MAIN TEXT: GALATIANS 4:1-7
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
The reality of advent is the reality that Christ has come and is coming again. In Advent, we celebrate his first arrival. We proclaim his life, death and resurrection. Finally, we look forward to his second arrival, his glorious return. As we reflect on Christ’s first arrival, our minds are filled with wonder at the grace of God that was on display through the sending of Christ into this world. God showed his love for us by sending Christ to us (1 John 4:10), to take on flesh and live with us (John 1:14) and to ultimately redeem us to God as a first fruits of the redemption of the entire creation.
Prior to Christ coming into the world, there was an eager expectation and longing for the promises of God to be fulfilled through the Messiah. The Israelites were waiting for a Savior to come to provide rescue and salvation for them. This expectation was placed in their hearts long ago by God when a covenant was established with a man named, Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Israelites and was told by God that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). This happened hundreds of years before Jesus came into the world as a baby.
The connection of who Jesus really was eluded many. Some of the most religious people of Jesus’ day were blind to the truth of Jesus’ real identity. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the early church proclaimed the truth Jesus was God. That he is the Redeemer–the hope of the world.
In our text, Paul draws our attention to the reality of who we are in Christ. That Jesus did come to earth. He lived among us and under the law, perfectly fulfilled every note of the law. He was joyfully submitted to His Father in heaven. He died a painful death, in which, not only did he physically die for us, but he absorbed the wrath of God that was justly directed at us because of sin. Therefore, in Christ, we have gained everything. In Christ, we are viewed as righteous, even though we are sinners. This exchange took place to redeem us to God and there is a reality of our identity and position before God that ought to deeply affect the way that we:
raise our kids
care for our aging parents
play with our grandkids
choose our jobs
engage with our neighbor
talk about our boss or employees
think about our possessions
handle our money
channel our anger
direct our love
grab hold of our joy
All of life is affected by the coming of Jesus, because through him alone are we made new creatures. Paul directs our attention to various aspects of our identity in Christ in this passage that was sent to many churches in an area of the known world called Galatia.
IN CHRIST, YOU ARE FREE
Freedom is a word that has a variety of meaning associated with it. For some, they think of political freedom. Others may think of social or racial freedom. Some associate freedom with being able to do whatever they please.
The freedom that is experienced in Christ is a freedom to not simply give in to any desire that trails across our mind. It is rather a much more liberating freedom. It is a freedom that is experienced when our hearts are unshackled to sin and instead chained to God. This may not sound like freedom, however, freedom is found here because we were made to glorify God. When we experience the freedom found in Christ, our very purpose for existence is reestablished in us.
IN CHRIST, YOU ARE FAMILY
When we think about family, it is natural to think of belonging. If someone tells you that you are like family (unless they have experienced extreme dysfunction), this is usually a very complimentary phrase that speaks to the closeness you have experienced with this person.
Paul uses the language of family when he communicates that Jesus is the son that was sent to not only redeem us, but to provide adoption for us! This is marvelous news indeed. Our standing before God is not simply a freedom that we’ve experienced but we now belong to His Family. We experience belonging, fellowship, union, in a way that is incomparable to the relationships we experience outside union with Christ.
IN CHRIST, YOU ARE BLESSED
Finally, the amazing news that Paul is communicating to these churches he dearly loved was that not only are they free from the bondage of sin, not only have they been adopted, but through this freedom and adoption, they are heirs. Through Christ, you are blessed beyond what you can imagine.
This blessing is not limited to material provision, but can certainly include material provision. This blessing is not limited to health and wholeness, but can certainly include health and wholeness. This blessing can be experienced through wealth and poverty, through health and sickness, through life and death. The reality of gaining Christ and being found in Him should cause us to view blessing in its proper context.
Our material provision does not determine the reality that we are blessed, but it can shine light on the greater reality that through Christ, we are fully provided for. Our thoughts concerning the blessing of God on our life does not wax and wane based on our health, but our health can be a marvelous reminder to us of God’s ultimate healing provided for us on the cross, through Christ. We are not guaranteed material wealth, although we may experience wealth. We are not guaranteed physical health, although we may experience health. We are however guaranteed blessing through Christ.
These things in our lives–material provision, physical health, etc.–become blessings when they allow us to see the Gospel in greater fullness and clarity. They become blessings when pursuing joy in God becomes even more crystallized in our heart. They become curses when they distort the Gospel and cause us to think that joy is found not in God but in the pursuit of lesser things—physical health, high salary, easy retirement, marriage, position, kids, nice car, big house, material possession.
Paul’s concern for the Galatians is that they would realize who Jesus truly is. That they would realize what freedom is found in Him. That they would realize the family they are now apart of because of Christ. That they would sit under the Niagara Falls of God’s blessing pouring down on them through Christ. That they (and we) would come to understand that in Christ, we gain everything.
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the new commandment “love your neighbor” (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Galatians 4:1-7
How would you define freedom?
Share a story of a time when you experienced freedom.
What does it mean that we are adopted through Christ?
How have you experienced God’s blessing in your life? How can ‘good things’ become a curse? How can ‘good things’ truly be a blessing? What about ‘bad things’?
How has the Gospel changed your mindset concerning joy?