Joni Mitchell sang out her warning in another context: “...you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone...”. This was a rather popular tune in the seventies. It is today experiencing a renaissance with the current crop of contemporary music aficionados.
However, and in whatever context, the warning is well taken and should be well heeded. Indeed, we often tend to take for granted that familiar things, people and places will always be there. We sometimes lose appreciation for those familiar-whatever-they- may- be items of our lives.
Paul the Apostle sounds really frustrated as the letter he wrote to the Galatian believers is read. He, too, was learning to trust the Lord with the salvation and the sanctification of others. But fathers are human. Paul was like a father to the Galatian believers. As one carefully reads the letter, one can hear Paul’s very heart speaking with pathos and deep concern.
Paul could not be everywhere at once. He was not omnipresent. Yet, as Paul moved from church to church to nurture and to teach the believers, when he left one location, following on his heels were a group of false teachers of a markedly Jewish persuasion, whose purpose it was to enforce aspects of the Jewish ceremonial Law in the new and impressionable converts.
In essence, they were teaching that in order for a person to be a Christian, these had to not only believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work but also needed to be physically circumcised in the covenantal tradition of the Jews.
Paul saw this effort for what it really was, a determination to undermine the validity of justification by faith alone and beyond that, to rob genuinely converted new and young believers of their freedom in Jesus the Messiah. One might say that these false teachers were a cut above the others (ouch!) in their strategy!
The Apostle exhorts in chapter five and verse one, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” But how easy to take that freedom for granted. How easy to allow that freedom to be stolen away through entanglements. Entangled by a love of a particular sin. Entangled by a group of well-meaning but legalistic sect in Christendom that uses authority to spiritually bully the people entrusted to their shepherding care in Christ. Entangled by the ignorance of the untaught who surmise that genuine Christianity consists of do’s and don’ts.
But what joy there is when I come to a full realization of what I have in my Lord! Sweet freedom! In and through Christ Jesus I am free from the Law as a means of salvation (Gal.5.4). In and through Christ Jesus I am free from the penalty of sin (Gal.4.5). In and through Christ Jesus I am free from the power of sin (Gal.6.22-23). In and through Christ Jesus I am free from man-made rules and regulations regarding the living of the Christian life and the manner in which I please my Lord (Gal.5.1-2). In and through Christ Jesus I am free from the consciences of others and bound only to my own conscience and the Word of God (Gal.6.13). It is here we can and must stand.
The Son of Man has made me free. I am free indeed! (John 8.32, 36)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!