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Freed from the Law, for the Law, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 11, 2024 9:00 am

Freed from the Law, for the Law, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 11, 2024 9:00 am

As we continue our series called, Freedom in the In-Between, Pastor J.D. is tackling an issue that’s critical to understanding the gospel: the relationship between grace and actions. We’re in Galatians chapter 3, and J.D. is answering the question, “If we’re saved by grace, then what’s the point of obeying God’s law?”

Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Rather than being clothed by the righteousness of Christ according to the promise of God, which would give you freedom, you try to clothe yourself through obedience to the law and that makes you a slave to the law.

And what that looks like is you get really technical and legalistic and judgmental about what it's got to look like and others who aren't doing it or you become really paranoid about are you obeying it enough. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You're joining us today in the middle of a teaching series in the book of Galatians called Freedom and the In-Between. And last time on the program, Pastor J.D. started tackling an issue that's critical to understanding the gospel, the relationship between grace and actions.

If you missed the first part of this message, be sure to visit But here in a moment, we'll dive back into the study. We're in Galatians chapter three and J.D. is answering the question, if we're saved by grace, then what's the point of obeying God's law? An important answer awaits us. So grab your Bible and a pen and let's get started.

Here's Pastor J.D. So here Paul gives us answer starting in verse 19. Why then was the law given? It was added for the sake of transgressions until the seed during the promise was made would come. Is the law therefore contrary to God's promises?

Absolutely not. Verse 22, the scripture in prison through the law, everything under sends power so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. The law then, here's your key word, was our guardian. It was our guardian until Christ so that we could be justified by faith. Verse 25, but since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. The key word there is guardian.

Some translations will say tutor or schoolmaster. Three ways Paul says the law is like our guardian, our tutor, our nanny, our school teacher. And these are the three ways, by the way, the ongoing uses of the law in the life of a believer. Okay, three ongoing uses of the law. By law, this means God's commands about what we should and shouldn't do, whether we're talking about 10 commandments or coming to church and doing your quiet time or something like that.

First, the law is a curb. Through threats of punishment or consequences, the law keeps our sinful natures in check. We obey sometimes simply because we're scared of the consequences. Forcing ourselves to obey the law does not erase the presence of sin in our hearts, but obeying the law can keep us from the further damage that is caused by acting on sin.

So that's the first thing it does is it curbs the effects of sin. Number two, the law serves for us as a mirror. The law reveals to us as if looking in a mirror how sinful our heart actually is, because the law reveals to us what a righteous heart is supposed to look like. And when we look into the law, we see what our heart does look like, and it leads us to despair because we see how twisted our heart is and how desperate we are for a savior. Thirdly, it is, Paul says, a guide.

It is a guide or a compass or a map. After being saved, the law shows us the best way that we can please the God that we now love. You see, the law perfectly reveals God's character to us, and it shows us what a life that is pleasing to God would look like. Railroad tracks can point you the direction that you're supposed to go, but the railroad tracks are powerless to move the freight along the tracks, right?

You need an engine to move the freight along the tracks. The gospel is the locomotive that moves the freight of your obedience along the tracks. Those are the three ongoing uses of the law for the Christian. You see, it's a curb. It's a curb that keeps us from the further damage that sin would cause in our lives. It is a mirror that shows us how sinful we are and how desperate we are for a savior, brings us to call out to Christ for mercy, and then it is a guide showing us how to act in order to please the God who has saved us and how to bless others, but the power to actually change the heart.

See, this is the key. The power to actually change the heart, the power to produce righteous desires in the heart is only found in the finished work of Christ, and only that, that can only come by the power of the resurrection that is released only by faith in God's promise, not by obedience or a resolution that you're going to do better. In chapter four, Paul continues, number four, verse one, he says, Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he's the owner of everything. In other words, you've got a kid and a slave growing up in a house, and one owns everything and one doesn't, but for the time being, when they're immature as kids, they're both under the law, even though one's in charge.

Instead, he's under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. In the same way, we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. In other words, before we came to maturity in Christ, that is, before righteous desires are fully formed in our hearts, we need the law.

Sometimes we have to be told what to do, and sometimes we got to force ourselves to do the right thing, even when we feel otherwise. So, verse four, Paul goes on, When the time came to completion, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. God wanted to transform us into sons who wanted to obey. He did not want to want us to remain as slaves who were forced to obey, so he redeemed us. And because you are sons, Paul said, God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Daddy, my father, my father. After God cleared our sin debt through Christ, he put Christ, his son's spirit, into you so that you would start to love and trust God, just like Jesus did. Verse seven, See, you are no longer a slave. He says, You are a son, and that makes you free. No longer do we live under a law that forces us to do what you don't want to do. Christ's spirit comes into us and changes our desires so that obeying the law is what we desire to do.

Here's an illustration I've used before to give you a picture of this for the law. Some of you love this illustration, and some of you hate this illustration. And you're like, oh, it's just too crude. But you know what?

If Paul can talk about circumcision the way that he did, I can use this illustration, okay? I've described it like this before. I'm like, let's say that right before worship started, before the service started, one of our worship leaders from right here got sick and just vomited everywhere on the floor. I know it's gross, but it was so close to service time, we didn't have time to clean it up. Now, we would not have to, nobody would have to get up here, none of the campus pastors, and would say, now, I'm really serious, it is against the rules of the summit church for you to come down here and lick up this vomit.

That is a very serious offense, we will throw you out of here. We're going to put two big old guards right side by side with baseball bats, and if you come down here and try to lick up this vomit, they're going to throw you out. Nobody needs to hear that, right? Nobody's like, oh, there's my chance, I was going to get some free vomit.

Nobody's going to say that, right? Because vomit is disgusting to you, therefore you don't need the law. Now, that would be different if you were a dog. If you're a dog, you're like, whew, warm vomit, half-eaten hot dog, awesome, you know? So you're going to be down here, and the moment that one of the guys at the stake's not looking, you can be down there licking it up because you're a dog. The dog does need the law. God, listen, God does not want spiritual dogs in heaven who only obey God because they're afraid that God will come along with a stick and beat them if they don't.

God wants people in heaven who think of sin as disgusting as he thinks sin is, who avoid sin because they hate sin, because they have the heart of the Holy Spirit that finds sin so disgusting that they can't even look at it. That's what God is wanting to produce in you, and the law can't do that no matter how big the guy is with the stick. The gospel changes your heart so that you desire to do what God's law tells you that you should do. In other words, the gospel frees us to obey God. Now, when I say frees you to obey God to many people in our culture, that sounds totally strange or nonsensical even because our culture celebrates freedom as the ability to throw off all rules and then define your own existence and do whatever you want. This is how the very Supreme Court of the United States defined freedom in a pretty famous ruling in 1992, Planned Parenthood versus Casey. Justice Anthony Kennedy, here's what he said. Listen to this, the heart of liberty, the essence of liberty is to define one's own concept of existence and the meaning of the universe.

What it means to be free is to think I have no purpose and I've just got to figure out what my purpose is. On a more popular level, in 2004, Will Smith starred in a movie called I, Robot. I don't know if many of you have seen it, but the basic gist of the movie is that there's this robot named Sonny whose purpose is to stave off a plot to destroy the human race by other robots. Well, after Sonny succeeds in saving the human race, and you're like, you're totally blowing the movie for us, you know what's going to happen because the fresh prince of Bel-Air always succeeds at whatever he does.

Amen. So after Sonny saves the human race, he tells Will Smith at the end of the movie that he's depressed now because now he doesn't know what to do with himself now that his purpose and being created has been fulfilled. Well, Will Smith, ever the insightful philosopher, tells him, well, Sonny, I guess now you're like the rest of us, free to make your own way and free to figure out what your purpose is. See, that's how our culture views freedom. You're free to find and define your own purpose.

The Bible would say that is not freedom at all. Imagine a fish that develops a psychological disorder, and that psychological disorder makes him think that he wants to hop out of the water and onto dry land. And so the fish does it. He starts flopping around in the dock and he thinks, I'm free. I am free. I'm no longer constrained by that restrictive ocean. He's not going to be free for very long.

He's going to be dead because he is designed to be in the water, and therefore he will only thrive when he's in the water. You and I are created for God, and we will thrive only when we are in right relationship to God, and we will find true freedom only when we are living according to the purpose for which we were created. And those people, by the way, who have walked with God faithfully for many years will tell you from personal experience that that is true. I will tell you, and I often explain this to my kids, having walked with God now for only really a couple of decades, I tell my kids, I say, if I had 10,000 lives to live, I would live every single one of them for Jesus Christ because of the joy that comes from knowing him. Life is hard, but God is good. And I know that one day when I've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, I'm going to be as energetic and as overjoyed to get up in the morning and serve God as I am today because there's no less days to sing God's praise than when I have first begun. I am created for God, and that's where I found freedom. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We'll get back to today's teaching from the Book of Galatians in a minute. But first, I wanted to remind you about our latest premium resource that we are offering to our Summit Life family right now. With your financial gift of $35 or more to this ministry, you'll receive a Bible study through the Book of Galatians written by Pastor Tim Keller. Not only will this Bible study help you gain a better understanding of one of the deepest, richest parts of the Bible, but it's also a great reminder of Pastor Tim's years of faithful gospel ministry. The apostle Paul reminds us that the only performance that ever mattered was Christ's.

His life, his death and resurrection brought us all we needed to be found acceptable by God. So grow in your faith and be inspired to embrace this gospel message and all of its beauty and maybe even study with a friend. To get your copy, call right now with your gift.

You can reach us at 866-335-5220 or visit And as always, we want to thank you for your continued support of this ministry. Now let's get back to today's teaching from Pastor J.D.

right here on Summit Life. Verse eight, but in the past, since you didn't know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not really gods. In other words, Paul saying total freedom's a myth because we're not God. We're created to depend on a God. And if we don't depend on God, we're going to depend on something in the place of God. You see, the question is not, are you a worshiper?

The question is simply what you are worshiping. Because deep down, we know we need security. We know that we know deep down, we know how fragile we are. We're powerless to stop a meteor from slamming into the earth and killing us all.

We know that if the sun heats up or cools down by five degrees or 5%, then we're all goners. You know that we need security from somewhere. We know we need something beyond ourselves to be happy, right? So we identify some thing that we need to be happy.

Maybe that's money or romance or getting to a certain standard of living or popularity or good health. God is supposed to be that thing. And when God is that thing, we experience freedom because we're created for God. But when we choose something besides God to be our primary source of security or happiness, not only are we not fulfilled, we become enslaved to that thing.

Again, the question is not if you're a worshiper, it's what you're worshiping. For example, if you depend on money for security and fulfillment and happiness, then you become really obsessed about money. And you're worried all the time about getting it or losing it or not having it. You become really stingy. You become a workaholic. If you think romance is what will make you happy, then you become desperate for romance.

You depend on it. You become really fearful about being alone. You're just paralyzed by this idea that you're gonna grow up single or you're never gonna find happy marriage.

Or when you get into a relationship, you become codependent. I told you most people approach romance like a drowning man approaches a life preserver. You got a guy drowning in a sea of loneliness and despair and low self-esteem and insignificance and along by floats a five foot two blonde headed life preserver.

What's a drowning man do when he sees a life preserver? He clings to it and he clings to it and he suffocates the life out of her because he is look, he is depending on something from her she wasn't designed to give. Matt Dillon, the actor said he realized that he was a relationship junkie. He needed the new hit of a new romantic relationship every few months to feel alive.

And some of you are in that same category. I need them. I don't get this if I don't have this more than I'm not really going to feel like a real person. If you need family to be secure and fulfilled, then you become really controlling and possessive of your family. You need your kids to turn out well because your kids turning out well will be a validation of you.

And you become really controlling of them in their future because you need them close by and you need them to be doing things that make you proud because your kids you depend on them for life and security and happiness. If you look to the approval of others to be happy, then you become a slave to other people's opinions. You live and die by what they say about you. It's like Bob Dylan says, you might be a rock and roll addict prancing on the stage. You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage. You may be a businessman or some high degree thief.

They may call you a doctor or they may call you a chief, but you're going to have to serve somebody. It might be the devil or it might be the Lord, but you're going to have to serve somebody. Friends, when the apostle Paul and Bob Dylan agree on something, it is settled in heaven. Amen. Amen.

All right. Everybody serves something. You got to serve something. Well, the same thing is true when you turn to obedience to the law to try to save yourself. Rather than being clothed by the righteousness of Christ, according to the promise of God, which would give you freedom, you try to clothe yourself through obedience to the law, and that makes you a slave to the law.

And what that looks like is you get really technical and legalistic and judgmental about what it's got to look like and others who aren't doing it, or you become really paranoid about, are you obeying it enough? And you become like Martin Luther. Have I obeyed enough? I go to church enough? I read my Bible enough? That I confess enough?

And you're constantly paralyzed and enslaved by obedience to the law. Paul says, but now, now, since you know God, by the way, he corrects himself. It's not like you even really knew God.

You didn't do anything. You just became known by God. It was his power and his gift of righteousness. All you did was receive it. How could you turn back again, having experienced God and the promise to the weak and worthless elements?

Why would you do that? You were created by God for God. And in the gospel, you found what you were looking for. You were reunited to him. You were clothed in his righteousness and filled with his power by him, by the gift of the promise.

Do you really want to turn back again to yourself for clothing and acceptance? Verse nine, do you really want to be enslaved to those things all over again? God wants to make us into sons and daughters. And he does that only by the power of the spirit. And the power of the spirit is released only in our lives through faith in the gospel. The first time we believe the words, it is finished. We were released from the penalty of sin. It is as we continue to believe the words, it is finished again and again and again, that we are released from the power of sin. It is the words, it is finished that changed the heart of a slave into the heart of a son.

And the reason some of you so struggle to obey God is that it is finished. Part of the gospel has never transformed you. It's become your forgiveness.

It has not yet become your power for change. In the fourth grade, my mother commenced several years of rather cruel and unusual, rigorous piano lessons in my life because she thought that it would add a lot of cultural richness to me. It was a desire and a vision that I did not share. And so I dreaded that moment. I dreaded that moment in the afternoon because my mother was nothing if not self-disciplined when I would be out in the yard playing football or soccer or basketball and the door would open and JD, it's time to come in and practice your piano. And I was like, mom, could you at least come up with a code word for it?

Don't tell all the kids in the neighborhood that I'm going to play the piano. Just come up with like, it's time for your medicine or something, whatever. But, you know, so every day, four o'clock I'd head in there and I'd always try to start at four, about four o'clock and round that back to four.

And then I try to be done by four 26 and round that down to four 30, take at least seven or eight potty breaks in the middle of that half hour. So actual piano practicing time was about nine minutes. The worst for me was always the recital. I never really understood the recital because by the time the recital came around, my parents had heard me clunk out for a lease about 3000 times. The only difference in hearing it this time is I was now dressed up in a bunch of uncomfortable clothes and a room full of total strangers waiting to humiliate myself.

The only bright spot in the whole evening was the dim hope that somehow if I'd got through it, they might buy me a snow cone afterwards. Finally, in about the sixth grade, my mother released me from that tyranny of my piano lessons. And I was a good witness for me.

It was in the rearview mirror, but then the strangest thing happened when I got to college. I started to really admire people who had musical talent and I love to hear them play, especially if they could play and they could lead in worship. And so I sat down and I tried to pick out a few of the tunes and actually got pretty decent at playing a few songs.

I think five of them was the total that were in my repertoire at one point. I could play five songs pretty well. Well, me and my friend there in college had a deal worked out that whenever we were somewhere and there was a piano and there were girls around, I would sit down and I'd play one of my five songs. And they'd be like, oh, you play the piano? And I would say, well, yes I do.

And I can play anything, just name a request. At that point, my friend on cue knew to jump in and say, oh yeah, play Faithfully by Journey. And so I'd sit down and I think that's the key event and I would play that and they'd be like, oh, they were so impressed and everything, or maybe they weren't, but at least I thought they were. And I really got into it. And so the strangest thing happened with that is I started to go back to my old piano training and all the things that I used to hate to do, now I started to want to do them.

I was like, let me try to learn to do those finger rolls. And let me try to learn those chord charts and the very things that had once been a source of bondage to me now became a source of liberation of doing the thing that I now loved. Paul is saying that many of us view the commandments of God and fellowship with God like I used to view the piano, it's bondage.

And that's because you don't love him. It's because you have the heart of a slave. God wants to give you the heart of a son. And that change can only happen, listen through the gospel. Many of you cannot love God because you're trying to do so and the power of your flesh, which is bent in opposition against God and nothing you can do can change that no matter how sincere you get or how many resolutions you make or how much you come to church. And deep down, you only think of God as the judge who's gonna punish you for doing what you really want to do. And that didn't bring you closer to God like Martin Luther. It makes you hate him. And the more you are commanded to love him, the more you hate him and the more you resist him and you resent him. When my kids think that I'm mad at them, they avoid me.

When my kids know that I love them and I cherish them, then they love to be around me. What if you saw, listen, what if you saw this weekend, what if you saw that even in your sin, God was not angry at you, but he was calling out to you like the father calling to the prodigal son saying, I see you're messed up hard. I see it. And I see that you don't really desire me. And I see that you desire a hundred other things in front of me.

And I see that deep down, you hate my law. And I'm not telling you that you have to change that in order for me to accept you. I'm not telling you that you got to try to pretend that you're somebody that you aren't because you can't do that. You can't change your heart. What I'm telling you is that if you'll come to me, I'll change your heart into that.

I'll do it. All you have to do is submit to me and believe that I'll do it. And then I'll go to work on your heart. You see, the gospel is not change and I will accept you.

The gospel is admit that you need to be changed and then submit to God and trust him to do it like he said he would and he will change you. He can give you the heart of a son who desires to be around and to be like their daddy. That's what God is calling out to many of you today. I know it's my voice and it's my words, but it's the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

Listen to this. He is saying to you right now, I want to be your daddy. You don't have the heart of a son yet. I know that, but I still want to be your daddy. And I can give you the heart of a son.

Come to me and trust me for it and I'll give it to you. You don't have to do anything to earn my approval. I've given that as a gift in Christ.

You just have to receive. You don't have to do anything in your own power to change your heart. That's something I'll do through the power of my spirit when you trust in the finished work of Christ to change you. Have you been released from the law and begun to find salvation and growth in Christ through Christ?

Because that's where it begins. In your sin, he's saying to you, I see how messed up you are. Yeah, I'm not telling you to change and then I'll accept you. I'm telling you, just come to me as messed up as you are and say, I want you to change me and I want you to do it through a power that doesn't come from me.

It's a power that comes from an empty tomb. If you've never experienced that power and been transformed by the blood of Jesus, be sure to get in touch today. We'd love to give you more information or pray with you as you take the next step.

Give us a call at 866-335-5220. This is Summit Life with JD Greer. Here on this program, we're always thinking of ways that we can help our listening family grow in their relationship with God. We have a lot of free gospel-centered resources available on our website at, but we also curate some excellent featured resources each month, which we send to our gospel partners and anyone who gives a one-time gift to support this ministry. This month, to go right along with our current teaching series in Galatians, we're sending our generous supporters a copy of Pastor Tim Keller's study through the book of Galatians called Gospel Matters. Pastor Tim takes you through key passages in the book and includes application questions for the text, as well as prayer prompts to tune your heart to what the Apostle Paul is teaching. This would make a fantastic devotional study and a great way to introduce someone in your family or a friend you're discipling to the rich scripture in the book of Galatians. We'll send you a copy with your one-time gift to support the work of this ministry or when you become a monthly gospel partner who commit to a recurring gift each month. You can give now or become a gospel partner by calling us at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at I'm Molly Bidevich inviting you to join us again Wednesday when we continue our series called Freedom in the In-Between on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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