9. READ Galatians 1:6-9. Paul then speaks of the authenticity of the gospel, and reestablishes his credibility as an apostle, From there Paul speaks of the superiority of the gospel, compared to the old law. Listen now as Paul addresses these Christians, starting in chapter 3 of Galatians. READ Galatians 3:1-14.
3. Lessons we can learn
Lesson 1: The first lesson we can learn, is that the gospel is not based on law, but on grace . The good news is that God knew that we could not be justified by law – we are too imperfect to keep a list of regulations. He has brought us forgiveness and grace through his Son. We aren’t “off the hook” because we are not under the law. We are freed from sin and have died to sin so that we can live for, and serve, Jesus . We should not get our TO and FROM confused – the teachings of the New Testament clearly call us to a life apart from sin, a life of obedience to the teachings of Jesus. We are freed FROM sin, not freed TO sin . Don’t lose site of the good news in Jesus! If someone says that you can only be a good Christian if you follow their traditions, be careful. Make sure you follow the pure gospel in the Bible, and study to stay grounded in the truth. 
For Us: Let us make sure that we don’t turn tradition into law, and expect our brothers and sisters to abide by our traditions. Let’s encourage each other to grow in our faith in Jesus, and to hold fast to the pure gospel found in God’s word. Study the Word with a heart committed to understanding the truth, not a heart set on justifying your own position.
Also, let’s remember that one of the most important thing that we can do in our Christian lives is to grow in our faith in Jesus, and let that faith shape and motivate us to serve and live for Jesus. Make sure you involve yourself in activities that cause your faith to be strengthened, not weakened. We should encourage each other to challenge, strengthen, and build up each other’s faith. 
Paul continues … Free because we are God’s Children
Listen now as Paul speaks of our new relationship to God through Christ Jesus, in verses 26-28 of Galatians 3. READ Galatians 3:26-28. This is a powerful passage, because it not only speaks of how we are clothed in Christ, but that externals have no bearing on the kinship with have with God. 
Paul expands on his discussion of our kinship with God, in chapter 4. Let’s read together the first seven verses of Chapter 4. READ Galatians 4:1-7. The relationship of being sons and daughters of God is so much better than being slaves. We now have an inheritance through Christ Jesus that brings us close to God. We are heirs of God.
Now as Paul has explained that we are under grace, not the old law, and that we are not slaves, but sons, listen now as Paul pleads with these Christians to get back to the truth, starting in verse 8 of chapter 4.. READ Galatians 4:8-16. Why go back to being slave?
Lesson 2: It is one thing to be a slave, to have your needs provided, to have shelter. It is quite another thing to be a child and an heir. An heir is part of the family, a loved member whom the father delights in blessing. God is faithful in all His promises. He wants to be close to us so much, that he purchased us with the blood of His Son, so that we could be his children.
For Us: Always remember the supreme blessing of being one of God’s children, and live a joyful life showing you are grateful to wear his name. Make sure your life represents your family and Father well. You have wonderful promises as His child.
Evidence of the Spirit in those who are free
Paul goes on in Chapter five to speak again of the freedom we have in Christ, and explains how the Spirit should work in the lives of those who are free. Let’s read starting in Chapter 5 verse one. READ Galatians 5:1, 13-28.
Ø READ TOGETHER VERSES 22-26
Lesson 3: There are fruits of a life not led by the Spirit, and fruits of a life filled with and led by the Spirit. It should be apparent to those around us that we are different, that we are committed to a changed life.
Ø MENTION BATHROOM MIRROR CUT-OUT ON HANDOUT SHEET
For Us: Start each day considering your life and the fruits or evidence of the Spirit in your life. Pray that God will make them more evident in your life, and that His Spirit will truly direct your heart and mind.
Paul’s Final thoughts on life in the family
Finally, Paul encourages the believers in these churches in how they behave toward one another. Let’s start in verse one of Chapter 6. READ Galatians 6:1-3, 7-10.
Ø READ TOGETHER VERSE 9
Lesson 4: We are each accountable for our own actions, but let’s never forget we are family. We don’t talk bad about family members, we encourage them. Laura Light - Praise or prayer should be all that comes out of our mouths. Sooner or later, we all need the help of our brothers and sisters.
For Us: Take the time to build up and encourage someone each week. Don’t be so proud that you won’t let others help you. Remember to treat each other like real family, as God intended the church to be.
Where are you in your freedom? Are you free in Christ, or are you still a slave? Are you living as a grateful child of God? Can those around you see the evidence of God’s Spirit in your life? If you are feeling trapped, burdened, enslaved, or ineffective, if you have not been an encouragement to this family, know that Jesus is the answer, and He loves you and wants to help you. If there is any way we can encourage you, pray for you, or help bring you into a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ, please come now as we stand and sing.