Friday, 25 March 2016

Galatians 4:1-7 'More that free'

Russ Moore writes of the occasion when he and his wife adopted two boys from an orphanage in Russia.
“When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian courts had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited in reaction to the stench and squalor of the place.  The boys were in cribs in the dark lying in their own waste.  Leaving them at the end of the day was painful, but leaving them the final day before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through was the hardest thing either of us had ever done.  Walking out of the room, to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim calling out for us and falling down and convulsing in tears.
“When Maria and I, at long last, received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed.  We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had brought for them.  My mother-in-law gathered some wild flowers growing between cracks in the pavement outside the orphanage.  We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel, and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys.  They had never seen the sun.  They had never felt the wind.  They had never heard the sound of a car door shutting, or the sensation of being carried along at one hundred miles-an-hour down a Russian road.
“I noticed that they were shaking, and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance.  I whispered to Sergei, ‘… that place is a pit.  If only you knew what is waiting for you:  home with mummy and a daddy who love you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates, and McDonalds’ Happy Meals.  But all they knew was the orphanage they had come from, and it was squalid.  They had no other reference point.
“We knew the boys had acclimated to our home—that they trusted us—when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs.  They knew there would be another meal coming.  They wouldn’t have to fight over scraps.  This was the new norm …
But I still remember those little hands reaching for the orphanage, and I see myself there.”
Adoption is a beautiful thing.  At its best it originates in the in the heart of people who simply want to pour out love.  It transforms the lives of the broken and vulnerable.  It is a reality that is offered to each of us.  For God is an adopting God.  This idea of adoption gives us the deepest insight into the nature of his love.     
The first thing I want say is that before we were adopted we were slaves (1-3).
Our passage opens with the picture of an heir whose father has died.  This heir is placed under the supervision of guardians until he is old enough to inherit.  Those guardians order the boy about.  They direct and discipline him.  He is not free.  He is no different to a slave.  So also with us—we too were slaves before we encountered Christ.
When we were under age, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  Paul has been talking about the Law of Moses.  This Law had the good purpose of showing people the extent of their sin, so that they would cry out to God for his free grace and mercy.  However, Satan used that law to accuse people of their sin and leave them in hopeless despair.
Most of the Christians in the Galatians churches had not come from a Jewish background, but the elemental spiritual forces worked against them too.  They believed that they had to preform many duties and rituals to appease their pagan gods, and they knew nothing of the grace, mercy and intimacy that can be experienced in the one true and living God.
We too were slaves.  The same elemental spiritual forces worked against us too.  Maybe you believed that you would go to heaven because you were a good person.  But you could have no peace.  For when you look an honest look into your heart you could see that there was a lot there that was not good.  Besides how could you ever be sure that you were good enough for a God who is known as holy and pure? 
The second thing I want to say is that God gave his Son to make you a son (4-5)
The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, ‘we moved not towards the Lord, but the Lord towards us … The offended God himself, in infinite compassion broke the silence and came forth to bless his enemies.’  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. 
The Law of Moses revealed the extent of the people’s sin.  It demanded an absolute obedience.  It pronounced a curse on those who were disobedient.  Without the input of grace it left people without hope.  But Jesus came and took the curse of that Law upon himself.  He died for our guilt too.  ‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, he alone could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in.’
He redeemed those who are under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.  He didn’t only free us from guilt and condemnation; he has taken us to his heart.  He didn’t just let you out of prison; he gave you a place in his family.  He gave his Son to make you his son.  He is the father who lifted his robes and raced through the streets to hug you and kiss you.  You are his treasured possession.  He delights over you with singing.  He holds you close to his bosom.
J. I. Packer writes, ‘In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs.  Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship.  To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater’ (Packer).
Cast your mind back to the love that Russ and Maria Moore had for those two Russian boys—Max and Sergei.  Do you realise that that is just a taster of the infinitely greater love that God wants you we experience in him?  Remember that it took time for the boys to realise that they were safe and accepted—to stop hiding food in their high-chairs.  God wants us to realise our position as sons, and so he gives us the person of the Holy Spirit.
The third thing I want to say is that God gave the Spirit to tell us we are sons (6-7)
God gave the Son to make us sons.  He gave the Holy Spirit so that we could experience this reality in our live.  God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, ‘Abba, father’ (6).
There are so many confusing voices that rob us of the joy we should experience of being sons of God.  Experiences of rejection make it hard for us to understand God’s acceptance.  The devil comes as an accuser who is unable to rob us of our salvation, but will do his best to rob us of the joy of our salvation.  Some of us are even prone to anxiety disorders, which security a hard thing to feel.  My prayer is that you will eventually experience the Holy Spirit drowning out those other voices.
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, ‘Abba, father’.  Why do you pray?  God wants you to ask him for things that are in line with his will.  More importantly he wants us to pray that we would experience more of him.  He wants us to pray from our hearts.  He wants us to pray that our hearts would be centred on his love.  ‘Praying Abba Father is the deepest prayer of faith … The very word father carries with it hope, love, forgiveness, faith and acceptance’ (John Miller).  Ask the Holy Spirit to help heal your distorted view of God.  When you start thinking that he is like a severe policeman to be obeyed, or a judge who is seeking to find you guilty, the Spirit proclaims, ‘no, he is your father’ (Hugh Palmer).   Your heavenly Father longs for you to know the joy of being secure in his love.
Finally, look at verse seven and see that we are both sons and heirs.  This reveals a wonderful truth about how amazingly gracious God is to us.  You see in the ancient world the inheritance always passed to a male child.  If there was no son then one was adapted so that inheritance could be passed on.  We have been adopted to receive the inheritance of God’s lavish grace and his tender love.  But take note of the fact that the Father did not need to adopt us, for he has a Son.  He did not need to adopt anyone.  He did not need to adopt sinners like us.  This adoption speaks volumes about his gracious heart.   
‘Unless you’re assured that God loves you, it’s pretty hard to do anything in the Christian life’ (John Miller).  One of our problems is that we look in the wrong place for reasons as to why God would adopt us.  Don’t look into the recesses of your heart to explain why God set his love upon you.  You’ll see you sin and conclude that God could never accept you.  But his acceptance is not based on your heart.  It is based in his heart!
He is the God who loves his enemies.  He is the God who sent his Son into the world to save sinners.  He did not choose you because you are beautiful or good.  He chose you in sheer lavish grace.  He loves to make slaves into sons.  He loves to cleanse people of their guilt.  He loves to pour his mercy upon the wicked.  He wants to clothe you in the righteousness of Christ and put his ring on your finger.  The concept of adoption is the guarantee that God will not let you go, even when you let him down and fall into sin, ‘for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation; and God is not a bad father, but a good one’ (Packer).  So don’t give up trying to grasp the fact that he loves you, for it pleases his heart when the joyous truths of adoption delight our souls.

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