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Liberated From Legalism pt 27 [11-21-21]

Galatians 6:11-18

Here's an odd way of looking at sanctification.

First, a decent summary of the distinctions between the two great Biblical doctrines of justification and sanctification:

Justification is God's declaration that a sinner is righteous through the work of Jesus Christ.

Sanctification is God's transformation of a believer's whole being, that is the mind, will, behaviors, and affections through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, here's my take, based on these final verses in Galatians, on sanctification. Sanctification is not primarily an awareness of how good we are becoming. Instead, it is primarily a growing sense of how sinful we really are, and so how we need constantly to turn to and depend on Jesus.

Paul has spent this entire letter maturing us to seeing the truth of that


Look at it this way. The more mature you become as a Christian, the less worthy you feel to be a child of God. That cuts against the grain, right? Because as sanctification implies, the closer you come to Christ, the more his character rubs off on you. But here's the irony to that. The closer we get to the real beauty of Christ…which is his death on the cross…the more obvious and ugly our lingering sin appears. Remember, we will be sinners until the day we die and meet Jesus Christ in all his glory.

Think about it this way. You are sweeping the kitchen floor and cleaning the cabinets and things look shiny and sharp. It's going to stay like this at least until tomorrow, or maybe even the next day. But then a beam of sunlight comes coursing through the windows, illuminating all the dust filling the air. That cleanliness and clean feeling didn't last long.

Paul prepares us for the fact that this great Christian faith is a mingling of joy and remorse. We rest in the assurance of 2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being

transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Yet in that same light we see the wickedness in our own hearts. We rejoice and we grieve at the same time.

I love how C.S. Lewis captures our spiritual trajectory:

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the {person} who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

You see, while we remain in this world of sin, we are going to find ourselves heading down the wrong road. But even in these moments, we know to turn around. Even with humble, broken-hearted joy, as Jonathan Edwards described it, we are still rooted in Christ.

As our confidence in Christ rises even as we struggle against sin, we turn to the end of Galatians with the question:



We've been warned against looking for perfection. We've been warned against taking pride in our progress.

The evidence of our lives bearing fruit is twofold.

The first is the mindset Paul is asking the Galatians to walk away from. You don't deserve your salvation. You can't earn it or work for it. It is completely beyond your ability to determine or control. Put another way, there are two ways of looking at your salvation:

  • You believed so God chose you.

  • You first believed because you were chosen.

Which one is Paul asking us to walk away from and which one is he asking to walk toward?

The second is the mindset Paul is asking the Galatians to walk toward. This is the truth that God chose you to receive His mercy and enjoy His peace long before the foundation of the world.

Why would anyone embrace legalism when God is offering the free gift of

His mercy and His peace? There ought be only one reasonable choice.

Think about it this way.

Imagine I hold in one hand title to God's grace and mercy. With that comes His forgiveness for all your sins and the peace of God's eternal enjoyment.

In the other hand is the key to every earthly and material and ego-driven thing your heart desires, but no mercy from God and no eternal peace with Him.

Which would you want? Easy answer, right? In Mark 8:36, Jesus said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Why would anyone make the wrong choice?

But we do, all the time.

And so verse 16 - "And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy

be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" - becomes like a big sign on the highway of foolishness telling us to take the next exit and get on the road of God's mercy and peace.

Here's what that road looks like. John Mason captures it this way, "Popular preachers center every sermon around you and having a better life, but Jesus said deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me." As Jesus said, unless you take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. Except we sometimes get trapped in this very legalistic tunneled vision of that road. We think it's primarily about talking like a Christian and dressing like a Christian and huddling up with other Christians in recreation leagues and hobbies. Where is the denial? Where is the cross-carrying in that? We want to look like everyone else except with a Christian label slapped on. And so our most attractive church models look like mega-social-centers with a wide variety of activities and programs appealing to a variety of tastes. There's worship as entertainment. In order to be relevant to the culture, we have to be fun. And fun ain't taking up your cross and following Jesus down the road of sacrifice and service. The last thing I want is to be

a fun guy and us be a fun church.

The culture cannot resist a fun church. Might ignore it, but never resist it.

Kyle Mann, one of the founders of Christian satire site The Babylon Bee, observes:

"I believe one of the biggest divides in Christianity today is between those who have accepted that the world will never like us and those who are still holding out hope."

In other words, as Paul concludes here in chapter 6, no one captured by the culture will pick up their cross and follow Jesus. How many people today are like the false teachers Paul has been describing throughout Galatians? How many people are too enamored to the comforts of culture to embrace the radical way of the cross?

Therein lies the gift of the fruit of the Spirit. As we open our hearts and

minds to Galatians 5:22-23…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…as we bear fruit day-in and day-out, then people-pleasing and pride and fear of human rejection will diminish. We replace a worldly mind-set with one that is focused on the

cross of Christ.

Paul ends his letter by pointing us to where we want to be. Even though as followers of Jesus Christ the world looks like a despised, worthless, corrupt, cursed thing, we want our lives to reflect back to the world the fruit of the Spirit, so Jesus gets all the honor and praise and glory. As Paul writes in Philippians 3:8, "I count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." When we see the cross, the benefits of this world look cold and pale and corpse-like. In fact, the world is as a dying corpse, but we are new creations in Christ. That's the road we travel.

So, here's the last thing you might want to write down:

We are held captive by the cross on Golgotha, where the Son of God gave himself for us in love and sacrifice.

When we know that, it will be our driving passion to let the fruit of the

Spirit pour from our lives.

"The Wonderful Cross" by Chris Tomlin captures the essence of these final

verses of Galatians better than almost any other song:

When I survey the wondrous Cross On which the Prince of Glory died My richest gain, I count but loss And pour contempt on all my pride

See from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did ever such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose, so rich a crown

Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine That were an offering far too small

Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all.

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