Galatians 4:9-10. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years!
Because of the indwelling Christ, we know God and are known by God. This is amazing grace. This is new life. This is freedom. And yet somehow ironically and amazingly we want to turn back to the weak and worthless elementary principles. The self salvation schemes that God has brought us out from under. That mean and oppressive prison guard and tutor from chapter 3- the law.
God knows you. There’s nothing left to prove. He loves you. There’s nothing left to earn. You do not need any more salvation plans. You do not need to justify your worthiness. You do not need to appease God with daily, monthly, seasonal, and yearly reminders of how good you are now.
You don’t need any of this. But you want it.
Isn’t that what Paul says? Whose slaves you want to be once more.
Nobody wants to be a slave right? No one would choose bondage over freedom would they? No slave would, after having been adopted by the Father, ask to go back to the status of slave – would they?
But Paul says that this is exactly what we are doing every time we return to our self life. Our self saving, self justifying, self absorbed, self promoting, laws – even the laws of our own creation.
So the truth is, we do want it. And we always do whatever it is that we desire the most.
So herein lies the Christian dilemma. Even though we are known by God intimately, and we can begin to know him intimately, this takes time and trust. And honestly returning to self justification is easier and thus more desirable. I know how to self justify. And I’m really, really good at it. So I choose it over faith in God’s love for me almost every time.
Yes, the Christian life can be, and is, glorious and wonderful and full of great joy. But the Christian life is also messy. A constant temptation to manage the law, the elementary principles, the stoichea, and the morals. To boil them down into a manageable life system that allows me to feel pretty good about my self more often than I feel like a big failure.
But any system of law, principles, and morality can only serve one function for the Christian- to reveal the sin of unbelief in my heart. Ever since the Garden of Eden, the worship of the self has been our greatest sin. And this is a slavery that Paul says we actually choose over and over again, in spite of God’s freeing, adopting, love for us. And this slavery to these systems, laws, principles, and morals brings with it every single insecurity you feel every day. And how do we deal with our insecurities? More slavery. More worship of things that aren’t God- like family, job, money, sexiness, more morality, more rule following, more achievement, more folly. We run back to the very thing that causes the insecurity in order to relieve the insecurity. No wonder Paul says in Galatians 4:11, I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
“To live is Christ” is freedom. But with it’s freedom comes the battle of the desires that such freedom brings. Yes we are freed by Christ’s life, but this means we are also free to run back to our old life. To our old status. To our old slavery. To run back to what we know so well, and what we believe is most satisfying. And sadly many Christians have no idea that they are even doing it, and may even think that they are living by the Spirit, when in reality they are living by the laws, principles, and moral systems that are creating the stress, insecurity, and doubts in their hearts that Christ died in order to put to death. For the rest of Galatians Paul will expound on this dynamic of the Christian life- the battle between freedom and slavery, Spirit and flesh.