Verses for the Day – Galatians 4:8-11

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

In this letter to the Galatians, it seems like Paul is going back and forth, back and forth between identifying the way these young Galatian believers are turning away from the true gospel to declaring this true gospel again. Like a seesaw, up and down, exposing one way of erroneous thinking or living and revealing again the great truth of the gospel of grace.

You might remember he started this letter not with words of praise and affirmation as he does in others of his letters, but straightaway he began to deal with these issues at hand.

Galatians 1:6 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,”

Galatians 1:7 “… there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Paul goes on and in 3:1 asks, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth…?”

As we’ve seen, Paul discusses false teachers, circumcision and law, and contrasts them with justification by faith. We are saved not by works, but by grace, a gift of God.

Each time Paul gives one of the issues at hand, he brings it back to the gospel of truth, this simple message, and Jesus who frees us from all of these many kinds of bondage.

Today in Chapter 4, verses 8-11, Paul tells the Galatians that when they did not know God, they served those who by nature were not gods (verse 8). It seems to indicate that we are worshipers. We will always worship and serve something, either the true God, or things that are not gods. We’ve seen that from the Old Testament idol worship up to today where many are worshipers of things like self and materialism. Who are we serving and worshiping?

Paul goes on in today’s passage to ask them, now that they have known God – or rather were known by God (indicating it is God who first knows us, before we can even know Him!) – how is it that they turn again to the weak and beggarly elements to which they desire again to be in bondage (verse 9-10). He tells them they observe days and months and seasons and years, and Paul is afraid for them, that he has labored in vain (verse 11). It’s possible to observe religious holidays, Sabbaths, special feasts, and totally miss true worship of the risen Christ. These observances can have the appearance of worship, but lack the heart of true worship.

If they truly knew God, how can they return to lesser things, the things that bring them into bondage? And what about us? How do we do that as well? Do we observe days and seasons but miss meeting our almighty God and having true worship of Him?

And what is our remedy for this? A turning back again and again to the gospel of Christ, the true gospel that tells us who we are and who He is. We receive forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ, a cleansing from our sins and unrighteousness, if we confess those sins (1 John 1:9). Just like Paul bringing these believers again and again back to truth, we need this as well. We need to know and obey God’s Word and be led by His Spirit into truth.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that you are worthy of worship. Thank you that in you, we find full satisfaction. Forgive us for turning aside to other things, lesser things, for returning again to bondage when you have set us free. May we know you in such a way that these other things no longer are desirable, but you are our heart’s longing and affection. May we worship you and walk in your ways now and always. Bring us back again to your amazing gospel of grace that frees of from sin and law/works to know and love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Idols

We heard a portion of a Tim Keller sermon at a church seminar this last Sunday, and he talked about our idols, which can be our identity, security, power, etc. Keller said that an idol is a false, pseudo-salvific treasure, and that every treasure other than God enslaves us. Those idols demand that we do anything to get them. But Jesus is the One treasure who died to purchase us. This makes Him our ultimate treasure when we understand that we are His ultimate treasure.

Keller’s talk has had me thinking more about my “idols.” I like to think I don’t have any, that maybe I’ve struggled with things in the past, but I’ve progressed to the point that those things are done away with! Ha! I really think that they may be something that will regularly creep up upon us and that we will have to deal with over and over again in our lives. But as we learn more about who God is and as He becomes our all, we might move more quickly past those struggles as we speak His truth and refuse to wallow there in them.

I looked up the word “idol” (yes, dictionary.com!) and a couple of the definitions struck me:

  • a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom
  • a figment of the mind; fantasy.

I’ve been pondering James 1:17 the last couple of weeks, about there being no variation or shifting shadow with our heavenly Father. I’ve also been pondering Romans 12:2 about being transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we can prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Both those verses make me think of something solid, unchanging, perfect, good — just the opposite of an idol that has no substance, is a figment of the mind, a phantom!

One other thing I’ve been wondering about: do you think idols are born out of our losses and wounds? Where we have been hurt or feel a wound, we seek to fill it with something. And when it’s not God, it is an idol, something that can’t ever fill that need or void, but can give the image that it does. We rob ourselves of all God can do to fill those places and free us when we seek other things to do so.

I’ve been personally struggling this week with one of those old losses that resulted in an empty place that God has more than filled. But lies often come to tell me something false, and I need to go back to square one all over again. Praise Him that He is more than faithful to expose those false ways of thinking and place me again on a firm foundation.

Psalm 95:6-7
“Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”

Creator God

Psalm 24:1-2 “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.”

My son broke his wrist last month, so with his arm in a cast for a month, we set out to find fun summer activities that did not involve water! These included a trip to the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago. I marveled at the magnificence of God’s created world and its order — all the skies and all the seas display our Creator’s handiwork. And yet, in neither of these museums did we hear or see any mention of the Creator who made these wonders! Not even a passing reference to the possibility of a Creator.

I suppose leaving there and sharing this thought with my children is one reason it is upon my heart to open my mouth and give our Creator God the praise due His name, for His works are awesome.

As we traveled back from Memphis yesterday from a week with my extended family, I had to worship and rejoice as I heard the words to the beautiful song, My Offering, by Nichole Nordeman. Here are some of its lyrics:

(Chorus)Open up the heavens, open up the sky
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song, so let the earth sing along
‘Cause I just want to praise You

And the sun every morning cannot wait to shine
And the stars every evening are all standing by to light the sky
Give the rocks and the stones voices of their own
If we forget to sing praises to our King

(Chorus)Open up the heavens, open up the sky
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song, so let the earth sing along
‘Cause I just want to praise You.