Day 9

Slaves No More

from the Galatians reading plan

Galatians 4:8-31, Genesis 16:1-16, Romans 8:1-4

BY Vivian Mabuni

“I do it—me!” Each of my kids around the age of two or three hit a stage when they dug in their heels and wanted to click themselves into their car seats without any help. What normally would take a matter of seconds often ended up taking what felt like hours. Frustration became tears as their tiny hands did not possess enough strength or coordination to maneuver the plastic clips and buckles.

In today’s reading from Paul’s letter, I find myself wondering why the believers in Galatia would return to the ways of bondage under the law. Why would they subject themselves to seek justification through their own efforts instead of through faith? How did they choose to turn back to “weak and bankrupt elemental forces” (Galatians 4:9)? And then I remember how I am prone to follow down the same path, insisting like an independent toddler, “I do it—me!”

Six years ago I found myself flat on my back in our master bedroom memorizing the quirky design of the popcorn ceiling. Surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation for breast cancer treatment took my body to lows I had never experienced before. I could no longer function in ministry or contribute to help our family. I felt guilt and shame over my lack of productivity. With “serving God” removed from my to-do list, I struggled and I questioned if God really loved and accepted me apart from my good works.

I found this old adage to be true: the longest distance is between the head and the heart.

Perhaps the Galatians became mislead because of ignorance, or perhaps those tangible works of observing days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) provided a false sense of security and control.

As I reflect on my own struggles, I realize the “I do it—me!” approach actually felt good because the transaction of works fed my pride. Grace and freedom through Jesus initially felt risky and uncertain because my faith no longer rested in my controlling ways but in Christ.

Pride and self-sufficiency leads to living out our faith in our own efforts. Even Abraham, our hero of the faith from Hebrews 11, struggled with this. When it looked like God might not give Abraham and Sarai the son He promised them, Abraham arranged to conceive a child with his wife’s servant, Hagar. His attempt at self-sufficiency produced a lineage of slavery, while the child born of God’s promise became the lineage of Christ (Genesis 16).

Left to ourselves and left to our self-centered ways, we are without hope. However, the sweetness of the gospel restores and makes right, adopting us into the lineage of those who are free. True freedom is found in our relationship with Jesus.

Paul says it so well in his letter to the Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Laws might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
– Romans 8:1-4

While the natural development of my kids is to increase and grow in their abilities and to function independently (I’m happy to inform you, two of the three kids drive and we no longer possess car seats!), maturity in the Christian life actually looks like increased faith and dependence.

We begin our relationship with God by faith, we are justified by faith, and we are filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit by faith.

Father, may our lives be marked by increased faith and dependence on the One who knows us and calls us by name. Amen.

Vivian Mabuni is an author and speaker, and a sushi, white Christmas lights, coffee-with-friends-lover. She has been on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 26 years and serves with Epic Movement, the Asian-American ministry of Cru. Vivian is the author of Warrior In Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts.

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100 thoughts on "Slaves No More"

  1. Sierra says:

    God just won’t let me escape the book of Galatians lately – it shows up everywhere I look, so I’ve begun really studying it. He’s been showing me just how wrong legalism is, which is something I was raised to believe was a “true” form of religion. I think I’m learning that service to Christ comes naturally from a growing relationship with him, and not as a condition or supplement to salvation. That’s a wonderful freedom to live in!

  2. Alexandra says:

    This really speaks to me, as I struggle with finding my identity in pride and independence. I’m focusing on depending on God this week!

  3. Anna says:

    Dependence as a mark of maturity. We often get that wrong. We think independence is the goal and that’s where we fall. Maybe I should use personal pronouns here. That’s where I fall. But remembering that I’m not made to do it is such an unexpected comfort. God is in control. And he’s much better at it than I could ever be.

  4. Aliciajo says:

    “…my faith no longer rested in my controlling ways but in Christ.” I am catching up after falling behind, and this entire series is speaking to my heart. Thank you for ministering a hard, straight Word that is teaching me to grow up!

  5. Slaves no more!!! I love the new song out about how we are no longer slaves but a child of God!!! It’s my morning get going jam! So thankful there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!!!

  6. It is oh so hard to grow in dependence. It is painful and risky just like Vivian said. May we trust that God does not leave us in this process. He walks alongside us as we learn to trust Him.

    1. Jessie says:

      It’s hard when we are taught to be independent, to see dependence as a good thing and then to actively work to be more dependent. Maybe harder still is setting aside the time it takes to grow in dependence on God. This study has been a great exercise for me in that.

  7. Beth says:

    For most of my life I saw the “law” as something I was supposed to fulfill. It was a heavy weight. Reading bible verses and then measuring myself up against it: “I did that today! I didn’t do that. I did that part of the way…” As I have grown, I have learned that I can fulfill no rule or law completely…Thanks to Jesus’s blood I no longer have to be a slave to sin, but I still choose sin. The good news is: He sent His son to fulfill all the rules on my behalf. He took my debt I could never pay and gave me His perfect record. Let’s take the rules off our walls and replace them with this good news! The law is our mirror that says we don’t match up and Christ’s life and death our fulfillment that says we do!

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