You can sense the frustration in Paul’s accusation of the Galatians failure to hold on to their position of sonship through faith in Jesus Christ. They fell back into the old weak and worthless focus of putting their confidence in their own efforts. The law was being rebuilt in their lives and the love and worship of Jesus was deteriorating as a result. In Galatians 4:10-11 Paul wrote, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am 17 a child of godafraid I may have labored over you in vain.” The Jewish laws required observation of special times. Our ritualistic observations of special times become very much like they did with Israel. God grew tired of them and sent that message to his people through Isaiah the prophet. In Isaiah 1:13-14 God says, “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.”

It always happens! When we establish a liturgy, it owns us! Lawson put it this way, “Religions organize and systematize and dehumanize, but in Christ, Paul constantly argues, man is energized and actualized. He is liberated.” Christ did not come to establish another religion of rituals and observations but to bring man back to intimacy with God. Lawson goes on to say, “Unfortunately, something in us prefers being organized into a system to being truly free. Famous theologian-turned-prisoner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, mused on this debilitating characteristic during the second spring of his imprisonment by the Nazis. He who had so cherished his liberty realized that something had happened to him he never would have thought possible. He confessed that he had become used to being a prisoner!”

To many of us, our denominational observations become meaningless habitual practices that, instead of bringing us closer to God, drive us away from Him. We treat our religious liturgies as good luck charms that ward off evil in our lives or give us a certain confidence in our relationship with those in our common community and with God. Lawson is right; “In Christ, we don’t need rituals or sacrifices or magic or astrology charts or signs of the zodiac or anything else. Such superstitious behavior has been replaced by a personal relationship with the Father. Just as my children do not have to observe any standard ritual to approach me—or come to me only on stipulated hours or days or seasons, so Christians can enjoy the presence of their Father whenever. We are sons.”