The trouble of falling away from the worship of only God was not just an ancient Old Testament problem.
In the New Testament, we read about the Galatians, who were falling prey to false doctrine at the time that Paul wrote them. False teachers had suggested they could only be Christian by believing in the gospel (Christ’s atonement on the cross for their sin) plus the act of being circumcised (which had been a former requirement of Jewish law). This idea that grace plus adherence to the law was not the true gospel.
In Galatians 1:6-7 Paul admonishes them in his letter, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Paul was so concerned that they had adopted this false doctrine that he continued, “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?” 
Like Moses, Paul was used to warn and redirect God’s people back to right thinking and living. In Galatians 5:1, Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Like the Hebrews in Moses’ day, the Galatians needed to remember that God had not freed them, so they could foolishly resort to bondage again with their belief in false doctrine.
You see, when Jesus took our place on the cross, it was so that we could be spared the ultimate destruction of our souls. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we acknowledge that Jesus, being God’s Son, came and did this so that we could be forgiven, we become saved from our sins. Christ alone and His work on the cross provide for our salvation, not our adherence to the law. This is grace — God’s unmerited favor for us.
Paul asked them, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” The Galatians had begun their Christian lives practicing and believing in Christ alone and His work on the cross for their sins. But now, they were allowing others to influence them into false doctrine and were corrupting their beliefs and witness for Christ.
So if we take a birds-eye snapshot of the downfall of the Israelites and the Galatians from the passages from yesterday’s post and today’s, we see that both groups essentially grew weak in their devotion to God and allowed outside influences to pervert the godly lives they were intended to display.
When the ancient Hebrews grew complacent with Moses’ absence when he was on Mt. Sinai, they reverted to the former worship practices they had known in Egypt prior to their leaving. Their worship of the calf was the abandonment of their agreement to adhere to God’s law. This was a breach in their covenant with God.
In comparison, the Galatians allowed people to teach false doctrine in their midst. To abandon and believe anything other than Christ’s atonement on the cross for sin is apostasy.  In their case, they were becoming deceived into thinking they could keep up certain aspects of the law in addition to faith in Christ. It’s as if they forgot Christ had already come and fulfilled the full measure of the law with his sinless life and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Salvation from sin is met only through Christ, and we can do nothing but receive it. The power to forgive sins and transform our lives comes from Jesus, not our human effort.
When God commanded the Hebrews to worship only Him, it was because He was their deliverer, and He deserved their worship. When Christ saves us from our sins, He alone deserves our gratitude, obedience, and worship.
So how do we keep from falling away as the Hebrews and Galatians were tempted to?
1 Corinthians 15:33 lends us an important insight: “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” Essentially we are who and what we surround ourselves with. This is often seen when we pick up the habits or viewpoints of poor friend choices or media and entertainment choices. Instead of surrounding ourselves with the things of this fallen world, we need to surround ourselves with the truth of God’s Word and the people who adhere to it. God’s intention (for our own good, by the way) is to “Be holy, because [He is] holy.” 
Jesus, who came to earth as God’s Son and lived a sinless life (the holiness of God incarnate), is the only one able to save us from the penalty of sin. By faith, we believe this truth and experience forgiveness for our sins. Faith in Christ provides us the opportunity to take on His righteousness before God. Jesus’ blood shed for us is the substitute payment for sin that would otherwise, be required of us before God. The first action we take to know God and become holy like He is to have faith in Jesus Christ. No other influence in our lives is comparable to Jesus.
The Purpose of the Law
But what about the law? Can we live however we want now that we know Jesus? Romans 7:8 explains the usefulness of the law. “…I would not have come to know sin except through the Law….”
The law of God (which includes the Ten Commandments but also extends to the entirety of Scripture) is meant to expose our sin and help us avoid it in the future. The law keeps us from destruction. Just like a stop sign at an intersection keeps us from being hit by opposing traffic. The law doesn’t save our souls, just like a stop sign doesn’t save us. Each is a safeguard for us if we heed them. The law is beneficial because it helps us recognize sin and avoid committing it. But it does not hold power to save us. Only Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection saves our souls.
Grace Wasn’t Cheap
Remember, one of the reasons God gave Israel His law was so they could understand a holy God and be more like Him. So when we receive Christ’s offer of salvation and experience forgiveness of our sins and peace with God, it is not meant for us to go back into a life of sin. That would be like us demonstrating through our actions that we do not care about what Jesus suffered on our behalf. Some people refer to this as “cheap grace.” It is a shallow response to the extraordinary atonement made on our behalf.
But a life genuinely changed by understanding what our sin cost Jesus demonstrates itself by a response of gratefulness and holy living. Out of genuine thankfulness, we surrender our lives to him. We want to honor him with our lives out of gratitude—not because we are earning a reward or paying Jesus back for our salvation. Christ’s offer of salvation is freely given and freely received.
Should We Stumble
But what if we stumble into sin (which happens to all of us at times) even after we have come to know Christ? A regenerated heart will find that it simply cannot continue in sin. You see, a life redeemed by Christ is benefitted by a heart that is not held by the power of sin. This is because Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives with his atonement on the cross.
So, if you find yourself caught in the mire of sin, even after trusting Jesus with your life, it is never too late to call out to Christ. Tell him of your sin, and acknowledge your need for Him to deliver you out of it. And then commit yourself to walk in a new and holy way.
Brought Out and Never Going Back
Remember, God does not bring us out of bondage to take us back again. He desires for us to live in safety, holiness, and blessing. We will never experience the fullness of these things living a life apart from Him and steeped in sin.
Come to Him just as you are. Talk to Him. Tell Him your heart, and trust Him to lead you out of bondage and into His blessing.
Don’t return to the sin of your former life, and make light of the blood that was required of Jesus in place of yours.
 Levy, Grover. Giants in the Land, Word Entertainment, 1995.
 Deuteronomy 6:20
 Deuteronomy 6:21-25
 Exodus 24:7
 Exodus 32:7-8
 Exodus 20
 Galatians 4:8-9
 Romans 6:23
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, general editors, Holman Bible Publishers, “apostasy,” 2003.
 1 Peter 1:16
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