About 20 years ago now a friend of mine challenged me to write a short devotional and include it in a weekly newsletter I was sending to our college ministry (anybody out there ever get the “In FOCUS” weekly newsletter?). I took that challenge and for years wrote weekly essays where I took something from “our world” and used it as an analogy to explain some spiritual truth from the Bible. Like a weight lifter gaining strength with “reps,” the discipline of writing down these “parables” each week grew my ability to see connections and patterns in the finite world around us that echo eternal thoughts. Some of these illustrations connected with people, others of them have been a bit goofy … but this practice has actually been edifying to me, and hopefully to others as well.
The parables of Jesus are the BEST illustration of this teaching technique (since Jesus is the MASTER teacher, and since He never “misses” with a message). Jesus would take something from the world of His audience (sheep, sons, coins, etc.) and tell a story about it to illustrate a deeper point. Illustrations take something that we know and use it to teach us something that we need to know.
Not only did Jesus do this, but so did the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 3-4, over the past several weeks, we have seen Paul use the illustrations of a prison warden, a pedagogue, and a trustee to help us understand the purpose of the Old Testament Law. In Galatians 4:21-31 (the verses we will look at this week), we will see Paul use an even more in depth illustration to help us understand the Christian life, what we can expect in it, and one surprising thing we should do as a result. The illustration Paul uses is of the Old Testament couple Abraham and Sarah, and their servant Hagar, and two kids born in their household (Isaac and Ishmael).
Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we should not be surprised that Paul’s illustration is profound and drives home an essential truth for us to consider. To help us best understand this account, you may want to read Genesis 12:1-21:21 to refresh your understanding of this famous historical account. Sunday we will see what Paul wants us to know from this story that connects to our lives today.
Join us this Sunday at Wildwood Community Church as we wrap up the “New Way” sermon series by looking at Galatians 4:21-31 in our 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30 worship services. Hope you can make it … and bring friends!
NOTE: If you can’t make it, know that our livestream always goes live at 10:15 each Sunday morning at wildwoodchurch.org/live