Christian, Grow Up!

Bible Book: Galatians  3
Subject: Maturity; Growth
Introduction

Today I am going to speak largely to Christians. The scripture today deals with the Church in Galatia and the immaturity that had developed among the believers there. Paul was writing to say, "Christian, Grow Up!"

Immaturity is widespread among Christians. This Spiritual malady needs special attention. It is addressed several times in the New Testament. Jesus showed how the Pharisees and Sadducees acted like children when he used the parabolic statement, "We have piped unto you and you have not danced, we have mourned unto you and you have not lamented"" (Matthew 11:17). Jesus indicated that the religious leaders of his day were playing church, or acting like children on a spiritual level. Paul told the Corinthians that he could not speak to them as adults, but rather had to write to them as babies because they had not grown up spiritually (1 Corinthians 3:1). Paul indicates in his letter to the churches in Galatia that they had not only failed to grow up in Christ but had regressed. They were acting like children after they had shown that they knew better.

In what way were the Galatians acting childlike on a spiritual level? The Galatian Christians were leaving the liberty of grace and returning to the bonds of the law. They were becoming legalistic though they were supposed to be living under grace.There are two inherent dangers in the Christian life and both are symptoms of spiritual immaturity. One is rebellion. A child has a rebellious nature against authority from the beginning of life. Secondly, a child sometimes fails to take responsibility. A child who continues this kind of behavior, and fails to mature, must be treated like a child. Either of these is a disappointment to the parents and generally to everyone else. Who among us has not seen a child fall in the floor while the mother is trying to shop? The child screams wildly and swings at his mom in protest. When I was growing up, if I had done that, my mom would have taken care of it on the spot and my dad would have applied special treatment of his own to the "spot" when he got home! Sadly, some Christians act like spoiled children. The Galatian Christians were doing the former of these two and the Lord insured that Scripture be written to instruct the believers that this was unsatisfactory behavior for a Christian.

Immaturity might be described as the state of not being yet brought to the level of maturity which is justifiably expected at any given stage in life. Christians should grow up into mature believers. It is an immature Christian who is judgmental of others, who feels he is serving God best when he has a long face, and is obeying a long list of rules and regulations and wants everyone else to do the same. It is also an immature believer who must be constantly corrected from wrong doing or chased down because he is absent from his place of responsibility. One of the signs of responsibility is the willingness and ability of youth to take directions and then carry them out without constant supervision. The student who goes from high school to college learns this lesson quickly. The college professor seldom warn students of an upcoming exam more than once. Homework assignments are often given and then not mentioned again. The mature and wise student will do the work without the professor acting like a nurse maid. The same can be said about the mature child of God. When a Christian is mature, he or she will carry out God's work with faithfulness and gladness without someone having to continually providing reminders. And then when the work is done, the mature Christian will not demand a lot of attention for the service rendered.

The Galatian Christians had fallen into a trap of setting up rules, then praising those who kept them. All the time they were doing this they believed that the rule-keeping won God's approval. They had gone back to acting like children in a classroom at school. Assignments were given, monitors took names of those who failed to do the assignments and this was supposed to please the teacher. That may work in the sixth grade, but it should be unnecessary in a sophomore college English class. The same should be said about us in God's work. We should grow up into mature believers who attend, tithe, pray, witness, worship and serve out of joy and not obligation.

What can cause a believer to serve without making it into an obligation? What can cause a Christian to worship without it becoming a duty? What can cause a believer to grow up so that he is mature in the Lord and that his obedience pleases God because it is a matter of joy not duty? That is what Paul shares.

Paul shares pictorial, vivid examples of one theme. That theme is the appreciation of what Christ has done for us and the glorious position we occupy due to His grace and mercy. Paul appeals to us to grow up based on our appreciation of these realities. Note four examples of God's grace toward the Christian.

I. THE PRISON EXAMPLE 3:24; 4:1-5

Paul states that the Christian was once held in prison. The prison which held us was the Law. The Law had us bound because we could not keep it. When you are guilty of breaking the Law, you are bound and taken into custody. Who can forget the graphic video coverage of people being thrown up against a vehicle or wall by a policeman? The perpetrator is handcuffed and hauled off to lock-up! That is what the Law of right and wrong does to us. If we live under the Law, we are living bound up in chains because none of us live perfectly.

Our escape from the prison of the Law was made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. He paid the price to release us from the shackles and chains of the Law. In fact, he wore our chains to the death chamber, died in our place, and then broke the chains by coming back from the dead! Therefore, we are no longer under the Law! We are free. And if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!

If we now go back to legalism or rebellion, we are putting the chains back on our hands and feet.

The songwriter penned,

"Free from the law, O happy condition.

Jesus has died and there is remission

Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,

Christ has redeemed us once for all!" (Philip Bliss, 1873)

If we appreciate what Christ did for us, we will not put back on the chains of the Law. We will not rebel. We will not become legalistic. We will rejoice in Him and serve Him with gladness. Don't misunderstand this idea. We do not come under grace and then go on willingly committing sin. When we receive Jesus, He is our Lord. We want to live for Him and to please Him. We don't do this because it makes us right with Him, but because through His sacrifice and grace we have already been made right with Him. It is not the Law of God that shackles us, but the love of God that compels us!

II. THE PEDAGOGUE EXAMPLE 4:6-7

Now Paul turns to another example to show us that we should be mature in Christ. This example is one which needs some explanation for us to understand. In the biblical days, it was the custom for a well to do family to hire a pedagogue or tutor to care for the moral and physical welfare of their child. The child was watched over by this educator or pedagogue each hour of the day. The child did not leave the house without the pedagogue being present. When the child became an adult, the pedagogue was removed and the child became a son. This was symbolized by a change of garments.

Paul uses the idea of Christ being our garment in 3:27. We have been freed of the pedagogical task of the Law. You see, the Law was our pedagogue. The Law bound us like a slave. The child was no better than a slave until he became mature. He could go no where and do nothing which his guardian did not allow. The Law was our guardian. This guardian led us to Christ. One might say that this pedagogue drove us to Christ. In Christ we moved from being children to becoming sons! When we were brought by the Law to see that we were sinners, we flew to Jesus! He forgave us through His shed blood. His perfect life was given to us as a gift! We did not earn it. We could not earn it. Only love could provide it.

The Law cannot change us into what we should be. For example, the law of our state may tell us that it is illegal to speed in an automobile; however, the law does not keep us from speeding. The law may cause us to be caught in the act of speeding and it may cost us plenty when that happens, but the law itself does not prevent us from doing something that is illegal. In the same way, God's Law told us what was forbidden, but it did not keep us from committing the forbidden acts. The more we try to live under the Law, the more frustrated we become. But, as Christians, we fled to Christ who forgave us and freed us from the Law. Now, if we are mature in Christ, we live in the joy of serving Him rather than under the terrible restrictions of the Law. We do not break the Law because we love serving Christ. That is the idea Paul is presenting to us.

Anyone who does go back to legalism or resorts to rebellion against God, is acting like a little child would act. He is showing his immaturity before God and all the other believers. The mature Christian does not use grace as an excuse for going on in sin; nor does the mature Christian go back to seeking God's approval by doing good things. The mature Christian loves Jesus because Jesus first loved! We serve out of devotion to Him. The Law can never make service joyful. Sin cannot make life joyful, except for a short season. But, knowing, loving and serving Jesus provides joy unspeakable and full of glory!

III. THE PERSONAL EXAMPLE 4:6-7

Paul now turns to a very personal example. He states that we are sons of God and now we can say, "Abba, father". This may not seem important, but it is very important. Paul is showing that we are not serving a God whom we should fear or rebel against. We should love our Heavenly Father who gave His Son for us and has placed His Spirit in all us as believers. He has made Himself accessible to us. He has given us the key to the throne room. He has said, "Son, drop by anytime and talk with me." He does not want us to be like the brother of the prodigal son who served his father but did so legalistically. He would rather you come to Him in a personal, loving way, even if it is to confess some wrong doing! The boy, in Luke 15, who came home from the pig sty was welcomed by the Father because he was acting like a son. Note how he treated the prodigal when he returned. He fell on his neck and kissed him. The Heavenly Father does not want legalism or rebellion, He longs to hold you in a loving relationship.

Any Christian who appreciates just how good God has been, and how He has made Himself so available for us, will want to grow up into a mature and loving Christian. He will seek to act in a mature way toward the loving Heavenly Father.

IV. THE PRAISE EXAMPLES 4:15-16

A. The Rejoicing

What has happened to your joy? Oh, Christian, do you see the meaning of this question? Paul was remembering the great days he had with the saints in the churches in Galatia. They had praised God together, shared testimonies, loved the Lord and one another with a fervent emotion. The Word of God was not drudgery, it was a delight. It was not a chore to serve Jesus, it was a celebration! When Paul had been with them, giving to the Lord's work had not been a burden but a blessing. Paul reminds them that when he was with them before he was ill. His eyes were afflicted with a dreadful disease which caused white pus to form and run from his eyes. It affected his vision and certainly made him unattractive to look upon. But Paul reminds them that they never were bothered by that before. In fact, he says that they were ready to take out their own eyes and give them to him! Great sacrifice did not bother them. They did not worry over the matter of obedience, they willingly threw themselves into the work, walk and worship of God with joy. Now Paul shows them that their joy is gone. They are now going through the motions.

When I was a high school student I hated to study. I hated to read. I hated to go to school. To me the work was a duty. But by the time I got to college I had changed. Study was fun! I loved to read! I couldn't get enough. I know you will think I am crazy but I used to hate to see night come because I would have to quit studying and go to bed. If I did not have my wife as a witness to that fact, I would be afraid to tell you that lest you go away assured that I am stretching the truth. Now which do you think I did better - the work in high school or the studies in college? You guessed it! My work in college excelled head and shoulders above the work I did in high school. Paul calls upon the Galatian Christians to stop doing service for God as a duty, and he calls on them to return to serving God as a joy and delight.

Many Christians miss the joy of the Christian life. I am reminded of a small group of Christians meeting in a church on Sunday night. Most Sunday morning attendees were not present. The preacher called on a man in the congregation to lead in prayer and he prayed something like this. "O Lord, we are here tonight to worship you. Bless us here in this Sunday night while all those other people are out there having fun." Is it drudgery to serve the Lord? It seems for this man that he considered his presence in God's House to be duty while it thought of others not present as having 'fun.' Sadly, that is true of many immature believers! Let us praise Him with a true heart of joy.

B. The Remembrance

He even tells us how. He tells them to remember that they were once in prison, bound and held for the death chamber, but Jesus set them free!!! We must remember that once we were led by the Law everywhere we went. Here and there were signs that said, "Don't do this and don't do that." But, Jesus saved us and now we are free of those signs representing the Law. We are free to serve Him in love and joy.

Conclusion

One of the best stories I ever read to illustrate this point came from Harry Ironside. Dr. Ironside told of a Navaho Indian who went with him once on a trip. Once they arrived at the conference a discussion broke out as to the difference in the law and grace. The Navaho Indian stood to give an explanation of the Law and Grace. The Indian said he saw a sign in a certain city that said, "No Spitting Here". He told how he looked and there he saw where many had been spitting and so he too spat there as well. He then told how he came to California and was ushered into a beautiful home. The carpets were beautiful and the appointments so lovely. He was left alone. He said he noted that there was no sign saying, "No Spitting Here". Yet he looked all around and noticed that no one had been spitting there. He realized that no sign was needed in that place, because the mere beauty of the surroundings prohibited anyone from spitting there. He said that the same was true for the person living in a right relationship with Christ. We need no signs, no laws, because His beauty makes us want to do what is right. (H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 40-42.)

The fact that God has made Himself so available to us leads us to look up and say, "Abba, Father." The term is actually closer to our term "daddy." God wants us to be happy. He desires for us to have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Dear Christian, let us renew our love for Jesus! Let us thank Him for His grace and love, and let us say, "I will serve Him, because I love Him!" We can be mature believers, if we love Him and rejoice in His grace.

Let me add, in closing, that no one can be free of the Law or its eternal consequences without Jesus Christ. The chains of the Law in this life become eternal chains in the life to come for those who reject God's saving grace in Christ. Come to Jesus today. He loved you enough to die in your place. You do not have to be gripped by the Law, nor do you have to face the Judge of eternity with your sins. Come to the Lord today and accept Him as your Savior and your Lord! It is a decision you will appreciate in this life and the life to come, for only He can give you joy and that more abundantly!