Christ Formed in You
Sonship vs. Slaves
I don’t think it’s any secret that there’s a huge mess down at our southern border. One of the greatest tragedies happening has to do with control that the drug cartels have along the border. Families that are seeking to cross over are kidnapped either before and even after the cross over.
And either as a result of these kidnappings or the money they have to pay to get smuggled across into the United States, the illegals immigrants get into a situation where they can’t pay, they owe too much money.
As a result, boys are forced to work for gangs throughout cities in the U.S. Girls have it even worse, they become victims of human trafficking, forced into sex slavery.
Terrible tragedy, these young men and women have great hope of coming to the United States, hope of experiencing the opportunity of a better life for themselves, of freedom - instead they end up as modern day slaves
Slaves - or slavery - is an idea that Paul keeps coming back to in his letter to the Galatians.
We’ve been going through the book of Galatians, chapter by chapter, in our sermon series, The Word Lived. Paul wrote this letter to urge the believers in the churches in Galatia to stay true to the Word, the message, that he proclaimed to them, the good news of Jesus
That was our focus the first week, what that message exactly is. What is the good news of Jesus, the Gospel? It’s simply this: Jesus Christ gave himself…for our sins…to rescue us.
The second week our focus was on what it means to make the gospel the foundation of our lives, the word we live by, which Paul states so well in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Last week, as we looked at chapter 3 of Galatians, we talked about the essence of the gospel being our willingness to entrust ourselves to God’s promises, that to be a Christian is to trust God above anything and everything else, including - and especially - ourselves. Living by faith requires a willingness on our part to surrender ourselves more and more over to Jesus.
Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians out of his deep concern that Galatians were rejecting the gospel of grace and instead embracing the law, trying to earn their way to God by their own efforts to be obedient. The idea being that if I’m a good person, I will go to heaven.
He knew that by embracing the law, they would instead find themselves trapped in slavery once again. Now, when Paul is talking about slavery here, he’s not talking about slavery as people owning other people, having complete control over their lives. Slavery he’s referring to is the slavery of sin, we are trapped to our sinful behaviors.
That in and of ourselves, we are not capable of being good, in the same way God is good, with perfect love for all, being for the good of others. Far too captivated by our own pride, selfish desires, our anger, our lusts.
Rejecting the gospel of grace and going back to trying to attain the approval of God by obeying the law makes them more akin to those tragic immigrants - instead of freedom and the opportunity of a new life, the Galatians will be slipping right back into slavery.
Paul knows that God has so much more for them. What exactly that something is - Christ being formed in us - is our focus this morning. This is our fourth week, so we’re going to be in chapter four of Galatians, and I want to begin with verses 1-7.
Christ Formed in You
Galatians 4:1-7 - What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
We see here Paul comparing being a child versus being a slave. Historical context helps in understanding what Paul is saying here. In the ancient world, sons (and daughters), until they came of age, their status was as if they were slaves. They didn’t have decision-making rights, they didn’t have freedom. That didn’t happen until they left the household. Until then it’s as if they were slaves.
Paul is saying here that this was our situation while under the law (again, anytime we’re talking about the law, we’re talking about God’s covenant with his people through Moses - the 10 commandments…) - we were bound by our inability to be good. That’s what Paul means when he says, “So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.”
Grave error a lot of people - including Christians - make, is the belief that people are basically good. That there’s really only a few bad apples. We like to think that people most people are good.
But the reality is that we aren’t fundamentally good. I think we get fooled into thinking this because we (generally) have an effective system of law or order - isn’t that we’re so good, it’s that most of us are afraid of consequences of breaking the law, which is very different from actually being good.
What’s happening at the border is a powerful example of that - when there’s no effective system of law and order, look what happens - a system develops that destroys lives of so many innocent people for benefit of a few. Drug trade, sex trade, rape, lives deemed to have little or no value.
I saw video the other day of a minister in New York who got robbed at gunpoint in the middle of worship service! While service was being live-streamed!
This is what Paul is saying - When we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
Paul then goes on to describe the great rescue, vs. 4: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
At just the perfect time, Jesus came to us, born under the law - in other words, he came under it’s crushing burden as well - but Jesus lived perfectly, fulfilling the requirements of the law - so it was only Jesus who could redeem those of us trapped under the burden of the law.
The word “redeem” here is a legal term, it means to “buy out”. Jesus bought our freedom, by paying the price of our sin.
Free to move out from under slavery, free to receive adoption to sonship, we could move from slaves to sons. All the rights of sons who had come of age - freedom, opportunity, new life
Here’s the critical part, why this matters so much in regards to sonship versus slavery - what makes the big difference: v. 6, Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, his power and presence in us. This is huge! Don’t gloss over this - because this is what makes all the difference in the world. This is what makes new life possible for us to live free and full and joyful - Spirit of Christ living in us.
This is the more that Paul knows God had for Galatians, for us, why he’s so dad gum passionate about - staying true to gospel, placing our trust here - because it’s only through the gospel, through faith in Jesus, that we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to live new life. It’s the power of Spirit that enables us to be free from burden of our sin. To be good.
Look what Paul writes in Galatians 4:12, 17-20 - I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong...Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Paul is pleading with the Galatians…please!! Listen to me. Be like me.
He recognizes that the Judaizers (those Jewish Christians trying to get these Gentile Christians to follow the law) are just as zealous, just as passionate as he is. But zeal for something is only good if whatever you’re zealous for is good. And theirs is not.
But here’s the really important point, almost snuck in here - what Paul is zealous for, V. 19 - My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. Until Christ is formed in you.
That’s it. Paul’s desperate longing - he wants it so bad - pains of childbirth (he’s looking for an analogy that speaks to how strongly he feels about it).
Pleading not, as John Ortberg would say, to be a better rule-follower - that’s not what being a Christian is all about, but that Christ would be formed in you. That we could become like Jesus. We would exemplify his love, compassion, his patience, peace, faithfulness, his servant’s heart, courage, in our lives.
That we would live our lives as Jesus would if he were in our place. If Jesus were a 55 year old pastor of a small church in Hurricane, husband to Wendy, stepfather to Evan, Conner & Abby, lived in Thistlewood Estates - and so on…If Jesus were living your life (your age, your life situation, your skills and abilities, your relationships, your resources…) - how would he live your life?
Paul is pleading that we would become sons and daughters, those who resemble our Heavenly Father. This is what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, otherwise you are a non-disciple.
It’s why Paul is so adamant about gospel of grace - because in order for Christ to be formed in us, we need his power and his presence, his gracious working in our lives. We need him. Transformation, having Christ formed in us, is by God’s grace and through the power of his Spirit, not by our works.
Question becomes - is this what we will embrace as well, this message, this Word? Will we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
A newspaper article about bodybuilders quoted a physical trainer and former Mr. Missouri contestant: “The guys you see on TV and in magazines that have that look - that look is what they do for a living. The maintenance of that look is what their entire lives are based on - it’s a lifestyle. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
That’s what they are zealous about - the formation of what they consider the perfect physique. So they center their lives on that.
Jesus was zealous about us, so his life was centered on serving us…the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus redeemed us, freed us from slavery of sin so that we might know and be like him
So, what about you? What about me? What are you zealous about, the purpose that drives you? Jesus believed our freedom to become like him was worth dying for. Paul was in the pains of childbirth to see Christ formed in Galatians. I hope and pray that’s your passion as well, to know and become like Jesus Christ. To have Christ formed in you.
Which brings us to our Spiritual Disciplines. What practices are you intentionally engaging in on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis that help you to center your life on Jesus. That open you up to presence and power of Jesus, working in you?
You might already be engaging in such practices, but you’re doing them more along the lines of, “I want to be a good Christian, so I do these things.” Try to read your Bible, say a prayer before you go to bed, come to church (most) weeks.
Shift for you might simply be in how you approach these things. You do them because your heart’s desire is that Christ would be formed in you. Because you are a disciple, a follower, of Jesus - and you must remain, abide in Jesus in order for his fruit to be borne in your life.
Whenever you engage in a practice - when you sit down to read the Bible, when you come to church, time of silence, when you engage in ministry (make a care call), as you’re driving to work (because any and every part of your day, God can use as a training moment), quiet yourself. Invite the Holy Spirit to come. Confess your need of Jesus and your heart’s desire to be with him as you engage in whatever activity you’re doing. Come with an attitude of surrender. Teach me, Jesus. Grow my heart to be like yours. I love and trust you.
Second thing I’d challenge you to do - if you’re not engaging in any practices, to begin with something! Start training. Transformation will not happen without it. As GK Chesterton said, just because you’re in a garage doesn’t make you a car. Same thing with church - sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian. Follow Jesus in order to be like Jesus.
My heart’s desire (what I’m in pains of childbirth for) is that, as a church, we would be so rooted in spiritual formation (Christ formed in us), that every single one of us would have developed a “rule of life”. Word “rule” here has its origins in word for “trellis”. Trellis provides structure for vines, for fruit to grow. A rule of life is a set of practices that we intentionally engage in in order to center our lives on Jesus and his love. To abide in him that fruit would be born in us.
Those practices would look different for every person, and they will change in different seasons of your life. If you’re not currently engage in any, start with something. 15 minutes reading a chapter from Bible and praying every day. Time spent in silence and then prayer. Commitment to being in worship every Sunday. Memorize a Bible verse every single week - spend time reflecting and praying that verse. Recite and pray Psalm 23 every night. I offer two different soul-training exercises each week.
Inspiration: The story of Mabel, a woman in whom Christ was formed