In one of the first major battles of the Revolutionary War, the British routed the young American army on Long Island, New York. They hoped to destroy the rest of the retreating Americans, but American Commander William Stirling made the sacrificial decision to cover the retreat of all the other American forces. David McCullough writes how “He and Major Mordecai Gist and no more than 250 Marylanders attacked (British General) Cornwallis in a headlong, valiant effort to cover the retreat of the others and perhaps even break through the redcoats … The fighting was the most savage of the day. Driven back by a blaze of deadly fire, Stirling’s men rallied and struck again five times. Stirling himself fought ‘like a wolf.’ The Marylanders, who until that morning had never faced an enemy, fought no less tenaciously than their commander.”
General George Washington, watching from a Brooklyn hill, is said to have cried out as he saw the Marylanders cut down time after time, “Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose.’” (David McCullough, 1776, p.177)
But the sacrifice that Stirling and his men made, saved the rest of the American army to live and fight another day — and the Revolutionary War would one day be won, because of their costly sacrifice.
Today we are celebrating another sacrifice — a sacrifice even greater than one made for our country — the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made when He bought our salvation on the cross. Next week is Easter Sunday, and we always look forward to that celebration — but the week before Easter I always like to remember the sacrifice Jesus made that led to Easter: His sacrifice on the cross that brought us our salvation. We see it described in our passage for today from Galatians 1:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.”
I. Our Problem
This passage describes just how deep our need was (and still is for many of us!) What was our need that brought about Jesus’ sacrifice for us?
A. We need peace: because we were at enmity with God
The Bible tells us that God made us; created us out of nothing. And He has given us everything we have. We owe all that we have to Him. But foolishly we turned against Him in our sin. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is us telling the King of the Universe that we don’t want to do what He commanded — or that we ARE going to do what He told us NOT to do. We want to be our own masters. So we reject the King and made enemies of the very God who has given us everything we have and are.
To me it’s like our cat. Some of y’all know our cat. Kathy Lancaster calls it “Lucifer.” Tealle asked one time why she is so mean. And honestly, I don’t know. When we were in North Carolina, I wanted a little, cuddly cat. So someone from church found this little baby kitten, stranded outside a rent house, so small that it couldn’t even feed itself. It was about to die. So I fed that baby cat milk from a dropper. It slept on my pillow right my head. We gave it everything it needed to live and thrive. But it has grown up to show NO gratitude. It won’t let me pick it up and pet it. If I am walking some laps in the house because it is raining outside, this cat will hide under the couch and swat at me as I walk by. But the WORST for me is, when I have turned the lights out and am getting into bed, as my last foot comes up, the cat will be hiding, and just jump out from nowhere and attack my foot with her claws. So I virtually live in fear of getting into bed every night! But THE biggest mistake she ever made though, was a few days ago when she was sitting by Cheryl, and she just bit Cheryl and ran off. That was a mistake. If she thought Cheryl was going to leave that alone, she made a bad miscalculation! Cheryl ran and got a broom and started chasing that cat around the house, swatting it the whole way. That cat made the WRONG ENEMY! But WHY, after all we have done for her?
But do you see, this is just what we have done with GOD! He made us. Like us and that cat, He took us from nothing; He gave us all we have, and we should be so grateful to Him — but instead we have turned on Him, disobeyed Him, and we have made an enemy out of God. And as much as “a woman’s scorn can be a fury;” when you’ve made an enemy of GOD, you have made the wrong enemy! That’s our problem. We have made an enemy of God and we need peace with Him.
B. We need rescued from slavery to Satan
Because we turned away from God’s Lordship, we put ourselves under the only other alternative: which is to be under the control of Satan. Now somebody may say, “Now, I am not a follower of Jesus, but I’m not going with the devil either!” The thing they don’t understand is, there is no third option. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me, is against Me.” (Matthew 12:30) There is no third choice. You are either serving the King of Heaven, or the Prince of the Power of the air: the devil.
Ephesians 2:1-2 makes that clear. It says: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
Did you hear that? When you are living a life of sin against God, you are not somehow “in neutral.” You are not “your own man” in charge of your own life. No, the Bible says, you are under the control of “the prince of the power of the air.” And it says that HE is the spirit that is “now working in the sons of disobedience.” In other words, SATAN is working in you, and he is in control of your life!
That’s a frightening reality, but that’s the truth. There is no “third choice.” You are either serving the King of Heaven, or you serving “the prince of the power of the air.” And that is a dangerous place to be. You don’t want to open up your life to his control — but that is just what you are doing when you sin against what you know is God’s will for your life; that is what you are opening yourself up for when you get into the occult, or pornography, or other things that God has forbidden. He has forbidden them for a reason. He does not want you to give the devil a foothold in your life. That is something you do NOT want to let happen. But when you trespass against God’s ways, you put yourself under the lordship of “the prince of the power of the air” — and we have ALL done that at one time or another, so we have all needed rescued from this present evil age. As a result:
C. We need grace: the problem with all of these difficulties, where we are at war with God and are under Satan’s control — is that we don’t have the power or ability to rescue ourselves. So our salvation, when it came, could not be of our “works;” it had to be of GRACE; something that we didn’t have to earn or deserve.
I read the other day that Buddha, years ago said: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” I tell you what; I’d sure hate to be a Buddhist. It all depends on YOU? You’ve made yourself an enemy of God, and you’re under the thumb of the devil himself — but no one can save you but yourself? That’s a sad state of despair! There has to be a better answer. There has to be another, better way. And thank God there is! There is:
II. God’s Solution
DO notice, as we look at this, that this is indeed GOD’S solution:
— we didn’t come up with this solution.
— and Jesus didn’t have “talk God into it” either. NOTICE the text says who it is from: “God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is from them TOGETHER. A lot of people have the mistaken idea that “God was mad at us, but Jesus loved us and came between us and God to save us.” NO! The Bible says “For GOD so loved the world .… This salvation plan was from HIM. The Father and the Son did it together, just as this passage says: “God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s like when Cheryl & I get one of the grandkids a present; it is from “Grandmommie & Boompa” — it is from BOTH of us!
So is this gift to us that saves us: it is a mutual gift from the Father AND the Son, working together. (And as we see elsewhere, the Spirit works it into our lives, so every member of the Trinity is involved in our salvation).
But God’s answer for our sins involved a great sacrifice. Look at what it says: “He gave HIMSELF for our sins.” That’s the ultimate sacrifice.
It is one thing to pay some great price for something. It is another thing entirely to give YOURSELF for it! But that is what Jesus did. He “gave Himself.”
In C.S. Lewis’ famous children’s story, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, 3 English children, Peter, Lucy, and Edmund are exploring in a professor’s home, and in one room they go through an old wardrobe (like an armoire dresser) into a new land, Narnia, which is ruled by a wicked Queen. The Queen tricks Edmund into becoming her slave. Aslan the Lion, the real king of Narnia, comes back, and is told about Edmund’s case, and Edmund’s sister Lucy pleads with Aslan for her brother’s life:
“‘Please — Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘can anything be done to save Edmund?’
‘All shall be done,’ said Aslan. ‘But it may be harder than you think.’ And then he was silent again for some time.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, p. 124)
The salvation that Aslan said was “harder than you think” meant that he had to go to the wicked Queen Jadis, and trade his own life for Edmund’s. He would allow the Queen and all her wicked followers to shave his majestic lion’s hair, and strap him to a rock, dance around hIm and mock him, and finally thrust a dagger into his heart, and kill him. THAT was the price it took to set Edmund free. As Aslan told Lucy: “It was harder than you think.” It wasn’t just money he could give, or somebody he could send. The only way Aslan could save Edmund was to give HIMSELF.
And of course, the reason why so many people love C.S. Lewis’ story is that it is a very thinly veiled allegory of what Jesus did for us. We needed rescued. We had made enemies of God; like Edmund we had come under control of the Wicked One; and there was nothing we could do to save ourselves. There was only ONE solution that would save us: He had to give HIMSELF for our sins.
This is just what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 20:28:
— “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
— I Timothy 2:6 says “He gave HIMSELF a ransom for all …”.
THAT was God’s solution for our problem. As we saw, it was not of our works; it was nothing we could do; it was all of GRACE. It was all what HE did for us. He had to give HIMSELF. Like Aslan said, “It was harder than you think.” Salvation is free to you today — if you don’t have it, you can have it this moment; the Bible says “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” — it’s free to you today — but it was not cheap. “It was harder than you think.” Harder than we will ever know — that the wrath of God for all the sins of the world would fall upon Jesus on the cross for three hours on what we call “Good Friday.” I don’t think even in eternity we may be able to fully fathom the price Jesus paid there. As an old praise song says:
“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”
But that was God’s solution. It was the only solution that would work. It was the only solution in which we could be forgiven, and in which God could still be just and punish sin. It was the only solution that could reconcile us with God and set us free from Satan’s control — and it was the only solution that is by GRACE and not by our own effort.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is God’s solution for our problem. If you will repent of your rebellion against God, and put your trust in God’s solution of what Jesus did on the cross for you, will be saved. And you can do that today! THAT is God’s solution!
III. The Result:
So what happens when we accept God’s solution? We get “saved,” but what does that mean? As Paul says here, it means we get the “grace” and “peace” that we need from God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
— He gives us “grace,” which means He gives us good that we did not have to earn or deserve.
— He also gives us “peace” with God — so that we are no longer enemies with Him. Now, the Bible says, we are “children” of God, and “friends” of God. We are His enemies no longer. You don’t have to feel like God is “out to get you.” (You don’t have to feel like I do when I pull my last foot in the cover, is something about to “swat” at me?) A lot of people are kind of like that with God. They’re just waiting any moment for Him to “get” them for something — but if Jesus is your Savior, you do NOT need to have that fear any more. God is not about to “get you”! “God is FOR you” Romans 8 says, because of Christ Jesus. As Romans 5 says, you have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a blessing!
And another blessing, verse 4 says, is “that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” “This present evil age” is the sinful world system we live in every day.
But the Bible says that Jesus came to “deliver” us from that. That’s important. See, the problem many of us have is, we kind of really LIKE “this present evil age.” You enjoy some of the sins of the world; you’d just rather not have to go to hell for it when it’s all over. So you think you’ve got the solution: I’ll ask Jesus to be my Savior, but then I’ll just keep doing whatever I want to in the meantime in this “present evil age” — and then when it’s over I’ll go to heaven.
But that is not Biblical salvation. The Bible says that Jesus did not sacrifice His life on the cross to perpetuate you living it up in this “present evil age.” He died to deliver you FROM “this present evil age.” You are not to live in sin any longer. He has come to set you FREE from it.
In C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe,” the child Edmund was lured to serve the Queen when she offered him Turkish delight (a dessert). But it was a trick, that brought him into slavery. But then Aslan came, and with the sacrifice of his own life on the stone table, he bought Edmund back into freedom. Now he no longer had to serve the wicked Queen. How foolish would it have been for him to say, “Oh thanks, Aslan, now I think I’ll go back to Queen Jadis for some more Turkish delight ….”. NO! Aslan just bought him OUT of that! He wasn’t to go right back INTO it!
And it is the same with us. Jesus did not come to die on the cross to save us, so that we could go back and continue all the sins of our rebellion against God. No, He came to “deliver us OUT of this present evil age.” He will do this in several different ways:
— He will deliver us out when He comes again and sets up His kingdom
— If we die before He comes, He will deliver us out of this evil age and take us to heaven.
— And even right now, He has come to save us, and take us OUT of “this present evil age” by helping us to STOP doing the things that had separated us from Him, and help us serve Him now as our King.
Like the queen in Lewis’ book, Satan has tricked us; he has sold us a false bill of goods; and he has brought into his kingdom as slaves. We need to be “delivered from this evil age.” But our “Aslan” has come; Jesus came to “deliver us from this evil age.” NOT to continue to live in it, but to deliver us FROM it. Don’t keep living in, what Jesus died to buy you out of!
But our freedom from “this present evil age” was bought by Jesus on the cross. And we want to remember that today — especially today, as we look forward to Good Friday this week, and then Easter Sunday.
It is good to remember good that was done for us. Many of you know that our home was damaged by the winter storm, and the ceiling of one bedroom completely fell in. Our house has been a total mess ever since, and we have been remodeling. (I told Cheryl, “You know what we ought to do … is go ahead and remodel BOTH bedrooms in that end of the house at the same time, while we are at it.” We have been doing that, but it has been so hard; we’ve been at it for a month, and it has worn us out. Cheryl told me the other day, don’t you ever say, ‘You know what we ought to do …” ever again!). But we did finish this week; we got our carpet in.
But I will say this: we literally would not have made it without Chris & Sherri Philips, who just “walked over” one day and came in and started helping. Sherri put in about 40 hours last week doing detailed painting work, and we literally would not have made the carpet schedule without her painting. And Chris just started looking around the house and fixing every light that had anything wrong with it.
The worst one, to me, was the light in my walk-in closet. That light fixture at first started strobing, and finally just went out, and it has been that way way for weeks. (So now you know why my socks haven’t matched …) But Chris replaced that light in my closet, and it has been such a blessing. EVERY TIME this week I have opened that door, and turned on that light, I thought of Chris. I thanked God for Chris. And I hope I never forget the good thing he did for me; that I just remember it, every time I open it.
In somewhat the same vein, but also in an infinitely greater way, every time you and I think of our sins: about how we disobeyed God and how we ought to be in Satan’s power; how we couldn’t earn salvation for ourselves, and how will we ever get to heaven — every time we ever think of those things — we need to think of Jesus, that He “gave Himself for our sins.” Every time we think of it; we should remember what He has done.
And God has given us a special practice to HELP us “never forget that.” He gave us an “ordinance” to celebrate what Jesus did. It is called the Lord’s Supper: in which we take piece of bread, and the fruit of the vine, and share it together. This isn’t just some “religious thing” we do. It has a specific purpose: Every time we take it, it is to remind us of the COST of God’s solution for us: That it took Jesus’ body, nailed to the cross; that it took His blood, poured out on the cross for our sins. Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” It reminds us of just what Galatians says here, “He gave Himself for our sins.”
We’re going to celebrate that together in just a moment, but before we do, let’s bow our heads together …
— this should be a time of reflection/confession of sins. Maybe you’d say, I have been living too much in “this present evil age” in some way, and you need to confess that to God
— or maybe you’ve not been as thankful to God for His salvation as you should have been
— or maybe you’ve never really trusted what Jesus did on the cross to save you. Maybe you’ve been trying to save yourself, like the Buddha said. But today you need to ask JESUS to save you …
— or be baptized (we’ll be baptizing next week: maybe you need to be in that group — or God’ calling you to join this church
Take some time to pray and seek God, and prepare your heart for this Lord’s Supper.