Jesus + Nothing

As Christians we need to find our freedom in Christ.

George Wright
Oct 27, 2019    38m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright teaches us that we need to find our freedom in Christ. He explains that the freedom that comes from having Christ as our savior is the only true way to be free from the bondage of sin. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Y'all grab your Bible. We're going to step into the book of Galatians. It is a privilege, a privilege to step back into Galatians 5 this morning. If you weren't with us last week, or perhaps if you're new to Shandon, we kicked off a series last Sunday in Galatians chapter 5 that is all about freedom. Freedom is something we all long for. Freedom is something we all desire. Freedom is certainly something that in this nation we often appreciate, but freedom is something we can take for granted. And what we see in this beautiful chapter in this letter to an early church, the church in Galatia, written by the apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Holy spirit of God. This message of freedom rings loud and clear. And so as we step back into the scripture this morning, we're going to see this incredible gift of freedom laid out. But at the same time, we're going to see one of the great barriers to freedom that we must wrestle with, especially as it relates to religious culture, church culture, and where we find ourselves this morning.

George Wright: 01:13 So I want to read from Galatians chapter 5, beginning in verse 2. We only covered one verse last week. We're going to cover a little more ground this morning. But Galatians chapter 5 verse 2, and I'd like to invite you to stand with me for the reading of God's word as we dive into this message this morning. All around the room, and if you're joining us online, we're standing around the room., We do this each week for the reading of God's word so that we all can be reminded as a people of God, the word of God is our authority, it is our foundation, and it reveals to us what God proclaims is right and good and true. So this is the word of the Lord, what we need to hear in the power of the spirit of God. Galatians 5 verse 2, it says, "Look, I Paul (The apostle Paul, writing this letter.) say to you that if you accept circumcision, (We'll talk about that.) Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision, (Again, we'll talk about it. Don't get nervous.) that he is obligated to keep the whole law," And then Paul says, verse four, "You are severed from Christ., you who would be justified by the law, you have fallen away from grace." These are strong words, these are words that we need to hear.

George Wright: 02:42 So let's pray together, and let's ask God to speak into our lives, that we might see and that we might hear what he wants us to see and hear today. Pray with me. Father, as we stand before you now at the reading of your word, your divine, inspired, inerrant word, we pray. We pray that your word would advance into our hearts and into our minds today. I pray that our ears would be open to listen, that our eyes would be open to see, that our hearts would be open to receive, I pray that we would not be the same as a result of what you say. So come and move in power. This is our prayer. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 03:40 If you are new to church, if you're new this morning, we welcome you, we're glad you're here. I'm so thankful that you are here to hear this message specifically, because what we see in Galatians chapter 5, is that the message of the gospel, the good news of what God has demonstrated and proclaimed through Jesus Christ his son, is that God is for your freedom. God cares passionately about your freedom. Jesus has come to set us free.

George Wright: 04:24 I'm going to turn your attention to a great passage of scripture in the new Testament. Matthew 11 you can turn there now. Matthew chapter 11, we see Jesus make a declaration about why he's come. And this is important for where we're going here this morning, and what we're talking about throughout this series. God does not want you to live in bondage. God does not want us to be beaten down and worn out spiritually. He's come to set us free through the good news of Jesus. In Matthew 11 verse 28 Jesus says this, "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." When Jesus talks about rest, when Jesus talks about freedom, Jesus is talking about setting our soul free in such a way that even as we encounter the struggles and the burdens and the heavy, heavy weights of circumstances in our lives and in the world around us, we can still be free. This is the message of the gospel, and Christ has come not to set you on a path of all the things that
you have to do to earn the approval of God. No, Christ has come to set you free from the heavy burdens and the heavy weight of religious works and religious bondage. It flows out of a performance driven faith, in an attempt to prove our worth to God.
George Wright: 06:26 In fact, this letter is written to a church that is struggling to understand the true meaning of the gospel. They're struggling to understand the good news of God's grace versus a life of performance, and a life of religious works and deeds. And so this chapter of scripture is making it clear to the church, the true message of the gospel is a message of freedom. And if your life, and if your faith, is built on trying to prove your worth to God through the way that you are living
and through the way that you are seeking to perform so that God might love you, it's actually not going to end well at all. In fact, there are three very common occurrences, three very common outcomes that are the result of our performance driven faith. The attempt of trying to prove our worth to God based on the way we live, based on our own morality, based on our religious works and deeds.

George Wright: 07:37 The first very common outcome is exactly what Jesus talks about in Matthew chapter 11, it's spiritual exhaustion. That may be you today, you may be coming in here today running on spiritual fumes, so to speak, worn out, exhausted, perhaps even burned out on religion. Because what you've found is no matter how hard you try to do the right thing and live the right way, at the end of the day, there's more to be done. And perhaps you've seen that no matter how many boxes you can check on your religious to do list, your religious checklist, there are always boxes that remain unchecked and it leaves us exhausted and discouraged and feeling like we can never measure up. That's not freedom. I know there's some of you today that are feeling that.

George Wright: 08:42 Then there's a second possible outcome that often results from a performance driven faith, a works driven faith, it looks very different than spiritual exhaustion, but it often flows out of spiritual exhaustion. It's simply called rebellion. And how common this is in our culture today, and many grow up in a culture of trying to keep all the rules and being told what to do and what not to do and all the tasks that must be accomplished if you're going to be a good Christian boy or a good Christian girl, and you're caught up in this world of performance trying to do everything that you can. And at some point it just all breaks apart, and you throw up your hands and you say, enough already, I can't live up to these standards so I might as well just live however the heck I want. I'm going to do my own thing. I'm going to go my own way. Religion is this cosmic killjoy that constantly tells me I'm not good enough anyway, so I might as well just go do what I want to do. And some of you may be here today having experienced this season of rebellion, or maybe walking through this right now, and you might even be here today or you may be joining us online and you're very skeptical of religion at all. And you're very skeptical of the church because you've been burned out, you've been hurt, you've been told all these things that are wrong with you and you haven't been able to find a solution. You did try for a season, but enough already, and you gave up on it all. He said, I'm just going to do what I want to do, but there's no freedom there. For a moment rebellion may seem freeing, but there's no freedom that is found in rebelling.

George Wright: 10:52 But then there's this third common outcome that often happens, especially for those who are in the church. This is actually the outcome that Paul is addressing in Galatians chapter 5, and it is arguably the most toxic and the most devastating outcome of the three as it relates to a performance, works driven, faith. It's what the Bible calls self-righteousness. Self-righteousness happens when we set out to keep all the rules, and we set out to check all the religious boxes and we do pretty good at it. In fact, we do better than most around us, and we start to compare ourselves to other people in the church, or we compare ourselves to other people in our office or other people down the street, and we think, yeah, I'm doing pretty good. I'm way better at religion than they are, I'm feeling pretty good about the way I'm living. When we start to put ourselves in a posture as if we are better than them because we have more discipline than they do, or we have more deeds than they have, and as a result we miss the good news of the gospel all together. The Bible speaks very clearly and very candidly about self-righteousness, and what the Bible says about self-righteousness, even though we wouldn't say this out loud if we're living from a self-righteous posture, the Bible says that those who are self-righteous are actually living as if they're good to go without Jesus altogether. They're living as if they don't need Jesus at all, as if the power of the cross and the power of the resurrection is in fact meaningless to them, because they're good to go on their own. That's what Paul writes in Galatians 5.

George Wright: 12:59 Let's look back at these verses. Galatians 5 is meant to be a wakeup call for the self-righteous, it is meant to challenge us to think about why we're doing what we're doing. Because if we're not careful, we can become very religious, and miss freedom altogether. If we're not careful, we can be very good and moral and obedient in attempting to keep the rules, and we can miss the gospel all together. So Galatians 5 is saying, the moment our faith becomes more about what we are doing than what Christ has already done, we walk away from freedom. Look back at verse 2, Paul writes, "Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you." And we might read that verse and be a little shocked because the term circumcision is used there, and that's a shocking term to think about. But what is so shocking about this statement is what Paul writes in the second half of that verse, Christ will be of no advantage to you. What is Paul saying here? Paul is saying, if you make your faith about what you're trying to do to prove your worth, you are living as if Christ is meaningless. You are living as if the gospel does not matter at all.

George Wright: 14:36 And in verse 3 he writes, "I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law." What is this all about? Paul is addressing a group of Judaizers that had begun influence this early church in Galatia, and they are teaching that Jesus is not enough. They are teaching that, hey, it's fine to follow Jesus, but if you really want to be right with God, here's this list of things that you have to do that you have to prove you're good enough for God. Circumcision was one, if you really want to be right with God, you must be circumcised. If you really want to be right with God, you must jump through these religious hoops, you must do these religious deeds, and then God will say you are worthy of his love. Paul is speaking very clearly, Paul is speaking very strongly, and Paul is saying that, look, if your philosophy of faith is Jesus, plus. If the way you're living your life is Jesus plus anything, you actually are treating Jesus as if he's worth nothing. Either Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, either Jesus is our only hope by which man can be saved, or Jesus and his death on the cross is totally meaningless and useless.

George Wright: 16:19 Paul writes, Christ is of no advantage to you, in verse 3. This is a hard, hard statement in the scripture. The scripture is saying that if we require obedience to any part of the law as a means of our justification. What is justification? Justification means we are justified in the sight of God, we are made right in the sight of God, we are worthy in the sight of God. If we require any part of the law as a means of our justification, meaning we have to do something, we have to have a certain amount of works or religious deeds to be justified in the sight of God. If we require that, then we must require and become committed to perfect obedience to the law all the time, every time, every day of our life. Paul is saying, look, you can't have it both ways. You can't pick and choose. You can't say I follow part of the law and that makes me justified. No, you must say, I am committed to perfectly follow all of the law, if you believe that you are justified through your works.

George Wright: 17:39 And I love the fact that we had parents-child dedication today as I'm preaching through this text. Because here's what I know every parent would say to the church if they were honest, they love their children, their children are beautiful, their children are God's blessing, their children are a gift from the Lord, but there has been no question for any of these parents, if they are honest there from the moment that child was born, that child is a sinner. Crying in the middle of the night, throwing up on a perfectly clean shirt, pooping all over the place without any thought or care or concern about how it might smell or where it might end up, refusing to eat, refusing to sleep, making life difficult, a child was born with the sin. There's no illusion for parents looking at their children concluding, you know why I love my child, but I know my child's not perfect. Regardless of what we post on Instagram, or on any other form of social media, our child is not perfect. And yet how many people approach religion, and approach the requirements of following the rules as if they are perfect, as if they somehow can justify themselves in the sight of God through their performance. Paul is saying, do not be deceived here, don't miss this beautiful invitation to live free. You cannot justify yourself through your performance, you cannot check enough boxes to be called worthy in the sight of God, you need a savior. And Paul writes this all throughout Galatians.

George Wright: 19:49 Look at Galatians chapter 3 verses 10 through 11, 10 and 11, it says, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” So think about it this way, we'll put this up on the screen as it relates to justification, there's really two options according to the Bible, two ways to be justified in the sight of God. The first way is my perfect obedience, living perfectly obedient to the law, every breath I take, every thought I think, everything I do, every day of my life for as long as live. My perfect obedience. Or the good news of the gospel, Christ's perfect obedience for me. Jesus Christ has done for me what I could never do myself. Either I am responsible for justifying myself, or Jesus has perfectly and completely justified me through his perfect obedience to the law, and his sacrificial death at the cross, and his resurrection from the grave and he has defeated sin and death. What does your faith built upon? Is it built upon you, and what you're trying to do, or is it built upon what Christ has already done?

George Wright: 21:40 Now this leads to a very important question, I just want to take us in just a little different direction for a moment as it relates to the law. And the question is this, well, if I cannot perfectly obey the law, then why did God give me a law? If I can't live up to God's standard, then why in the world did God line out his law in his word? I mean, what's the deal there? You're just setting us up for failure, I mean, what is this all about? Why has God given us a law if he knows we cannot fulfill it? Well, let me give you two reasons according to the word of God.

George Wright: 22:18 The first one is so incredibly important as we think about the commands of scripture, as we think about the commands that show us how to live and what to do. I'm going to turn your attention to the middle of the Bible, Psalm chapter 119, Psalm chapter 119, turn over there. We'll come back to Galatians 5 in just a moment, but turn to Psalm 119, I want to read several verses. The scripture tells us that the law shows us God's best. The law of God is good. The law of God shows us what is right and good and true. Listen to the words of the Psalmist here in Psalm 119 beginning in verse 97, "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." You see, the law of God shows us the wisdom of God. The law is for our good, and when we walk according to the wisdom of God laid out in God's law, it always reveals to us God's best for our life. So the scripture reminds us, the law is beautiful. But please don't miss this, the law is beautiful, but it is powerless to save us because of our sin. The problem is not with the law, the problem is in us with our sin. None of us can perfectly live according to the law.

George Wright: 24:28 And so secondly, God has given us the law not only to show us what is best, but God has given us the law so that it will reveal to us our sin. Romans chapter 3 verses 19 and 20 make this very, very clear. It says this, "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin". There it is, the law shows us, the law shows you and the law shows me that we are not God. We are not God, we have sin, we fall short, we need a savior. We have no power to save ourselves. And when we see our need, then we can see very clearly what the savior has done. We can appreciate the incredible good news that is the gospel, the grace and mercy that God is poured out on us through the cross of Jesus Christ. The law is good, and the law reveals our sin and shows us that we need a savior.

George Wright: 25:51 So with that in mind, we go back to Galatians chapter 5 verse 4, and we see this very strong statement of the word of God. For those of you who are living your lives to try and prove your worth to God, for those of you who are living your lives to try and show that you are good enough to be worthy of God's love, listen to what the scripture says. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law, you have fallen away from grace. It's a very hard statement. The word of God is showing us how serious the implications are of building our life, and building our faith on our works and on our performance, instead of the finished work of Christ that truly invites us to be set free. There can be some confusion around this statement. What does it mean to fall away from grace? Is Paul saying you're in danger of losing your salvation? No, that's not at all what the scripture is saying, and we know that because of what the word of God reveals about the gift of salvation. You can see this in John's gospel, you can see this in First John chapter 5 there is assurance of salvation for those who trust in Christ. So what does it mean to fall away from grace? Well, think about it like this, the apostle Paul is showing us what God has don, and he's showing us that there are some who just refuse to accept that what God has done is enough. It'd be like if you had a terminal illness and someone came to you and said, here's the cure for that terminal illness, here's the way for you to be healed. And you turn and walk away and say, you know what, that's okay, I just think I'm going to try and heal myself. Only a fool would turn away an offer for a true healing from a terminal illness. And Paul is saying that's what some have done. They've heard the gospel and yet they've said, you know what? I think I can do this. I'm going to try my hardest. I'm going to try to prove my worth to God, I'm going to try to save myself. And Paul is saying, you've actually fallen away from the grace that you have been offered. You've been offered the answer, you've been offered the cure, and you have fallen away from what you have been freely offered. Don't miss out on what God has done. Don't miss out, don't fall away from the only offer that could truly save.

George Wright: 29:01 And then in verse 5 and 6, we see as the tone changes just a little bit in this letter. The incredible implications of resting in the freedom of the gospel and believing it is Christ alone, not Jesus plus anything, but Christ alone that can save. Galatians chapter 5 verse 5 says this, "For through the spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness." What is this all about? Paul is showing us here where our hope can truly rest, and this verse is saying that true followers of Christ have no delusion of a hope that is a part from Christ, because our hope rests securely in what Christ alone can do. And as a result of having this hope in Christ, and in Christ alone can do Paul fast forward to the end of our life and says, think about that day when you are standing before God think about judgment day. This is a big thought and he said, if you are a follower of Christ and your hope is in the gospel, and your hope is in the finished work of Jesus, you can look forward to the final day with an eager hope, with excitement, with joy, without fear, without worry, without question, without anxiety and say, I know on that day, I will be called justified in the sight of God. To eagerly await that day is one of the gifts of truly being rooted in the gospel, to not fear the judgment of God, but to recognize that in the face of the judgment of God on judgment day, we will stand secure, justified by what Christ has done for us. Is that the kind of hope that you have? Is that the kind of hope that defines your life? Because you see what Paul is saying, if your hope is built on your performance, you will not look forward to judgment day. You will be nervous, you will be scared, you will be afraid, I hope I've done enough, I hope I've made the cut. Paul is saying, no, you can have confidence if your hope is in Christ alone.

George Wright: 31:49 And then verse 6, where we will close our message this morning, Paul writes, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything. But only faith working through love..." And I love this, I love this because the scripture here is reminding us that obedience is important. Please don't miss this, obedience is incredibly important. For the law of God is good, and the law of God shows us what is best. Obedience is important, but as it relates to salvation, obedience is worth nothing. Because you and I cannot obey enough rules to save ourselves. The only way we can be saved according to the word of God is through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ for us, and what he has done to set us free. And when you know this good news, you are set free to obey out of the love of God that has been offered to you.

George Wright: 33:00 And this brings us right back to the very mission of God for his church. That we are free to love, because we have first been loved. We are free to follow, because he came to us. We are free to go wherever he calls us, because we don't have to prove our worth, we have already been called justified because of the good news of what Christ has done. So are you resting? Are you resting in the perfect obedience of Christ that sets you free and fuels your obedience to follow where the Lord may lead? Or do you think about obedience, and you think about bondage and rules and all the obligations and all the to do list and all the boxes that need to be checked? Because it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. He wants you, he wants me to know the freedom of the gospel. To not be caught up in this bondage to our performance, but to run, to run the race wherever he may lead in freedom, in joy, in love, because our hope is securely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Is that your story? Because if it's not today can be the day that you say, Jesus, I'm ready to follow you, I want to embrace the gift of freedom, I want to trust what you have done for me instead of trusting in myself and what I've been trying to do. So Jesus, I'm ready to trust my life to you. You may be here today saying, yes, I need to begin that relationship with Christ. Or you may be here today saying, I need to embrace freedom because I have been exhausted and I've lost my way. My eyes are not fixed on Jesus, my eyes are constantly fixed on myself, and I'm ready to be set free. If that's you, pray with me as we go before the Lord, thanking him for what he's done, and inviting him to set us free.

George Wright: 35:35 Let's pray. Father God, I so incredibly grateful for this beautiful gospel, for the incredible good news that shows us regardless of where we're from, regardless of what we've done, there is freedom in Christ for all who will trust in you. And yet we recognize that so many of us have been caught up in this performance trap, running on this performance treadmill, trying to prove our worth to you. Some are exhausted, some have turned to run the other way in rebellion, and some, Oh Lord God, some are believing they're doing it right. And I pray for all three that the gospel would just confront us head on, and that even now, your spirits would prompt our hearts and our minds to recognize where we might be. And I pray that we would be set free. So for those who know today that they need to trust in Jesus, I pray right now would be the moment that they would say Jesus, I am ready to follow you. I have been running hard and I am exhausted, and I can't do this, I can't save myself, I'm ready to follow you. There are those who are saying, I've been running the other direction, and I thought it would set me free to get away from all of these rules and all of this religion. And yet in my rebellion I haven't found freedom, and so I'm coming to Jesus ready, saying, I need you. And Lord, for those who are been caught up in the bondage of self-righteousness, I pray that today would be the day that the scales would fall off their eyes. That they would come before you in repentance and say, I am ready to follow Jesus, to not make this about me anymore, but to let this be about Jesus and what you have done that I might be free. I pray that we would embrace this gift of freedom, and Lord, that you would use us to be a people who not only live free, but who invite others into the good news of the freedom of the gospel. We pray that it would be your love that fuels it all. It's in Christ' name we pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206