Years ago, I stood in a hospital room visiting a member, Vince, and his wife. Vince was going to have open heart surgery to repair a blocked artery. While I was there, a nurse came in to discuss his surgery, and to his surprise she said, “I want you to know, during your surgery, I will be holding your heart in my hands.” I later thought, what an apt description of how God sends Jesus to us, and how Jesus, by virtue of being our Savior, holds our hearts in His hands. What better place for our hearts and lives to be than in the hands of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Today we continue to discuss the Epistle of Galatians as Paul eloquently defends and proclaims the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As my colleague, Pastor Steve Kramer, has been sharing, nothing is more beautiful and lovely than the truth that Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything. In Jesus, God gives us peace with Himself and grace without limit. We don’t have to add anything to the gospel. By faith in Jesus alone, we are assured of our salvation by being in a relationship with God as His children.
As Paul is writing, he shares his own spiritual journey. He formally had been Saul, the persecutor of the Christians. With misguided zeal depending on his pedigree, he persecuted those who professed to believe Jesus was the Messiah. But when Saul met the living Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was radically converted to understand that Jesus is the Lord of life and the source of grace, and being in a relationship with Him by faith alone is the basis of being the people of God.
So in this epistle, Paul confronts Peter. Peter had a great relationship with the Gentile Christians in Galatia, but withdrew from them when the Jewish Christians were around, believing one had to add the religious ritual of circumcision to be a Christian. Paul asked, How could you so quickly forget that it is by faith in Jesus – crucified and risen – alone that you are God’s child? It reminds me of the beautiful verse, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). My self effort is worth nothing, but the presence of Jesus’ Spirit within me and the promise of His grace is everything.
The book of Galatians tells us Abraham was justified by faith centuries before the Mosaic Law was given. So the function of God’s Law is never the basis of our becoming acceptable to God or becoming His children. We cannot, by self effort, become righteous by our own morality.
The Law, then, is our tutor, to lead us to Christ. It shows us how spiritually bankrupt we are so we will gladly hear the message that Jesus alone is the source of love, grace, and forgiveness. Then we are led to put our confidence totally in Christ for our salvation. That is the gospel. So we become the children of God by faith in Jesus.
Paul says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son . . .” The Greek language has two words for time. One is “chronos” from which we derive the English word chronology, meaning the sequential unfolding of events – one that follows the other. The other word for time is Kairos meaning a poignant moment of great significance when an event is so impactful our lives are altered from that moment on.
When Paul says, “In the fullness of time God sent his Son,” he uses the word Kairos. It is a moment that had been planned by God from all eternity – the incarnation – where God, who is infinite, became particular in the babe born to the Virgin Mary. In God coming to the world, the plan of God’s salvation began to unfold in a climactic way. God sent His Son into the world. Of all the religions in the world, Christianity is distinctive in realizing human beings can never live morally pure enough to be acceptable to God. Our hearts cannot be transformed with enough purity to lift us into a relationship with God. Only Jesus can do that. Like the passage we know so well says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him” (John 3:16, 17).
Jesus comes down not only to be one of us, to take our sins upon Himself and die on the cross, but He is also raised from the dead, and God vindicates Him as truly the victorious Son of God. In Jesus’ name, by faith, we become children of our heavenly Father.
So Jesus alone is the Savior of the world. Nothing needs to be added. It is as simple as you and I this day saying, Jesus, I confess I’m a broken sinner. I thank you for coming to be my Savior. I thank you for dying on the cross to redeem me from the curse of the Law and to forgive my sins. I place my trust in you.
That is what Paul tells us here. Jesus, the Son of God came to redeem us from the curse of the Law.
Did you hear the story of the man who met a boy who had a bird in a cage?
“What are you going to do with that bird, boy?”
“Oh, I’m going to take it, and I’m going to end it’s life.”
“Oh, you don’t want to do that, boy. Would you like to sell me the bird?”
“No, the bird’s not for sale,” he said.
“Well, how about I give you $10.”
The boy paused and shook his head. “No.”
“Okay, $20 then,” he said.
“The bird is not for sale.”
“How about if I give you more?”
The boy got a glint in his eyes, and he looked at the man’s wallet. Then he asked, “What are you willing to pay?”
“How much do you want?”
He looked again at the wallet and said, “I want it all.”
So the man gave all he had to the boy, and the boy gave him the bird. Then the man, having paid the money, opened the cage door and let the bird fly free.
That is redemption. God, in the life of His Son, paid for your and my freedom from the curse of the Law. He redeemed us by the spilled, precious blood of Jesus the Lamb who died on the cross for us. We are saved and set free at the high cost of God’s love in the sacrifice of Jesus. What’s more, we are transferred from being condemned slaves to being the children of God. We receive the full privilege of being children of God. It reminds me of the verse, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
All God has to give us is in the person of Jesus. So when we embrace Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior, God has already given us every spiritual blessing. Then, for the rest of our faith-life journey, we unpack the glorious truth of all the Jesus-power (grace and life) can mean for us. We become heirs of every promise God has made, and every promise is validated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing more needs to be added.
Think of it. It says the Spirit is poured into our hearts. We go from being condemned criminals rightfully deserving the Law’s condemnation to, not only being free of the curse, but also being adopted by our heavenly Father into His family and filled with His Holy Spirit. So there is now freedom in the Spirit to say, “God, you are my Abba, (a term of endearment, like saying, ‘God, you’re my daddy’.” It’s a term of love and intimacy where we are one with our heavenly Father, enveloped in His love forever. We are adopted to all He can give us.
I love how Henry Nowen writes about the unconditional love of God. “God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, ‘I love you, if . . . ‘ There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. ” The unconditional love of God is for you in Jesus Christ.
O. E. Rolvaag in his book, Giants of the Earth, tells the story of a pioneer woman, Beret, and her husband Per, who live on the edges of the Dakota prairie in the late 19th century. It’s a bleak environment, a ghastly struggle to survive, and eventually those circumstances and hardships destroy Beret’s sanity. She grieves and feels guilty for leaving her homeland and her parents. She is appalled at the excesses of American life. She simply cannot endure her life as it’s become.
When grasshoppers come flying out of the west and devour everything in sight, Beret takes her youngest child and buries herself in her immigrant chest, which is her one link with home. The glory of the Lord seems to have departed from Beret’s life. She has nowhere to go to flee the terrors of her mind.
Her young pastor, who had just come to that area to serve the church, realizes Beret needs a miracle of forgiveness to heal her inner spirit. So he decides to preach a sermon not only to Beret but also to all the struggling people in the parish he serves who have to keep going in life. He decides to preach on the glory of God, but as he preaches he feels like his sermon is getting nowhere. As it gets worse, he struggles to find a way to convey the glory of God in His grace and presence.
Then he sees a young mother in his congregation who is nursing her child. Instantly he remembers the story of a young immigrant mother who, in an effort to keep her children together in a busy city, ties all nine of them to her waist with a rope so they can walk safely through the city and not become lost or separated. “There,” the preacher says, “is the glory of the Lord.” If a mother would love her children in this way, how much more does the Lord Jesus love every person still today! For in the death and resurrection of Jesus, He has reached out to you where you are. He has bound your very heart to His heart in the grace of His love. He has poured His Spirit into you. Nothing can separate you from His love.”
That is what Paul was writing about in the glory of the gospel written in Galatians. You are loved and forgiven by God. You are a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ.