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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - From Here to There

Craig Smith - From Here to There


Craig Smith - From Here to There
TOPICS: Live Free

Hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us this weekend. Let me start by asking a question. How many of us know how to ride a bike? Right, most of the hands, great. How many of us learned to ride a bike with training wheels? Still most of the hands. How many of us who already know how to ride a bike are still using training wheels? Not a lot of hands and the hands that I see, they are small hands, you’re still learning. That’s fine.

Once we learn how to ride a bike, we don’t typically use training wheels. But here’s an interesting question. Why is that? And if you think about you probably think, well, I don’t really need them. So why bother? Why carry the extra weight? But there’s another reason we don’t think about very often. That is, actually if you try to ride a bike with training wheels, it’s actually hard to ride the bike after a certain point. Because you can’t lean as far as you need to make certain kinds of curves. Or, I mean, imagine this, imagine you’re going down, you know, a small bike trail in the mountains riding and like aspens and pines are whipping past you.

Can you imagine trying to do that with training wheels? I mean, it would make for a good video, because those things are gonna get hung up at some point and there’s gonna be an amazing crash. But the reality is, sometimes we don’t use training wheels, because it would actually get in the way of riding a bike the way we want to. Now, you’re like, what does this have to do with God? What does it have to do with Jesus? What does that have to do with the Bible?

Well, here’s what I wanna talk about today. I wanna talk about kind of an interesting possibility and here’s the possibility. What if I still have training wheels on my life? What if I still have training wheels on my life? And what if, in fact, some of what makes us feel like we’re getting hung up and slowed down in our lives has to do with the fact that we’re still living our lives with training wheels. Let me show you what I mean, why don’t you grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Galatians. We’re gonna be in Galatians chapter 3, starting in verse 15 today. Let me show you what I mean here.

By the way, if you’re just joining us, let me get you caught up. What we’ve been doing over the last few weeks is searching the Book of Galatians in the Bible for wisdom from God about how to experience freedom in life. And if you were with us a couple of weeks ago, you may see that…you may remember that Paul he’s basically, he’s explained the basis of what we call the Gospel. And the basis of the Gospel is this, is that if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God and his people. It’s the essence of the Gospel message that it’s not about how well we behave, that comes later. It’s about whether or not we believe, whether or not we put our faith in, our trust in Jesus. And if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God and to his people.

Now, the reason that he’s having to write this letter in the Book of Galatians, to the church in Galatia is because after he preached that some other people came along, some Jewish followers of Jesus, and they said, “That’s not quite right.” They said, “Yeah, it says, to belong to God, you do have to believe in Jesus, but you also have to behave according to the Jewish laws.” They said, you know, the Jews have always been God’s people, the Jews are the ones who first belonged to God and the Jews have always been identified by all these rules and these regulations and obedience to all of them. And so if you wanna belong to God, you need to believe in Jesus, yes, but you also have to behave according to the rules.

And last time, we were together, Paul made the argument that that doesn’t make any sense. And he said, here’s how I know it doesn’t make any sense. And he took us back to the life of a man named Abraham. You can read about it in the Book of Genesis. Abraham was the very first Jewish person, he was the first human being to belong to God. And he goes back to Genesis and shows, “Look, Abraham belonged to God by believing God, not by behaving according to your rules and regulations, but just by believing God, by having faith in him.” And what he kind of expects his opponents to do is to go, “Okay, yeah, that’s true. Fine, you’re right. Abraham belonged by believing, 100% true.” But it was different back then.

It was different back then because we didn’t have the Law. We didn’t have the Old Testament command. We didn’t have the rules and the regulations. After God gave those to Moses, everything changed. After God gave those to Moses, now you have to believe and you also have to behave. And that’s kind of the issue that Paul’s dealing with. Now, he said did that really change when the Law came when the Old Testament was given to the Jewish people? Here’s what he says at Galatians 3:15. He says, “Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.”

So he says let’s take an example from everyday life, let’s talk about covenants. Which kind of funny actually, because when was the last time you encountered a covenant in your everyday life, right? I don’t know growing up that I ever encountered a covenant outside of church or the Bible until I moved to Colorado. I moved to Colorado, I was looking for a place to live and I remember driving into a neighborhood and seeing a sign out front that said “Founders Village, a Covenant Controlled Community.” And I was like, “What the heck is that?” It’s like it is a Bible community like this is a Christian commune? What’s going on here?

And what I found that they meant is they said, “No, no, you know, a covenant is a legal agreement,” I was like, “Okay.” And he said, “And when you live in this community, you enter into a legal agreement, a covenant with the homeowners association.” And so the homeowners association, the HOA like you make certain agreements, and they make certain agreements. So, for instance, they say, you know, if you live in this community, you cannot paint your house, purple. This is not an option. You can’t raise farm animals in your backyard. And in return, the HOA agrees, you know, we’ll take care of the common areas like pools or maybe we’ll take care of snow removal. Okay, great.

That’s a covenant. It’s very similar to the same kind of thing that happens when you sign a lease for an apartment. That’s a covenant too, it’s a legal agreement and you agree that you know, as the leasee, I’m not going to turn my two-bedroom apartment into a studio by getting rid of all the walls. Okay. I’m not gonna raise farm animals in the extra bedroom. Okay. And the guy who owns the apartment, they say, “Well, you know, and we agreed to maintain common space, we agree to maintain your heating or air conditionings like that.” Okay. So it’s a legal agreement.

And that’s the first time I’d really encountered the concept of a covenant. But that’s kind of what Paul’s dealing with in the ancient world they dealt with those more frequent. So it’s okay, let’s just talk about covenants, in general, because we all sort of have some of these everyday experiences, whether we realize them or not.

Now, I should probably say this, though. Paul’s point is that there are some things in common between human covenants and covenants with God. But there’s also something really different between human covenants and God’s covenants. And here’s the thing like I don’t know about you, but when I first moved into my covenant-controlled community, I thought, “The HOA is awesome. I’m gonna love having an HOA.” And people are already starting to laugh because I don’t feel that way now. I feel it differently.

Here’s what happens. See, human covenants in our experience with human covenants. Human covenants tend to limit our lives, right? But that’s not true with God’s covenants. God’s covenants are intended to lead us to life. Huge difference. Human covenants tend to limit our lives, but God’s covenants are actually intended to lead us to a good life, to the life that God always intended that we have. Okay, so there’s a big difference between human covenants and God’s covenant and that’s it. But there is at least one thing in common and that Paul says is that they don’t change. They don’t change. That’s the big similarity. Once a covenant had been established, the terms of the covenant can’t be changed.

So I can’t suddenly decide I am going to paint my house purple. My HOA cannot decide I am no longer gonna be taking care of snow removal in your neighborhood. That’s just not an option. Once this covenant’s been signed, once it’s been agreed to, you can’t change the terms of the covenant. And it says, basically, this is the same thing here. If human terms can’t be changed, then why would we expect God’s terms to be changed? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s unchanging. So the covenant with Abraham isn’t gonna change just because some other things come along.

And so what he’s basically saying is this, he’s saying, “Yes, I understand that Abraham didn’t have the Law. And then God eventually gave Moses the Law, but it didn’t change the terms of the covenant.” And so what he’s really saying is believing is still the basis for belonging. It might feel like a little bit of a complicated way to get there for us today, but that’s the bottom line. He says, the Law didn’t change anything, the coming of the law didn’t change anything. Believing is still the basis for belonging because the covenant can’t change.

He says the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. Scripture does not say and to seeds, meaning many people, but and to your Seed, meaning one person who is Christ. And all God’s people went, “Oh.” Anybody just the slightest bit confused by that sentence? Yeah, few of us. Can I say I think, my all-time favorite verse in the Bible, it’s 2 Peter 3:16. The Apostle Peter talking about the Apostle Paul’s writing says this he says, “Some of what he says is hard to understand and he says that people twist it just like they do other Scriptures.” And I love that because he’s acknowledging that Paul is writing Scripture that is inspired by God, but he’s also saying, sometimes I don’t get what that dude’s talking about.

And for me, maybe not for a lot of you, but for me, this is one of those, okay. The promise was spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. In Scripture doesn’t say into seeds, meaning many people but to your Seed, meaning one person, like what’s he saying? Well, what he’s saying is this, he’s saying, okay, if you go back to the Book of Genesis, what you’re gonna see is that when God called Abraham, the first Jewish person to belong to him, he gave him a bunch of promises. He said, “I’m gonna bless you in a lot of different ways, and you’re gonna be a blessing to the whole world.” And but what Paul says is, but it’s interesting if you look there, he doesn’t say, “I’m gonna bless you and your seeds.” Meaning lots of different descendants and offspring, he uses the singular, “I’m gonna bless you and your Seed” meaning one.

And what he means is that all the blessings of God don’t necessarily come just because you’re a descendant among many of Abraham. He says really what God was saying was all of his blessings were gonna kind of come together around one of Abraham’s descendants. Does that make sense? All of the blessings and the promises of God are gonna come together, they’re gonna coalesce around one of Abraham’s descendants, specifically Jesus. And so the idea here is that all of the promises kind of are right there with Jesus.

Now, here’s why that’s good news. Because that means that when we belong to Jesus, we receive God’s promises. That’s how we get to receive all the promises, promises made to Abraham, and all of the Jewish people following. He says all of those blessings are available to anybody who belongs to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus, we receive all of God’s promises, that’s really powerful because, of course, he’s dealing with people who are not Jewish. And he’s got some Jewish followers of Jesus telling him, “Hey, you can’t experience all the blessings of God until you do X, Y, and Z.” And then Paul’s going, ‘No, no, no.” From the very beginning, the plan all along was that all those blessings would come together in Jesus and that anyone who belongs to Jesus will receive God’s promises.

And so basically, what he’s doing is he’s kind of, he’s extending an argument that he’s been making throughout the Book of Galatians. So far, at this point, what he’s told us is that believing is the basis of belonging. And now he goes a step further and so he says, “Hey, here’s the good news, belonging is the basis of blessing.” If you wanna experience the blessings of God, if you wanna experience all that God has for you, and that he’s promised to pour into the lives of his people, the good news is you can have all of that simply by belonging to Jesus. Doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, it doesn’t matter if you’re non-Jewish, it doesn’t matter what your past is, it doesn’t matter where you come from, none of that stuff matters. What matters is your faith in Jesus. If you have faith in Jesus, you belong to him. And if you belong to him, all the blessings of God are available to you.

And that’s really good news. But it’s slippery news. It’s actually a truth that we have a very hard time holding on to. At least I do, maybe you don’t. But here’s the reality, I know that I struggle to set aside a persistent myth, a persistent lie. And the myth is this. The myth that I often find myself believing is that behaving is the basis of blessing. I find myself thinking, if I’m gonna be blessed by God, I’ve got to behave my way into it. I think that behaving is the basis for blessing.

Now, there’s a couple of reasons why we do that. One of them is because we live in a performance-oriented culture, we live in a culture that gives us good things only if we perform at certain levels. But this is interesting. If you get a good thing because you performed at a certain level, if you get a good thing because you behaved at a certain level, that’s not a blessing, that’s a reward. And blessings and rewards are very different things. Here’s the thing, rewards are about the goodness of the receiver, blessings are about the goodness of the giver.

And here’s what happens. Because we grew up in a performance-driven culture, or here’s the second reason, I think this is a slippery truth and why we tend to believe this myth that behaving is the basis of blessing is because we know, and this is true. We know that when we don’t behave, when we sin, we lose the experience of God’s blessing. That’s true. It happens. When we sin, when we turn away from God, and we walk away from God, we lose the experience of blessing. And because of that experience, we make a logical mistake. And the logic mistake is well, if not behaving means I don’t experience blessing, then it must mean that the basis of blessing is behaving. And so our eyes come back to us, our eyes get on us, on our work, on our effort, on our abilities to be good. And when we do that, we take our eyes off of God.

Again, what happens is we begin to think not about blessing, but about reward. And reward is about the goodness of the receiver, but blessing is about the goodness of the giver. And what Paul’s trying to help us understand here is that the basis of blessing, the source of all blessing in our lives isn’t our behaving. Yes, our behaving can get in the way of experiencing it but that’s not where it comes from. It comes from belonging to God, it comes because God is good. And God loves us as his children.

You know, my kids growing up, they got breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks along the way. And you know why they got those blessings? Because they’re my kids because they’re part of my family. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had an occasion in my life where I got sent to bed without dinner. Anybody else? So it’s just me? Okay, just me. Does that then mean because of my behavior, I didn’t experience that particular blessing that came from being part of the family. Because that happened does that mean then that all the times that I got fed it was because I behaved my way into it? No.

And again, this is subtle, okay. And you may struggle to hold on to this, but I wanna challenge you to try to grab hold of this because it’s important. Because when we stop believing, when we stop understanding that belonging is the basis of blessing, our eyes get off of God who is good and on to ourselves who are not. And we find ourselves in this perpetual spiral of I can’t be good enough, but I gotta be good enough, or I won’t be blessed. And if I’m not being blessed, it’s because I’m not good enough. And it all becomes us, and it’s death. It’s the opposite of life as God intended it to be experienced.

So what Paul is trying to help us understand here is it all along here’s been the plan. All along, the plan has been that belonging is the basis for blessing. Yes, behaving can get in the way of experiencing it, but it never changes the source of it. Belonging is the basis of behaving. He says it’s always been the case. He says, what I mean is this, the Law introduced 430 years later does not set aside the covenant previously established by God. And thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace, and his undeserved kindness, gave it to Abraham through a promise.

And so what he’s saying is this, he says, I know what they’re telling you is that yeah, Abraham belonged by believing, and Abraham was blessed because he belonged. But 430 years after that the Law came, 430 years after that God gave Moses the Law. And once the Law was given, everything changed, and what Paul’s going is, “No, it didn’t. It never changed.” He basically says, “The arrival of the rules didn’t change the basis of the blessing.” The blessing still comes to those who belong, and only to those who belong, and only because they belong. It was still about faith. The coming of the Law 430 years later didn’t change the basis of the blessing, it was still about faith.

And so Paul asked the natural question, why then was the Law given at all? Which is kind of the $10,000 question, right? So if the Law doesn’t change the basis of blessing, or belonging, or any of those things, then why all these rules about behaving? Why give us the Law in the first place? This is what he says. He says the Law was given; it was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. He says here’s why the Law was given, it was given because of transgression, which is another word for sin.

It’s an interesting word though. In the Greek of the New Testament, which the New Testaments was written in, there are several different words for sin. And by far, the most common word is “hamartia,” and it basically translates to saying “to missing the mark.” It was an archery term. So you know, if you had a target, and you were shooting at the target, and you completely missed it, and it went off and it killed a spectator or something, everybody would go, “Hamartia.” I appreciate the laughter there. Bad because you know, if somebody air balls, air balls, right, that’s the point, is you missed, you missed completely. Boy, you really, really weren’t even close. Well, that’s the most common word for sin, hamartia, it just means to miss the mark.

There’s another word that’s not quite as common, but it’s the word that Paul uses here. And that word is “parabasis,” nobody needs to know that. But what you need to know is that it basically means to go over a boundary line. So there’s a line that’s been drawn and you go over it, you’ve transgressed. Okay, it’s another word for sin.

And it’s interesting, when you read through all the laws, when you read through the Old Testament rules and regulations, it’s amazing. Many of them are about establishing boundaries in which to live life. It says, you know, “Hey, here’s a boundary, and here’s a boundary, live your life in here and it’s gonna be good. Live life in here and there’s gonna be peace. Live life in here and you’re gonna experience blessing and a lot of other kinds of things that you’re gonna miss out on if you go over there if you transgress.”

The problem is that ever since Adam and Eve turned their backs on God, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, human beings have a tendency towards boundary-breaking. There’s just something in us that goes, “That’s a boundary? All right.” We just do it, right. I mean, come on, do you remember when you were kids and you were in a long car ride and you had you and your sister or brother or whatever in the backseat and you know, a couple of hours in you were at each other’s throats. And so mom and dad whipped around, they’re like, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing. We’re drawing a line right there down the backseat, that’s your side, that’s your side, don’t go on his side. Stay on your side,” which works for like 12 seconds, right? Mom and dad turned around and somebody is going… There’s just something in us that breaks boundaries.

And so what Paul says is listen, because of that tendency, God gave us a very clear set of boundaries as well as rules for enforcement. But it was a protective measure designed to keep us inside. Okay. And it was designed to keep us inside until something else could happen, until the Seed, Jesus, to whom the promise referred had come. Okay. Now, here’s what he’s basically saying. He’s saying the Law was a temporary measure to protect God’s people until the long-term solution could be applied. That’s the bottom line. The Law was a temporary measure to protect God’s people, to keep them from self-destruction until the long-term solution could be applied.

It’s interesting. So I’ve got this cast thing on my wrist because I broke my knuckles doing some woodturning. They eventually went in and they twisted the bone back into place, they drill holes in it, they put these little pins in it that are sticking out my skin. And sounds horrible I was on powerful medication, I was good with it. Like I don’t really know what they did. But then they wrapped it up in this hard thing. And it’s interesting. This is a temporary measure. And if you think about it, it’s even more interesting because what they did is they put this on to keep me from moving it, to protect the bone from further damage, really to protect it from me. Until the long-term fix could be applied and the long-term fix is actually that the bone heals itself, which the doctors can’t do. It’s fascinating to me. This is a God thing, right? Healing the bones, the long-term solution is only something God can do. The bones can knit themselves back together. It’s amazing that God built that into our bodies. it’s astounding. But the doctors can’t do that, all they can do is kind of protect me from myself until God’s long-term solution could be applied.

Well, that’s really kind of what Paul is saying here. He says the Law was a temporary fix. It’s a little restrictive, but it’s really designed to kind of protect God’s people until the long-term fix. And the long-term fix, in this case, is Jesus. That Jesus came and lived a perfect life, he died on the cross to pay for all of our sin. He rose from the dead, and that when we put our faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we’re adopted into the family of God, we belong to him. And we begin to experience all the blessings that come from that belonging. That’s the long-term solution. So he says the law was a temporary fix until that could happen.

Now, here’s the problem with temporary solutions. Temporary solutions are never as good as the long-term fix. They’re always inferior in some way. And so now what Paul does he says here’s where the short-term solution isn’t as good as a long-term fix. And he says, well, it feels a little strange, but let me explain it. He says, “The Law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.” Now, if you’re familiar with the story of Exodus of when God gave Moses the Law, you might be going, “I don’t remember angels being involved.”

Yeah, there are a couple of other passages in the Old Testament that sort of hint at the idea that angels were involved. But they’re not mentioned in Exodus. But apparently, they were involved, Paul’s picking up on that. And so he says, “Okay, here’s what happened, God gave angels the Law. And then the law was…from the angels was given to a mediator, which almost everybody agrees is Moses, and then Moses gave it to the people. And the key thing that you wanna recognize here is this kind of this sort of like process. Okay, God gave it to angels, angels gave it to Moses, Moses gave it to the people. And then you know, there’s judges and different people who kind of like, make sure the law is being followed and there’s rules if you don’t do it.

And the point is, there’s a kind of a distance that’s entered in here, right? It’s kind of a long series of steps away from a direct interaction with God. And that’s really what Paul’s getting at. What he’s saying is, we have to recognize is that the Law works indirectly, the Law works indirectly. And that was really never God’s plan. God’s plan was always to have a direct relationship with us. And when God created Adam and Eve, he didn’t immediately come up with a series of rules and priests and things like that, no, he just had a direct relationship with them.

That’s always the plan. The Law, this temporary measure because of our sin, it works indirectly. And then here’s the problem with indirect action. Indirect action produces insufficient impact. The more indirectly something works, the least long-term impact it has. I mean, anybody who has small children knows this. Anybody who’s ever told one of your kids to go tell another one of your kids to knock it off knows that it doesn’t work. Like you got to get involved directly. Indirect action has an insufficient impact. And so this is one of the difficulties with the Law, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just an inherent limitation, anything indirect. What he’s saying is, yeah, God to angels, angels to Moses, Moses to people. It’s indirect, and therefore the Law could never accomplish, ultimately, what it was intended to.

And then he goes on to explain that this really was never God’s original plan. He says, “A mediator, however, implies more than one party, but God is one.” And if that seems a little confusing, I would say I’m actually not crazy about that translation. Let me give you a very, very literal translation. It’s not gonna help, but I want you to see it. The literal translation would be, “But a mediator is not one but God is one.” And you’re all like, “thanks.” What?

The point is that it’s a contrast. It’s a sort of two sides of the coin. He says, a mediator is not one, meaning that if there’s a mediator, there’s somebody else in between, whereas God is one that is God really prefers to work directly. And really what he’s getting at is he’s saying, God wants direct relationships with his people. He doesn’t wanna work through a mediator. He doesn’t wanna work through a priest. He doesn’t wanna work through angels. He doesn’t wanna work through a pastor. He wants a direct relationship with you. Yes, he might use all those other things at various times, but God wants a direct relationship with his people.

And if you think about it for a moment, this is an incredible truth, isn’t it? Because what it means is that God wants a personal relationship with you. The Creator of the universe wants a personal relationship with you. He wants to work directly in your life. That’s incredible. And really, that’s what the Gospel is. That when we say yes to Jesus, we belong to God and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and begins to work with us directly. God wants a personal relationship with you. And the Law can’t do that. The Law can’t produce that. So he says, “Is the Law therefore opposed to the promises of God?” Absolutely not. For if a law had been given then could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the Law.

It says the Law is not a bad thing. But he says the Law can’t get you what God really wants for you. And what does God want for you? He wants to impart life, those are the keywords there. God wants to impart life, God wants you to have life. And not just any life, God wants for you to have a good life. And a good life as God defines it, it’s not just holy and righteous, that’s part of it. Yes. But the good life that God wants for you is a full life. Jesus said, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly,” to the max. God wants us to have good lives, lives that are full of peace, lives that are full of joy, lives that are filled with meaning and significance with life-giving relationships.

At the end of the day, I mean, at the risk of sounding overly simplistic, but I think this is powerful and I think it’s true, and I think we forget it too easily. God wants you to have a happy life. He wants you to experience happiness. Not as the world defines it, the world has messed up our thinking on what happiness is. But God wants you to have all the things we talked about that make us happy, meaning, and significance, and peace, and joy, and love. He wants all of that for us. And what he’s saying is, the Law is not bad, but the Law can’t get us there, the Law can’t get us to the good lives God wants for us. The Law can’t get us there. So, the Law is not bad but it’s not good enough.

He says, but Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin so that what was promised being given through faith in Jesus might be given to those who believe. Before the calling of this faith, we were held in custody under the Law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. And so the Law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. And again, he’s kind of going back to the same thing he’s been saying, it’s not that the Law is bad, he says, but the Law was a guardian.

In some sense, the Law was kind of training wheels, protecting us until we could get to a certain point. And it’s interesting, he uses language, when he talks about guardian that the language in the original Greek there is the language that would describe a person whose job was to protect a small child from themselves. His job is to protect the small child from harm and from hurting themselves until they got to a point that they could really begin to live without the role of that guardian because they understood and because they got it, and because they could actually begin to make good judgments and those kinds of things.

And so he says that that’s what the Law was. But then he finalizes the section. He says, “Now that this faith has come, we’re no longer under a guardian.” Because now that Jesus has come now that by believing in Jesus, we belong to God and the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we’re no longer under the control of a guardian in the same way.

Now, let me be really clear, this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament no longer matters. This doesn’t mean that the Old Testament isn’t useful. In fact, Paul in his other writings, and when he’s writing to one of his protegees named Timothy, Paul actually says this, he says, “All Scripture.” Meaning all of the Bible, including the Old Testament Law, the rules, and regulations he says all of it, is God-breathed that comes from God, and it’s useful. It has a function, it is useful for teaching and rebuking and correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be equipped thoroughly equipped for every good work.

He says, there’s still use of it, but it doesn’t function in the same way. The Law can’t actually make us righteous, but it can be helpful in instructing us about what righteousness looks like. It can point us in some of the right directions. So it’s all useful. But what he’s essentially saying, if we kind of boil it all down, is he’s saying here’s a good way to think about the Law. The Law was our training wheels until we could live free by faith. The Law was our training wheels until we could live free by faith. There’s nothing wrong with training wheels, but at a certain point, relying on training wheels becomes problematic.

And so he says that’s essentially what’s happening is that these people are coming in and they’re trying to make you live with training wheels. And you’re getting caught up, you’re getting hung up, you’re getting slowed down. Things are happening, that aren’t actually moving you further in your relationship with God. They’re not are actually making you righteous in the way that you long to be, they’re not actually giving you the good life because the Law can’t do that.

It’s not wrong, it’s not bad, but relying on the Law that’s actually beginning to get in the way. And on some level, what he really says we boil it down to a principle is this. He’s saying, hey, the Law got us here, but it can’t take us there. The Law got us to this point, but it can’t take us to the next thing that God wants for us.

Now, here’s where we need to be careful, okay. In some sense, what Paul’s doing here is he’s speaking historically. When he says, “Us,” when he says, “We.” What he’s talking about is the Jewish people. As a Jewish follower of Jesus himself, dealing with other Jewish people who are asking these kinds of questions, he’s saying, “Hey, the Law got us, the Jewish people, to this point, where now we can say yes to faith in Jesus and that’s what’s gonna take us there to the next level.”

Okay, so it’s a historical conversation, but I think there’s a certain application to it for each of us individually, as well. I mean, some of us grew up in church, and we grew up hearing the Ten Commandments and the rules and the regulations. And that wasn’t a bad thing. It actually protected us, it put the boundaries up, it showed us where the boundaries were so we didn’t stray into deep harm. But at the same time, living by those laws can’t actually get us the lives that God intended for us.

I mean, like this is gonna be a little uncomfortable but I think it’s a powerful illustration of it. The Bible talks a lot about sexual standards. And it says things like, don’t lust after people that you’re not married to. And it gives some very specific instructions about how sexuality should be followed so that it stays inside the boundary so that it’s good as God intended it. And it’s really good to know those boundaries. But here’s the reality, just following those boundaries won’t necessarily give you the intimate relationships that God wants.

I mean, for instance, today, unfortunately, one of the big problems when it comes to sexuality is pornography. So many people lean into pornography, they’re lusting about other people. And here’s the thing, the Bible would clearly say that he lusting after other people through pornography, that’s wrong. That’s the boundary, don’t do that. And so you might go, “Okay, I’m gonna follow God’s boundaries, I’m not gonna look at pornography.” That’s great. But just not looking at pornography doesn’t give you the intimate relationships with your spouse that you’re longing for. There’s more involved in it than that.

And so yes, they can guard us from further harm, you see what I’m saying? But it can’t actually give us what God really wants for us, which is healthy marriages and happy families, and intimate relationships. And so in some sense, this idea that the Law got us here, but it can’t take us there is true, not only for the Jewish people, it’s true for all of us. But unfortunately, a lot of us are actually going around going, “Well, I’m following the rules, so I got everything,” right. But worse than that, we do this, we go, “Well, I’m following the rules, so God needs to bless me.” I’m not doing these things. So God needs to do this thing for me. Because we’ve begun to believe that behaving is the basis of blessing.

Here’s what we need to do. Two things. The first one is this, we need to remember that belonging is the basis of blessing. We need to remember that God blesses us because he’s good. God blesses us because he loves us. God blesses us because we’re his beloved sons and daughters by faith in Jesus. Yes, misbehaving, going outside the boundaries can get us to a place we’re not experiencing that, but it’s not the behaving that gets us the blessing. We’re blessed because God loves us.

And that’s important because we need to keep our eyes on God and not us. We need to keep our eyes on the goodness of God, and not our work. Because when we do, let our eyes drift from God to us going, “Well, I’m good enough in some way, or I can be that,” then several things happen. First off, we lose a sense of connection to a good Father. But also then as I said, we begin to go, “Well, I’m behaving in this way, therefore, you need to bless me in this way.” And that’s not what it is.

So, here’s an interesting question. I encourage you to wrestle with this. Do I think God rewards me for behaving or blesses me because I belong to him? In your heart of hearts, what do you think? Do you think that God rewards you for behaving or he blesses you because you’re his child, and you belong to him by faith in Jesus? I encourage you to wrestle with that. You’re gonna find some places in your life where, in fact, you really do think that behaving is the basis of blessing. And you’re gonna find that it’s in those places that your relationship with God is strained, and you’re not experiencing peace and joy, and happiness as God intends it. I encourage you to wrestle with that question.

Another thing that I think we need to do with what Paul’s teaching us here is this, we need to recognize there’s a powerful principle, a powerful principle of wisdom here. And that principle is basically this, is, “What got us here can’t take us there.” This is true in almost every area of life, by the way. When we’re parenting kids, we parent small children differently than we parent teenagers. And I know I got some teenagers going, “That’s not happening.” And if it’s truly not then that’s actually a problem because what got us here isn’t gonna take us there. If you want good relationships with your adult children, you’re gonna have to parent to your teenagers a little bit differently.

Here’s the thing, like when we have little kids like we are caregivers, okay, we’re taking care of them. And then we become cops. Okay, a good friend of mine says it this way, I love it. He says then we become cops. Then we become coaches. And then we become consultants. They call us in, we don’t offer, they call us in. I’ve got a daughter who’s out of the house now, she’s out at college. She’s my consultee, I’m not her coach. And that’s a necessary thing. And then eventually we become care receivers. We’ll get to that later.

But you see what I’m saying? What got us here won’t get us there. We got to go, “What’s my next step? What do I need to do different?” It happens in relationships all the time, right? We go, “Hey, I’m in love. I met this person and we’re in love and love is all we need.” No, it’s not. At a certain point, you’re gonna have to figure out how to communicate, you’re gonna have to figure out how do we deal with conflict. And you’re gonna have to go beyond the passion into some adult ways of relating to each other, which actually will take you to better marriages, and better relations. It’ll get you a better life than you’ve ever imagined. But it’s gonna take realizing what got us here isn’t gonna take us there.

And I’m gonna argue that the reason that divorce is such a rampant problem in our culture is because we don’t understand that what got us here won’t take us there. It happens in business. A company grows because they’re passionate about their product, but at a certain point, we need systems and processes or we won’t be able to continue. What got us here won’t get us there.

And it’s true in our spiritual lives. And this is the important thing. In terms of a general principle, it’s true of our spiritual lives. And so if you’re in a place in your life, where you’re feeling like your spiritual journey is stuck. If you feel like your intimacy with God is waning, and you’re not experiencing everything that you feel like the Bible talks about in terms of your relationship, your direct relationship with God there’s a good chance that reason is because you’ve been relying on what got you here to take you there to that next level.

And so here’s the thing, and this is the question we need to ask, what’s my next step? What’s your next step? Maybe you’ve really never made attending church a regular part of your life. Maybe attending church regularly, that’s the new part of your life, maybe that’s your next step. Or maybe you’ve been attending online, which is great. But maybe you live near a campus, and maybe it’s time for you to begin attending in person. Because there are some things that in person can give you that online can’t. So maybe that’s your next step.

Or maybe you’ve never given to the church, maybe beginning to trust God with your finances is your next step. Maybe you’ve never read the Bible for yourself. Maybe starting to read the Bible regularly is your next step. Maybe you’ve never made prayer a regular part of your life, maybe learning how to pray is your next step. Maybe you’ve never served, maybe beginning to serve is your next step.

We all have these next steps. But if we forget that what’s got us here won’t take us there, we often find ourselves stuck in our spiritual lives. And so we have to embrace that. And we have to ask that question always, what’s my next step? And for some of you, the next step is just to say yes to faith in Jesus. You’ve been relying on working, and it’s not working out. You’ve been relying on behaving, maybe you think well, I’m behaving better than other people. But you realize deep in your soul that you’re not, you’re not what you’re supposed to be, and that you really can’t behave your way into a relationship with God.

The good news is you don’t have to. The good news is that God sent his Son Jesus who died on the cross to pay for our sins, raised him from the dead, and it gives each of us the chance to say yes to following him, to faith in him. And when we do that, we’re forgiven and we belong to God. And we experience all the blessings that are available to us. And so if that’s your next step, maybe today is the day to take that step of saying yes to faith in Jesus, whatever your next step is, can we just pray about that together?

God, we thank you for this word from your apostle, from your servant, Paul. And we ask that you’d help us to grab ahold of the slippery truth that belonging to you is the basis of all blessing. Lord, help us to realize that we are blessed simply because you are good. Not because we are good, but because you are good. And so to keep our eyes on our good Father. And we thank you for this truth, this principle that what got us here is often not gonna be able to take us there. And we know that you have more for us. We all know that we’re not experiencing life in the way that your Word promises over and over again. And so Lord we ask that you would speak to us right now, each and every one of us, and show us what our next step is to trusting you. Our next step of faith, our next step of belief, of trust.


And for those who are listening to this message that know, in this moment, that their next step is simply to say yes to faith in Jesus for the first time, here’s how you do that. You can begin a relationship with God, you can belong to him forever by doing this, you’re just gonna have a conversation with him right now. You’re gonna say something like this, you can say it in your heart, you can say it out loud, whatever you wanna do. But say something like this to God right now.

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. And I know that it separates me from you. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead. And I’m ready to put my faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust what you did for me. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I accept your forgiveness, I accept your gift of belonging to God and all the blessings that come from that. Amen.

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