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The Two Jerusalems April 3, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Galatians, Hagar, Isaac, Palm Sunday, Promises of God, Sarah.
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TWO JERUSALEMS
Galatians 4:19-31

When Jesus rode the donkey on Palm Sunday, the people were celebrating because he was riding into Jerusalem. The Jews knew that Jerusalem, specifically the Temple, was where God had chosen to place His name. They knew that from Mount Zion the Messiah would set up the kingdom where he would rule in justice over Israel and that it is there where the nations would come and worship God and submit themselves to His Messiah. It is no wonder that they were so excited.

Yet Jesus on that first Palm Sunday did not set up a throne at the Temple but rather did a house-cleaning, driving the money-changers and the animal-sellers off of the Temple grounds. You see something had happened at the Temple. Money had become more important than prayer.

Later on that week Jesus was talking to the disciples. As they admired the Temple, Jesus told them that it would be destroyed and all of Jerusalem with it. This happened less than forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

When Paul wrote Galatians though Jerusalem and the Temple was still standing. It was a symbol for every Jew of their special relationship with God. In fact, the Jews had fallen into a special type of false worship. They had begun to worship their relationship to God as symbolized by the “present Jerusalem,” the place where God’s Temple had been built.

1. If we worship what we do to maintain our relationship with God; we are enslaved by those works (verse 21-25).

Paul uses two women to illustrate his point: Hagar and Sarah. Both had sons by Abraham. Hagar was a slave. The son she bore was not promised by God. Sarah was Abraham’s wife and bore a son because of God’s promise. Her son would carry the blessing that God had given to his father. Hagar remained a slave for the rest of the time she lived in Abraham’s household. She was probably a good mother but she remained a slave. Paul says that you who are trying to keep the Old Testament law to maintain your relationship with God are like Hagar. You are slaves.

There is probably no one here trying to keep the Old Testament law but there may be someone trying to maintain their relationship with God by works. We encountered this in Europe. There were people who refused to leave the state church they grew up in because they were afraid they would lose their relationship with God. This happens in America also though. This may be out of fear, that is, they have been taught that if they make a mistake or too many mistakes or too serious of a mistake then God will forsake them.

It may, however, be because of pride. Spiritual pride is often behind the works of the law. The people, who crucified Jesus, were a proud people. They were convinced that no one else could be as close to God as they were. They were quite convincing. All over the Roman Empire there were Gentiles like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius who were longing for a God who they could respect and worship but they were shut off unless they were willing to undergo circumcision, to establish that special relationship with God.

These Jews were enslaved by their pride. We think of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and we often think of them as enslaved by their addictions. Their addictions drive them to do irrational things. Some of the Galatians had become enslaved by the works of the law and it had caused them to do the most irrational thing of all, leave Christ for the works of the law.

Imagine that someone has been given an unlimited gift card for a five-star restaurant. They go in and they order the finest of food and drink but then they feel compelled to go out on the street and start cleaning the sidewalk in front so that they can earn their meal. Once inside they brag to everyone about how industrious they were and how they had earned this fine meal. We would say they are crazy.

Are you enslaved by the pride of your relationship with God? None of us can earn a relationship with God. God does not give away brownie points.

2. If we worship the God who promises spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ, we are free because He has kept His promise (verses 26-28).

Relationships can be joyous but they can be enslaving. There is no joy in enslavement but there is joy in a promise. When in Lynchburg, I looked for a souvenir because I knew that my daughter was rejoicing in the promise of one. Just because we have a relationship is not guarantee of joy. There are lots of daughters who dread their father coming home but she had received a promise and she rejoiced in that promise.

If you were to choose between your relationship to God and the promise you have in Jesus, which would you choose? If you hold to maintaining that relationship, you may miss out on the promise, on the Jerusalem that is above; but if you hold to the promise provided through Christ’s death on the cross, you will also have the relationship.

(Here is an illustration taken second-handedly through Ray Pritchard.) “It goes something like this. Consider for a moment the deeds of Jeffrey Dahmer…he was a pervert, a murderer, and a cannibal. After he was arrested, he professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is, he claimed to have seen the error of his ways, confessed his sins, and cried out to Jesus to save him. We’ll never know the full story of what happened because he was beaten to death in prison not long after that… [Does God’s promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ apply to Jeffrey Dahmer?] …When we think about Jeffrey Dahmer and the possibility that he might truly have been saved after those heinous crimes, our first response may be to say, “There is grace even for people like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That statement, true as it is, reveals at least as much about us as it does about him. All of us would like to think (and in fact do think) that we are “better” than he is. Or we’re not as “bad” as he was. I make no bones about the fact that I think I am “better” than Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve never done the things he did. I’ve never even thought or dreamed or imagined about some of them. So when I say there is grace “even” for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, while I’m willing to include him in the circle of those God might save, I’m not putting myself on his level. I truly believe I’m better than he is…But then (as you can tell I’m partly telling the illustration and partly thinking my way through it at the same time) the preacher said it’s not enough to say there is grace even for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. In truth, he said, there is grace only for the Jeffrey Dahmers of this world. They alone can be saved” (taken and slightly adapted from “Amazing Grace,” a sermon by Ray Pritchard, found at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1999-10-03-Amazing-Grace/ ).

This is the promise we have of eternal life through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is by grace not by maintaining our relationship with God. Will you claim God’s promise as to you? A promise is no good if it is not claimed. It gives no hope unless you believe it.

Believer, are you living according to promise or in the pride of your relationship to God?

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