Time. Just the mention of the word stirs all kinds of thoughts and emotions within those who are keeping an eye on the clock. The measurement of time takes place in every arena of life. Sometimes time flies. Sometimes, time stands still, as if the hands on the clock are frozen in place and the awaited time will never come. All people, everywhere, from the tribesmen of the Amazon to the traders on Wall Street know what time is, even if they don’t wear a Timex.
Soldiers sit hunkered down in a bunker in the Iraqi Desert waiting for the call to accomplish their mission. Not a second too soon, nor a minute too late the word comes – “It’s time!” ?and the soldiers rise to action.
Little kids sit in the back seat of a mini van on the way to Grandmas house anxiously awaiting the minute that they will arrive at their destination. Over and over again, with each passing mile, one of the kids cries out, “How much longer? Are we there yet?”
It’s fourth and two on the five yard line with 35 seconds to go in the game and the score is tied at 14. The coach calls time-out. When the warriors huddle to listen to their General describe the mission they hang on his every word. After the play is determined, discussed, and diagramed the coach reaches his hand into the center of the circle. All eleven players, without a word spoken, extend their hands to join the coach. He looks at each of them with determination in his eyes and says, “Men, the time is now!”
A ten year old boy sits in the back of Mrs. King’s fourth grade class. He’s bored. He’s uninterested. He’s distracted by what’s going on out on the playground, where he would rather be. Mrs. King tries to get his attention over and over again, but each time he slips away and peers out the window once again. Finally, at her wits end, after trying time after time to draw the boy back, she says, “Mike, you need to go to ‘time out.'” You know “time out” don’t you? It’s that place where time stands still.
The bride and groom arrive at the church and prepare for their wedding. Caterers rush around to get everything in order for the reception arranging centerpieces dishes, glasses, tables and linens. Bridesmaids put on their make-up, groomsmen cut up to ease the tension, and then everyone lines up for their big entrance. The bride reaches out to take her daddies arm and his mind is flooded with thoughts – memories of the passage of time. He remembers when she was a little girl and she held his hand as they walked along the beach. He remembers when she skinned her knee and came crying for her daddy to “kiss it” — so it would feel “all better.” His mind is flooded, almost as much as his eyes, and dad wonders, “Where did the time go?”
Time is a remarkable thing isn’t it? Knowing the right time, watching the passage of time, and understanding the times are all important for you and for me. In being able to make the most of the time that God allots to each of us, we must be able to see God’s fingerprints on the clock of our lives and the annals of history.
In our Scripture for today we see that at the “right time” God did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unbelievable – He sent His Son. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Galatians 4:1-11.
1What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (Galatians 4:1-11 NIV)
Paul begins our study for today by sharing with us an illustration. The man of the house, the owner of the estate, the executor of the trust has a son. The son lives in the lap of luxury, he doesn’t have a need that isn’t met, and one day it will all be his – when the time is right.
At the present time the son is still a child. He is no different from his father’s hired hands. He has folks who tell him what to do and when to do it. He gets money from his father, but he doesn’t have his own checking account. He doesn’t have a say over his own life. The boy has people running his life and he isn’t making any of the decisions for as long as he is a child.
There is a young Greek girl who understands what Paul is saying to us today. On January 28th of this past year she arrived at the appointed time set by her family and now she has received her inheritance. Athina Onassis is the grand-daughter of the late Aristotle Onassis, the richest man in the world at the time of his death. Athina’s mother, Christina, inherited her father’s wealth and was the CEO of his shipping business until she died at the age of 38. Athina was three years old at the time. For the past fifteen years Athina has been taken care of by her father and a host of hired hands who have made sure that she was taken care of.
Coming from such a well-to-do family that in many ways has suffered greatly because of their opulent and indulgent lifestyles, her father wanted to make sure that Athina had a normal childhood. Athina attended a regular state school and the family has lived in a five bedroom house – pretty conservative for a billionaire’s family.
There have been constant kidnapping threats so security has always been present to protect Athina. A team of former SAS guards drove her to and from home and school in a bullet-proof limousine and kept watch over her at all times while she was a child. Other than personal bodyguards, Athina has not been indulged anything like her mother’s excessive lifestyle when she was her age.
When Athina’s mother died there was a trust set up for the little girl that would be hers when she turned eighteen. Well, Athina turned eighteen on January 28th of this year and she received her inheritance at the appointed time. The website of CNN reported,
Athina Roussel picked up an estimated $2.7 billion in cash, homes, companies, art, shares, a private jet and the Greek Ionian island of Skorpios when she celebrated her 18th birthday on Wednesday. She will inherit a further $2 billion on her 21st birthday when she will also take control of the Onassis Foundation. Athina’s young years have also been a mix of glamour and intrigue, although Reuters reported her 18th birthday was being spent in the somber surroundings of KPMG Fides, the Swiss firm that has overseen the estate since 1999, with Swiss authorities. Athina has so far led a sheltered upbringing rarely being seen in public and on those occasions with a posse of bodyguards. (CNN.com, January 29, 2003)
For eighteen years Athina Onassis Roussel was under the authority of others, but now she has received her inheritance. My friend, you might look at Athina’s vast fortune and be envious of her idyllic situation, but let me assure you that her inheritance can’t even come close to matching the inheritance of those who have placed their faith in Jesus! The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once wrote about the section of God’s Word that we will be studying today.
No man living has ever realized to the full what this means. Believers are at this moment heirs, but what is the estate? It is God himself! We are heirs of God! Not only of the promises, of the covenant engagements, and of all the blessings which belong to the chosen seed, but heirs of God himself. “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.” “This God is our God for ever and ever.” We are not only, heirs to God, to all that he gives to his firstborn, but heirs of God himself. David said, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup.” As he said to Abraham, “Fear not Abraham, I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward,” so saith he to every man that is born of the Spirit. These are his own words-“I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Why, then, O believer, are you poor? All riches are yours. Why then are you sorrowful? The ever-blessed God is yours. Why do you tremble? Omnipotence waits to help you. Why do you distrust? His immutability will abide with you even to the end, and make his promise steadfast. (C.H. Spurgeon, Adoption: The Spirit and The Cry, April 14, 1878)
God Himself is our inheritance! What a wonderful gift! What an overwhelming truth for you and me to contemplate, meditate upon, and hold before our hearts and minds each and every day.
In verses 4-5, Paul says that God sent His Son when the time had fully come, when the time was right. The Son came with purpose, on a mission. Take a look with me at these two powerful little verses.
4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV)
Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, came to earth born of a woman and born under the law. From its beginning the Church has held fast to the biblical teaching that Jesus was fully God and at the same time fully human. Only God has the power to rescue humanity from the predicament of sin and only one like us can fully identify with the plight of each one of us and make payment for the debt owed by all of us.
Throughout the history of the Church there have been those who have battled to drop one or the other of these essential truths. Even in our own day we hear people comment about what a “good” man Jesus was while He was alive on the earth, yet they do not recognize that He was also fully God. The Church has rejected this because God’s Word teaches that Jesus was both God and Man. John MacArthur writes in his commentary,
He was fully man, born of a woman like all other men, yet He was fully God. Otherwise He could not have been Savior of the world. He had to be fully God in order for His sacrifice to have the infinite worth necessary to atone for the sin of mankind. He also had to be fully man in order to represent mankind and take the penalty of sin upon Himself in man’s behalf. It was man who sinned, who was under the curse, and who was condemned to render his life forfeit to God. Jesus therefore could not have substituted for sinful man on the cross had He not taken upon Himself “the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). He had to be God to have the power of Savior, and He had to be man to have the position of Substitute. (John MacArthur, Galatians, p.108)
Our God is a god of purpose. His purpose for sending His Son was to redeem His people – to buy us out of servitude and make us His own children! Paul writes that Jesus came, 5 “to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Jesus has come to buy us back and bestow upon us the title of sons and daughters of the living God.
In John’s Gospel we can see this same idea of God giving us the right to become His children. Take a look with me at John 1:10-12.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God? (John 1:10-12 NIV)
I have to be honest with you and let you know that I have been studying God’s Word for quite some time now, but I still cannot comprehend what God has done. Stop and think about it with me for just a moment. I’ve never been one who was chosen for anything. There have always been people who were smarter, better athletes, better preachers, better husbands and dads, better looking, had more money, and were more funny, etc. My acceptance of the fact that I’m not a “first round” draft choice doesn’t have to unnerve me. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that I am alone in recognizing this because Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said,
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:26-30 NIV)
God chose me. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16 NIV) God sent His Son and He found us in bondage, but He didn’t leave us there. He redeemed us from the law and made us His own. God not only sent His Son, but He also sent the Spirit into our hearts. Read along with me in Galatians 4:6-7.
6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV)
If we will take the time to study the sixth verse then we will see how intimately God is involved in our faith, and the daily maintaining of our faith and trust in Him. Paul tells us that God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. He also tells us that the Spirit cries out within us, “Abba Father.” It’s not us calling out, but the Spirit within that calls out to the Father on our behalf.
There are many misinformed folks around today who believe that if they accept Jesus as Lord of their life then their life will change for the better. They believe that they won’t have the problems that they’ve had. They believe that their troubles will subside. They believe that their marriages will look like Ward and June Cleaver or Cliff and Claire Huxtable. They believe that their life will start looking up, Ed McMahon will pay them a visit, and they’ll summer in the south of France.
Anyone who has walked with the Lord any amount of time knows that there are times when our hearts are so broken and our spirits so weak and frail that we can’t even pray. It is not that we’ve turned from our faith, but the storm clouds have turned us inside out. Our souls become so dry and weary.
I received a letter from a friend this past week and if he were here he would know exactly what I am talking about. A few months ago this friend of mine stepped into a mess that he could have never imagined. He acted foolishly?he sinned. His sin was put on public display, he was in the newspaper, his picture was on the television screen, he was the topic of conversation on talk radio, and his best friends feared that he might take his life in desperation.
I called him several times just to let him know that I was praying for him and that the Lord would see him through the storm if he would only trust and cry out to Him. I haven’t heard from him since then, until this past week. This past week I received a letter and in the letter he talked about his dark night of the soul and the hope that he now possesses in Christ alone.
What do we do when the day turns darker than any night we’ve ever experienced? What do we do when we open our mouths to pray, but nothing comes out? Where do we turn? Oh, if you are suffering this morning and you can’t even lift your head to call out to the Lord — you need not fear for God’s Word promises us that,
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26 NIV)
The Spirit of God cries within us, “Abba Father.” What a comfort to those who are hurting! What a comfort to those who are wayward! What a comfort to all who call God, “Father,” and desire nothing more than to please the One who has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son!
Paul goes on in verses 8-9 to say,
8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? (Galatians 4:8-9 NIV)
I was reading this section of Galatians on Wednesday morning this past week when I was stopped in my tracks at verse 9. Listen to what captured me. “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 principles?” The truth that struck at my heart is this: I don’t even have the capacity to know God. God knows me. When I was lost and doing my own thing – He found me. When I was broken and hopeless – He found me. When I refused to give Him the time of day – He found me. Since He has claimed me as His own, He has changed my life. He has loosened my shackles and called me His son! I am a child of the King of all creation.
Knowing that the God of all creation has lifted me out of the pit of destruction and rescued me from the things that were bent on enslaving me, why would I turn back to those weak and miserable principles that I use to follow ever again? The Hebrew slaves knew how desperate their situation was in Egypt and yet while they were being led by the Lord through the wilderness they cried out against God’s leader, Moses, and said,
2All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:2-4 NIV)
God was leading the slaves from their bondage into the land promised for them, but they felt the hot sand between their toes and wanted to go back to serving in the slimy mud of the Egyptian work camps. At the right time God was going to lead them over the threshold of the Promised Land, but that time had not come yet so they wanted to turn back the hands of time.
Before the time of the Hebrew’s slavery there was a family who was going through a difficult time in Canaan. Canaan land was going through a severe famine and Canaan’s first family, Jacob’s household, was feeling the pinch of diminishing food supplies. This was not the first hardship visited upon Jacob’s household. Several years earlier Jacob’s son, Joseph, had been sold to some Midianite travelers who had in turn sold him to the Egyptians. Joseph ended up serving in Potiphar’s house until he was accused of making a move on Potiphar’s wife, who actually was upset because she couldn’t talk Joseph into going to bed with her. Joseph ended up in prison.
God worked things out for Joseph while he was in prison and we read in Genesis 39.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:20-21 NIV)
Through the providence of God, the chief cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh had angered their boss and ended up in the same prison where Joseph was kept. They looked dejected when Joseph saw them and he questioned them about their downcast demeanors. They told Joseph that they had dreams that no one could interpret. Joseph said, “Tell me your dreams.” They did, and he told them what the dreams meant. The chief cupbearer would be restored to his position, but the baker would be killed. Joseph told the cupbearer,
14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:14-15 NIV)
God had given Joseph the interpretation to the dreams and everything happened just as Joseph said it would. The only problem was that when the cupbearer was restored to his position with Pharaoh’s house he forgot Joseph. The last verse of Genesis 40 reads, 23 “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23 NIV) The cupbearer may have forgotten Joseph, but God had not forgotten Joseph or his family. God was waiting for the right time to deliver Joseph from the prison cell.
Two years later Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could interpret, but Joseph was then remembered, and he was called to interpret the dream. When the interpretation of the dream was heard, Joseph was put in charge of the Pharaoh’s feeding program for all of Egypt.
Meanwhile, back in Canaan land, the famine is so bad that Jacob has to send his sons to Egypt to try and get food from foreigners. Through a long turn of events Joseph ends up accusing his brothers of being spies. He says the only way that he will let them go is if one of them goes home and brings their youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph kept his brother, Simeon, in prison while the other brothers went back home to break the bad news to their father. When the brothers got back home and told their father that the man from Egypt kept Jacob’s son, Simeon, because he thought they were spies, Jacob was despairing. Jacob’s heart was broken. Jacob feels like everything in his life had come against him. We read in Genesis 42,
36Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” (Genesis 42:36 NIV)
” Everything is against me!” Was it really? Absolutely not! God was working in His own way to preserve all of Jacob’s family. If Joseph had not been sold as a slave, if he had not spent time in prison, if Jacob hadn’t have been called to Egypt, then the family would have starved. The family that would one produce the Messiah. Charles Spurgeon once wrote,
There are no loose threads in the providence of God ? The great clock of the universe keeps good time.
At the right time God worked in Jacob’s family. At the right time God worked in the lives of the Hebrew slaves. At the right time God sent forth His Son to redeem you and me. He is working even now. You may not be able to see His Sovereign hand at work, but know that He is working. You may not feel His presence, but know that He is closer than your next breath. You may have walked into this church for any number of reasons, but God has so worked in your life through circumstances and situations that He has brought you here to Britton Christian Church this morning in order than you might know that right now is the right time to surrender your life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Won’t you invite Him in?