Series > Worshiping the Spirit

The Spirit of Sonship

Ryan Tompkins // April 14, 2019

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Sermon Transcript

scripture Passage // Galatians 3:26–4:7 (ESV)

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”


We need to cover four bases this morning, and those bases are as follows. Number one, believing the wrong thing. Number two, living as a slave. Number three, living as sons and daughters. And number four, freedom as sons and daughters. So first, believing the wrong thing.

Sandy Fox was a journalist in the 1970s and she landed in Atlanta in November of 1974. She was on a trial period with an American newspaper and was trying to cover the Vice President Spiro Agnew at the time, that didn't work out. She was headed down to Florida, but she was single and lived the lifestyle that was not uncommon for her when she checked into the Holiday Inn she was staying at to make her way to the hotel bar, where she would hang out for the evening. That night a man approached her, young and very handsome, somewhat mysterious individual, asked her to dance, and then they began a conversation.

He found out that she was headed to the south of Florida. He said, "Well, I'm headed in that direction as well. Why don't we travel together and I can show you some of the states?" Sandy was a bit of an adventurer and she decided that she would do that. So they spend the next two weeks making their way down the Eastern Seaboard to the south of Florida.

Eventually, it was time for Sandy to go back to London and the day before she was due to fly back, she broke it off with with this individual. They parted company and decided to go their individual ways. The two weeks having been fun enough. And it was the next morning as Sandy was headed to catch her airplane that the police approached her and detained her, and began questioning her, "So do you know who you spent the last two weeks with?" And she knew a name, but it wasn't his real name. His real name was Paul John Knowles and he was one of the most notorious serial killers of the 1970s. By this point in time, he had killed 17 individuals, would eventually kill 20 before he died in a shootout with police.

And Sandy comes to realize that I just spent two weeks with a profoundly famous serial killer. And so she's overwhelmed that she would tell it, A, with the danger that she had been in, unbeknownst to herself. But B, overwhelmed in the sense of how could I have made this mistake? How could I believe this was a decent individual? How could I have been attracted to this person? How could I have spent two weeks with this individual?

When we consider Sandy, we see that she had come to believe the wrong thing, but what's really interesting about Sandy's story is she process this for a couple years and then eventually wrote a best-selling book in the 1970s, which was called Killing Time. And in that book, she chronicles the two weeks she spent with Knowles.

Now, in her own telling she believed that she was harsh on Knowles, but she came under quite a bit of scrutiny and criticism after the book was released because people said, "You actually go out of your way to defend Knowles." What became clear is that she had developed feelings for him and whether she was trying to justify herself or defend him out of feelings for him, she end up protecting him and said there were lots of reasons that he ended up the way he was and that we people, didn't give him a fair hearing. And we see how dangerous it is sometimes to believe that an enemy is a friend.

There are other things that we believe incorrectly. That's just a story of an individual being duped to believe than an enemy is a friend. But there are more macro, bigger stories like the story associated with autism spectrum disorder.

If you know anything about autism, in the last 30 years, it's been dramatically on the rise. Few would dispute that it is increasingly significantly, and we're not sure at all why. In 1992, about 1 in 150 kids were diagnosed with autism. By 2004, just ten years later, about 1 in 68. That's a little bit hard to measure and even evaluate because the boundaries of diagnosis have change considerably over time for autism, but one of the question that as confronted the scientific field is, why is autism on such an increasing rise?

One doctor in 1995. A British gastroenterologist came out. His name is Andrew Wakefield and he was doing various studies and he said, "I think that I figured out part of the problem. My studies strongly indicate that the MMR vaccine, measles, mumps, and rubella is a cause of autism. This is one of the reasons we're seeing its increase." Well this hit the national media and was a huge story, and people became very scared in some ways to engage the MMR vaccine. And thousands of families decided not to pursue that vaccination.

The scientific field engaged a ton of research for the next 12 years saying, "Is Wakefield right? Has he discovered something? We need to understand this if it's true." So after 12 Years of pretty intense research, a number of things came to light. Number one is that there is absolutely no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. Number two was a lot of things that came to light about Wakefield himself. Wakefield had a patent on a single-use vaccine and what he was arguing, you know the MMR has three vaccines in one shot. What he was arguing is that's the problem, we need to go to single-use vaccine so you get one vaccine for measles, one vaccine for mumps, and one vaccine for rubella. Well, he had a pan on the new single-use vaccine and stood to make a considerable amount of money if people stopped using the combined vaccine.

It also taken a lot of money from lawyers to testify in cases against vaccine manufacturers. Families that were suing them for what had happened in their children's life. Even more than that, lawyers were funding his research. Lawyers who wanted to engage big class action lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. And to the extent that it also became clear that Wakefield had falsified a great deal of his research, to the point that he was eventually banned for life from performing any kind of medicine. And yet thousands were affected by this by this lie, this false truth.

It wasn't that long ago that a family in this church said, "We're not vaccinating our kids because we're afraid that it will contribute to autism." Now, we read of measles outbreaks all over the country, affecting the health of different sectors of the population because it was based on a wrong idea. It was based on a fear that wasn't really true.

We see another example of what it means and what it cost to believe the wrong thing. Now the reason that's important, it's important for you to think about and wrestle with and start to think, what does it mean to believe the wrong thing? Because that's at the heart of the story of the Galatian church, and it's at the heart of our application today.

The Galatians were being led to believe the wrong thing about the gospel and we have that same tendency as well. That's what we have to understand. The thing that they needed, that is at the heart of Paul's letter to the Galatians is that they have been freed in Christ, no longer are slaves, Paul's language, but the Galatians are choosing to live in a way that keeps them as slaves. They're not choosing freedom in Christ. They're choosing an ongoing slavery to the law. And this is what we have to unpack. This brings us to the second point, which is living as a slave.

Notice how Paul characterizes the condition of all humanity prior to the coming of Christ. In verse 23, Jews are held captive under law and are imprisoned. In verse 24, they are under a guardian. And at 4:1-3, it refers to laws of guardians and managers and enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. Now, what does Paul mean when he says that the law is one example of the elementary principles of the world? For Paul, this is shorthand for any form of old time religion. Before the coming of Christ, all ancient religions operated with a few common elements. Number one, you'd be blessed for obedience. Number two, you'd be curse for disobedience. And number three, you had to handle the atonement of your sin. All ancient religious had some system of sacrifice by which you would atone for sin, and this includes the Old Testament law.

Paul identifies the law in this sense as an elementary principal of the world in Galatians, saying this is what characterizes period of slavery and imprisonment. This is how both Jew and Gentile were living whether according to Jew, according to the Old Testament law, or as a gentile according to some of the religious system that operated based on the same principles. But Paul also says that this time of imprisonment has come to a decisive end. In 3:25, "Those who are known by Jesus are no longer under that guardian." And 4:4, "The fullness of time has come, which brings redemption." And in 4:7, "The Galatians are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters, heirs, not through Abraham, but heirs through God himself." God has made his people his own heirs, his own children.

But if you know anything about Paul's letter to the Galatians, here's the catch. All the slavery imprisonment language, and then this declaration that you're freed in the coming of Christ, but Paul's charge to the Galatians is that you are returning to a place of slavery. Having known freedom in Christ, having known the spirit, you would prefer to go and live under this old religious system. Now, why would anybody do that? Why do you do that?

What scares us about being free in Christ and what is attractive to us about living under law? Remember when we talk about living under law, we're talking about this shorthand for the economic system of the law, which is essentially you are blessed for obedience, you are cursed for disobedience, and you must make sacrifice to atone for your sin. The maintenance of your righteousness is ultimately up to you. Now, who would want that if we could be freed by Christ? Well, I think there are a number of different reasons, and they're different for different people in terms of why the law is attractive to us.

Over the years I've seen different motifs repeat themselves in people's lives and even in my own heart in various seasons. One is this, some of you are so filled with shame and guilt that the idea that you are radically forgiven and accepted by Christ is overwhelming. And you spent a lot of time punishing yourself, and you prefer a God who would punish you because you can't imagine a God who knows you as you know you and would be forgiving and merciful toward you. You're like the character in the movies who flagellates their own back. You don't have a whip, you don't do that physically, but in your mind and heart you whip yourself all the time. You have a great contempt for yourself and you can't understand a God that doesn't have the same kind of contempt for you that you have for yourself. So you drift back toward law.

Some of you perhaps more fairly, all of us, are just a bit lazy. What's easier, law or gospel? I tell you, any day of the week and twice on Sunday, it seems easier to me to keep Sabbath or to not look at my neighbor's wife and covet her than it is to pick up my cross and follow after Jesus and to love my enemy. Those are two different standards, and the laws certainly an easier one, and one that we can check boxes off more quickly than we can when we ask ourselves if we've really emptied ourselves and have come to look more like Jesus himself, who is the new standard.

Some of you don't like Jesus and prefer to live under law because you've lived for a very long time and it started very early for you, a life of contempt. What I mean by that is you establish your identity by constantly judging and critiquing other people in order to lift yourself up. And to live in that way, you need a law. You need a law by which you can say, "That person is foolish, and they're going to get what they deserve." And you can have judgment toward them and you can feel better about your own righteousness, and you like living in that system. Because to move towards Jesus means to say, "Oh, I've been radically forgiven and it brought nothing to the table. Well, that means I need to be radically forgiving towards others."

We might summarize all of them just simply with our addiction to power and control. When we live under law, we have this sense of, "I'm in control of things, I'm maintaining my own righteousness, I'm powerful. Because if I do something wrong, I can atone for it. And if I do something right, I can expect God to deliver to me what I need from him." And in that, the law feels somewhat comforting. Not in a healthy way, but that's why we're drawn to it.

So are you living more by law than by freedom? Well, in order to answer that question you'd have to know something about what it looks like to live under law and live under freedom. What does it look like when you're living as a slave? Well, it would be hard to find a better picture than the religious leaders in the New Testament with whom Jesus takes most issue. These people who are most versed in the Old Testament, who are religious authorities, but inside, their hearts have become so corrupted.

In Matthew 23, Jesus offers seven woes to the religious leaders. We can't cover all seven, but see if you don't have anything in common with the religious leaders as Jesus takes issue with them. "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if anybody swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'" The religious leaders had come to value money, gold more than they valued righteousness. They preferred reward to actually seeking what pleased God. And so in your own walk, are you more interested in the reward or what you perceived to receive from God as a result of your obedience than you are by simply thirsting and hungering for righteousness? As Jesus says, those will be blessed.

Or how about this, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, and dill, and cumin, and neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." Are you a person who justifies yourself by saying, "Oh, I'm doing pretty good in the minor elements of the law"? And that's where you like to camp out because it's pretty safe, but you neglect to ask yourself if you're being faithful in the weightier elements of the law. What that sounds like is this, "Oh, I'm doing pretty good. I didn't cheat on my taxes, I tithe to the church, didn't look at anything I wasn't supposed to, and that cursing sometime. I'm doing quite well. Righteousness galore." But the question you never asked is, well how have you loved your neighbor as yourself? How have you emptied yourself and treated others as more important than yourself? How have you turned the other cheek to an enemy who persecutes you?

We're talking now about the weightier elements of God's economy, of God's righteousness. And if you're prone to rely on the smaller elements to establish your righteousness, then you know something about the religious leaders.

Lastly, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and uncleanness." We all know we're committed to our image, we're committed to the picture that we presented people that portrays our righteousness. And if I'm committed to that, it's a sign that I'm living by law because I'm not willing to put anything else out there that might compromise the blessing I think that will come with a perceived righteousness both from others and then from God. But if I realize that I'm full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness, I throw myself on the mercy of God. And if I realize that even knowing all that, God still loves me enough to put the spirit of the Son in me as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus, then I really don't have anything to hide. I'm deeply loved, I'm forgiven, and I'm trying to grow, and I'm not going to grow if I'm hiding things, I'm only going to grow if I'm owning my own sin and repenting of it. So what are you hiding? And if you're hiding, know that you're living by law. There's no reason to hide, if you live in the freedom of the gospel.

The point of this for Paul with the Galatians and for us is that living by law will never deliver. The law was never intended to grant life. The law was intended to prepare God's people for the coming of Christ. So to move back into laws, to move backwards in redemptive history, and has to live in a place in which you will never actually find hope and deliverance and freedom. It's moving back, according to Paul, in place of slavery, the place of imprisonment.

Well, what then, point three, does it mean to live as sons and daughters? Paul says, we are now having been adopted by God. The very cosmos is remade. In verse 24, you see that the law was our guardian, but Christ has come so that we might be justified by Jesus' faithfulness, which kindles in us, according to verse 26, "A faith that makes us sons of God." In verse 27, "We are not only baptized into Christ, but have put on Christ." Baptism is a very important sacrament in Pauline theology because when you are baptized, Paul says, two things happen, when you participate in the death and resurrection of Christ so that it's applied to you, but secondly you're actually equipped for what is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus. In other words, Paul will use interchangeably the idea of being clothed with Christ and clothed with the new self, which requires that you set aside your old set of clothes. This is what is occurring as a result of God's work in Jesus.

In verse 29, we are thus heirs according to the promise of God. In 4:5, we are redeemed from being entrapped in the law in order to be adopted as God's children. And In verse 6, the Spirit of the Son has come into our hearts, making them flesh by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" ‘Abba’ being the Aramaic term of intimacy for a father figure, by which we cry out, "Daddy."

The idea is when you see a child that is threatened or a child that is scared. When I meet a new kid in the in the church and I try to make friends with them, they're terrified. What do they do? They run and grab the leg of their parental unit because they believe that is the place where they are loved and safe. And Paul saying, this is what you should understand your relationship now with God to be. That when you feel threatened and when you live in this precarious world, your default should be to run and to grab the leg of your Heavenly Father. that that's the safest place for you, and he cares the most for you.

It's astonishing picture of intimacy and love that is unique utterly in history of the world in terms of that kind of intimacy being applied do a God in his disposition toward you. That his love for you is that fantastic.

All right. What does it mean really to live in that love, to live as a son and daughter? It's hard for some of you, particularly if you grew up in a home in which your parental figures were not that helpful. When you think of what is it to look to a father, that's a hard question because you didn't have a father necessarily to look to. What you have to do is begin to believe the God as father is better than any human father that any of us could have hoped for. And sometimes it's hard to see and hard to cling to, but what Paul is going to say is if you want to enjoy, this brings us to our fourth point, if you want to enjoy freedom in Christ, freedom as sons and daughters, then you have to trust the Father. You have to believe that he is committed to your good.

What does it look like to actually live as sons and daughters? Well, fortunately for us, Paul takes up this question in Galatians itself. By the time he gets to chapter 5, Paul essentially is saying, "Look Galatians, I've explained all this to you theologically." Here's where the rubber meets the road. For those of you who have felt that this is an abstract in any fashion, it stops being abstract right now. You can either live under the law, which, by chapter 5, he also calls living according to the flesh, or you can live by the spirit, which is walking by the spirit by the time you get to chapter 5. So are you a son and daughter?

If you look at verse 19 in chapter 5, this is how Paul characterizes the flesh, "Now, the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you... " Remember he's writing to the church. "As I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Paul is saying, "You've got a choice Galatians and let's put it out there. If you want to live according to the law, then you walk according to the flesh, and if you walk according to the flesh, you live in slavery. And the result of your living in slavery is that you will not inherit the Kingdom of God because you've chosen flesh over the Son."

And then Paul goes on. What does it mean to be a son and a daughter? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." So being a son or daughter is to believe, yes, my old self is crucified and is being crucified. I don't want to live according to law, but I want to live in the freedom that Christ offers. Which means I'm not going to hide my sin and it means the daily I'm going to have to get up saying what does it mean to die to myself and what does it mean to live for God and to glorify him in all things. And the result of that, which of course you have to be relying on the Spirit, is the Fruit of the Spirit, and who is free? Dissensions, envy, rivalry, divisions, drunkenness, or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

You tell me which individual is free between those two. One is a life of slavery and hopelessness, and one is a a life of joy and fulfillment as Christ makes us new. It's pretty hard to live in that place. It's hard for two reasons. Number one, you and I we grossly underestimate the inability of us to think ... Well, let me put it in another way. We think we're way smarter than we are.

Actually one of the marvels of psychology is how predictable humanity is, and how easy it is to persuade human beings of the wrong thing. There are countless studies that demonstrate this. One famous one came out of Stanford in the 1970s. It took a group of college students and gave each of the college students 25 pairs of suicide notes. They said, "One is real and one is artificial. And we want to see how good you are at figuring out which is which. So read both and tell us which is true and which was written fictionally." So the students go through this and do all of this and the researchers come to the students and they have one group that they come to and they say, "You're amazing. You got 24 out of 25 right. You're gifted at figuring this out. You have a sense for it." And went to another group of students they said, "You only got 10 out of 25. You probably don't want to make a career out of doing anything like this."

And the researchers went to them and said, "We're just kidding. It's all made up. But just out of curiosity, how do you think you would do at figuring out something like that? You know, if we did ask you to guess, how many do you think you could right?" Well, what do you think the group that was told that they were exceptional at it said? "I'm really pretty good at this. I think I'd do great." And what do you think the group that was told that they were bad at it said? "I don't think I'd be very good at that. I think my percentage would be really low."

We could do studies all day long of ways in which if an idea is suggested to human being, how easily that idea is incorporated to the extent that it affects the way they look at themselves and the world. And all the time, the flesh, the world, and the devil are saying to you, "You'll be better off if you live according to law. You can move back into that world. You're going to be safer, you're going to be happier, you're going to be in control, you're going to have more power." That idea exists deep down in our hearts because it started in the garden, where we preferred our own system to God system of grace.

Well, I think we're talking about this morning, in a play that Charlotte recently participated in which was a story of The Little Princess. Little Princess was a book first written in 1905 and the story occurs during the period of British colonialism, and tells the story of Captain Crewe who is a British military officer and his daughter Sara. Captain Crewe is stationed in India and he's a man of some wealth and very accomplished. And it was though in the day that children couldn't suffer the Indian climate and so children of British military officials were sent to boarding school in Britain while their parents served overseas. And so Sara is in a elite and posh boarding school in England and funded to a great expense so that she has her own room and her own maid and gets the best of everything because her father dotes on her.

Well, fast forward, the father becomes ill in India and ultimately dies and it becomes clear that the father had engaged a money-making scheme with diamond mines that didn't pan out, and renders Sara, the daughter in the boarding school in London, penniless. So now the headmistress, who's always had contempt for Sara and her wealth, treats her as an unwanted slave. Moves her to a cold attic, gives her nothing, and she works as a servant in the boarding school. The woman not really knowing what to do with her.

Eventually, to condense a long story into a very short note or an application. The business partner who went into the diamond mines with the father, spends years looking for Sara and can't find her because of course she's not included with the regular girls in the school, but eventually becomes aware of her existence and goes to insist, "Listen, the diamond mines actually worked out just fine, you're wealth does not only restored, but it's greatly exceeded what it was formally. And I want you to know that you'll never now want for anything because I will take the place of your ... Your father was one of my best friends. I will not stand in for him and care for you until you become an adult." And so Sara's life is redeemed, it's restored, she enters into freedom.

Now there was a place, when her father's dead and she thinks she's penniless that she lives in a place of fear and has to come up with fantasies in different ways to engage life in order to survive. And this is a place that we feel on the sense that we read Paul and say, "Okay. There was a time of slavery, but we've been redeemed and set free, but this world is precarious and God doesn't always seem that present." And as a result, we're very tempted to move back into the law because we think that that provides us with a degree predictability. But in reality, unlike the death of Sara's father, our reality is the Father is never departing, that the Father cares and loves you desperately and is committed to your good.

The question then becomes, will you run and grab his leg or will you run and live under the law? It's only in grabbing his leg and throwing ourselves on his mercy, but also allowing ourselves to be enveloped by his love that we actually understand the freedom that he offers in Christ.

Let's pray.

Father, you're good and gracious and you have provided all things for us. We ask that you would forgive us for our constant tendency to move back into the law, instead help us to know and to enjoy what it is to be free in Christ. Help us to know what it is to be loved by you and for those ... For all of us who feel estranged and far from your presence and your love, would you meet us at this table this morning, would you remind us of what is ours in Christ that you have spared no expense, that you have adopted us, that you have made us your sons and daughters and if sons and daughters then an heirs according to the promises that have been made. We give you thanks and pray that you would nourish us here. In Christ's name that we pray, amen.