Sunday, December 28, 2014


[This was shared during worship services with the people and guests of Living Water Lutheran Church in Springboro, Ohio, earlier today.]

Galatians 4:4-7
This morning, I want to ask you to do a thought experiment. 

This is a stretch: But, let’s pretend that you’re an average, normal Lutheran walking through a crowded mall. You’re minding your own business, not bothering anybody else--because, after all, you are an average, normal Lutheran--when a young man walks up to you and with urgency in his voice, asks, “Are you saved?” 

By now, you are practiced at fending off such unwanted discussions with strangers. So, you say, softly, so that nobody else can hear (because, after all, you are an average, normal Lutheran), “Why, yes, I am saved.” The young man, pleased with your answer, scans the mall for the next person to speak to.

I mean no disrespect either for the interviewer or the interviewee in this little vignette. The young man is right to want to share his faith in Christ with others. Jesus has commanded—and not just suggested that—all Christians make disciples. 

On the other hand, the average, normal Lutheran is right to feel that making disciples ought to happen more in the course of conversations between two willing participants than in a flash of religious verbiage among strangers.

After the encounter, our average, normal Lutheran finds a bench to wait for his wife while she hits the After-Christmas Sale at Bath and Body Works. But he can’t help thinking about the young man’s question: “Are you saved?” “Am I saved?” he asks himself. 

And that’s a good question for me to pose to you this morning, one average, normal Lutheran to another: “Are you saved?”

For our answer, we’ll be looking at today’s second lesson, Galatians 4:4-7. 

Before digging into it though, we should be honest and note that both Jesus and the Bible teach that there are people who will not be saved and that there are things--like sin and death, over which we have no personal power, from which we all need to be saved

According to Jesus, for example, there are people—maybe people you and I know—who will go to hell. In one of Jesus’ parables, Jesus tells about a wedding banquet filled with people who gain entry into the celebration by wearing special wedding robes issued by a king. One man crashes the party without such a robe. The king has him thrown out, Jesus says, into the “outer darkness, where there [is] weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

The point of Jesus’ story is clear: Those who seek to gain entrance into eternity with God while remaining naked in their sins, unclothed by the forgiveness that belongs only to those who repent for sin and believe in Christ, will ticket themselves for separation from God, for hell. 

Hell is real. 

But life with God is also real

And because both heaven and hell are real, this business of salvation has life-and-death importance for every single human being!

Now, please turn to our second lesson for today, Galatians 4:4-7. It’s on page 812 in the sanctuary Bibles. 

The church in Galatia, to which this letter was written, was started by the apostle Paul, the writer of this letter, in about 49AD. Galatia was a prosperous region in what is today Turkey. The church’s members were Gentiles, non-Jews. They had received the good news of new life for all who believe in Jesus Christ through Paul’s ministry. 

But since Paul had left them, a group of people known as Judaizers had come along to confuse them about their faith. They told the Galatians that it wasn’t enough to believe in Jesus. If they really wanted salvation, the Judaizers said, they also had to submit to Old Testament ritual law, which had been rendered unnecessary by Christ's crucifixion. The men had to be circumcised. Everybody had to conform to Jewish dietary laws. They needed to make sacrifices for their sins, as though the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world" was insufficient. All of these things and more, they claimed, were conditions for salvation.

Some people in the Galatian church bought into all this nonsense. They allowed themselves to turn what God had given as a free gift—new and everlasting life for all who believe in Jesus Christ—into a legal transaction. 

Others, intimidated by the Judaizers in the way our average, normal Lutheran was in his encounter with the young man at the mall, were rocked back on their heels and wondered, “Am I saved?” 

Paul responds to this question and to the decision of some to turn their backs on power of Christ’s free gifts of forgiveness and life for all who turn from sin and believe in Him alone. “You foolish Galatians!” Paul says in Galatians 3:1. “Who has bewitched you?” How could you have forgotten, Paul is asking, that you’re not saved by your good deeds or your standup characters or by conforming to religious law, but solely by grace through faith in Christ?

Now, please look at our second lesson. Paul talks about the coming of the Son at Christmas in verses 4 and 5: “…when the set time had fully come [when the time was right according to God’s timetable], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem [to redeem means to buy out slavery] those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” When God decided that the time was right, He sent His Son. But, as we remember at Christmas, Jesus didn’t come in the full majesty of His deity. Nor did He arrive with the paraphernalia of the worldly kings. He came as a man to share our lives, our deaths, and our condemnation for sin. That’s what it means to say that He was "born under the law," the very law that condemns us to death for our sin. So completely did Jesus share the condemnation for our sins that First Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus, after His death, even experienced life in hell, where “He made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.” Jesus did all this so that those who believe in Him share in His resurrection victory and never need to ask themselves, “Am I saved?”

To be "saved" is to be adopted as God’s children. This is an important point! Jesus once told some of His fellow Jews that God was no longer their father. Genealogical descent from a man named Abraham did not make them children of God. “You belong to your father, the devil,” He said in John 8:44. 

We can only be adopted as God’s children when we believe in Jesus Christ and in what only He has accomplished for us through His cross and empty tomb. We are saved by the blood of Jesus, our Savior! We are adopted into the family of God as a gift of God to all with faith in Christ.

Verse 6 says: Because you are his sons [his daughtersm his children], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ You know that you’re a child of God, that you’ve been saved, when you’re able to call God, “Abba!” 

“Abba” is the term Jesus used for “our Father in heaven” when He taught us the Lord’s Prayer. In Jesus’ everyday language of Aramaic, “Abba” was the term that little children used for their fathers, a term that connoted all the trust a child has in her or his daddy. When you trustingly and submissively pray to your Father in heaven, your own spirit is confirming that God’s Holy Spirit lives within you and that you are a child of God through faith in Christ.

Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like a second-class Christian because you don’t have the same spiritual gifts or the same spiritual experiences that they claim to have! If you humbly pray to God, your Father, you have the Holy Spirit. You are saved. And He will bring You comfort, hope, guidance, and the assurance of God’s love for you, no matter what happens in your life.

Paul underscores this in verse 7 of our lesson: So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. In another place in the New Testament, Romans 10:9, Paul writes: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Both of these passages are crystal clear: If you believe in the Jesus revealed in life and on the pages of Scripture—who was born of a virgin, suffered death on the cross for our sins, raised from the dead by God the Father, who offers new life to all who turn from their sins and believe in Him—you can rest assured that you have been saved. You are a child of God!

Now folks, that’s such an incredible thing that, while we may not like the method of the young man in the mall of our little scenario, we should be able to understand why he wants to share the good news of salvation for all who believe in Jesus with others, don't you think? Yesterday on Facebook, a colleague from the NALC posted a quote from C.H. Spurgeon: "A Christian who is not a missionary is an impostor."

Confident that we have been saved through Christ, may 2015 be a year in which we average, normal Lutherans join the apostles Peter and John, who, when facing persecution told those who threatened them with punishment if they ever again spoke in the Name of Jesus, “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” [Acts 4:20] in Jesus, the One Whose Name is above all names [Philippians 2:9], the One Who has saved us.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are saved. That's good news. It should comfort and empower our living. And it is worth sharing. Amen!

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