Love Must be Free
January 16, 2016
Let’s open this morning to Galatians, chapter 5, beginning in verse 1. The title of our message this morning beginning in “Love Must Be Free.”
All right, Paul is writing to these churches in the area of Galatia. He is very concerned for them, because they are getting off course. These people have come from Jerusalem, these teachers, telling them that if they want to be true followers of Jesus Christ, they need to become like Jewish, they need to take on the aspects of Judaism. After all, you know, Jesus was a Jew. So you need to get circumcised, you need to follow all the Jewish feasts, you need to come under the Jewish law. And Paul, when he hears this, is just incensed. Not only is he upset because these teachers have come, he’s also upset and amazed because the church seems to be starting to go along with the program. They’re starting to actually adapt this teaching into the life of the church, and so he’s writing this letter to get them back onto course and he says, listen, these men are distorting the gospel, and if anyone comes and preaches a different gospel, man let them be accursed, let them be anathema. I mean, he’s hot. So he goes into great depth explaining the difference between being under the Old Testament law and the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, we today aren’t tempted, I don’t think, to come back under the Old Testament law, but I think it’s important to for us to understand because many people do think that their relationship to God is made right by the things that they do. And so he goes on to explain: Listen, no man is made right before God. No man is justified by the works of the law. We’re justified by faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not about what you have done; it’s about what God has done for you. And so you have the faith to believe. A sinner is not made right because he has done a few righteous things. In fact, the prophet Isaiah said the righteousness of man is like filthy rags before God. And I would tell you what filthy rags mean, except this is church and it’s not nice. It’s a strong word. So the notion, the idea, that someone could be made right with God by doing a few righteous things has several problems.
First, God doesn’t just keep track of a few good things a person does. If you want to talk about keeping track, then he’s going to keep track of everything. I mean, can you imagine somebody following you around with a clipboard and writing down everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever said, and everything you’ve ever thought? And it’s all written down on that clipboard. And then can you further imagine that your relationship to God is based up what’s on that clipboard. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly an encouraging word. See, the problem is that God is Holy. And the things that are recorded on that clipboard are, frankly, quite embarrassing. I don’t know your story, but I’ll tell you mine: There are some embarrassing things on there. But, a lot of people actually believe that their standing before God is based upon what is written on that clipboard, that God takes the good and the bad and that he kind of puts them on a scale and then he weighs them, and then your standing before God is based upon whether there is more good or more bad. And interestingly, that is the teaching, the understanding, of Islam today, that there— I mean, there’s no hope in that. There’s no assurance in that. So what does that look like in reality? Well, let’s see: I told three lies, but I told four truths. I’m good. I mean, that’s like, I’m on the good side of this thing. I stole something twice, but I didn’t steal something seven times. It’s like, I’ve got this righteousness thing nailed. I’m really getting this thing figured out, I’m pretty righteous. Really, I mean, when you weigh it all out. I mean, when you put the good against the bad, I’m a good guy.
Here’s the problem: God does not weigh the good against the bad. What he does, he takes everything written on that clipboard, and compares it to himself, to his own holiness. Let me give you another illustration. Imagine that I had a white dress. I was thinking about going to Fred Meyer and buying a white dress. What if I had a white dress here—pure, pristine, white silk dress—how many stains would it take before we would say that dress is stained? I suggest to you one. One stain on that white dress and it is ruined. Well further the question then, once this is stained, how do you remove the stain? Jeremiah 2:22, God is speaking: “Although you wash yourself with lye And use much soap, The stain of your iniquity is before Me, declares the Lord GOD.” I mentioned this last week, let’s use this as an illustration—let’s not do a show of hands—but how many people, if we did do a show of hands, would say that they had ever told a lie? So I think if we ask that question, almost every hand would be raised. And if your hand is not raised, you’re lying right there.
Do liars go to heaven? Not as a liar. Have you anything ever? Ever cheated on a test? Cheated ever? Do cheaters go to heaven? Not as cheaters. See, the good news of Jesus Christ is not based upon what we have done, it’s what God has done for us through Jesus Christ paying the penalty for our sin, so much so that He has removed our transgressions. He has removed every stain. He has removed every stain from us. In fact He says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” What a beautiful picture. God has set us free, he wrote. We’ve been set free from living under the harsh supervision of the law. We’ve been set free from being judged according to our deeds. We’ve been set free from the condemnation that comes from being sinners. Sin no longer has a claim on us because we’ve been set free in Christ. And Jesus said he who whom the son sets free is free indeed.
I. We Were Set Free for Freedom
But here’s the question: Do you know how to live free? Do you know how to live with freedom? And this is what he addresses starting in Galatians 5:1, let’s read through it together:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. You are not living according to grace for we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness for in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything but faith working through love means everything. You were running well; who cut in on you who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.
It didn’t come from God. No, this—Verse 9—A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples? “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees who are puffed up with their of self–righteousness, beware of this.” A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Verse 10: I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
Like, whoa, that’s a strong word. He says, those that are coming in and teaching that you need to be circumcised, he said, let them mutilate themselves, that’s how strongly I feel about it. For verse 13: For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.
But verse 16 is such a key:But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
There is a huge insight. Underline that. Highlight that. It’s a key for us. Verse 17:For the flesh it sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit sets its desire against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
These are the verses that we want to look at. And I want to look at verse 1, where he gives us a really great insight we’ve got to take hold of and apply to our lives. He says, listen, you were set free for freedom.
Back in chapter 3, he said why was the Law given at all? If God knew— In other words, if God knew that no man could live according to the standard of the law, then why in the world did he give it in the first place? Answer: Because of transgressions. He gave the Law to Israel because He knew that there is a tendency in man toward sin, there’s a great desire for sin, and so he sent the Law to Israel to restrain, to withhold them. He said it’s like a guardian that’s watching over a young man to keep him from wrongful things. He’s using an illustration from that time, that era where the wealthier Greek and Roman families would take a trustworthy servant in the house and place that trustworthy servant over a child and give that servant authority over that child. And that child could not even leave the house without that guardian that, “paidagōgós” in the Greek. And so if their child wants to leave the house, the guardian goes with him—no you may not have that, no you may not go there, no you may not touch that, sit down, no you’re not having that. See, he’s got authority and he’s a strict supervisor to make sure that at no time does that boy ever cross that line of right and wrong. But this is what he means, you’re free from this. You don’t have this guardian over you; you’ve been set free from it. That’s not over your life anymore. So what do you do with that freedom? How do you live now? If you don’t have that, how do you live?
A. Love God as your “Abba,” Father
The answer [Paul] gives to us is in chapter 4 where he says this is the answer: Your relationship to God is defined by this, you’ve been adopted by now as a son or as a daughter and now your relationship is defined by that. Love God as your Abba, Father. You’ve been set free. He set free those that were under the Law. He set free those who were slaves to sin that we might be adopted, Galatians 4:7. Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but you are a son and if you are a son or, of course, a daughter, then you an heir through God. Now this completely changes the nature of our relationship. And, of course, the Jews would have no understanding of what this means, because the Jewish understanding is that God is so awesome and so magnanimous and so grandurous that you do not even say his name. In fact, for many years, no one even knew how to say the name because it was too ominous.
And so interestingly, Jesus comes and the disciples say, teach us how to pray. And so he says, when you pray, you say, (whispers) My father. My Father, that’s so insolent. Well, you know, there’s different ways to say father. You can say, “Yes, Father,” like “Yes, Sir. Yes, Father.” That’s one way you can say father. There’s another way you can say father: Abba. “Daddy.” “Papa.” It’s a term of close endearment, intimacy of relationship. It’s like the child, or baby, when they first begin to first begin to say their very first words—what words does a baby say first? Mama, papa. But a Hebrew child would say abba—papa, abba. And it’s beautiful. The father would go, aww… he said, papa. He said, abba. He’s so cute, he’s so wonderful… There’s the love and the idea is that now it’s completely changed. It’s intimate, it’s near. And it suggests a relationship where there’s freedom—freedom to love. Love must be free. It must be freely given; it must be freely received.
We raised five kids, many of you know. We have three natural daughters, of course one is gone now. We adopted two boys. Now we, of course, have adopted our grandchild, our granddaughter, [Eva 00:15:25]. So that’s six. I always want our kids to love us. I mean, I always want them to love. But I want them to love because they want to love. I want them to love freely. And when they say, Daddy, Dad… I want them to say it out of a great affection. I don’t want them to say it because I forced them to say it. I don’t want to, you know— You go tell your mother that you love her! And you mean it too! You go tell her that you love her! I don’t want that. I want them to love because they want to love. Love must be free.
Let me use another illustration: Valentine’s Day. Is Valentine’s Day an obligation, or is it an opportunity? You put a date on the calendar because it’s an opportunity to express what you have in you heart, the love that you have, but if you don’t mean it, what does that look like? You buy the flowers, you put a dollar on the counter, there’s you flowers. Well, that doesn’t have a lot of meaning behind it. Oh, I should add some chocolates. They’re on sale. Good. That’s how I feel. Bring the chocolates, say: There are your chocolates, there are your flowers. Now, are you happy? Answer: Not really. Not really. Because that’s not authentic. There’s no genuine love there. You know, several times we’ve asked the question where does evil come from? You know, when God created man, He created man with the ability to choose, the ability to choose to accept, to receive God or to reject Him. A person today can freely reject God. And that is why you see so many places in scripture where God is presenting a choosing. Joshua at the end of his life, he came to Israel and he gave that same challenge to them. Choose! Choose today whom you will serve. As for me in my house, we serve the Lord. When he brought Israel into the Promised Land, one of the first things he did, was bring them into the valley, Jewish leaders on one mountain another set of leaders on another mountain. They would call out the consequences for turning your back on God; these would call out the blessings for receiving God and following after him. I set before you life and death: Choose. Now, if a person chooses to reject God, what are they left with? Well, they don’t have God. What do they have? They have the nature of man. And that’s all they’ve got. The emptiness that comes with it, the decisions of evil that follow after it. It comes from the choice, because love must be free. When you love God as your Abba, is suggests a love that’s freely given and it suggests a relationship where you trust His love, because I think some people struggle with the idea of trusting love.
B. Do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say a person does something wrongful, bad decision, and hurtful decision. Many people, after they make a decision like that, are convinced that God’s response is a response of anger and that God is angry with them and he’s just looking for opportunities to express that anger to them by bringing something destructive to their life. But that’s not love. That’s not trustworthy love. Now, don’t get me wrong God does discipline, but it’s out of love. He knows how to redeem, He knows how to restore, He knows how to correct, but He’s a good good Father. And when you trust that love, you know that He never quits on you. He never gives up on you. He’s always going to press that love into you. And so this is why he is say in Galatians 5:1, “do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
See Paul was amazed. Why would you want to be under the strict supervision of the law? Why in your freedom would you choose to be subject again to that yoke? Now, it’s true that some people actually prefer having someone tell them what to do. Some people actually prefer somebody defining it. I want you to tell me, is that right or is that not right? Is that wrong or is that not wrong? Define it for me. Some people won’t like making decisions for themselves, that’s true. It’s kind of like living in the military, some people prefer that—I don’t want to have to make decisions, I want someone to make decisions for me—but the nature of our relationship to God is based on this: Romans 8:15, “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’”
There it is again. See, when he speaks of the yoke, it shows the burden of being under the heaviness, that yoke. Those who are under the law were under a heavy yoke, because it was harsh supervision, the strictness of that. Those in the world living worldly lives, they also were under a heavy yoke. They were slaves of their own passions—it’s kind of an expression sometimes people use. “He’s a slave of his passion, she’s a slave of her passion.” But it’s a heavy yoke because it brings about the empty soul and harsh consequences. There are many people that are under the heavy yoke of their own passions. Many people are bound in some sexual addiction in one form or another, and they long to be set free from it. It’s a heavy, heavy weight. But, see, Romans 6:12–14, really powerful verse because it says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” The idea of reign is “command,” leading. It dictates, it’s the master so don’t let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lust. Sin shall not be master over you. It’s a great picture for us. Because sin, flesh, wants to be the master. He wants to say, “I want this!” and you’re supposed to go, OK, whatever you want… No! This is what brings the heavy burden of it.
Jesus said, Matthew 11:28–29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy–laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you’ll find rest for your souls.” Trust. This is a love you can trust. I want to take that burden. I want to bring life to you. See this is why—back to Galatians 5:16—such a key for us:
II. Walk by the Spirit
I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
This is the key to victory. This is the key to walking by faith. He said God redeemed those who were under the Law, God redeemed those who were held captive by sin so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts, thereby you cry out, “Abba Father!” See, when you cry out Abba to God, you have a kind of relationship to the Lord where you say, “Abba, Father,” that’s the Holy Spirit. When you say, “Jesus is Lord,” that’s the Holy Spirit. When you’re in worship and God is moving upon your soul, that’s the Holy Spirit. When the Word is being received into the heart and there is something ignited in you by the Word, that’s the Holy Spirit. So he gives the Holy Spirit.
A. The flesh has strong desires
Now let’s put this in context. You remember back in chapter 3, where he said now why was the Law given? The Law was given because of transgressions to restrain from sin. All right. You’re not under the Law. Well then what about those transgressions? What about the desire the flesh has for sin? Well what about that? This is where we have such deep insight into the verses. Notice how he explains to us the flesh has strong desires. We know this is true. If you walk by the Spirit, though, you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. The flesh has desires—cravings is a more literal word in the Greek—the flesh has cravings, but you don’t have to carry out those cravings. Carry out, in the Greek, suggests the meaning “to fulfill, to complete, to accomplish.” It gives to orders and expects you to follow them. You don’t have to follow them, that’s the point he’s making.
One of the vivid illustrations of the fact that the body, the flesh, has strong cravings is when a woman is pregnant. Many, of course, women have experienced—when they’re pregnant—that they have these very strong cravings. Like I want, I need, I’ve really got to have, you know, whatever. I remember when my wife was pregnant with our third and it was about midnight and we’re in bed and she had a craving for chef salad and she says, “I have a craving for chef salad—I really want a chef salad,” to which I replied, “I’m in bed.” And I’ve come to discover, men, that’s not really the right answer there. And so she said, “Shari’s is open 24–hours and I really want a chef salad.” And so she gets on the phone, and she starts calling Shari’s— “Yes, my husband will be right there to get me that chef salad.” I mean, you know… So I come in—you can see them snickering—you know, are you the guy whose wife? Just give me the salad… She had the craving, I fulfilled it. (Laughs)
Under the law, there’s this guardian. There’s a guardian, strict supervision so that those desires are not carried out. Here’s a boy, he’s got a paidagōgós, a guardian over him— “I think I want to go downtown. I think I want to hang out with the downtown guys.” And the paidagōgós says, you’re not doing it. I know that you want to, but you’re not doing it. There’s that supervisor, that guardian to keep it. What happens when there’s no longer a guardian? Let me give you an illustration: A teenager first moving out of the house, no parents, no rules, no paidagōgós. What’s going to happen to that teenager? Go to college, move out on their own, whatever. Show of hands, how many people—look back on your life and remember those days when you first moved out—how many people would say, you know, when I moved out on my own, my life, let’s just say, could have taken a turn for the worse?
Mm hmm. And the rest of you could show a little more honesty, huh? I mean, I was there, I know. Raised five, I know. See what happens is that that freedom is intoxicating. Freedom like that is intoxicating. The judgment is lost and they, many times, find themselves in trouble. What would happen if, given opportunity— See that’s what he says—Galatians 5:13,
You were called to freedom, brethren; however do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh
Here’s another illustration: A child. If you gave a child full opportunity. OK, so the first ten years of a child’s life are usually about candy. I remember the first ten years of my life, candy was the big thing. I had to have candy. Who can I get candy from? Save up my money so that I can buy candy. Of course, when a child gets old enough to start hearing about Halloween, it’s like—what, what, what? Candy? All you can eat? For free? I’m in! How do I do this thing! Because, for kids, it’s all about candy.
B. The Spirit is in opposition to the flesh
Here’s the question: What if there’s no guardian, what if there’s no parent to put restraint on the child? How much candy would a child eat if there was no constraint on that child? I suggest to you that that child would eat so much candy that that child would get sick. But continuing with that illustration, if there continues to be no parent, no guardian to restrain, that child will not only get sick, they will start finding the serious consequences of that: malnutrition. There’s no nutrients in that. Diabetes. And then all the serious consequences of diabetes. Is there not a spiritual equivalent? Isn’t it possible that the flesh, without restraint, can get into serious trouble, and it leads to death?
See the problem with the flesh is that it just wants, and it doesn’t have any consideration for the consequences. It doesn’t look forward and it doesn’t have any thought to that, it just simply lives in the moment: me want stew, me want woman. No thought to the consequences, it just wants. It has cravings and demands that you carry it out. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s like a child? Wouldn’t a child like to be the master, and the parent the servant? The flesh would very much like to be the master and you the servant, but that’s why a child needs a parent. I can’t tell you how many times I said to my kids—raising them up, especially when they were teens—and right there is why you need a parent. “We want to go do such and such.” No you’re not. “But we want to do such and such because such and such reason.” And that’s why you need a parent.
I remember we were going to go to Israel and I was with my sixteen–year–old boy and I said to him, “I want you to know we’re going to be in Israel for two weeks, mom and I, and we’re going to have somebody at the house, living at the house while we’re gone, you know, an adult will be in the house.” What?!? What? I thought that we were going to have the house to ourselves. And right there is why you need a parent. Because I have been around this world a few times and I have lived a few years and I can tell you that leaving a sixteen–year–old and a sixteen–and–a–half–year–old in a house for two weeks alone is not a good formula. Amen?
This is what [Paul] shows us, back to chapter 5. The Spirit is in opposition to the flesh. The Spirit is the life of God and it has its own desires. The life of God within us is what says Jesus is Lord; the life of God within us is what says, “Abba, Father,” it resonates with life, it wants life, it desires life, it wants good things, it wants the consequences that come from peace, it wants the joys, it desires all of these good things. But the flesh has its own desires and these are in opposition; they desire opposite things.
One of the illustrations we’ve been looking at recently is Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Remember his story? God gave him a vision that God was going to use him in great, glorious high places. His brothers didn’t appreciate this, so he was betrayed, sold into slavery and finds himself down in Egypt. Everything possible going wrong, but he has a vision, he has a promise of God. And he’s going to hold onto this promise of God and is living his life according to this promise of God while all of these tragedies are happening. And, interestingly enough, it’s through all of these tragedies that God fulfills the vision. But in the midst of it, there’s this conflict, this opposition, in the sense that he wants things that are good and right and spiritual. He’s holding onto a promise, but Potiphar’s wife, she has eyes for him. He’s young and handsome and she wants him and so she tries to seduce him. And he says no and he refuses to do it. So what you see is, he’s desiring spiritual things, she’s desiring fleshly things, and they’re in opposition. And you see it in powerful verse in Genesis 39:9, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” They are opposed, but look with me, if you would at Galatians 5:17, very interesting verse.
The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
So it kind of suggests the question, well what is it that you please? Is he talking about the things the flesh pleases, or is he talking about the things the Spirit pleases? What is it that you please? What is it that you really want? Do you want the flesh or do you want the Spirit? Let me give you a test, and then you’ll know. Imagine that you’re doing something fleshly—you’re in the midst of doing something fleshly and a Godly friend comes up to you and says, friend what is it that you really want. Do you want this, really? I mean, when you boil it all down to its bottom line, do you want this, or do you want that which is good and Godly and right? Which one do you really want? I’m convinced if you have received Christ as your Lord and Saviour and the Holy Spirit is alive in you, that you would say, I want the Spirit. I was in the flesh, that wrong thing, but I really—when you boil it down—I don’t want that. Really, I want life. I want the Spirit. That’s what I really really want. So this is a really important question. We have both, flesh and Spirit. They have each their own desires. They are both very much opposed to one another. Which one is stronger? It depends on that which fills the heart.
Jesus gave us a great word in Luke 6:45—I quote this often because it’s very powerful and insightful—He said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings evil; for the mouth speaks and the life is lived from that which fills the heart.” So what fills the heart? He says, “the treasure that fills the heart.” Treasure speaks to the word value. What is it that you value? What is it that you find valuable to your life? There’s a scripture: “Your word, O Lord, is more precious to me than silver or gold. Your word, O Lord, is sweeter to me than honey, even the honey from a honeycomb. Your word, O Lord, have I hidden in my heart.” This is where treasure comes. What is it you put into your heart? It’s what you value; it’s what you treasure. I want this, I want this, I desire that.
Let me give you a great verse that really puts it in contrast, and so it’s a fantastic verse for us: Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Now that’s a great verse, because it shows the contrast of what your pour into your life. To be drunk with wine, you have to drink it in; to be filled with the Spirit, you have to receive it in. How do I receive the Spirit? Ask. He says, you ask. God will not withhold that is good when his children ask. He would not withhold his Holy Spirit from those who ask. See, why would you ask? Because I want it. Because I value that. I treasure that life, that’s why I’m asking. See, people often drink because it loosens them up, you know. It makes me jolly, it loosens me up. But it also can take away self–control. Control of self is a pretty key thing. I’m going to be honest, vulnerable. In college, I made a decision. I made a decision in college to never drink again because I was making some very wrongful—OK, fleshly, worldly—decisions and I realized something. You see, my father was an alcoholic, and I saw in living color that alcohol had a grip, had power over him. So I go to college and I start going to the parties of college and drank, OK, too much and I began to see, wait a minute, it’s got power over me. I cannot allow this to have power over me. I cannot allow it to have a position of power in my life. I can’t drink. Others may, I cannot. I’m not speaking about your life, I’m speaking about my life. Others may, I may not because I cannot allow it to have a position of power. See, this is what he says, back to Galatians 5, notice in verse 18,
C. Be led by the Spirit
If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Led. The key word is leading. Leadership. Over. See, being under the strict supervision of the law was the days of old. Now he says, you are being led by the Spirit. And this is true, I could do a show of hands, how many people would say, God has—by his Holy Spirit—has warned me before I’ve done something dumb? Yeah he does. He convicts me when I’m doing it afterwards.
But he’s also the one who ignites my soul. He’s also the one that gives me life. This is such an important thing. You’re not under a guardian, you’ve been set free. So who are you under now? What are you under now?
See, he tells us in chapter 4, you’ve been redeemed from being slaves of sin, you’ve been redeemed from the supervision of the law so that you could be adopted as sons. No, if you’ve been adopted as sons and daughters, you’ve got a father. See, he didn’t just redeem us and set us free on the range. No, I redeemd you so that you could be adopted. And if you’re adopted, you’ve got a father. And if you’ve got a father, you’ve got someone over you. But maybe you say, I don’t like God being over me… Then you need to think that through dearly, my friend. Because he redeemed you so that you could be adopted and that suggests a relationship of nearness where you say “Abba.” Jesus was under the authority of his Father. That’s our Father. Jesus was under that authority, and it’s such an important insight for us.
Remember there was this story, the centurion who came to Jesus and said, my servant is deathly ill, please, please, sir. And Jesus said, I’ll come with you. I’ll come with you to your house. The centurion, the Roman, said, no need, no need. I’m not worthy for you to come under my roof. He said, I understand this. I too am a man under authority. Under authority? You would think he would say, I too am a man of authority! I too am a man under authority, and so I say to this one, Go. And he goes. And so I say to this one, Come. And he comes. All you have to do is say the word, and my servant will be healed. Jesus said, I have not seen faith like this in all of Israel. Go your way, your servant is healed. So the centurion went home and his men came out to him. Your servant, he’s been made well! He said, at what hour? At what hour? They told him the hour. The very hour that Jesus said your servant is healed. What did he grasp? Jesus has authority because he is under authority. Isn’t this a great truth for our lives?
The righteous man is very effective in his life because he’s come to grasp this relationship where God is the Father and we’re under. This is where in Psalm 91:1–2, it’s such a great verse— “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Dwell there. Stay there. In the shadow of the Almighty. “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
One of the most powerful examples in scripture of the importance of staying under the authority of your father and the danger that comes when you do not is the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” Jesus gives us in Luke 15. Jesus gives us a parable: Yeoman comes to his father, I want my inheritance early. The father gives him his share. He leaves the house and he goes into the city and he spends his money on worldly living, women parties, all that. What is the picture for us? He moved himself out from underneath the father, he’s not under the father anymore: “I’m my own man, no one tells me what to do.” And he goes into the city and he spends all of it on wild living.
When it’s all spent up, famine hits the land, he can’t even get a job. Finally he gets a job feeding swine, which is the lowest job a Jew could ever have and then he even gets to the point where he’s jealous because the pigs because the pigs have food and he doesn’t. Then it comes to his mind—my father’s servants are treated better than this—I’m going home. And here’s where you see some great insight. He does not understand the nature of his father, because when he decides to go home, he goes home because he wants a job. I’ll show you: Luke 15:17–19, “When he came to his senses,”—great verse—“he said I will get up I will go to my father I will say to him, Father I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.” So he goes home. Really the story is more about the father than it is the son. The father sees him a long way off. It tells us that he runs after the boy and he comes to him and he falls on him and he’s hugging him and kissing him and the boy has his speech ready… Father, I’ve sinned against Heaven and in your sight. I’m not worthy to be your son. I just need a job. What does the father say in response? He says, bring my robe. No, no— Bring my best robe. Get the best robe, put it on my son. Get a ring, put it on his finger. Authority… Get sandals, put it on his dirty feet. My son was dead, but is now alive. My son was lost, but now he’s found.
Oh, if we could only understand the nature of our Father and the blessing that he wants to pour out to us, we’d never leave our Father again.