Hold Your Ground
By Tim Heider
Music Director Cornerstone Church Amarillo
October 17, 2017
“Stand fast, therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and
do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
It was a cold evening in late December when I walked into the restaurant.
I had gone through the line, paid for my food, and was headed into the dining room to find a table. Almost immediately I recognized a couple seated nearby. They waved a friendly wave, we said hello, and they invited me to sit with them. Feeling the holiday cheer, I asked, “So what are you doing for Christmas?”
“We don't celebrate Christmas,” they informed me. “We observe the Jewish feasts.”
“Oh, are you Jewish?” I asked.
“No, but we keep the Jewish religious holidays and traditions.”
Now, I'd grown up going to church and I thought I knew the Bible well. This was a witnessing opportunity if I ever saw one! I was ready for this.
“Did you know that keeping the feasts and traditions can't bring you salvation?” I asked, feeling just a little smug.
That's when I got broadsided. I was prepared to share the Gospel to this couple, but to my surprise they readily agreed that keeping the feasts and laws of the Old Covenant wasn't necessary for salvation. They believed in Jesus and the cross and everything. So why did this good, well-meaning Christian couple insist that we should keep the feasts? They believed it made God happy, the same way that a father is pleased when his child obeys him.
Deep down inside, I knew this was wrong. I used every Scripture and argument that I could think of, but I didn't seem to be able to refute the idea to their satisfaction or my own. I've been a Christian almost all my life, so it felt strange to have someone try and witness to me. I became increasingly frustrated as they tried to convince me of something I knew was false, but I didn't know the answers or Scriptures to give them.
Maybe I wasn't ready for this.
I went home really bothered that night. When I got home, I called one of the most Biblically-knowledgeable people I knew—my dad. I told him what happened and he reassured me that all this rule-keeping was unnecessary. Then he told me that there was a book of the Bible devoted to exactly this subject, the book of Galatians. How about that—an entire book of the Bible with the answers that I needed!
As soon as I got off the phone, I picked up my Bible and read the entire book of Galatians (It's only six chapters.). Lo and behold, it was like the whole thing opened up to me and I understood it. Every question and objection was answered as clearly as I could have hoped for. Who knew the Bible could do that?
Here's what I learned from that little encounter.
First, the law served a very important function. It was meant to show us what sin looks like and point the way to Christ (see Romans 7:7 and Galatians 3:24). But the law was never meant to save anyone. Keeping the law only brings two things: a curse (Galatians 3:10) and death (Romans 6:23). Jesus came to save us from both of those things. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.').”
Fine. We know that the law doesn't save us. No question there. But we're expected to live differently now that we've believed in Jesus. What is it that separates us from the rest of the world? Keeping the law? That kind of makes sense. Everyone knows actions speak louder than words, so our actions should show that we're followers of Jesus. What better way to show God that we're serious about being Christians than to observe the feasts and rituals He gave us. Surely that would make God happy. After all, the rest of the world isn't even trying to keep the rules. Those sinners.
There's just one problem—death breeds death. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” You can keep all the rules, but they're not going to bring you life. Remember the two things that the Law brings? Death and a curse. That's what you're sowing when you keep the law, and that is ultimately what you're going to reap. You can't get live fruit from a dead tree.
Paul says in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect in the flesh?” Imagine that you are a master painter who has just finished a work of art that took years to complete. Proud of your creation, you hang it up for display in an art gallery. Then imagine that an amateur artist with only a few months of experience saunters up with a paint brush and tube of paint and says, “Hey,
this looks pretty good, but it needs a little work. Just let me touch up these trees and clouds a bit. Then it will be done.” How would you feel? Upset? Indignant? Jesus didn't leave salvation half-finished. There is not one tiny brush-stroke that you can add to His master work of salvation that will improve or complete it. Salvation was fully realized when He said, “It is finished,” on the cross.
Galatians 4:9-11 says, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” So, when you return to keeping the law, you are returning to the very thing from which Christ came to set you free. To add insult to injury, continuing in these beggarly elements makes Christ's sacrifice of no value. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Imagine Jesus throwing his hands up in exasperation, saying, “What did I even die for? Was my sacrifice not good enough?”
Does any of this sound like something that would make Father God happy? I think not.
If keeping the law doesn't make God happy, what does? Walking with God through faith in Jesus is what makes Him happy. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” All of the Old Testament saints before, during, and after the law pleased God through faith. Galatians 3:6 reveals that Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” He looked ahead to a covenant based on better promises, not from the smoke-shrouded peak of Mount Sinai or from Jerusalem, but a covenant originating in a City that was not made by human hands. (You can read all about this in Galatians 4:21-31 and Hebrews 11:8-10.) Abraham understood that the current way of accessing God through animal sacrifice was temporary and that a better sacrifice was coming. Now that the sacrifice is made, we make use of it in the same manner that Abraham did—through faith. The law was an unbearable burden, but by faith we have new freedom from the law, the curse, and death. If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed. (John 8:36).
If someone tries to get you back on the rule-keeping treadmill of death, remember Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast, therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Don't grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). Keep running the race set before you (Hebrews 12:1). Get a revelation of the freedom that Christ has brought you into and hold your ground!
Hear the song inspired by this story at http://www.timheidermusic.com/music