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Trusting or Trying

Galatians 3:1-14

When washing a child’s hair you tell the child to put their head back and they won’t get shampoo in their eyes. Their natural reaction is to put their head forward and rub their eyes, every time the water starts to flow. This illustrates the difference between trusting and trying. In today’s passage we come to the heart of the matter that Paul has been referring to up to this point in his letter to the Galatians: The conflict between two alternate roads to righteousness: Trusting and Trying. How does one please God? What makes a person truly a Christian; trying to act in a way that seems pure and Godly or trusting in a Savior who paid the price for sin? Paul Points out that there is a vast difference between these two roads to righteousness. So what’s the difference between trusting and trying and more importantly which is the right road? Let’s begin with the fact that these two roads have a different prescription:

Law vs. Faith (Vs. 2) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? It’s a leading question that Paul is asking, because he knows that they received the spirit when they believed the good news that Jesus died for their sins. He was there when it happened. These other teachers who claimed that they must follow the external requirements of the law, what to eat, what to wear, how to look, they came along later with their new prescription. Paul Asks which prescription, faith or the law led to your receiving the spirit and salvation?

The law isn’t able to work salvation, nor to change human hearts, all that it is able to do is show the need for salvation. The law is like a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution. So the prescription of the law leaves us sick, but the prescription of faith leads to salvation.

Next let’s consider the difference in power between these two paths.Power:Human Effort vs. The Spirit (Vs. 3) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? What Is The Goal?

Salvation of course, but I think not just in the futuristic, fire-insurance sense, but also in the sense of seeing our lives transformed here and now. God’s plan is to restore us from our fallenness, not just later in heaven, but beginning here and now.

The question is how can such a feature be accomplished? There are two paths we can attempt:

Trying by Human effort or trusting in the power of the Spirit.

The point I think is that the job is too great to be done by me; that’s why Christ died, to pay the price for my sin, but not only that he won victory over sin and by his spirit empowering me as I yield myself to him to reach this goal of salvation. Consider the difference between a sailboat and a row boat. In a spiritual rowboat the sailor is dependent upon human effort. In a spiritual sailboat the sails are raised in faith and the undying power of the wind of the spirit moves the boat; it is still entirely necessary that the boat move, but the power source of the sailboat is unquenchable.

There is also a difference in Pedigree between Trusting and Trying. Pedigree: External vs. Internal (Vs. 6-9) Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. The Judaizers, the teachers who were telling the Galatians they needed to follow an external set of standards, were relying upon a pedigree, an external association with Abraham, that is as Jews. And for non-Jews, they expected adherence to the same set of standards, that is to say to become right with God, they first had to act like members of the family, the Jewish family. The externals were all-important. To this line of thinking Paul responds, "look! what was important about good-old Abe wasn’t that he followed God’s command to be circumcised, but that he trusted God’s promise, it was because he trusted that he was obedient. Therefore, all who believe, who trust in the Promise of Jesus, have Abraham as their father. We have an internal pedigree, the pedigree of people of faith. Does that mean obedience is unimportant or that God has no standards for his children? Certainly not, but it means we must be clear in our understanding that it is not our obedience that makes us God's children, but his grace and our taking him at his word. Here is a story I read; I'm not sure how much truth there is to it but it touched my heart:

There was this pastor who brought home a 12-year-old boy, whose parents had died from a drug overdose. There was no one to care for child, so this pastor and his family decided they’d just raise him as if he were one of their own family members. "At first it was quite difficult for the child to adjust to his new home; an environment free of heroin-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, this child would be told no, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.

No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want. Or no, no, we expect you to show respect in this family.’ And in time this child began to change. "Now, did this child have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of the pastor and his family. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received. "Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, no, no. That’s not how we act in this family.

That is the internal pedigree of sons and daughters of God at work. Finally this morning, let’s consider the difference in the promise of the two roads... Promise: Curse vs. Blessing (Vs. 10-14) All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man 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 tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles Every promise in the bible is mine. Every promise in the bible is yours. Mankind has a tendency to not necessarily want every promise in the bible. The promise for those who are trying by their own strength to measure up to God’s requirements is one of those promises I don’t want. The promise is a curse. Does that mean the law is bad? No again the law showed our need for God’s grace, but Paul says by God’s grace and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that no one is justified before God by the law.

The law required more than we could do, and incurs a curse if not rigidly followed forever. And the law itself has the ability to make us want to disobey. The law itself makes us want to be disobedient, and this, I believe is a part of its curse, on the other hand those who live by faith receive the blessing that God has promised to Abraham. The blessing of salvation because Jesus Christ bore the curse himself and paid the price to set us free from sin’s punishment and sin’s bondage A story is told about someone who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told mayor (now acting judge) that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It’s a real bad neighborhood, your honor," the man told the mayor. "She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson." The mayor sighed. He turned to the woman and said "I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail." But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. ’Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.’" So the following day the newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, and local policemen chipped in the rest. Just like that lady we have each been caught red-handed, with nothing to say for ourselves. A just God knew that the penalty had to be paid, and he gave his most precious treasure, his beloved son, Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sin. But he didn’t just redeem us from the curse, he also showered us with blessing, giving us life more abundantly, life in the spirit, which beats $47.50 any day.

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