The Galatians’ lack of vigilance in guarding their faith resulted in quickly deserting God.
Galatians 1:1-5: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
This past June, a Norwegian cruise ship hit a small iceberg in Alaska due to dense fog during its voyage. The ship captain, being vigilant and proactive, canceled the rest of the trip to avoid any significant damage to the ship or the people on board.
This story reminds me of how Christian living is also a voyage. The dense fog of worldly desires, either good or bad, often causes us to hit small spiritual icebergs. Even if these hiccups are small, we should take them seriously. They serve as an indicator that something big might be on the horizon, and it is only a matter of time until we run into something, causing major damage.
Recently, a fellow pastor friend called me and asked for accountability because he had hit a small spiritual iceberg. It was nothing major, just some R-rated content on YouTube.
However, I appreciated that he identified the potential of something big lurking ahead that could cause significant damage to God’s calling on his life as a believer, a pastor, a husband, and a father. He was being vigilant and proactive.
In our text today, Galatians 1:6-12, the Galatians’ lack of vigilance in guarding their faith resulted in quickly deserting God. Here, Paul is amazed and questioning what could have happened as soon as Paul left after planting these churches in Galatia.
They were in trouble because they failed to be vigilant and proactive in identifying the small spiritual icebergs hitting them as potential indicators of something worse on the horizon. Therefore, they welcomed the false teachers in their homes and churches and lent their ears to their false teaching. They probably did not even know how fast they were deserting God.
Many of you today are dealing with pain, suffering, broken relationships, financial struggles, and even habitual sin.
If you are not vigilant and proactive to identify the small spiritual icebergs as indicators of something fatal in the future, you may end up exactly like the Galatians, who lent their ears to someone who preaches health and wealth, condemnation and guilt, penance and works. Perhaps you are already in the process of deserting God, and you do not even know it, but there is still hope.
In Galatians 1:6-12, we find four tests to assess whether we are deserting God or not. These four tests will help you to be vigilant to stay the course and be proactive as you deal with small spiritual icebergs:
1. A Different Gospel
First, you are deserting God when you are turning to a different Gospel. Paul makes a connection between deserting the gospel and deserting God. Here, deserting is metatithemai in the Greek text, which is to exchange or change sides. They have changed sides from Paul, the preacher of the gospel of grace, and from the God who called him to the preaching of false teachers of a different gospel.
Using this military term “deserting” seems an intentional effort on Paul’s end to show truths about Christian living.
Like a soldier who abandons his post in the heat of battle out of negligence, fear, cowardice, or any other reason shows his disloyalty, the Galatians were abandoning their post in the heat of battle either out of negligence or disloyalty to the gospel of grace that saved them or the attraction of works that make us feel righteous in our own eyes.
God calls us in the gospel of grace so that it may operate from within and produce works. That is how we are made righteous, meaning right with God. This is the gospel, the good news that good works are done in and through us by the gospel.
When we add to or remove from the gospel of grace, it equates to deserting God. Giving up on the gospel of Christ’s complete work on the cross to save us and giving into the man-made gospel of religious works that saves nobody is turning to a different god.
2. A Different God
Second, you are deserting God when you are turning to a different God. In this present evil age mentioned in verse 4, a god can be anything we worship and are devoted to. I recently invited our small group to reflect on how “the present evil age” can influence us. Several spoke about demonic oppression and evil in this world, which is true.
But it does not necessarily need to be a bad thing or a sinful thing. Sometimes, our good works can be our god competing against the God of the Bible. Satan can use our wants and desires that seem godly and righteous to influence us to desert God.
The false teachers were not teaching the Galatians some voodoo or sinful behavior. They were
teaching how to be good by observing certain things. It sounds harmless, but this is distorting the gospel.
Even though these false teachers failed to pervert the gospel of Christ, they succeeded in creating confusion. The false teachers confused new believers in Christ about the apostleship of Paul and the gospel he preached to them. This confusion concerns Paul, so in verse 8, he says, even if “an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” When we turn our back on the gospel of grace, either by diluting or forsaking the gospel, we turn our back on our calling and the one who called us in the gospel of grace, namely God Himself.
3. A Different Preacher
Third, you are deserting God when you are turning to a different preacher. Verse 9 says, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” What is the gospel? The Gospel is the good news that we are saved by faith in Christ alone through grace alone, nothing less. Since there is no variation in God, there should never be any variation in the gospel message that a preacher preaches.
The preacher is only as good as his message. Paul includes himself in the list, and I include myself too: if the message does not match the gospel of grace, then that preacher is preaching a different gospel and a different god. You should not listen to him. This is why I encourage you to get into a small group to grow in knowledge and the application of the word.
4. A Different Persuasion
Fourth, you are deserting God when you are turning to a different persuasion, or motivating factor. The false teachers had a different persuasion than proclaiming Christ. They wanted to subject new believers to religious rituals. They were self-serving. The Galatians were so quickly deserting God because they also had a different persuasion, probably to be accepted by others, or to do good works to satisfy their guilty conscience, or something else. For whatever reason, they were on board for their own persuasion.
In verses 10-11, the basis of Paul’s persuasion to live and preach the gospel of grace is not a human being. Because Paul received the revelation from Christ Himself, he could not be persuaded by any man, nor could he persuade any man.
Unlike the captain of the Norwegian Sun cruise ship that hit the iceberg and cancelled the rest of the trip for the safety of the people on board, the captain of the Titanic did the opposite. When one of the lookouts spotted the iceberg and relayed the information to the bridge, they could not avoid the iceberg because the ship was going too fast. The persuasion of a fast arrival over a safe arrival combined with the captain’s persuasion to make a name for himself left his name tarnished in history as the one who sank the unsinkable ship.
Neither the captain of the Norwegian cruise ship nor the captain of the Titanic went out looking for an iceberg. They were hit by it. Remember, we do not go out looking for spiritual icebergs. We are hit by them.
What is your persuasion for following Jesus? To get a better life, wealth, or health, or to have eternal life in Christ? Do you do good works so that others may see how good you are, or do you do good works to gain favor with God?
All of this is drifting you away from the gospel, so be vigilant and proactive. Please join a small group and commit to studying and living the word.
I also want to make sure we understand deserting God is not losing your salvation. The Bible clearly teaches once you are saved, you are saved. Therefore, this is not about losing our salvation, but it is about our freedom to walk away from God and the salvation He offers.
Notice also that Paul does not say God deserted them. He says they are deserting God by deserting the gospel of grace and turning to the false gospel, which is not a gospel.
Let me close with this: Every individual that comes to the Lord willingly is free to leave whenever and however they choose, but this does not negate God’s faithfulness, nor does it remove the consequences of deserting God. The longer you are away, the farther you will be from repentance and acceptance.
My spiritual father Timo once walked away from God, but he always knew that one day he would come back to Him. Many people experience that. They call it backsliding and rededicating.
Paul would not have written this letter if he did not believe in the power of grace to bring people back to Christ. If you have walked away from God, or you have been backsliding, today is the day to recommit your life and rededicate yourself to the Lord. God has been waiting for you with open arms, so come home before it is too late.
To those living in the grace of Christ, I say this, keep these tests in mind as you live your life. If you feel that you are failing any of these tests at any time, you may want to stop by my office or give me a call. I would love to talk to you.
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