You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?6 Galations 3:1-6
I have a friend who is a seventh grade math teacher. This one year he had student he really liked. She was the brilliant, overachieving, geeky type.
One day, after class, she approached his desk. Out of the blue, she fell on her knees in front of him, and with her hands out trembling, she whispered, “Do you like me?”
“Yes, I like you very much,” He said.
I had a favorite professor in seminary, Dr. Bill Witt. I think he’s pretty cool and I hope the feeling is mutual, but never would I have gotten on my knees in front of him and pressed the issue. Once, we become adults, we know better.
But, we can all relate to this question, because all of us feel this question. We want to be liked and I think that was what was motivating this young woman. She wanted to prove to herself, her teachers, and her classmates that she was smart, capable, likeable – if not loveable. She desperately wanted to be liked and in more theological terms, we might say she wanted to prove that she was worthy, righteous, justified.
It is this same desire – to prove oneself worthy – that is at the heart of Paul’s words.
Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, who are under the influence of legalistic religion. They think that if they can follow the law to the letter they too will prove themselves worthy and justified.
Paul is not having any of it when he writes “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched?” He has a question for them and it is one that is relevant to us today. He wants to know just one thing
Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing the Gospel with faith? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law? In other words, who justifies you? God or yourself?
The answer is Jesus. We know by now that Jesus justifies us, but all of us, if we are really honest with ourselves, attempt to justify ourselves all the time. If you are like me, self – justification is a daily temptation.
We want to be a great spouse, parent, or daughter or son. We want more money, more things, more friends. We want to be important and we want to look good while we are doing it, we want to lose ten pounds and have a cool car. We so easily deceive ourselves that through all this we can somehow prove our worthiness through our own effort.
What does this lead to, this self - justification? Exhaustion and striving, burn out, bitterness, because we are daily trying to perform an impossible task that we are doomed to fail at. So we get angry, we constantly compare ourselves to others to see where we are on the worthy scale, all kinds of sin and division and caring everything in our own strength, we grieve the Holy Spirit.
But, do you know what, according to Paul, is the worst thing about self – justification? When we do it we take what God has done for us in Jesus for granted.
And here is Paul’s main point. We don’t have to justify ourselves, we don’t have to live under this curse because Christ became a curse for us. He was publically executed, denigrated, and mocked, with his precious body stripped naked for all to see and scoff and he did this so we might live in freedom. We don’t have to justify ourselves because God took care of that in Jesus.
And he did it because he loves us. He loves us and it isn’t based on any merit or worthiness on our part. He knows how unworthy we are, he just loves us. It’s totally absurd. And there is nothing we can do to add to it, no great success on our part. And there is nothing we can do to subtract from it. No sin or failure can take away the fact that God loves you and took it upon himself to justify you. It’s a once and for all, eternal decree.
So friends, let’s not deceive ourselves. Let’s not be foolish. Let’s ask ourselves, where in your life are you attempting to justify yourself? Let’s surrender that to God.
And know that when we do that, when we receive that our justification comes from Christ alone, we will be blessed beyond measure. We will experience the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we will be a blessing to all nations, and we will see miracles. And we will possess the greatest miracle of all - that God loves us.
Let’s be like that girl – trembling, vulnerable, and kneeling before our Father in Heaven, desperate to know - “Do you like me?” And His response is always, again and again:
“Yes, I love you very much.”