Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Galatians 4:8-20 (NIV)
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. 12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone because I am perplexed about you!
What is the difference between celebrating religious holidays (like Christmas, Easter) and what the Galatians were doing?
Lord, There are times where worldly practices and personal motives can interfere with how I worship. I’m thinking that the Galatians were struggling with similar issues. Their pagan roots interfered with the way they practiced their faith. They once were slaves to pagan gods and were sliding back to those weak and miserable forces. They were also trying to enslave themselves through works and practices when they worshiped. Paul recognized that they were making themselves slaves to sin again by expecting You to approve of their works instead of simply accepting them, in love and by Your grace. When commercialism and worldly practices become the focus of religious holidays like Christmas or Easter, or we feel obligated to participate in church, then it dilutes the meaning, puts the focus on our desires, and distracts us from reflecting on the wonders of what You did. When we go through the motions to look good and meet the expectations of others, then we are missing the main point of worship. Lord, please help me to keep the main thing, the main thing. Don’t allow me to slip back into my old comfortable sinful habits. I don’t want to follow the ways of the world, even on holidays. It doesn’t mean anything to be a Christian on Sunday and then go back to being a sinner on Monday. I desire to serve You and follow Your ways every day out of my love and gratitude for what You did for me and not because I am supposed to. I want to accept Your gift of grace and worship You with a pure heart. Instead of going through the motions, I yearn to have a personal intimate loving relationship with You. Let my heart be filled with Your Spirit so my life and my worship are authentic. Amen