One of the things the church continually needs is focus. This year has, it seems, hampered our focus in various ways. We are either focused on the wrong things or simply lack focus on anything.
However, one thing is certain. We need to focus more and more on Jesus in the present evil age. At our church we are walking through Galatians with this aim: Staying close to Jesus. That means we want our affections for Jesus to increase. We want to focus more intently on the good news of Jesus. Specifically, focusing more and more attention on what he has done for us and all that he is for us. He is our Sovereign, Savior, and Satisfying King!
If you’re reading this, that is what I want for you, too. I don’t want you to drift. I don’t want these weird days to lead you away from a passionate pursuit of Christ and his glory. May Galatians 1:24 be true of our lives!
Today, it seems a lot of people are drifting from Jesus and Jesus’ people (i.e. the church). People are finding it easy to stay home, skip corporate worship, leave the church, and opt for something else. Perhaps the warnings against moving to live stream/online only options during the pandemic were worth paying attention to after all.
Overall, I feel sad when I hear stories and see the numbers of people deciding not to re-engage the church. Jesus laid his life down for the church, which finds expressions in local bodies of believers who gather on a regular basis. And the reality is, we need each other. That is why the writer of Hebrews tells us not to forsake gathering (Heb 10:25). Gathering with each other is a central part of who we are as God’s called-out people.
But, again, many are drifting. Drifting from Jesus and drifting from Jesus’ people. I don’t want that to be you or me or our families. My prayer is that God would hold us close. At our church, I’m hoping he would use Galatians to warn us of the danger of drifting and cause us to cling closely to Christ. So, again, the big idea here is simple: Don’t Drift from Jesus.
Galatians and the Danger of Drifting
Drifting from the Jesus and God’s gospel is, I think, a banner hanging over Galatians. Why does Paul write this letter to these churches? Because the Galatians were Drifting from the Gospel. But, they were not merely drifting from a feel-good message, right? They were Drifting from the God of the Gospel. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (1:6). Did you catch that? They were drifting, or “deserting him…” That is, they were turning away from the Father.
Furthermore, they were drifting from God the Father who has called the Galatians to himself. This idea of calling is clear in the NT. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). The Father draws (calls) and who he draws, he raises up. That means the call is effectual. It works. If God the Father calls, you come. And if you come, God keeps you and raises you up on the last day. To say it simply, if you’ve come to Jesus in faith, you’ve been saved and will be saved. God will do it!
But, wait a minute! If God will keep those whom he has called, why is Paul worried…the Galatians won’t finally fall away, right? One way to read Paul’s impassioned opening in Galatians is to think Paul is worried the Galatians will lose the salvation they once had. I don’t think that works, though.
At our church, we don’t believe truly born-again believers can lose their salvation. We believe Christ will keep us safe. There are at least three reasons we believe God preserves his people: First, we believe we are safe in the arms of Jesus because Jesus says he will raise up those the Father calls (look back at John 6:44). Will Jesus fail? Not a chance. Second, other passages in the NT rule out the possibility that a true believer would finally fall away. Paul’s letter to Roman Christians paints this picture in bright colors.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:29–39).
Third, if someone walks away from Jesus, there is a better explanation than saying or believing they lost their salvation. Instead, for those who abandon Jesus, the reality is that though they professed Jesus, they never truly possessed Jesus. The Apostle John hits this note when he writes, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:18–19).
So, if Paul is not worried about the Galatians losing their salvation, why is he writing in such a straightforward manner? What is Paul doing here in Galatians when he skips his normal greeting and speaks plainly about their doctrinal drift? Simply put, he is writing to call them back to the Father and this letter is exactly what God the Father uses to call the Galatians to stay close to Jesus. In other words, God will keep believers safe in his arms. But how? What means or weapons does he use to preserve us? One weapon is the written Word. In other words, this letter by Paul is one of the means God uses to keep believers close to Jesus.
So, in short, the Galatians are drifting from Jesus. If they walk away from Jesus and the gospel, they will perish. But God has called them to Christ. Now, through Paul’s writings, God will sovereignly work to keep them (and you) safe in his arms.
LIVING IN LIGHT OF WHAT WE’VE SEEN
Friend, are you drifting? Maybe you can’t answer that because you’re not sure what drifting looks like. Let me ask you some questions to help: Are you losing your zeal for Christ? Is the day of your salvation increasingly in the rearview mirror? Are you losing sight of the finished work of Jesus, focusing more on what you do than on what Christ has done?
If you are drifting, be careful.
Stay Close to Jesus—when we realize there is a danger of drifting from Jesus, then we want to make sure to exert grace-driven and Spirit-dependent effort to stay close to him. That is, we want to keep fanning the flame of our affections for him and keep believing and trusting in him alone for our salvation.
Look at the Book—read the Bible. Notice it is through the written Word that God calls the Galatians back to himself. So, dive into the Word and watch as God keeps you close.
Talk to God—pray. Talk to your Creator, Father, and Friend. Commune with him. Ask him for help.
Go to Church—the church is one of the ways God keeps us close (look at Galatians 6:1!). Lean into the people of Jesus and let them come alongside you as you faithfully pursue Jesus in the present evil age.
Again, my prayer is that God would use the means of grace (prayer, Bible reading, the local church) to cause us to cling closely to Christ until he returns or calls us home.