Love, Truth, and Grace
The 7th message in the Galatians series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
Recently it has felt like our nation is more divided than ever before.
It has felt like there is more animosity, angst, and anxiety than we can ever remember.
Politics have gotten nastier and pettier.
But then a few weeks ago, all of that faded away for a few days.
America was caught in the grips of the Eclipse.
For a couple days we stopped fighting, stopped accusing, stopped dividing, and we looked up.
It was nice.
I said that day, the eclipse was cool, but even better was the fact that we had a break from all the bickering for a day or two…
You know the eclipse is kind of a metaphor- just as the moon obscured the sun that day, all of this bickering and fighting has obscured how blessed we are. It has blocked out how amazing it is to live in America…
Then the eclipse went away and we went back to fighting, then Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and we started seeing images like this one.
(Show Cajun Navy)
This is a caravan of private boat owning citizens headed to Texas to conduct search and rescue in the flood waters.
In the wake of the most acrimonious elections, in the wake of the resurgence of white supremacists and their rally in Charlottesville, VA- we have this and we see that we’re closer together than we thought.
The reason I point this out to you this morning is that Galatians 4 is a lot like this. Paul has spent the last 3 and a half chapters waging war against the false teachers who have popped to Galatia.
He’s calling out their hypocrisy. He’s pointing out the flaws in their logic and the foolishness of their teaching.
Then in Chapter 4 we clearly see Paul’s heart in all of this…
In verse 12 he calls them brothers.
In verse 19 he calls them his children.
Verse 11 he says, I’m afraid for you- I’m afraid you’re making a horrible mistake. I’m trying to save you!
In verse 20 he says, Oh I wish that I was with you and that I could change my voice, that I could be with you and see that you are walking with the Lord and I could change my sharp argumentative tone into a loving tone of comfort and consolation…
You see, all of this matters to Paul because he loves these people.
Paul Loved the Galatians.
He cares about them. He is concerned for them, concerned that his labor over them has been in vain, that the work God has done in them wasn’t real or that it is being undone- that they are walking away from it…
We’ve seen Paul as the debater. Now we see he is more than working in matters of logic, he is working out of a heart of love.
He’s arguing as an apologist, but also as an advocate.
He’s not merely in love with these ideas, he’s passionate for these people. He loves truth, but he also loves people.
Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? It tells you kind of your make up, what your personality shape is like- I took one about a year ago. It classified me as a Debater/Advocate.
In other words, I’m comfortable in front of a group talking about ideas and policies, but also I’m not just passionate about the ideas.
I’m passionate for the people that the ideas impact- that’s why they’re worth talking about…
We are given some background on the relationship between Paul and the people in Galatia.
Apparently, from verse 13-15 we see that Paul’s relationship with the Galatians was initiated somehow by an illness. Malaria?
While there, the Galatians treated him well as he recovered. They didn’t reject him because of his infirmity….
12Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.
Paul became as they are…
I have become like you- Apparently when Paul was with them, he had been one of them. He was not merely a tourist to their region, he became like them, became as one of them.
Now Paul is clearly throughout this letter calling the Galatians to something greater, to be freed from their sin and their fear and their doubt, so he clearly had not made allowances for their sinful lifestyle.
He had not been permissive- he had not said, hey however you are is fine, God loves you just like you are and you can stay that way…
So Paul had this balance of becoming like the Galatians, but not compromising the truth of the gospel.
Paul spelled this out more clearly in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says to the Jews I became as a Jew, to the Greeks I became as a Greek. Paul was doing what was most comfortable to the person he was trying to reach.
Now in contrast to what Paul had challenged Peter over, Peter did what was most comfortable to him. He wasn’t being loving, he was being selfish.
Paul was doing what was most comfortable for the person he was trying to reach, because he loved them. He wasn’t disingenuous. He wasn’t manipulative. He truly loved them. That was the motivating factor and that factor, that motivation, that passion drove his decision to become as them AND drove his efforts to reach them.
He wasn’t like them just to reach them, he became like them because he loved them and he reached out to them with the gospel because he loved them…
Paul became as they are, and Paul wants them to become as he is for Paul is free.
Stott points out that when Paul preaches before King Agrippa in court, Agrippa says almost you persuade me to be a Christian, Paul says I wish that you would become like me, except without the chains.
He is saying I wish that you would come to know the spiritual freedom I have.
That is what Paul wants for the Galatians. He wants them to be free from this doubt and insecurity, this misplaced belief that they need to do more or somehow be more in order to experience God’s real blessings…
Paul wants them to be free from the lie that is enslaving them, he wants them to be free from the doubt that is nagging at them.
He wants them to have peace and joy.
Now the underlying factor on that love he had for them was the love that Christ had for him.
Christ loved Paul so he became like Paul so that he could save Paul.
Christ loved Paul so he reached out to Paul.
Paul wasn’t merely flattering them, or pretending to care for them, that wasn’t it at all.
He draws a contrast between himself and the false teachers in verses 17 & 18.
Verse 17 says “They zealously affect you” in other words they are passionate about making much of you-
Paul says being affected, or having affection poured upon you is a good thing if it is for good reason, but if it is for deceiving purposes- if it is for celebrating sin, if it is for merely being popular or gaining power over, it is manipulative.
Paul didn’t become like the Galatians and show them love to become more popular or powerful, he showed them love because he truly loved them and he shared the gospel from that same place…
Love wasn’t merely a good strategy for reaching them and planting a church among them, it was who he truly was…
Paul really believed the gospel and he really loved these people. That’s why he did what he did. That’s why he wrote this letter to them…
Paul loved the Galatians, so he told them the truth.
Paul is concerned for the Galatians and he believes the reason they’ve fallen into this insecurity and feat is that they are listening to misleading voices.
They zealously affect you- they hope to exclude you so they can be affected by you. The false teachers are telling the people that Paul is no good and lavishing false praise on them. They are flattering the Galatians and tearing down Paul’s reputation.
This is the make of cults. Drive wedges between these people and their teachers, families, pastors so that they can create a loyal follower of them- not Christ.
When Paul says they wish to exclude you he is saying that they hope to corner you, so that the only access you have to teaching and growth is through them.
This is what happened in the Middle Ages. There was a hierarchy of priests, only the professionals could deal in the word of God. Only the trained professionals could offer up the sacraments…
(SILENCE MOVIE- unable to confess their sins)
Scripture was only available in Latin.
The world was changed when scripture was translated into common language and then printed and distributed widely.
You see, when you truly love someone, you’ll want them to have the truth. You’ll want to tell them the truth.
Paul loved the Galatians so he told them the truth.
These false teachers loved the idea of being up front, they loved the idea of being in the lead- so they told the Galatians what they wanted to hear, then told the the Galatians what they needed to push Paul out….
If you love popularity more than people, you tell them whatever they want to hear to win their affection or loyalty.
Teachers and preachers who compromise the truth to make it more agreeable are selfish.
He says, what has changed? Has our relationship changed because I tell you the truth? Has our relationship become tense because I’m honest?
You don’t want a pastor that only tells you what you want to hear. You don’t want a pastor that only preaches on the sins of other people.
You don’t want a pastor that only preaches on the topics that you like.
Just as much as you don’t want a doctor that only gives you the good news and hides the bad reports…
Notice what Paul says in verse 19
I travail again until Christ be formed in you.
That was Paul’s desire, that Christ be formed in them.
The love that the Galatians had for Paul and that Paul had for the Galatians is meaningless if that is where it ends… If Paul’s mission is to merely bring people to rally around himself, it is vanity.
However, if Paul’s mission to bring people around Christ, that is a mission that will change eternity.
Paul’s passion was not that they return to devotion to him, but rather that they are devoted to Christ and free in Christ.
So he says, I wish I could be there present with you and change my voice, having seen that God is still at work. Paul says I wish I could be there with you and see that this is having effect, to see that God is at work among you, that Christ is formed among you…
And now, upon that premise, Paul will do something that would have been extremely uncomfortable for Jews in the group.
He would bring up Isaac and Ishmael.
He would say that any who trust in the law or efforts of the flesh were like unto Ishmael. Children born after the flesh.
He would say that any who trust in grace, who are God’s through faith, they are like Isaac, children of promise.
For Jews, literal descendants of Isaac to hear that they are not true children of Abraham, not children of promise would have been infuriating…
Paul would have told them a hard truth, but that’s what love does. Love tells the truth.
It would have been hard to hear that they are not true descendants of Isaac, BUT there is hope. Because we can all be children of promise.
Paul uses this Old Testament story to illustrate his message-
We are not saved by who we are or what we do.
We are saved by who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.
God’s truth can be hard to hear, but it always carries this grace with it!
It can be hard to hear that you are a lost, broken, sinner.
It can be hard to hear that you are lost in your sin and headed to hell, an eternity without God in torment and pain.
It can be hard to hear what you are and what you’ve done, but thankfully our eternity isn’t based upon who we are or what we’ve done if we have placed our trust in Him! If Jesus Christ if our Lord, he is our savior! If we are in Him, our eternity is based upon who He is and what he has done!
More than Paul loved the Galatians, God loved the Galatians.
More than Paul wanted the Galatians to have truth, God wanted the Galatians to have the truth!
God’s truth comes with his love and grace.
Because our God is gracious and loving, he gives us the truth!
Thankfully, God’s truth is much easier to swallow because it is laced with grace.
In the early 1960’s Disney was hard at work putting together a film adaptation of the PL Traveler’s classic, Mary Poppins.
The prolific song writing Sherman brothers were told that Julie Andrews did not like the song that they had written to be Mary Poppins’ signature tune. It doesn’t have enough snap to it she said.
Robert Sherman went home frustrated. When he got home his children told him about their day, including the fact that at school that day they had received the Polio Vaccine.
Did it hurt he asked?
“No,” his son replied “it was delicious!”
Up to that point the Polio Vaccine created by Jonas Salk was being given by a shot- however Doctor Albert Sabin had just put together an oral form of the vaccine and they had put the medicine on sugar cubes that kids gobbled up.
When Sherman heard that his children had taken this perhaps life saving medicine with a cube of sugar, he had inspiration for a new song for Mary Poppins. The next morning he and his brother wrote A Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down.
As challenging as it might be to hear that they were not the children of promise, it came with more than a “spoonful” of grace.
As tough as it might be to hear any hard truth I might tell you about your sexuality, your finances, your family, your hobbies, your passions, or your plans- all of it comes with an “oceanful of grace.”
This morning, my heart is burdened for you. My heart is burdened for those who have grown up in church and you think that because of your religious education, because of the facts and information you have, that you are safe. You think you are children of promise because you grew up in church or because you grew up in a good family or because you’re a good person.
I fear for those of you that trust in your deeds, in your tithes, in your way of life, in your adherence to cultural christian norms, because it is only through Christ we are forgiven.
It is only in Christ we have standing with God. Your relationship with God is not based on who you are or what you do, your relationship with God is based upon who Christ is and what he has done.
Likewise, this morning my heart breaks for the one who thinks that they are too lost, that they are too far gone, that there is too much that you must do to make things right or to become right-
For the one who doubts their forgiveness because of the life that they have lived or the family they were born into, because it’s not based upon who you are or what you do, your relationship with God is based upon who Christ is and what he has done.