Since Lord's Day last we've been on our fifth serving of Freedom in Christ, thanks to Pastor John. He started us off reading from Galatians chapter 3, verses 10 through 14: "For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because 'the righteous will live by faith'. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, 'The person who does these things will live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
“Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (or a tree, or a cross). Keep that in mind through this recap fellows. Hope that by the end of this recap we all understand that the curse was broken, which is eternally important to us, if only we believe.
Pastor John continues to emphasize to us that inherently imperfect men cannot measure up to the demands of the Ten Commandments, cannot live according to the Law as handed down to Moses twice. Our heavenly Father foresaw as much and sent His perfect Son to take upon Himself all our imperfection – our sin – that if we believe in Him, we are absolved of our sin; we are made righteous in the eyes of the Father. This rescue, this salvation not by earning, but by believing, (and then spending our daily lives gratefully trying to imitate).
By way of illustration of the point Pastor John opened a book of fairy tales and recalled the “Princess and the Frog, which figured in the “Once Upon A Time” TV series. In it, a true love kiss breaks a curse. So it is also with us! A savior comes, to break the curse of sin and death. That curse is laid out for us in Galatians. 3:10. "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
What that means, fellows, is that trying to do the impossible in EARNING salvation according to the law is doomed to failure; none of us can humanly succeed. And in trying and failing to do what we humanly cannot do we are...cursed! Thrown off a cliff as it were, or something equally catastrophic. So trying to live according to the law will of itself bar us from salvation.
Now, as we have said before, God's holiness cannot tolerate the proximity, the nearness, of unholiness. Yet at the end of time we, each of us, MUST come near to God. Well then?
Read Isaiah 6:5 “'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'”
Coming near means to die from God's holiness....except that the Son of God came to save us by covering us with His holiness! Remember Moses and the burning bush? The burning bush is an example. Jesus was, in effect, burned for us. What has been burned cannot be burned again. The final sacrifice.
We read 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins” on his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; 'by his wounds you have been healed.'”
We read from Galatians above that cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. Only Jesus could break the curse of sin and death by Himself being hung on a tree.
Some of you fellows at least have read Chronicles of Narnia. One major story in it is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. In that story four children, whose diverse characters seem to sum up mankind, encounter The White Witch who personifies evil, and Aslan, a lion, who seems like a portrait of the Christ in his goodness and self-sacrifice.
In reading such a story and taking it in we can readily see that Jesus is enough. His grace is sufficient, just as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
We march down a long hall of faith when read from the Book of Hebrews chapter 11. Here we read chapter 11 verses 13 through 16 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Pastor John explained to us that Abraham (one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11) knew that the REAL blessing was not in land, progeny or anything else. The real blessing was God's promise of “a better land” which we know as life eternal with Him.
Further on in Hebrews 11 we read verses 32 through 38. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”
As Pastor John agreed with us, all that really didn' t sound like a blessing Yet we soon realize that the faith held by those people was incomparably the greatest blessing. He then remembered Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries who went to a remote region of Ecuador in 1956 to spread the Gospel. He knew before he went that it was very dangerous, and he was killed before he could get going in his work. But his wife and others came after him, and their forgiving example won converts belief in the Christ as nothing else could have. Jim Elliot's attitude was profoundly simple: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose”. If the author of Hebrews were writing today, surely he would include Jim Elliot as a hero of faith.
The Gospel is heart surgery, by which the Savior removes our hearts of stone and replaces it with hearts of flesh. As we cannot ascend to heaven on our own, God came down to where we are to give us hope and eternal blessing. Becoming better people is not what the Gospel is about. Nor a better life. All this temporal stuff we worry about every day won't matter. Whether or not we each have eternal life is the bottom line.
We summed up our installment in Freedom in Christ by reading John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
Truly, next to this whatever else we know...is dust.