GALATIANS 4:8-11: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Do you remember playing Monopoly as a kid? I grew up before the advent of computers and smartphones. You could only watch cartoons on Saturday morning. During the long hot days of summer, when it was too hot or smoggy to play outside, we would gather around the Monopoly board. There was a continual tournament taking place on Meadow Falls Drive in Diamond Bar, California!
Monopoly is a lot like life and a lot like our Christian walk. We begin our new walk with Christ with the same enthusiasm and anticipation as we begin a game of Monopoly. We freely begin to move around the board (of life) and gather properties (experiences) as we go. All is well until we pick that dreaded card –
GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.
When we pick this card it seems to throw us in total reverse. We cannot move forward. We cannot buy any properties. We cannot collect rent on the properties we own. We are stuck. We have gone back to the place where we started – only worse!
This was the condition the Galatian church found itself in. Paul had led these Gentile believers into freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. They had been set free from the idols and rituals they had once served. They had been delivered from death, sin, and the power of the enemy. They were freely moving around the board of life until they picked the wrong card!
A group of Jewish believers, or so-called believers, had convinced them that they needed to adhere to the Jewish laws in order to be a true Christian. They promised them freedom, but they themselves were bound by legalism. The Galatian church quickly embraced their teaching. Now, instead of walking in freedom, they found themselves walking right back into the bondage from which they had been set free.
They were walking right into spiritual jail (without passing Go, without collecting 200 dollars)!
This is one of the most familiar traps there is for a believer to fall into. The enemy of our souls, if he cannot keep us from following Jesus Christ, will try to lead us astray with just a slight adjustment to our walk of faith. Without knowing it, instead of walking by faith in Christ alone, we begin to walk by faith in our adherence to certain principles and doctrines. And, we begin to judge others who do not act and think the way we do.
WE FORGET THAT THE PATHWAY OF LIFE IN CHRIST IS FOUND BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH, ALONE!
The Galatian believers were once in bondage to idols and to the rituals that surrounded the worship of idols. Paul warns them that if they begin to try and live their Christian life by works, and adherence to the law, they are simply walking right back into the same bondage they were delivered from. They are going straight back to jail!
- “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
Why is this such an easy trap to fall into? The enemy of our souls is not stupid. He understands our weaknesses and temptations. And, he also poses as an angel of light. He does not try and tie us up with gross temptations to enter into the sin that we left when we received Jesus Christ. He endeavors to trip us up with a form of legalism that has an air of spirituality to it.
- “You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”
However, the end is the same, the bondage is the same. Whenever we anchor our life in Christ on anything but grace through faith, we are walking right back into the trap of works, sin, and bondage! Earlier in his letter to the Galatians, Paul asks them,
- “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:2-3 NKJV
The Christian walk is a walk of faith. It is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Salvation, and the Holy Spirit, are not received by works. They are received by grace, through the hearing of faith! It is only as we walk after the Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit, that we can walk in victory and freedom. God does not respond to us because of what we do. God responds to us because of what Christ has done, and what we have received by grace through faith.
- “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:4-7 NKJV
The natural response to this great work of grace is love! This is why Jesus said – “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Yet, Christ’s commandments are not found in the added rules and observances that so many try to add to the Christian life. Christ’s commandments are summed up in the call to love – to love God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The law of God, the whole counsel of God’s Word, clarifies, and shines a light on the true nature, meaning, and expression of love. Yet, the peripheral observances that we try to tack on to the Word of God do not. Our prayers are not heard because we pray in a certain way, or at a certain time. Our prayers are answered solely because we come to the Father in Jesus’ Name and pray according to His Word. We come to the throne-room of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. We do not come because of our works or personal righteousness.
There is a very fine line between liberty and legalism. It has to do with trust and focus. Are we trusting in Christ alone, or are we placing faith in our personal piety and actions? Are we focusing on our life in the Spirit, or are we preoccupied with external requirements that others, or we ourselves, have added to our walk of faith? One will lead to freedom. The other will lead directly to jail, without passing Go, without collecting 200 dollars! The only difference between Monopoly and life is –
MONOPOLY IS A GAME OF CHANCE – LIFE IS A CHOICE OF FAITH!
Lord, this morning I choose to walk by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Guard and keep me from legalistic entanglements that try to hinder my walk. Give me wisdom and discernment as I walk after Your Holy Spirit. Help me to fulfill the perfect law of liberty as You lead me into Your perfect law of love!
In Jesus Name!