Jesus Only

Galatians 5:2-5 “Mark my words! I Paul tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”

Do you know what happens when religion becomes Jesus plus something else? Little by little, Jesus ceases to be the star of the show. More and more the “something else” gets all the attention. That something else needs to be explained, defended, and promoted. How can faith survive when we don’t hear about Jesus anymore? How long would your marriage or friendships last if you never heard from or about the people we love?

Worse yet, Paul says that Christ is really of no value to us at all. Is that hard to understand? If you go to the doctor, but then reject the treatment plan and all the medicine he has proposed, what good is he to you? If you call the fire department to put out the fire in your house, but when they arrive you don’t let them spray water on the fire, how can they help? If you open a bank account, but then you keep all your money in your mattress, what’s the point? If you draft and organize an army, but you don’t arm them or let them fight against the enemy, and you try to face the enemy on the battlefield alone, what’s the value of having an army? I could keep multiplying the illustrations. You see where this is going. If God gives you a Savior, but you reject his way of saving you in favor of trying to save yourself, of what value is that Savior to you anymore? The answer is easy: He is of no value to you at all.

Lose Christ, and you lose God’s grace, too. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” You know what grace is. Grace is God’s undeserved love. It is his gift-love. Like a gift, you don’t earn it. God just gives it away. He loves you because he chooses to love you. He loves you because Jesus took all our sins away.

If we say to God, “I don’t want you to love me because Jesus took all my sins away. I want to be justified–I want to be considered good, and right, and holy–because I have kept the law myself. I want you to love me because I deserve it…” then we are taking a pass on the gift. As Paul says, then we have fallen from grace, by definition. All that is left for us is the pressure of living perfectly without a single slip until the day we die. Don’t trade Christ and his grace for that kind of slavery. Defend your freedom, and hold on to Christ.

Then we will live in faith’s blessings. “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” When we reject the law’s slavery and hold on to Christ by faith, that changes everything. Then we have real freedom. It changes our inner condition. Faith makes us certain and confident.

When you were in school (or those of you who are in school), did you eagerly await tests at the end of a chapter, or at the end of a semester? Or did they give you a little sense of fear and dread, even if you knew the material pretty well? Why is that? Isn’t it because the outcome is always a little uncertain? Maybe the teacher will have questions about something I missed. Maybe I will choke when the time for the test comes. I wish we didn’t have to have tests!

But Paul says that we await the greatest examination of all–standing before God on the day of Judgment–eager and full of hope. Why is that? Because Jesus already took and aced the test for us; because Jesus erased all our mistakes along the way; because we already know the final grade: 100%, A+. By faith we know that even now God regards us as righteous and perfect for Jesus’ sake. By faith we are certain he will publicly declare us righteous in the presence of all humanity when the last day comes.

That confidence sets us free from fear. It keeps Christ and his grace at the center of our faith. Don’t settle for anything less.

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