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The Slavery Of Religious Habits

Galatians 4:8-10
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 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? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! (NIVUK)

Despite the power of the gospel message, and the joy of new life in Christ, the Galatian believers had been lured back into their old religious practices – the good things that they previously did when they tried to win God’s love. Of course there is nothing we can ever do to pay for our own sins or to attract God’s admiration, because salvation is a free gift and not an earned reward. And even when we try to be good, our best thoughts and actions are stained with selfish motives and ambitions.
So Paul told them that they had made an idol out of their religious habits. Their pious ideals had become demanding idols which could never be satisfied. Their efforts at being good had trapped them into a religious slavery. Their obsession with fulfilling different rituals on holy days and festivals had robbed them of their joy and freedom of being children of God. Although they had experienced the merciful grace of Christ in freely forgiving their sins, they had followed the false teachers and were enslaved.
The gospel demands that we accept salvation as a free gift, and repudiate any thought of adding to the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Yet, many believers are still tempted into religious habits which become idolatry, because they usurp the place of Jesus Christ. Yes, once we are saved, then we have a deep desire to please the Lord out of gratitude for what He has done … and that is right: but no act of service can ever contribute to our salvation. However we easily adopt pious habits but soon forget why we do them. When that happens we may be faithful to the habit’s demands but unfaithful to the Lord. The way forward is to repent of adding anything to the gospel. Then worship the Lord for the completeness of your salvation which He has achieved for you.

Almighty God. Thank You for Your complete salvation. Forgive me when I have despised the total sufficiency of what Jesus has done to secure my place in Your kingdom by wrongly believing that I need to contribute my good works in order to be acceptable to You. Help me to treasure Your grace so much more and learn to worship You for the finished work of Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams