In last week’s post I suggested that Paul would encourage us to give up some of our freedoms for the benefit of our weaker fellow-believers. But Paul did not advocate giving up the freedom that was paid for by Christ’s blood just to go back to the legalistic way of living that had been commonplace before Christ’s arrival on Earth. And I’m sure that he considered the dietary changes to be a temporary accommodation. Once believers come to truly understand their freedom in Christ, they would grow beyond those food restrictions.
In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul explains to the people of Galatia that God sent Christ to Earth to redeem us from our bondage to the law, and to give us the full freedom of being a child of God. When I use the word law here, I am referring to religious law. The Bible clearly tells us to respect those who are in authority over us, (I Peter 2:13-17, Romans 13:7), but that does not include adhering to legalistic religious practices. Just before this passage, in Galatians 4:1-3, Paul uses the example of a child in a human family. In Roman society, minor children were cared for, taught and disciplined by slaves. Since children were required to obey slaves, they were no better than slaves themselves. But when they reached the appointed age set by their father, they became heirs, with all the rights and inheritance of an heir’s position in the family. Likewise, at a time set by our Heavenly Father, when he sent His Son to redeem us, we became heirs in our heavenly family.
Just as the child had to obey his earthly caregiver until his position was upgraded, Paul’s listeners and their ancestors had had to obey Mosaic law until the appointed time. Then they had the opportunity to move into the position of co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:14-17) They were given an invitation to join God’s family with the same rights of family membership that Christ has. We have been given that opportunity since the day that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. This was and is a gift of grace. There are no rules, rituals or practices that we must follow to earn it. Yes, we have to make the choice, but once we do we become inheritors of the kingdom of God. Can you even begin to imagine? Many people can’t, which is why they go back to the rituals and rule-following that make them comfortable. There is no need, and it is a sign of immaturity, of remaining a child that needs to be restricted. Accept the freedom that you have in Christ.
I love to acknowledge birthdays. I love to celebrate the existence of my loved ones and the value of their lives. There is no birthday I am more grateful for than that of Jesus my Saviour. God loved us so much that He sent His Son to earth from His throne in heaven. Jesus came as a baby in the most humble of circumstances (Luke 2:10-11) so that He could experience every single aspect of life just as we do. (Hebrews 4:15) And His coming has provided us with a way to approach our holy God. (Hebrews 4:16) Because of Christ's sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins, God sees us just as He sees Jesus--one of His children. The full measure of God's gift to us is truly beyond my ability to fathom.
This is why we celebrate Christmas--God's gift of His Son. And celebrating Christmas is why I am posting early this week. I want to wish my readers all the very best this Christmas and for the coming year. I hope that the season will be filled with blessings for you as you celebrate the love of God and the love of family and friends. I will be back to regular posts on January 2, 2013.
Before I sign off for this year though, I would like to make an announcement. I am thrilled to share with you the launch of a new ministry website from Crossroads Christian Communications Inc. It is a new multi-channel online service found at crossroads360.com. There are currently seven channels filled with entertaining and informative content. If you have children home from school for two weeks, and they run out of things to do after the first one, check out the KidSpace channel--lots of videos and even crafts and colouring pages. Other channels include God Stories, Music, Explore Faith, Nostalgia, Everyday Life and News. There are episodes of past television shows, and there is a search function if you are looking for information or inspiration on a specific topic. Clicking on "crossroads 360" at the top of any page will take you back to the home page. I'm sure this new site will be a great resource to encourage you in your daily walk with Jesus. Enjoy! And see you next year!
Well here we are again December. Sometimes the days and months seem to fly right by, and sometimes they seem to move so slowly. The fact is the length of a minute, day or week doesn’t change; it is all about our perceptions and expectations. Do you remember when you were younger--or maybe not so much younger--waiting for Christmas? You had asked for something you really wanted, and you could hardly wait until Christmas morning to see if Santa / a parent / a sibling… had listened to your request.
The Israelites had been waiting for not weeks or months, but years, centuries even, for the Messiah who had been promised to them. As a matter of fact, God gave them a hint in Isaiah 7:14, and it was still about 700 years before the promise was fulfilled. As I said in my last post, waiting can make you doubt. Some of the Israelites may have even forgotten what they were waiting for. But a man named Simeon didn’t. (Luke 2:25-32) He was very devout, and he was waiting patiently for the Lord to reveal His gift, the Messiah. He had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. (Luke 2:26) Just as an aside: isn’t it a good thing that Simeon recognized when the Holy Spirit was speaking and then listened to Him? That is what brought Simeon to the temple the day that Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old Simeon was, but it does tell us that now that he had seen the Messiah, his life purpose had been fulfilled. He was ready to depart from this world. (Luke 2:29)
The people of Israel had been waiting an incomprehensibly long time for their Messiah to be revealed, and many of them, like Simeon, remained faithful to the task. The very same Messiah is here knocking at our door, and all we have to do is open it and let Him in--no waiting required. (Revelation 3:20) It can be Christmas morning for us at any time. All we have to do is accept the gift.
John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the Bible. Lots of children have memorized it in Sunday School, perhaps because it sums up the whole gospel so succinctly.
God loved the world so much that in order to redeem the world, He allowed His only son to die as a sacrifice for us. That kind of love is hard to fathom. And it was for the whole world. When Jesus spoke these words, the people of the time thought that the Messiah was coming only for the Jewish people, and that the Gentiles would be condemned. They expected judgement, but John 3:17 clarifies for us that Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to save us. All we have to do is believe in Him. It is our choice. The creator of the universe could choose to make us do whatever He wants us to, but He doesn’t. He loves us so much that He lets us do whatever we want. When we do choose to believe in Him though, we are rewarded with eternal life. The Greek word used here for life represents not only life after death, but life here and now, and it represents the quality of life as much as the quantity—the more abundant life that John 10:10 describes.
I think this sounds like a great offer. There is no need to perish. The gift of life has been given; all we need to do is accept. Why is it that there are people who don’t want to accept? Fear, maybe? Fear of losing control of their own lives? Ironic when you think about it because God has given us so much freedom. (II Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:13-14)
I chose this verse for today because I think of it as a Valentine verse. I will share the Valentine with you here just in case you have never received it in an e-mail. Happy Valentines Day everyone!