"SO YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO EGYPT?" Part 2
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Therefore when someone imitates us we should consider it a blessing.
It wasn’t too long ago that Gail or Amanda would ask our foster son to do what “Da Da” does. He would then hold his hands behind his back and start walking around that way! I guess that was supposed to be flattering. Actually, I never realized that I do that! Now his little brother tries to imitate him by doing the things that he does. At that stage of life imitation is a statement of love.
Please take your Bible and turn to . Paul was writing to the churches that he and Barnabas had established in the southern region of Galatia. These churches were being led astray by false teachers who were seeking to enslave them to a form of legalism. They were being taught that they had to be enslaved to the ceremonial law in order to be saved.
Legalism has an appeal to some because it comes across as being a quick fix: “don’t fill my head with a bunch of deep doctrine – just tell me what I’m supposed to be doing.” It’s kind of like if my wife were to ask me to go to the store and get a certain item. And then launch into an explanation of why this brand instead of the other. In my mind I would be thinking “just tell me what I need to get – I don’t need to know why!” Often believers are like that. But as soon as we fall into that type of trap we begin a journey into dangerous territory. Certainly we will never fully understand all the ways of God. But we should want to learn more and more of Him – to know as we are fully known.
This morning we are going to conclude the message we started last week – “SO YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO EGYPT?” As we do so we will look at Paul’s appeal for the Galatian believers to remember their past relationship with one another. In making this appeal Paul exhorted these flailing believers to imitate him, remember why it was he came to them in the first place, and then he asked about what happened to change their disposition toward him, and finally he ended this section with a statement about the parental relationship he had with them.
Let’s read our passage together.
APPEAL NUMBER 2 — REMEMBER OUR PAST RELATIONSHIP
APPEAL NUMBER 2 — REMEMBER OUR PAST RELATIONSHIP
1. Imitate my perseverance
2. Imitate my passion
3. Imitate my motive
Remember Why I Came
1. Paul’s weakness of the flesh
2. The Galatians’ trial
3. Paul’s reception
What Changed Your Disposition Toward Me?
1. The Galatians’ expressed self-sacrificing love for Paul in the past
2. The false teachers have caused the Galatians to now treat Paul as if he were an enemy
A Parent’s Job is Never Finished
Our earthly parents are the ones who have birthed and raised us (at least in ideal circumstances). As parents it is our responsibility to bring our children from infancy to mature adults who are productive members of society. Inherent in that is years and years of training. The process is long and sometimes difficult to measure.
In the spiritual realm, spiritual parents are charged with the same things. Paul was the spiritual father of the Galatian believers because he is the one who planted the seed of the gospel which brought about their spiritual new birth.
The message of the gospel is that there is a God, and only one true God. Since He is the Creator of all He has the right to rule and set the standard for His creation. His standard is that of absolute perfection. The problem is that mankind is not perfect. We are born as sinners. And so we fall short of the glory of God. We need a Savior. We need a Redeemer. God, according to His eternal purpose, designed it so that at just the right time His Son, Jesus who is called the Christ, would be born. He lived the perfect life that we could not live. He died on the cross, taking the sin of His people upon Himself. He absorbed God’s wrath that was our just due penalty. And for those who believe in Him, God adopts them into His family.
In verse 19 Paul compares his present situation with a mother giving birth to the same child that she has already given birth to! They tell me that nothing is more painful than the birthing process – and for Paul, seeing his beloved children being duped by the false teachers that would lead them into legalism was extremely painful.
Paul’s stated goal was to see Christ formed in the Galatian believers. This does not mean that they needed to experience salvation once again. Salvation is eternal. But they had definitely taken a wrongful path that led them from the path they were to follow. And they definitely needed to repent and return to the correct path.
How do we know when Christ is formed in the spiritual life of a believer?
1. When Christ is formed in us we are no longer carried away by strange doctrine —
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.
2. When Christ is formed in us we are rock-solid in our faith —
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
As believers in Jesus Christ, as well as a church body we have been called to press on toward the goal for which Christ Jesus has called us. But it is very easy to look back to the way things used to be in the past.
Now remembering the past can be helpful to a certain extent. In September of 2014 our assembly remembered the rich history of this church by celebrating its 75 year anniversary. It was encouraging to see how God had used this little church to impact the lives of so many. But we cannot live in the past. Though we have been surrounded by a great cloud of witness, we are to look in front of us, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
At that celebration I sang a song that I had written for that occasion. In the “bridge section” of the song the lyrics went like this:
“Though the path before us may seem difficult to climb,
God had given us a promise He’ll be with us all the time;
The mission is before us, to point to the cross;
Will we be faithful to that mission at all cost?”
God is not honored when we as individual believers or as a corporate body of believers shrink back from the mission that He has given us. The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Part of the mission that we are called be obey is to be witnesses to those who are outside of Christ. Penn Jillette is an avowed atheist, and also a comic-illusionist. He was evangelized by a polite and impressive man, and had this to say about the experience:
“I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, o not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward … How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
When I first read this interview, it was like – wow! We have the message that if embraced is able to deliver a person from the domain of darkness and transfer them into the kingdom of the Beloved Son. And yet we very seldom share that message outside of the confines of this church building.
Perhaps you say that you don’t have a lot of contact with people outside of the church. But there are certainly ways that we can start a conversation. I have started a conversation with the bank tellers when I go in to make a deposit. One of these days I expect that I will forget to talk with them about imputation, and they will remind me about it! Paul and Barnabas started conversations with people of a strange land with strange customs. And these conversations led to the planting of several churches. Can’t we at least start one simple conversation and seek to share the message of the gospel with someone who needs to hear it?