For two months this summer I had the privilege of studying the book of Galatians alongside over 100 college students. It is an electric, life-giving letter chock-full of gospel. At the end of the summer I had the privilege of preaching on Galatians at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Hurricane, WV. It was through this church that the Lord saved my life and called me towards vocational ministry, so it is always a pleasure to be with my family there and share God’s word with them. I preached the sermon from a manuscript that was later edited and shortened (they had to enforce strict time limits on this long-winded guy). I wanted to share that sermon manuscript on here for anyone who would choose to read it or for those who were present that night and would like to revisit it. May the Lord use this sermon, entitled Free Indeed and based on Galatians 5:1, to help you understand and enjoy His grace and offer of full freedom.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
The Spirit of this Text
If the book of Galatians is about anything, it’s about the freedom we have in Christ—and this verse reflects that. It gets at the heart of this letter—and I think the message of freedom is a very timely, applicable, and necessary one. My aim tonight is that we’d all better understand and appreciate the freedom we have in Christ, and see how great and gracious our God truly is. In order to do this, I think we first must understand what we have been set free from, because it’s impossible to appreciate freedom without grasping the depths of our bondage. So that’s where we will begin tonight, but before we get there, I want to make an introductory comment about our text.
Read it again with me: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” In this country, there are few things we love more or pride ourselves on more than our freedom. What’s the famous saying you often hear? “Give me liberty, or give me death.” We’d rather die than not be free. There’s a 1768 Revolutionary War song titled, “The Liberty Song”, which is one of the first patriotic songs this country ever had. In 1770 they updated the lyrics of the song and changed the title to “The Massachusetts Song of Liberty” and I want to read you the updated chorus of that song. It went like this: “In freedom we’re born, and, like sons of the brave, will never surrender, but swear to defend her; and scorn to survive if unable to save.” That has been the heartbeat of our country since day one—if we aren’t going to be free, we don’t want to live.
Now as we will come to see tonight, the freedom Christ brings us has nothing to do with political or civil liberties. So why do I mention all that? Well, while freedom can mean lots of different things, the point is it’s always a highly desired thing. No one wants to be enslaved. We all desire to be free, no matter what kind of freedom it is. But I want you to look at this text again with me: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Do you understand what the Apostle Paul, the author, is saying here? He’s saying that spiritually, we’ve become so corrupt and twisted since the fall that we have to be commanded to be free. We have to be commanded to stop putting an unnecessary yoke of slavery on our shoulders.
Why is this?
This get’s into the nature of sin and original sin and the fall of man. In brief, who is God? God is the source of everything good, everything true, everything just, everything righteous, everything holy, everything pleasurable, everything satisfying, everything loving, everything beautiful. As Jonathan Edwards so rightly said, “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” What Edwards is saying is simply this: God is the source and substance of everything good. Everything. Even the pleasures you enjoy here on earth are simply but a shadow of how sweet God is and even these come from His hand.
So what happened at the fall? What happened is our spiritual taste buds went rotten. They not only went rotten, they died. So now God doesn’t taste good to us. He is no longer sweet to our souls—despite the fact He is still as good and beautiful as ever and He is the only thing that will satisfy us, we have died and are blinded by Satan. We no longer look to God to satisfy us and be our source of joy but we look to created things. This is what Paul emphatically declares in Romans 1: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” This is what we’ve all done; this is the nature of sin. Instead of loving God and trusting God and hoping in God and giving thanks to God and honoring God, we use created substitutes. We’ve exchanged the glory of God, who He is, His righteousness and perfection and manifold excellencies for idols like money or sex or power or fame or entertainment or comfort or other people or, maybe most predominately, ourselves. And as Paul says, this is so foolish. As C.S. Lewis put it, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” So be appalled brothers and sisters. Be appalled at how wicked and foolish and deceitful your heart is. Be appalled that the Apostle Paul has to write to you and tell you to be free. Be appalled that I have to stand up here and yell at you to be free. This is ultimately what we need set free from—our evil, spiritually dead hearts. That’s not exactly what Paul is getting at here in this text, but it’s an overflow of that. Everything is. So by way of introduction, I just wanted to point this out. That is the spirit of this text and what we’re stepping into tonight.
The Nature of our Bondage
So, what do we need set free from according to this passage? What is Paul talking about? Well the answer comes in the second half of the verse. He says do not submit again to a yoke of slavery, insinuating that they were under this yoke before and that’s what Christ has set them free from. But what is that yoke? The next three verses give us a clear answer I believe. Look at them with me: “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” The answer is clear there is verse 4: seeking to be justified by the law—or as we would call it today, legalism. Now what is this? This is an attempt to earn God’s approval by your own merit, by your works, by your obedience. For the Galatians this was circumcision as Paul points out in verses 2 and 3.
This makes sense. Why? Because the Galatians were Gentiles, alienated from the Jews and therefore from the one, true God: Yahweh. But through Christ, God made a way for them to be grafted in to the family of God. Paul preached the gospel to the Galatians, but after he left, false teachers called the Judaizers or the circumcision party came into the region and started telling the Galatians that it was all well and good that they accepted Jesus and trusted in Him, but in order to be really accepted by God they also needed to follow the Jewish law, the Torah, and all the customs of the Jewish people. These included things like kosher laws and Sabbath laws and predominantly circumcision. So the argument went like this: accepting Jesus was a good first step but now you need to be circumcised in order to be accepted or justified by God.
However, for us, this looks much differently. I mean no one is lining up in church to get circumcised thinking that is what they have to do to go to heaven. But I think we still have this same problem—it just looks very different. For example, let me ask you a few questions—and right now I’m only speaking to those of you who are truly trusting in Jesus Christ: Do you ever find yourself feeling really, really guilty? Do you ever find yourself feeling like God is upset with you? That He is frustrated with your continued failures and screw-ups? That maybe only if you read your Bible more, prayed more, shared your faith more, went to church more, loved your wife and kids better, didn’t get so frustrated with your boss, or were a missionary that God would love you more? That He would be more pleased with you then?
See this is what we do as prideful humans: we add to the finished work of Christ. It may not be circumcision, but it’s Bible studies and church attendance and evangelism and purity—all very, very good things, but when you say they’re required for your justification before God that’s a very, very bad thing. You see we say, “well Jesus got me in but now I have to work really, really hard and do a lot of stuff in order to be a good Christian…in order to be accepted by God” and it’s the exact same thing the Galatians were doing and it’s blasphemy! It’s not true. It’s not. Some of you all have come in here tonight and you’re so burdened, so worn out, so tired. You keep failing. You can’t live up to your own expectations nonetheless God’s! And you think He is displeased with you, up in heaven frowning at your feeble and frail attempts at righteousness. I don’t think it’s hard for us to see how this is a yoke of slavery. It’s bondage to your performance! It’s unceasing work. It’s anxious toil.
If you want an example of what this looks like, take the example of Martin Luther in his life before he discovered justification by faith alone. Listen to this:
“Martin was 21 years old when, in July 1505, he gave away all his possessions – including his lute, his many books and clothing – and entering the Black Cloister of the Augustinians. Luther quickly adapted to monastic life, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the manual labor, spiritual disciplines and studies required. He went way beyond the fasts, prayers and ascetic practices required and forced himself to sleep on the cold stone floor without a blanket, whipped himself, and seriously damaged his health. He was described as: “devout, earnest, relentlessly self-disciplined, unsparingly self-critical, intelligent…” and “impeccable.” Luther rigorously pursued the monastic ideal and devoted himself to study, prayer and the sacraments. He wearied his priest with his confessions and with his punishments of himself with fasting, sleepless nights, and flagellation…It was because of his great concern for his eternal salvation that Luther had sought to flee the world. In spite of the bitter grief and anger of his father, he had buried himself in the cloister and devoted himself to a life of the strictest asceticism. Yet, despite devoting himself to earning salvation by good works, cheerfully performing the humblest tasks, praying, fasting, chastising himself even beyond the strictest monastic rules, he was still oppressed with a terrible sense of his utter sinfulness and lost condition.”
Now that is a life of slavery…can you imagine that? Going without food, sleep, bed, or health in order to try and please God? It says he even wearied his priest with his confessions. One time he confessed for six hours. He is quoted as saying, “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so.” Doing everything physically possible in order to try and please God, but yet still feeling no peace—despite the fact his life was more pious than all ours in here combined. Now this is an extreme picture of what I’m trying to get at, but our mindset is no different when we try to earn God’s favor by our performance. Our attempts are a lot weaker—which already leads us to feel anxious and insecure because we’re wondering if we should be doing more!—but at its root it’s the same thing. It’s works done in order to try and secure God’s blessing.
The Foolishness of Legalism
However this is a total misunderstanding of God, His law and of ourselves! Let’s go back to Galatians chapter 3, starting in verse 22: “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” Okay so what does that mean? The law—and I’m taking about the moral law of God as revealed in Scripture and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ because no other standard matters but His holy standard—the law imprisons us. It imprisons us before we even imprison ourselves with the slavery of legalism! How? Well let ask you a few questions:
Have you ever loved anything more than God?
Have you ever used God’s name irreverently?
Have you ever disobeyed your parents?
Have you ever been angry with another person?
Have you ever verbally attacked another person?
Have you ever looked at another person lustfully?
Have you ever stolen anything?
Have you ever lied?
Have you ever been jealous of something someone else had?
Have you ever tried to make yourself look great and be praised by others?
Have you ever been more concerned with material things on earth than heavenly priorities?
Have you ever been anxious and not trusted God?
Have you ever judged others without first considering your own failures and weaknesses?
Have you ever not loved your neighbor as much as you love yourself?
I could go on but you get it—you all, as well as me, were just locked up under sin. God is righteous and holy and perfect and will accept nothing outside of perfection. And we all have fallen short and sinned against this holy God. Not only have we sinned, we’ve failed desperately. We don’t even come close. The only thing we’ve ever even done outside of Christ is sin. None of us are righteous, not even one. We’ve all turned away from God. And because God is holy He cannot accept unrighteous, God-hating people. And so what do we do to try and fix this problem?
In legalism, we try and fulfill the law. We turn back to the very thing that condemned us and showed us to be broken, somehow thinking we can actually accomplish it! Ridiculous right? You see the law does nothing but condemn and imprison us. It shows us how desperately wicked we are, and how even our so-called righteous acts need to be forgiven by God. It points us to the fact that we need an alien righteousness—we need something outside of us to deliver us from this prison, from our own sinful hearts. But legalism is a totally different response than the one the law should elicit. It’s a prideful, arrogant response. It’s saying, “no God, I don’t need anything. I don’t need delivered. I don’t need rescued. I can do this. I can set myself free. I can fulfill the law. I don’t need help.” Let me read you a quote from the Apostle Peter: “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.” No one, not even the disciples of Christ, can fulfill the law. It’s a yoke only Christ could bear. Legalism may sound good because it’s often masked as a pious attempt to please God, but what you’re really saying is you have something to offer God. That you can somehow earn something from. That you are able to appease Him by your own efforts. Let me let you in on a little secret…you can never impress God, earn anything from God, or repay God. Everything you have from Him is a gift…even your faith and obedience according to Ephesians 2! So to think you have to work for Him or earn His acceptance by following a law that’s impossible to follow and that you can’t fulfill is ridiculously foolish. It’s sinful, it’s arrogant, and it is incredibly deceitful.
All but Christ is Bondage
This is all pretty bad news, huh? But the hallmark of Christianity is that it has a gospel, a good news. So that’s where we’re headed now, but before we get there I want to revisit one thing Paul says here. He says “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Now the question is, why does he say “again”? And the reason I ask that is this: we’ve established that the yoke of slavery is God’s law, the Torah. But Paul is addressing Gentiles, not Jews. These are Galatians, not Israelites. See the conundrum? They were pagan idolater before this, not people trying to perfectly follow the law. So, I think there are two valid explanations to this puzzle, and both are probably true at some level. The first would be that there is a remnant of Jews in Galatia that would have been familiar with the law and would have had a knowledge and experience with it such that they may have been trying to follow it before. I think we see a lot of warrant for this in the Acts of the Apostles. We consistently see Paul going where when he first arrives in a city? The synagogue. So there were Jews in these cities. As James says during the Jerusalem Council as recorded in Acts 15:21, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” So there the potential that many people in the Galatian church have a working awareness of the law and may have been trying to follow it before they heard the gospel and that’s what Paul is addressing here. And I think that very well could be true and probably is for some in the assembly.
However, I think there also could be another explanation that is just as valid. It may or may not be what Paul is exactly getting at here, but we do see it for sure in another place in Galatians. Flip with me to Galatians 4, verses 8-11. Let’s read it together: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” So here’s where this verse gets confusing. In verse 8 it sounds like Paul is talking about pagan idolatry, right? But in verse 10 he’s talking about the law again. So what in the world is going on? Well I think the key is in the middle of verse 9 where Paul says elementary principles, whose slaves you want to be once more. Principles there can also be translated spirits or things.
So what does that mean? What Paul is saying here is this: the spiritually enslaving demonic forces that lie behind the system of paganism and idolatry are the exact same spiritually enslaving demonic forces that lie behind legalism—it’s no different! There’s no difference between legalism and licentiousness. It’s no different whether you’re the biggest rebel on earth, out having sex and getting drunk and cursing up a storm or the most pious, holy, clean, pure person the world has ever known if you’re only doing all that because you think it’ll earn God’s favor and approval! It’s just another form of bondage! You’re no better off. You’re still separated from God. And ultimately, outside of Christ, this is the state you will always find yourself in—bondage. No religion, no spirituality, no ideology, no philosophy, no person, no possession, nothing outside of Jesus Christ is going to bring you true, real, lasting spiritual freedom. He is the way, the truth, and the life. And if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Slavery to Christ
Which brings us back to the first part of this text. But what makes Christ any different? Why Jesus? How can he set you free? Because let me be real honest and upfront. The freedom in Christ is not ultimate freedom or autonomy—Christian freedom is not some sort of independence or freedom to do whatever you want. It’s not freedom to sin. We must understand that no matter what, we are always under a master. We are always a servant of something—we can never cease worshipping. God made us such that we are continuous out-pourers, always devoted to something—the question is simply what. Who or what is our master? 2 Peter 2:19 says: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” Everyone is overcome by something, so whatever you’re overcome by, to that you’re in bondage. So ultimately what I’m talking about when I say freedom in Christ is bondage to Christ. He is your Master. You no longer live for youself, but you live for Christ. You’re obedient to Him. You follow His law. He sets the agenda of your life. His desires are your desires. His passions your passions. His aims your aims. You have died. Paul expresses this so powerfully in Galatians 2:20—“ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” You no longer live; you’re an absolute slave to God. This is how Paul starts all his letters. Paul, a δοῦλος of God. It’s often translated servant but what it means in the Greek is slave. Paul, a slave of God. Confusing right? Paul expresses this paradox so beautifully in Romans 6. He writes to the Romans, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” So there it is. Freedom in Christ is actually enslavement to Christ. You’re set free from your old bondages—to sin, to death, to Satan, to the world, even to licentiousness and legalism—in order to be enslaved to Christ. So the question begging to be asked is how is this bondage any different? How is bondage to Christ at the same time liberty?
Freedom in Christ
Well let’s go back a little bit in Galatians to understand this. Go with me to Galatians 3:13, one of the most important verses in the Bible. It says this: “Christ redeemed us”—that slavery language right there. It’s Biblical imagery alluding back to the Israelites enslavement to the Egyptians. To be redeemed is to be bought back, to be delivered. It’s essentially the same as saying “Christ has set us free”— “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…” So because we’ve sinned, we’ve fallen short, we’ve missed the mark, we haven’t obeyed God’s law—because of our sin God has a righteous wrath He will unleash on us at the Day of Judgment. This is the curse we’re under for our sin, for breaking God’s law: the wrath of God. It’s the only thing we’ve ever earned in our lives. His punishment is eternal separation from Him, the source of everything that is good and righteous, which the Bible calls death. And there’s nothing we can do on our own to atone for this. No amount of works or effort will fix what we’ve broken or will restore us to God. There’s no hope in us.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” So on the cross Jesus took on the divine curse in your place if you would but trust in Him. He drank the full cup of God’s wrath for your sins such that God was totally appeased by His sacrificial death. This was not a mechanical, formulaic thing…it was the most loving act in the universe. As it says in 1 John 4:8-10—“God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” So God, who could have totally wiped us out with His wrath and would have been totally just in doing so, instead choose in love to send His Son who voluntary came and laid down His own life as the propitiation for our sins. That’s what that precious word propitiation means. It means that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God so that we could be reconciled to God—and because Christ has absorbed the entire wrath of God for your sin, because the wrath of God has been totally appeased in Christ, you’re totally free. You’re free from the wrath of God and He no longer has anything for you but mercy! You have no payment left to make, no demands left on your life! You’re under grace, you’re not under a law anymore—there’s nothing left to do, Christ has done it all! He has fulfilled the law for you!
God is the only appeased Master in the world. Every other master demands more of you. More obedience, more devotion, more and more and more.
If approval is your master, you always have to look cooler than everyone else.
If power is your master, you always have to be in charge.
If success is your master, you always have to be the best.
If religion is your master, you always have to follow the rules perfectly.
If pleasure is your master, you always have to be experiencing delight.
If pride is your master, you always have to be right and better than others.
If food is your master, you always have to eat more and better foods.
If body image is your master, you always have to do more crunches.
If a resume is your master, you always have to add more experiences.
If a career is your master, you always have to work harder to advance or hold on to your position.
If entertainment is your master, you always have to find something new to distract you.
If comfort is your master, you always have to avoid any pain or distress.
If money is your master, you always have to work more and longer hours.
If sex is your master, you always have to have more or new or different sex.
If a person is your master, you always have to work to meet their demands and it’s never enough.
And the list goes on and on and on. The demands are endless.
But what does God say? Because God loved us so much, He sent Christ who took the curse you deserved and gave you His perfection. Now you’re seen as righteous and justified before God, and He has adopted you into His family. He delights in you and will never leaver you nor forsake you. But even more than that, He will never, ever, punish you or be angry with you. In Christ, as a child of God, you’re totally accepted by God. Right now! This instant! If you’re trusting in Christ, you’re totally accepted by God. And Christ’s death was so sufficient that that will never, ever change. No matter what you do or have done or will do, God is always pleased with you because of Christ. He has no demands left for you, He has nothing left for you to do but rest in His love and delight and affection for you. That why John says later in chapter 4: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The perfect love of God made manifest in Christ casts out all fear. For those in Christ there is no punishment and therefore no fear of God’s wrath, because His love for you is perfect. Now granted, God does discipline His children, like any good Father would. But this discipline isn’t punishment—even that is another form of mercy.
No other master is this inclusive, this radical, this scandalous, this accepting, this gracious. Even your parents, who for most of you are probably the most committed people in your life, don’t love you like this. I guarantee there’s a tipping point, a breaking point at which your parents couldn’t do it anymore; they’d have to let you go or give up on you. But as Psalm 27:10 says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God in Christ. Nothing. Not even yourself.
There’s no other master like this. No other master is this committed, this accepting, or this loving. Only God. Every other master makes empty promises and will drop you once you slip or as soon as you fail them.
Only through Christ can you be set free to enjoy a life of absolute acceptance without any conditions. Unconditional, absolute acceptance.
And for the Christian that’s why legalism is so terrible: it’s all because you are actively rejecting Jesus. As Paul says in 5:4—“You are separated from Christ.” Like the Galatians you’re saying, “yes Jesus, but also this.” No Jesus, sorry, but it actually wasn’t finished on the cross. You weren’t the full propitiation for my sins. You didn’t appease God’s wrath and secure my position in His family. I need to live a good life now. I need to read the Bible in a year now. I need to share my faith once a day now. I need to do these things in order for God to love me. You are adding obedience onto Christ’s finished work. It may sound good but it’s horrible because you’re spitting on Jesus, saying He wasn’t sufficient. That His grace isn’t able to cover you. So don’t do it. Don’t submit to that yoke of slavery. Don’t push Jesus away by trying to earn something from God. You can’t earn anything from Him—all you ever earned was hell. Just receive. As Paul says in Galatians 2:21—“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If righteous was possible through your efforts then you didn’t need Jesus. So don’t nullify grace. Receive it. That’s the linchpin of all this: grace. Grace is the pathway to freedom.
You see grace is the opposite of karma—which is essentially the heart of legalism and every other religious attempt to earn God’s approval. Karma is a sort of ying and yang thing—if I do this then I’ll get that. It’s a system of punishment and rewards where you always get what you deserve. Karma is safe. It’s calculated and formulaic. It’s what the pagans would do—if they wanted good crops, they would offer a sacrifice to the goddess of agriculture. It makes sense to our religiousness. And this is what we try to turn Christianity into through legalism. If I just be a good person, don’t cuss, read my Bible, give 10%, go to church, then God will approve of me and I’ll make it to heaven. That’s not it brothers and sisters. The only thing we have earned from God is spiritual death in a place called hell.
Grace is much more radical and scandalous than karma. Grace is not getting what you deserve and getting what you don’t deserve. Grace is one-way love. It’s God’s mercy for rebels. It’s love to the unlovely. It’s goodness to the ungodly. It’s a gift that depends on God and God alone. You don’t do something to earn a gift. You just receive it. If you are going to try and earn it then you won’t receive it. You can’t earn it. You bring nothing to the table. Nothing at all. So don’t nullify grace. Don’t fall away from it, as Paul says in verse 4. This doesn’t mean lose your salvation, I won’t go into why, but if you have questions talk to me after. But what it does mean is depend on God. Depend on Him for every second! For your salvation, depend on grace and grace alone. For your sanctification, depend on grace and grace alone. For your entire life, depend on grace and grace alone. God is the one who rescues you. God is the one who changes you. God is the one holds you. It’s by His power, by His amazing grace. Trust in that, not in your performance. Your performance doesn’t honor God—but your dependence does. A parent is not glorified by the child who rejects their offer for help and who tells them to get away when they reach out to fix a problem the child created. But the parent is glorified when the child says, “yes Daddy, I need you, will help me with this? Will you fix this for me?” So die to yourself and your independence and your pride and receive Christ as your Master.
His call is coming to you now. It’s an invitation—a very costly one. It cost Him His life on the cross. It will cost you your life. Many of you in here tonight may not be Christians. Jesus says that few will enter into His kingdom, and many who claimed to follow Him and were obedient to Him He will tell on the last day “I never knew you, depart from me you worker of iniquity.” Examine yourselves and see if you’ve ever actually trusted in this gospel of grace. If there’s no fruit in your life, then you don’t trust Him. The unconditional acceptance of God is conditional on whether or not you’ve put your faith in Christ. For those outside of Christ, for those who have yet to despair of themselves, for those who have rejected God or are trusting in their own works—you’re still dead in your sins and storing up wrath for yourself on the Day of Judgment. Repent. Turn from your sin and your dead works and trust in Christ and be obedient to Him from the heart, knowing that if you’re in Christ He will never cast you out and you’re totally justified. Repent please. And if you are a Christian, repent too. Repent for the ways you’ve tried to earn God’s favor, for the ways you’ve tried to control Him and haven’t received from Him but have instead told Him you don’t need Him and can do it on your own. Lean on Him for everything. Rely on Him for every step you take. Then move forward in obedience by His power. Keep dying daily and keeping living by Christ. Live by grace and grace alone.
This amazing grace is for sinner and saint. It’s all we got. It’s why we exist. As Ephesians 1 says, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” God has lavished us with amazing grace to set us free in Christ, all so that we’d praise that glorious grace. All so that we’d praise Him as the One who is worthy, as the Initiator, as the Savior, as the Liberator. So let’s do that now. Let’s respond to our glorious Redeemer.