"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." - Galatians 4:4-7
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
When Martin Luther looked back on his life, recalling when he was a monk still far from understanding the gospel, he realized he had hated God.
Here is Luther in his own words:
“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners...and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God…Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.”
Luther hated God. He hated God because he was working and working and working for God but never knew himself to possess anything from God. He knew everything God wanted from him, but he knew nothing of what God had given to him.
What are you when you are working and working and working but possess nothing? You are a slave. A slave who possesses nothing but must give everything will despise his master.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you are deep in it or light in it, but like Luther, maybe you hate God too. You would never say so. You would not dare, but your conscience says it. Your conscience rages against God and against his Church and against his Word and against his Law.
How does this rage manifest? You find his service in the Church and his call to love other believers and his command to fight your sin a great nuisance and burden. It all feels like slavery to you. Your conscience rages against these things because you know what God demands but you do not regard his gifts.
If that is you, you are living the law-driven life. You are pursuing the demands of God with no love for God. No love for God because you do not know God as your generous loving Father.
Slaves possess nothing and work in anger. Sons possesses everything and work in joy. The law-driven life is the life of a slave not of a son.
Let’s be clear about something: the law-driven life is not God’s idea. It never was. It never has been. It never will be. What Martin Luther was doing when he was a monk was not one of two permissible versions of Christianity. What Luther was doing was not even Christian. Yes, there was a Bible. There were bishops. There were church buildings. But the rest of it was satanic. It was just another version of pagan religion where men are enslaved to their man-made spirituality in hope that at the end of their slavish service they will have earned some reward.
The Christian life is the absolute opposite of this. It is the life of a son who already possesses all things and serves in the confidence of his Father’s generosity. The Christian life is a gospel-driven life.
The word gospel literally means “an announcement of good news.” The Christian life begins, and begins again every day, with the announcement of all the good God has done for us…the announcement of all that we possess of God because through Christ crucified and risen for us God was determined we possess him. That He be our Father. That we be his children. The Christian life begins with this gospel!
But it continues with the gospel too. The good announcement of all we possess of God does not fade like old jeans the longer we live in Christ’s kingdom. It should not. It must not. Believing the gospel not only births us into the Kingdom, but believing the gospel is what rears us and matures us in the Kingdom every day after. So the gospel we first believed is not something we get over, it is something that takes over. It takes over our whole outlook on this life we live before God.
When you are in possession of the Father's generous inheritance through union with his greater Son, your service in his household is not misery, it is the joy of ownership.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor John Hartley