But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? Galatians 4:9 (NIV).
Paul asked this question of his friends in Galatia nearly two thousand years ago. Could he be asking it of you today?
Have you watched “The Chosen” lately? We’ve discussed it here before. It’s the crowd-funded show about Jesus. In the very first episode, we meet Mary Magdalene, who is possessed by demons and leading a life of sin. Jesus heals her, calls her to follow Him, and changes her life. Sometime later, in a different episode, though, Mary goes back to her old ways. She goes back to the red-light district because she just can’t seem to shake the effects of things that had happened before. Mary knew she’d been a slave to sin, but she chose to leave Jesus – JESUS, God Immanuel, who she knew face to face, who had personally rescued her – and go back to the illusory comfort of pet sins.
Hello, Mary, my name is Dave; hello, Mary, my name is friend reader. We’re very much alike.
Here in Galatians, Paul is asking his friends why they have begun to turn back to old ways of Judaism that have been superseded by the Christ’s atonement and resurrection. The behaviors required by those codes seem trivial by today’s standards. Observing Jewish festivals, holy days, special celebrations: what’s so wrong with that? After all, modern companies, even modern churches, go out of their way to do that in our time.
What’s so wrong with it? Everything. It’s rejecting the salvation of Jesus in favor of legalistic traditions, codes, and rubbish. The churches in Galatia might as well have been Mary Magdalene, returning to a life of drunkenness and whoring. She couldn’t simply dabble in the old ways: she jumped in fully. Just like the churches in Galatia. Just like us. Do it long enough and we wouldn’t know God. Do it long enough and we wouldn’t even know ourselves.
That’s why Paul chided his friends this way; it’s why it’s also a good warning for us. Jesus doesn’t force us to follow Him. He doesn’t compel us; He doesn’t threaten us for falling away. But He does state the truth that, if we don’t know Him, we embrace sin. We can’t simply have a little taste of sin. It won’t let us, and Christ knows this. He asks each of us to follow Him, knowing it will be hard to deny temptation and that sometimes we’ll feel pulled to go backwards. But He asks us anyway, knowing that, if we let Him, He will remake who we are.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 4:3, Colossians 2:20, Galatians 4:10
Strengthen me when I am weak, Lord, that I might follow You closer.
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