|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 18
Meditation Title: Enslaved Again
Gal 4:9 But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
We're a crazy lot at times, us human race! Imagine this picture. There is a man in a prison cell. There is no way he can get out. He's there for life. Then one day a stranger comes along and opens the door and says, “You're free if you want to be.” “If I want to be? You've got to be crazy!” and the prisoner rushes out. Months pass and we see the ex-prisoner going back into the prison, opening the door to his old cell and stepping back into the cell. He sits down and breaths a sign of relief, “I'm free!”
That's a crazy picture isn't it, but in reality it IS what many Christians do and there's a reason for it. If you ever watched the 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption , you may remember an aged prisoner who had been in the prison for many years and who, when he was released, couldn't handle the freedom and committed suicide. It was a case of syndrome of reliance upon the prison, and many Christians experience it. It is nerve racking to be free and many prefer the prison that Paul writes about.
Our previous study had Paul declaring, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (v.7) and we focused on Sonship and being an heir, but part of the emphasis is on the words, “you are no longer a slave” . i.e. your slavery has come to an end! He declares that before they knew Christ they were slaves (or prisoners): “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” (v.8). Prior to coming to Christ they worshipped idols or gods, but in reality such things are just models created by the hands of a man; they have no power, only what you given them! But the truth was that these superstitions – and there are just as many today – did have the effect of keeping their followers in fear and fear is a form of slavery; it doesn't let you be free, it dominates you and makes you act in particular ways. That's how they had been prior to coming to know Christ. That's the picture of our prisoner in his cell when we first saw him.
But now, says Paul, it is different – or rather it should be! They have entered into a new life: “But now that you know God--or rather are known by God” (v.9a). They have entered into a living relationship with God whereby God knows them intimately and they are living a life that is blessed by Him. He's not at a distance and He's not to be feared as one about to bring judgment. Oh no, now they are at peace with God, they know Him and He knows them, and all is well – or at least that is how it should be! But what do we find? What is Paul asking? “how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” (v.9b) They have turned back to the slavery, the life of being a prisoner again. What are the ‘principles' that he refers to? It is following rules. He's going to explain it in a moment. But he asks another question: “Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (v.9c) These things cause slavery – guilt and fear – and so he challenges them, is this the life you really want?
So he goes on to explain what they are doing: “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” (v.10). In their reverting to Judaism, or at least trying to tack the old onto the new, they are going back to the old life where they followed the rules of the old covenant (in this case observing special days), essentially as ways of trying to please God. You should be past that now, Paul infers, “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” (v.11). All the effort I put into sharing the Gospel with you and then teaching you about the wonderful life that God has given you that is to be simply received and not worked for, all of this you are throwing away, and so it seems I just wasted my time and energy!
The trouble is, we like to be able to DO something ourselves. At least then we can see what we are doing and we tell ourselves that this proves we are good, this proves we are righteous and so surely God will love us because of our achievements. The only thing is that God has already done everything that needs to be done and we can't add to it. He is completely satisfied with what Christ achieved on your behalf and nothing more you can do will add to that. The sad thing, from your point of view, is that you are a prisoner again and feel you HAVE to do these things. Yes, they bring a measure of comfort, working in the familiar, but the truth is you know that you've GOT to keep on at them because you never know if you are quite reaching the target of satisfying God – and the thought that He doesn't need all this activity of yours leaves you feeling unsettled. If yours is an activity-to-please-God lifestyle, you are still a prisoner!
This is not freedom. Freedom is realising that God has done EVERYTHING that needs to be done through Jesus, and so now He will accept you when you come to Him in surrender. You need do nothing except believe it and receive it and live joyfully as a redeemed child of God who is an inheritor of all of God's promises of blessing. Yes, it is that good. You are just a receiver of all of God's blessings. Live it and enjoy it!