Summary: Stay free from the law and the legalist!
One morning, during an adult Sunday school class, a pastor in San Angelo, Texas, picked up the podium and walked back and forth with it. When someone asked, “What are you doing?” he replied, “Well, sometimes you just need to take a stand.” (Rebecca Livermore, San Angelo, Texas, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader)
That’s where we’ve come this morning in our study of Galatians. We’ve talked theology through the first four chapters, and it has become very clear in our minds that we are free from the Law; we are free from the pressure to perform in order to find acceptance with God; we are free to enjoy the unconditional love and blessing of our Lord.
We know all this in our minds, but now it is time to take a stand on it in our hearts, because there are those who would try to convince us otherwise; there are those who would try to knock us down; and there are those who would try to enslave us all over again to their expectations and legalistic systems.
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (ESV)
In other words, Christ set you free, so…
Don’t let yourself be enslaved all over again. Don’t let anybody or anything put you in bondage again.
Before he got out of prison this last February (2016), 69-year-old Albert Woodfox had spent 43 years in an isolation cell. He had set a record, having spent the longest time in solitary confinement of any prisoner in America. He had no view of the sky from inside his 6 foot by 9 foot concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.
Two months after he was released (April, 2016) Woodfox found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, with a friend. He marveled at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky. Then he stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon. He said. “It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around.”
After over four decades of solitary confinement, you’d think Woodfox would be glad to be out in the open. However, two months after the state of Louisiana set him free, he said he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.
Someone asked him if he missed his life in lockdown, to which Woodfox passionately replied, “Oh yeah! Yeah!” Then he explained, “Human beings… feel more comfortable in areas they are secure. In a cell, you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser. So there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell.” (Ed Pilkington, “43 years in solitary: There are moments I wish I was back there,” The Guardian, 4-29-16; www.PreachingToday.com)
I’m afraid that describes the sentiment of some believers I know. They prefer the security of confinement. They prefer the security of a routine, knowing what they’re supposed to do and when they’re supposed to do it. They prefer the security of rules, which define what is acceptable and what is not.
Quite frankly, the idea of freedom scares them, so when they realize that Christ has set them free, they want to go back into solitary confinement again. They want to have someone else define the rules of acceptability, telling them what to do and when to do it.
My dear friends, if that describes some of you, please resist the urge! Christ has set you free, so stay free!
STAY FREE FROM THE LAW.
Stay free from any scheme that says you must earn God’s favor and blessing. Stay free from any system that forces you to conform in order to be accepted.
Why? Because such systems rob us of any spiritual vitality. The law bankrupts us spiritually. First of all, it takes away any value Christ has for us.
Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. (ESV)
When we conform to a legalistic standard, then Christ is of no benefit to us. The standard in Paul’s day was circumcision. Back then, people were saying, “You have to be circumcised in order for God to accept you.”
Today, people might say, “You have to go to church every time the doors are open;” or “You have to speak in tongues, or give a tithe, or be baptized; “You have to lose weight or dress just right in order to be on God’s good side and experience His richest blessings.