Friday in the Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time

Galatians 4:8-11

Why Turn Back Again?

Turning back.  Returning to our old way of life.  Turning aside from the way laid out for us.  Each of these clauses has the word “turn” in them.  Now “turning” in Scripture is generally a good thing.  “Turning” is at the heart of the biblical command “Repent,” which is a turning away from self, the world, and the devil, towards the true God seeking grace and mercy.  It was the message of Jesus: “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  But there is also another kind of turning mentioned in the Bible, and it is what we are encountering here.  It is the turning away from God towards self, the world, and the devil.  Proverbs 26:11 tells us, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repents of his folly” and 2 Peter 2:22, speaking of those who turn back tells us, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”

“But why would you,” Paul asks.  Why return to “the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world,” when you have not only come to know God, but better yet, come to be known by God?  Isn’t knowing that God knows our name, knows us, and loves us, better than legal prescriptions?  Isn’t having the Holy Spirit within better than the written code without? 

Clinging to grace is harder than it seems.  One can slip away from it living as a libertine, as if sin no longer mattered, or slip away by falling back into rules and regulations because the written code is so much easier to live by.  Both ways cheapen grace.  God has rescued us from the written code and the demonic powers through His Son’s work on the cross and our rebirth through the Spirit.  We now live by the law of love empowered by the Spirit.  Now love is not some nebulous thing; Jesus told us that if we loved him we would keep his commandments (John 14:15).  And he gave us the greatest example of love by laying down his life for us (John 15:13-15).  And so let us remain true to the gospel of grace, living joyful lives, spending ourselves for others for Jesus’ sake, for there is no law against such service and no law against such love.

Addendum

I suppose there could be some here who question why I schedule these devotions around the Church Year when Paul bemoans that the Galatians “observe days and months and seasons and years,” and thus wonders if he has “labored over [them] in vain.”  It’s a good question.  As I have written in the several introductions to these devotions, I see the Church Year as a tool for helping those who desire a more regular religious and devotional life, and nothing more.  The trouble is that any tool can be corrupted, including prayer, Bible reading, and worship when they become matters of ritual and rote.  This is the trouble with having sinful natures living in a sinful world—any good thing can be twisted for wrong ends.  To the extent someone proclaims that the Church calendar is necessary for worship or devotion, or uses it as a legalistic tool which must be followed regardless of benefit or detriment, that would be a perversion of its use.  To the extent that someone uses the Church calendar as a tool to help them grow in their devotional life and draw closer to the Lord, then it has served its stated purpose. 

Is the celebration of Christmas a good thing or bad thing?  Is it a celebration of the birth of Christ or a commercial event that makes kids greedy?  It depends on how the day is used.  And that is my apologia for using the Church calendar.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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